10 Most Controversial Moments in Oscars History

The Academy Awards, commonly known as the Oscars, is one of the most prestigious events in Hollywood. However, over the years, it has also been the stage for some of the most controversial moments in entertainment history. From unexpected winners to shocking incidents, these moments have left lasting impressions on viewers worldwide. 

Perhaps one of the most famous incidents from recent times was when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. But did you know there are so many more moments, starting from back in the 70s that were just as much controversial, if not more? Below, we explore the ten most controversial moments in Oscars history! And before you get busy enjoying these controversy-ridden moments, here’s a short overview of them all!


Year Event Key Figures
1973 Marlon Brando Rejects Oscar Marlon Brando, Sacheen Littlefeather
1989 Rob Lowe and Snow White Musical Number Rob Lowe, Snow White
1999 Shakespeare in Love Wins Best Picture Gwyneth Paltrow, Harvey Weinstein
2003 Adrien Brody Kisses Halle Berry Adrien Brody, Halle Berry
2014 John Travolta Mispronounces Idina Menzel John Travolta, Idina Menzel
2016 #OscarsSoWhite Controversy Various Celebrities
2017 Best Picture Mix-Up La La Land, Moonlight Cast & Crew
2019 Green Book Wins Best Picture Green Book Cast & Crew
2020 Parasite Makes History Bong Joon-ho, Parasite Cast & Crew
2022 Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock Will Smith, Chris Rock

10. Marlon Brando Rejects Oscar (1973)

In 1973, Marlon Brando won the Best Actor award for his role in The Godfather. However, he refused to accept the award in protest of Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans. Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American actress, and activist, to decline the award on his behalf, making a powerful statement on the Oscars stage. This incident, to date, is considered one of the most iconic and controversial events from Oscars. Check it out:

9. Rob Lowe and Snow White Musical Number (1989)

The 1989 Oscars opened with a bizarre 11-minute musical number featuring Rob Lowe and an actress playing Snow White. The performance was widely panned and led to a lawsuit from Disney, which owns the rights to Snow White. It remains one of the most awkward and controversial openings in Oscars history. 

It made no sense — perhaps back then, folks were still getting the hang of how copyright strikes in entertainment worked. The incident also ruined producer Allan Carr’s career forever, basically. Anyways, check out the musical number here:

8. Shakespeare in Love Wins Best Picture (1999)

In 1999, Shakespeare in Love won the Best Picture award over Saving Private Ryan, leading to accusations of heavy campaigning and lobbying by producer Harvey Weinstein. Many critics and fans believed Saving Private Ryan deserved the award, making this win highly controversial. Check out the Oscar win announcement clip from 1999 below:

7. Adrien Brody Kisses Halle Berry (2003)

When Adrien Brody won the Best Actor award for The Pianist in 2003, he surprised everyone by kissing presenter Halle Berry on stage without her consent. The incident sparked debates about consent and appropriate behavior at public events. Although the two became comfortable with each other eventually, it was one hell of a moment! Berry later revealed, “I had no idea what the fuck was going on but I just went with it.” 

6. John Travolta Mispronounces Idina Menzel (2014)

In 2014, John Travolta introduced Idina Menzel as “Adele Dazeem” before her performance of “Let It Go” from Frozen. The flub became a viral sensation and led to widespread mockery and memes. It was just outright weird and low-key disrespectful on Travolta’s end but at least he didn’t say that on the wedding aisle like Ross.

5. #OscarsSoWhite Controversy (2016)

The lack of diversity among the 2016 Oscar nominees led to the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, highlighting the underrepresentation of people of color in Hollywood. The controversy prompted significant discussions about diversity and inclusion within the industry. It led to a series of events and night talk show discussions! Check out all the jokes Kevin Hart and Chris Rock later made about it and turned it into an all the more fun and healthy discussion!

4. Best Picture Mix-Up (2017)

In 2017, La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner instead of the actual winner, Moonlight. The mix-up, caused by an envelope error, led to a chaotic and memorable moment as the mistake was corrected on stage. It was hilarious and at the same time, weirdly heartbreaking too because La La Land is an excellent film! Check out that exact mix-up moment from the 2017 Oscars below!

3. Green Book Wins Best Picture (2019)

Green Book winning Best Picture in 2019 was met with backlash due to its handling of racial themes and the perception that it was a “safe” choice. This became controversial because the film was compared to more provocative nominees like Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman. As Julia Roberts presented the whole scene, it honestly felt as if the crowd was screaming in agony instead of cheering in praise. Check it out:

2. Parasite Makes History (2020)

In 2020, Parasite became the first non-English language film to win Best Picture, marking a historic moment. While celebrated, it also sparked debates about the future of the Oscars and the recognition of international films. Jane Fonda knew how monumental this success was and the way she inhaled right before the announcement. Crazy scenes! And honestly, we’re still scared of the guy in the basement.

1. Will Smith Slaps Chris Rock (2022)

At the 2022 Oscars, Will Smith shocked the audience by slapping Chris Rock on stage after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The incident led to widespread media coverage and discussions about appropriate conduct at public events. 

Some said it was well-deserved. The others, including Smith’s wife, believed that it was too much. Either way, it remains one of the craziest moments hailing from Hollywood, ever. The video alone has 123M views on YouTube! Well, let’s watch the sucker slap once again, shall we?

Main Heading Goes Here
Sub Heading Goes Here
No, thank you. I do not want.
100% secure your website.