Live TV: you never know what will happen, but it’s fair to say it will be something excruciating. The second-hand embarrassment of seeing an A-lister reveal they are out-of-touch with the ways of the known universe or that moment in a live broadcast when one of the balls being juggled comes crashing down is a potent cocktail of laughs and gasps. As Hollywood’s biggest stage, the Oscars has hosted its share of cringe-inducing moments. Here are 12, ranked from forehead-slappingly doltish to unforgettably foolish.
11. James Franco as Marilyn Monroe
The widely panned 2011 show, hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, is perfectly encapsulated by Franco’s appearance in drag as Marilyn Monroe. Franco recently told the Awards Chatter podcast that the bit, which landed with a thud, was a last-minute addition. He had intended to channel Cher with a rendition of Burlesque’s “You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me.” When that song wasn’t nominated, he dusted off ye olde Marilyn wig.
10. Sam Smith is the first gay what now?
After winning Best Original Song for his Bond anthem “The Writing’s On The Wall,” Smith gave an inspirational speech celebrating his position as the first openly gay Oscar winner. “I stand here tonight as a proud gay man, and I hope we can all stand together as equals one day,” he said. The only problem: he was not the first openly gay Oscar winner. LGBT trailblazers Elton John and Melissa Etheridge have won in the song category. His misunderstanding was based on an interview with Ian McKellen, though McKellen was speaking of the acting category only.
9. Introducing Adele Dazeem
Just in case Idina Menzel was starting to feel a little too famous as the voice of Elsa in Frozen, John Travolta put it all into perspective when he introduced her performance of “Let It Go” at the 2014 Oscars. “Please welcome the wickedly talented, one and only Adele Dazeem!” he said. The awkwardness continued into the next year, when Menzel and Travolta reunited to present and Travolta grabbed her by the chin and cooed, “You, you my darling, my beautiful, my wickedly talented Idina Menzel. Is that right?” as Menzel tried to squirm away.
8. #OscarsSoWhite? That was what Sacheen Littlefeather was trying to tell you!
When Marlon Brando won for The Godfather in 1973, he infamously sent activist Sacheen Littlefeather to collect his trophy, boycotting the ceremony over Hollywood’s lack of representation of Native Americans. Littlefeather was booed and the Academy has hardly heeded her message since: Canadian Buffy Sainte-Marie remains the only indigenous North American to win an Oscar, for co-writing An Officer And A Gentleman’s “Up Where We Belong.”
7. Angelina Jolie kisses her brother
She raised an eyebrow with her red-carpet leg extension, but Jolie hit new heights of awkwardness by celebrating her 2000 Best Supporting Actress Oscar win by kissing her brother James Haven with startling passion and declaring, “I’m so in love with my brother right now.” She later said, “It was disappointing that something so beautiful and pure could be turned into a circus.” Is she talking about one of those topless Vegas circuses?
6. Sacha Baron-Cohen spilling ashes on Ryan Seacrest
The unflappable Ryan Seacrest was nearly flapped in 2012 when interviewing Borat star Sacha Baron-Cohen, who walked the red carpet in character as Admiral General Aladeen, the star of his film The Dictator. He spilled what he claimed were the ashes of recently deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il on Seacrest’s Burberry tux. Thankfully Seacrest had listened to his mother and brought a backup jacket.
5. Jennifer Lawrence trips
Tripping on your way to accept your Oscar is as much of a nightmare scenario as being inaugurated president with your fly down, and yet Jennifer Lawrence lived it. She was downed by her Dior dress en route to accepting her Best Actress Oscar in 2012.
4. Naked Ambition
It’s safe to say artist, photographer and activist Robert Opel didn’t overthink his outfit at the 1974 Oscars. Posing as a journalist, Opel snuck backstage and crashed the live Oscars ceremony in nothing but his Birthday Suit (note: no actual suit was involved). In a tragic aftermath to the story, Opel was murdered in a break-and-enter just four years later.
3. Accounting Error
When Chris Rock hosted the 2016 show, he was considered the ideal host to tackle the #OscarsSoWhite movement. And yet in a joke about the Pricewaterhouse accountants, he marched out three Asian children to audience groans.
2. Hands off Scarlett Johansson!
Why can’t we just let Scarlett Johansson live? In 2006, designer Isaac Mizrahi grabbed a then-21-year-old Scarlett Johansson’s boob on the red carpet. “What’s going on?” Johansson asked through a tight grin. She was more receptive to a kiss from John Travolta on the 2015 red carpet, even though she appeared to be frozen in stone as Travolta wrapped her in his clutches.
1. Moonlight Land
Proof that the Oscars still have the power to surprise after nine decades came last year when Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as Best Picture, only for it to be revealed an accountant had handed her and Warren Beatty the wrong card. The real winner was Moonlight, serving as a painful reminder that yes, we really do have to watch the Oscars all the way to the end.
The 90th annual telecast of the Academy Awards airs live on Sunday, March 4 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on CTV.