15 Best Oscar Moments of All-Time (well, Marie’s time anyway)

There are certain spine-tingling moments that have occurred on the Oscars stage that will stick with me forever.

Here are the moments that made my Greatest Hits list. What’s on yours?

1. Coolest Winners Ever: It feels like yesterday that “a couple of young guys” penned a script in their 20s and ended up with Oscar gold. In real time, it was 1998 when Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won the Best Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting – a film made on a modest $10million budget that grossed more than $225million worldwide. Hugging their dates (their mothers) and co-star Robin Williams (who won Best Supporting Actor for the film), the boys headed on stage and their excitement was infectious.



2. Most Memorable Opening: With nine appearances as host in the 90s and 2000s (his last was in 2012) Billy Crystal was known for his elaborate opening monologues, dramatic entries and later, for inserting himself into clips from nominated films. Sure, by the end it was time for a change, but for my money, you still can’t beat his openings. My favourite of all his musical tributes starts here at 09.09 via the clip below. I can still hear the refrain after all these years: “Those eyes! Those thighs! SURPRISE! It’s The Crying Game.”



3. Most Energetic Winner: Sophia Loren simply announces “Roberto!” and waves the envelope excitedly back and forth like a hankie to signal that Italy’s Life Is Beautiful has won the 1998 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Director Roberto Begnini stands up onto his seventh or eight row seat, holds Steven Spielberg’s hand for balance, and jumps all the way to the podium, where he proceeds to deliver a totally incoherent speech but draws lots of love from the audience.


Runners-up for Most Energetic Winner: Cuba Gooding Jnr’s Best Supporting Actor win for Jerry Maguire in 1996, where he thanks everyone and anyone with his infectious (and high pitched) enthusiasm and Jack Palance taking to the stage to do a few one arm push ups when he wins Best Supporting Actor in 1992 for City Slickers.


4. Most Appreciative Winner: “I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag…” In 2002, at the age of 29, Adrien Brody wins Best Actor for his portrayal of Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist and remains the youngest Best Actor winner til this day. But that’s not what anybody remembers from that night. Brody’s remarkable achievement has been eclipsed by his on-stage antics; grabbing presenter Halle Berry unawares and kissing her for a full six seconds at the podium.



5. Most Memorable Aussie Moment: Hmmm, will it be Hugh hosting or Nicole winning for The Hours? Both are touching favourites of mine (I’m hoping to add a Cate Blanchett Best Actress gong into that mix this year). But in my mind, it is costume designer Lizzy Gardiner’s co-win with Tim Chappel for Australia’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1995 wearing that infamous American Express gold credit card dress that will always stick in my head.



6. Saddest Aussie Moment: Heath Ledger winning Best Supporting Actor posthumously in 2009 for The Dark Knight, made all the more touching because this wasn’t some gratuitous bone they tossed posthumously to his family (who accepted the award on his behalf). He was genuinely brilliant as the Joker and would surely have won anyway.



7. Most Elegant Moment: I genuinely loved watching Charlize Theron, a former ballerina, and Channing Tatum, gyrating star of Magic Mike, take to the stage for a lovely choreographed ballroom dancing routine to Seth MacFarlane’s rendition of The Way You Look Tonight during his reign as host in 2013. (Don’t mind the weird angle of this film clip…)



8. Most Overdue Win: After five nominations for Best Director starting with Raging Bull back in 1981, it was Martin Scorsese’s epic Boston crime drama The Departed that would finally earn him Oscar gold. With a big kiss from his frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio and bear hugs from the trio of presenters – directors Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg – on stage, Scorsese finally got one.


Runners-up for Most Overdue Win: 2014 marks Leonardo DiCaprio’s fourth Oscar nomination, Amy Adams’s fifth Oscar nomination and Cate Blanchett’s sixth nomination (although she has already won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, for 2005’s The Aviator, the Best Actress gong has thus far eluded her).


9. Most Touching Moment: A collective sigh for the much-loved Christopher Reeve was heard around the world on the night of the 1996 Oscars, when the once-dashing original Superman wheeled himself onstage after a horse riding accident tragically left him a quadriplegic, to introduce a montage about Hollywood tackling social responsibility. In 2004, we bid farewell to the original 80s superhero who had carved out a place in our hearts.



10. Biggest Fangirl Moment: While Ellen is hosting the 2007 Oscars, she asks Steven Spielberg to take a photo of her with Clint Eastwood in the audience. Then she posts it to her Myspace page. Definitely one of the best gags of the night, I can’t wait to see what she pulls out of the hat this weekend for her hosting return. If her Oscars promo is anything to go by, we are going to be in for some F-U-N.



11. Biggest Whoops! Moment: When Tom Hanks wins his first Best Actor Oscar in 1994 for his heartbreaking role as a gay lawyer in Philadelphia, he accidentally “outs” his high school teacher in his acceptance speech. It goes on to inspire a Hollywood film, the very funny Kevin Kline comedy In and Out.



12. Biggest Aw Shucks! Moment: New Zealand’s gap-toothed future True Blood star Anna Paquin, aged just 11, picks up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1994 for her role alongside Holly Hunter in Jane Campion’s The Piano. She currently remains the second youngest Best Supporting Actress winner ever, behind Tatum O’Neal’s Paper Moon win in 1973.



13. Biggest Aw Shit! Moment: When Samuel L Jackson misses out on Best Supporting Actor for Pulp Fiction in 1995 and is literally caught saying “aw shit” on camera after Martin Landau is named the winner for Ed Wood. Watch the top left corner of this clip at about 01.11 in. Busted!



14. Best Way to Keep the Audience Awake in Less Interesting Categories Moment: It’s not every celebrity who wishes to step out of their chic red carpet outfit to get made over for the stage, but when Ben Stiller appears in full blue Avatar dress, blue skin and all, to present the Best Make-Up Oscar category it certainly kept things interesting.



15. Most Historic Win: This is a tough call. The Academy Awards love to make history, and they have certainly seen their share of firsts. I’m going to have to go with Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Director win for The Hurt Locker in 2010 (for which the former Mrs James Cameron also won Best Picture) making her the first woman to take home directing Oscar gold.


Runners up for Most Historic Win: Halle Berry’s 2002 win for Monster’s Ball, making her the first African-American woman to win Best Actress. (Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to ever win an Oscar, for her role as Mammy in 1939’s Gone With The Wind.) Also Sophia Loren’s Best Actress win for Vittorio De Sica’s Italian film Two Women, making her Loren the first artist to win an Oscar for a performance in another language.


That’s my list! What are some of your favourite Oscars moments?

the author

Marie C

Feature writer by trade, movie maniac by night, Marie-Christine grew up watching films from the projection booth at the local drive-in and now she's lucky enough to write about them.

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