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15 Memorable Moments in Oscar History

Oscar’s big night is always filled with surprises and great moments — here are our favorites:

Hattie McDaniel, Best Supporting Actress, “Gone With the Wind”

Newsreel clips show that she was visibly moved in a historic win.

Charlie Chaplin, Honorary Oscar

After 20 years in Europe, he returned in 1972 to a 12-minute standing ovation. (Unfortunately or fortunately, the video doesn’t show all 12 minutes.)

Louise Fletcher, Best Actress, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

As she spoke, she signed part of her speech for her deaf parents.

Sally Field, Best Actress, “Places in the Heart”

The actress summed up the exuberance of the moment as “You like me, right now, you like me!” It’s Oscar’s most misquoted speech.

Roberto Benigni, Best Foreign Language Film, “Life is Beautiful” (Italy)

The Italian filmmaker walked on the backs of the seats.

Miep Gies

Winning for the 1995 docu “Anne Frank Remembered,” Jon Blair brought to the stage Miep Gies, who had helped shelter the Frank family.

“It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”/”Lose Yourself”

The wins for these two songs were a signal that Oscar voters are capable of big surprises.


Halle Berry, Best Actress, “Monster’s Ball” and Denzel Washington, Best Actor, “Training Day”

In its first 35 years, exactly one black actor won an Oscar in leading roles, so it was historic when both Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won for 2001.


James Cameron, Best Director, “Titanic”

James Cameron won three for “Titanic,” which scored 11 wins overall. He showed his pride with the memorable pronouncement “I’m the king of the world!”

Melissa Leo, Best Supporting Actress, “The Fighter”

Melissa Leo made Oscar history in 2011 by blurting the F-word, which amazingly had never been uttered in the previous 82 years.

Kathryn Bigelow, Best Director, “The Hurt Locker”

Bigelow became the only woman (so far) to win the directing Oscar.

Heath Ledger, Best Supporting Actor, “The Dark Knight”

Ledger became the second actor to win a posthumous Oscar, accepted by his family.

Sacheen Littlefeather

Marlon Brando sent her to decline his win for 1972’s “The Godfather,” because of Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans.

Rob Lowe and Snow White number

In 1988 Rob Lowe and “Snow White” sang “Proud Mary,” which delighted few people and caused Disney to threaten copyright infringement.

Jerry Lewis ad libs

In 1958, the Oscar show ended 20 minutes early (!) so Jerry Lewis ad-libbed with winners to fill the time.

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