On the eve of the 90th anniversary of the Oscars, we look back on some memorable moments from our favorite night of the year.
Hattie McDaniel Becomes the First Black Oscar Winner, 1940
The Gone with the Wind star made history at the 12th Academy Awards when she became the first black entertainer to take home an Oscar. McDaniel, who sat at a segregated table during the ceremony, was honored with a Best Supporting Actress trophy for her work as Mammy in the movie, beating co-star Olivia de Havilland (Melanie Hamilton). In her acceptance speech, McDaniel called the win “one of the happiest moments of my life.”
Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand Tie for Best Actress, 1969
A tie’s a tie. In 1969, Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn each received exactly 3030 votes from the Academy for their leading performances in ‘Funny Girl’ and ‘The Lion in Winter’, respectively. It was the third tie out of six in Oscars history, and as Hepburn was absent from the ceremony, Streisand was the first to get her hands on the prize, greeting it with the words, “Hello, gorgeous!” Streisand’s outfit for the evening has since become iconic – a sequined suit that she hadn’t realized was completely see-through.
Marlon Brando Refuses His Oscar, 1973
When Brando was named Best Actor for playing Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, the actor was nowhere to be seen. The actor sent Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache Native American, in his place. “He very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award,” she read on stage. “And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.”
Ben Affleck & Matt Damon Give Possibly the Best Speech Ever, 1997
Two of cinema’s biggest stars, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were only starting to make waves in Hollywood when they took home the Best Screenplay Oscar at the 1997 ceremony for Good Will Hunting, and their acceptance speech was the stuff of dreams.
Angelina Jolie and Her Brother Kiss, 2000
Angelina Jolie’s awards circuit in 2000 was accompanied by her prominent displays of sibling affection with brother James Haven, who was her date to both the Golden Globe Awards and Oscars. When she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted, Jolie thanked her brother: “I’m in shock and I’m so in love with my brother right now. He just tells me and said he loved me and I know he’s so happy for me. Thank you for that.” And that was after they kissed on the Oscars red carpet.
Heath Ledger Wins Posthumously for The Dark Knight, 2009
Before his untimely death in January 2008, Heath Ledger became, unarguable, the best Joker to ever exist in the world of Batman, and he was honored posthumously at the 2009 Oscars for his representation of the Gotham villain. Having been announced the winner of the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Ledger’s family took to the stage to accept the award on his behalf, and on behalf of his then 3-year-old daughter Matilda.
Jennifer Lawrence Falls Down, 2013
Before she could meet her new Best Actress Oscar, Jennifer Lawrence fell on the stairs while wearing a giant Dior couture gown. Hugh Jackman rushed to help, but she was already on stage by the time he got to her.
Ellen’s Takes a Selfie, 2014
Ellen DeGeneres’ record-breaking selfie included everyone from J. Law to a blurry Angelina Jolie. For more than three years, the photo held Twitter’s record as the most retweeted post of all time.
Leonardo DiCaprio Finally Wins His First Oscar, 2016
All it took was getting mauled by a bear and sleeping in a horse carcass. Leonardo DiCaprio did both of those things in The Revenant and his performance earned him his first-ever Best Actor Oscar after being nominated six times in his career. In his speech, DiCaprio addressed the threat of climate change, the importance of providing aid to indigenous populations, and protecting Mother Earth. “Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted,” he said.
Moonlight Takes Home Best Picture … After La La Land Was Mistakenly Declared the Winner, 2017
It was the mix-up seen and heard around the world: Moonlight, not La La Land was 2017’s Best Picture winner at the Oscars, even though about 50 people from La La Land had already been on stage to accept the award after Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway made the announcement. Turns out, they were given the wrong envelope.