Oscars 2023: The most controversial Academy Awards moments ever

'The slap' is just one of many now-infamous incidents to rock Hollywood's biggest night.

Every year, the Oscars recognises the most prestigious films, actors and filmmakers for their contributions to cinematography. However, the star-studded event rarely passes without controversy: from winner mix-ups and interruptions, to surprise political statements and inappropriate behaviour, unscripted Oscar moments never fail to entertain.

So, as we approach the 95th Academy Awards, let's take a look back at some of the most controversial moments in Oscars history.

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock

Will Smith slaps US actor Chris Rock onstage during the 94th Oscars
The 2022 Oscars will always be remembered for the "the slap heard around the world". Photo: Reuters

In 2022, host Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's bald head, stating he couldn’t wait to see her in G.I. Jane 2 - a reference to the 1997 movie starring Demi Moore with a crew cut.

The joke outraged Will Smith, Pinkett Smith's husband, who stormed the stage spouting profanities and delivered a sharp slap to Rock's face.

The shocking moment has become one of the most talked-about events in Oscar history, with the incident so scandalous that some media sources questioned whether it was staged. Ultimately deemed as legit, this surreal moment took Hollywood scandals to a new level and left viewers stunned.

La La Land mix-up

Warren Beatty and Jimmy Kimmel at the Oscars
La La Land was mistakenly awarded the Best Picture Oscar, only to have it taken away and handed to Moonlight in an unprecedented Academy Awards mix-up. Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

In 2017, the Oscars suffered a major mix-up when "La La Land" was mistakenly declared the winner of Best Picture instead of the actual winner, "Moonlight."

Presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope backstage, leading to the producers of "La La Land" being forced to hand over the award to the rightful winners, the team behind "Moonlight."

Ellen's star-studded selfie

Host Ellen Degeneres takes a group picture at the 86th Academy Awards
Host Ellen Degeneres took a star studded selfie at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, in an attempt to break the record for most retweeted photo of all time. Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

In what has to be one of the most successful publicity stunts of all time, Ellen DeGeneres' 2014 viral Oscars selfie captured Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jared Leto in a rare moment of Hollywood goofiness.

"If only Bradley's arm was longer," DeGeneres tweeted. "Best photo ever. #oscars"

The star-studded photo has since racked up nearly 3 million retweets and more than 2 million likes.

John Travolta botches Idina Menzel's name

John Travolta on stage during the Oscars in 2014
You say tomato, John Travolta . Photo: John Shearer/Invision/AP

Another highlight from 2014 was John Travolta's blunder when introducing singer Idina Menzel for her performance of "Let It Go" from the hit movie Frozen, with Travolta introducing her as "Adele Dazeem." The not-so-minor mishap quickly went viral, sparking numerous memes and parodies.

Travolta later apologised for the error, blaming the mistake on an issue with the teleprompter.

Siblings Angelina Jolie and brother James Haven share intimate kiss

Angelina Jolie kissing brother James Haven
Angelina Jolie shocked audiences worldwide when she kissed her brother James Haven on the lips at the Oscars in the year 2000. Photo: Shutterstock

There was much applause when Angelina Jolie won an Academy Award for her performance in Girl, Interrupted at the Oscars in the year 2000, but her acceptance speech soon took a bizarre when she professed her love for brother James Haven, who was in the audience supporting her.

“I’m in shock, and I’m so in love with my brother right now,” she said, “he just held me and said he loved me, and I know he’s so happy for me. And, um, thank you for that.”

The siblings were then photographed sharing a kiss on the lips on the red carpet, further fuelling speculation about their unusual relationship.

Adrien Brody kisses Halle Berry

Actor Adrien Brody kissing Halle Berry
Actor Adrien Brody was forced to apologise for this non-consensual kiss with Halle Berry at the 2003 Academy Awards. Photo: Reuters

Another controversial Oscars kiss occurred in 2003 when Adrien Brody swept Halle Berry off her feet and surprised her with an especially passionate, but non-consensual kiss. Berry initially laughed it off, but later revealed that she didn't approve of the gesture and was simply too surprised to react in the moment.

Brody faced considerable backlash for the kiss and was later forced to apologise to Berry.

Marlon Brando refuses award

Sacheen Littlefeather refusing the 1973 Academy Award for Best Actor on behalf of Marlon Brando.
Native American actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather refused the 1973 Academy Award for Best Actor on behalf of Marlon Brando. Photo: Bettmann

Jumping back in history to in 1973 and the 45th Annual Academy Awards, Marlon Brando caused a stir when he won the Best Actor award for his role in The Godfather but didn't show up to accept it.

Instead, he sent actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather to explain he was boycotting the film industry in act of protest against the mistreatment of Indigenous Americans.

Although the stunt confused and angered the audience on the night, it went on to spark a conversation about the representation of marginalised groups in Hollywood. Brando's decision to refuse the award and Littlefeather's brave delivery of his message have since been celebrated as a significant moment in American history.

The Oscars streaker

Robert Opel flashing a peace sign as he runs naked across the stage of the 46th academy awards
Robert Opel was severely underdressed when he famously crashed the 46th Academy Awards. Photo: Shutterstock

However, the most outrageous Oscars moment ever occurred the following year at the 1974 Academy Awards, when a moustached man revealed all to a stunned audience.

As actor David Niven was introducing Elizabeth Taylor, a man named Robert Opel ran naked past him, flashing a peace sign to the audience.

The incident only lasted a few seconds before security removed Opel from the stage, but it caused a huge stir on the night, made headlines around the world and remains one of the most talked-about Oscars moments to this day.

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