What’s better: a super touching acceptance speech or an awards show address that makes you cringe so hard your neck disappears into your shoulders? Let us rephrase that question: which one makes for a better meme? We can probably all agree on that answer, so we’re counting down the Oscars’ strangest, most out there on-stage moments in preparation for the Academy’s big night on February 26. Here goes:
Marlon Brando, Best Actor (1973)
Brando was a no-show at the Oscars where he’d been nominated for playing Leo Corleone in The Godfather. When his name was called, Sacheen Littlefeather answered, declining the trophy on Brando’s behalf and making a statement about the misrepresentation of Indigenous peoples by the Hollywood film industry. It wasn’t Littlefeather who brought the awkward vibes, though—it was presenters Liv Ullmann and Roger Moore who looked hopelessly lost.
Melissa Leo, Best Supporting Actress (2011)
The Fighter actor Melissa Leo disgraced the hallowed Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theatre stage with the f-word. On her way down from it, she stole a cane from an old man (Kirk Douglas). Where is she now? TV. Read into that what you will.
Cuba Gooding Jr., Best Supporting Actor (1997)
It’s rare when an actor’s acceptance speech proves that he didn’t actually deserve the award. When Gooding Jr. accepted his Oscar, all the world found out that he wasn’t acting in Jerry Maguire at all—he was just Cuba Gooding Jr-ing.
James Cameron, Best Picture and Best Director (1998)
You know what’s not the suavest Academy Award acceptance move? Awkwardly quoting your own movie in your speech. No, James Cameron, you are not the king of the world, you’re just a guy with a shiny statuette.
Shirley MacLaine, Best Actress (1984)
The Terms of Endearment winner’s speech was, uh, less than endearing. She wrapped up by telling the Academy crowd, “I deserve this.”
Gwyneth Paltrow, Best Actress (1999)
Look, we understand that sometimes you can’t stop yourself from crying at work. But death and impending nuclear attacks aside, you probably should be able to stop yourself from crying hysterically at work. Not Shakespeare in Love Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow though, who overcame a lot of hardships (like near-Cheez Whiz exposure) to get where she is today.
Jennifer Lawrence, Best Actress (2013)
It was awkward enough that Lawrence’s Silver Linings Playbook win seemed like a do-over award for her work in Winter’s Bone two years prior, but the clutzy J-Law had to go and trip her way (epically) up to the podium. She could have seized on the opportunity to get her weirdness out of the way before her speech, but instead she just kept referencing the fall IN her speech.
Roberto Benigni, Best Actor and Best Foreign Language Film (1999)
Life is Beautiful and so was the acrobatic seat-climb performed by Italian actor/director Roberto Benigni when his film won the Best Foreign Language category. Take notes, Jennifer Lawrence.
Angelina Jolie, Best Supporting Actress (2000)
Before there was ‘The Leg’ there was Jolie’s big win for her role opposite Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted. Clearly overwhelmed by the award, Angelina came off only slightly less unhinged than the psychiatric inpatient she played in the film when she professed her in-love-ness with (eep) her own brother.
Adrien Brody, Best Actor (2003)
Um, more like Adrien Grody. Upon receiving his award, The Pianist actor helped himself to an intense lip-lock with presenter Halle Berry. Attention everyone: this is the literal opposite of consent, okay? Write it down.
Jack Palance, Best Supporting Actor (1992)
At 73, Jack Palance could still do a set of one-handed push-ups. How do we know this? Because when he won an Oscar for his role in City Slickers, he did some. On stage. At the Academy Awards. Mid-speech. He also told the audience “I crap bigger than [presenter] Billy Crystal!” (which was a line from the movie, but still).
And the Awkward Oscar goes to…