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9 Memorable Oscar Moments in History
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The 96th Academy Awards was recently held on March 10th, 2024, celebrating outstanding movies and productions released in 2023. And with every award show season comes a plethora of funny, emotional, powerful, and sometimes even slightly uncomfortable moments. These moments often reflect the culture of the entertainment industry at the time and the Academy Awards serves as a platform for any form of message to national and international audiences. Award shows like the Oscars, Grammys, Emmys, and The Tonys aren’t built to address real-world issues, which is why it is the participants’ reasonability to bring light to problems that could be affecting millions through their speeches, their interviews, and even their fashion. The first Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), took place on May 16, 1929, and since then, a lot has happened. As we look back on these pop culture moments, it’s important to note that many of these situations are scripted or highly dramatized. Regardless, it’s still entertaining.

1. “Mom, I just won an Oscar!”

Todd Heisler




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After Ke Huy Quan accepted the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the film “Everything Everywhere All At Once” the actor addressed his mother directly in a tearful speech. “My mom is 84 years old, and she’s at home watching,” Quan said. “Mom, I just won an Oscar!” This emotional moment of gratitude touched many hearts but was especially important to families of immigrants. This sentiment was shared by fellow members of the film including director Daniel Kwan and producer Johathan Wang.

2. The “Pulp Fiction” Reunion

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In the 2022 Oscars, the Academy surprised the audience with an iconic “Pulp Fiction” reunion with stars Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, and Uma Thurman. The stars shared amazing chemistry as they continued their dance from the film onto the stage. “Pulp Fiction was a masterpiece, but these two think it was all about a dance contest,” Jackson said, holding the briefcase that held the name of the winner for Best Actor. This was a great moment for “Pulp Fiction” fans and it further celebrated 28 years since the release of the film.

3. Charlie Chaplin Received a 12-minute Standing Ovation

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In 1972, film star Charlie Chaplin received an honorary award that recognized his impact on the industry. This prompted a 12-minute standing ovation, one of the longest in award show history. “Words seem so futile — so feeble,” Chaplin said in his speech. “I can only say thank you for the honor of inviting me here.” Besides recognizing Chaplin’s influence, the award was also an apology from the Academy for not recognizing his impact during the peak of his career. This moment was also significant because it marked Chaplin’s return to the public in the United States in two decades.

4. The Will Smith Slapping Incident

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To this day, this moment remains one of the most memorable of the Oscars. No one expected it and it ended up overshadowing the entire ceremony. During the 94th Academy Awards, actor Will Smith walked onstage and slapped comedian Chris Rock while he was presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature. The slap was in response to a joke that Chris Rock made about Will Smith’s wife. Later that evening, Will Smith won Best Actor and during his acceptance speech, he apologized to the Academy and the other nominees, but not to Chris Rock. As a result, Will Smith was banned from attending AMPAS-related events for the next 10 years.

4. Jennifer Lawrence falling at the Oscars

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In 2013, movie star Jennifer Lawrence won Best Actress for her role in the film “Silver Linings Playbook.” As she made her way onstage to accept the award, she fell on the stairs. The following year, Jennifer Lawrence fell again, this time on the red carpet. The star continues to joke about the moment to this day. “Well, yeah, just don’t do that,” Lawrence said. “You know, I fell the next year too. So then it just looked like I 100% faked. Oh, it was awful.”

5. The Iconic Oscars Selfie

Bradley Cooper












During the 86th Academy Awards, Ellen DeGeneres gathered as many celebrities as she could for an impromptu selfie taken by actor Bradley Cooper. In the photo were none other than Ellen DeGeneres, Bradely Cooper, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Spacey. The selfie broke the internet, especially Twitter (now X), gaining around 2 million retweets in 2 hours. It has been 10 years now, and the selfie remains one of the most iconic moments in Oscar history.

6. Sacheen Littlefeather’s Speech

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Sacheen Little Feather was an American Actress and activist for Native American civil rights. During the 45th Academy Awards, Sacheen Littlefeather represented actor Marlon Brando  where she – on Brando’s behalf – declined the award for Best Actor that he won in his performance in “The Godfather.” Marlon Brando boycotted the ceremony as a protest against Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans. During Sacheen’s speech, the crowd was divided between booing and applause. Regardless, the speech remains one of the most powerful symbols of Native American heritage and culture and changed the trajectory of politics in award ceremonies.

7. Hattie McDaniel is the first black Oscar winner

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In 1940, actor Hattie McDaniel won the award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film “Gone With the Wind.” This defined African American history in the film industry as she was not only the first black Oscar winner, she was the first black female Oscar winner. Her win remains one of the most important moments of the Oscars. Despite her momentous win, Hattie still faced conflict. During her acceptance speech, Hattie stated, “I sincerely hope I shall always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry,” It would be 51 years until the next African American won when star Whoopi Goldberg won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her role in the film “Ghost.” History continues to be made with actor Sidney Poitier becoming the first black man to win the award for Best Actor at the 1964 Oscars. Additionally, Halle Berry continues to be the only black woman to win the award for Best Actress at the 2002 Oscars. And in the 2010 Oscars, Roger Ross Williams becomes the first black director to win an Oscar.

8. Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins an Oscar

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After 27 years in Hollywood, movie star Leonardo DiCaprio finally won the Oscar he deserved. At the 2016 Oscars, DiCaprio wins the award for Best Actor for his performance in “The Revenant.” During his acceptance speech, he used the time to speak about global warming, saying: “Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow. Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating… Let us not take this planet for granted.”

9. Björk debuts the most iconic dress in Oscars history

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Designed by Macedonian designer Marjan Pejoski, Icelandic singer Björk wore the unusual swan dress at the 2001 Oscars, even behaving like a swan with Björk mimicking laying an egg on the red carpet. The dress was widely criticized and seen as outrageous and outlandish with some calling it a publicity stunt, something Björk later confirmed. Others praised the dress for its originality. Regardless, Björk stands by her decision to wear the dress, and to this day, the dress remains one of the most memorable red carpet looks.

The Oscars continue to be one of the most-watched award shows in the U.S. with an average of 20 million viewers. And each year, the Academy serves up some spectacular moments no one will forget. From this list, which one is your favorite?

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About the Contributor
Julieta Ramos Correa
Hi! I'm Julieta, Golden Times co-editor. I've been in Golden Times since 2022 and during my free time, I love to write creatively as my future aspiration is cinematography and photojournalism. I have 2 cats and my favorite hobby of mine is painting!
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