Most memorable Oscars moments ever, from Will Smith's slap to Jennifer Lawrence's fall

We look back at some of the most jaw-dropping, funny and downright embarrassing moments in the show's history

US actor Will Smith, left, US actress Jada Pinkett Smith, centre, attend the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on March 27, 2022 and US actor Chris Rock speaks onstage. AFP
Powered by automated translation

After a couple of years without any viral Oscars moments, 2022's ceremony came back with a vengeance, as Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage after the comedian made a joke at Jada Pinkett Smith's expense.

While the 94th Academy Awards had several history-making moments — including the first streaming service-distributed film winning Best Picture and the first deaf person winning an Oscar for acting — it's likely that this shocking moment will ultimately be what it's remembered for.

Scroll through the gallery below to see all the Oscars 2022 winners:

But the annals of Oscars history have not been without shock and awe in years past, from hosts bombing on stage to stars tripping over their gowns and winners doing push-ups at the podium.

Here are some of the most memorable moments from Academy Awards ceremonies:

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock, 2022

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at Oscars after joke about Jada Pinkett Smith

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock at Oscars after joke about Jada Pinkett Smith

It's hardly jumping the gun to think this dramatic moment at the 2022 ceremony will go down in Oscars history. Smith, who won the Best Actor in a Leading Role award for his turn in King Richard, confronted Rock after he made a joke about Pinkett Smith's alopecia-caused hair loss, something she has spoken publicly about in the past.

"Jada, I love you ... GI Jane 2, can't wait to see it," Rock said in his presenting slot. The camera panned to Pinkett Smith and she rolled her eyes at the joke.

Smith initially laughed. Then, as Rock prepared to hand out the Best Documentary Oscar, Smith walked up to him and slapped his face, which prompted the presenter to shout, “Oh wow ... Will Smith just smacked the [expletive] out of me.”

Smith then sat down, but shouted from his seat, “Keep my wife’s name out of your [expletive] mouth.”

A flustered Rock attempted to brush the incident off, saying, “That was, er, the greatest night in the history of television,” before proceeding to present the award.

The wrong Best Picture, 2017

In what remains one of the biggest – and most embarrassing – blunders in Oscars history, the 2017 Best Picture Oscar was given to the wrong film when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope to read out. Rather than the Best Picture envelope, the pair were given the Best Actress envelope, which had Emma Stone's name, along with the name of the film she won for, La La Land.

As La La Land cast and producers swarmed the stage, Academy producers rushed on to reveal that Moonlight had actually won, while the audience thought it was an elaborate joke.

Hattie McDaniel makes history, 1940

The actress became the first African-American recipient of an Oscar when she scooped the Best Supporting Actress gong for her role as Mammy in the 1939 epic, Gone with the Wind. Taking to the podium at the 12th Academy Awards, McDaniel told the audience: "This is one of the happiest moments of my life." She said of her historic win: "I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything I might be able to do in the future."

Historic wins for black actors and actresses followed slowly, with Sidney Poitier becoming the first African-American to win an Oscar for Best Actor in 1964 for Lilies of the Field, Halle Berry scooping the Best Actress Oscar in 2002 for Monster's Ball and Denzel Washington winning Best Actor for his role in 2001's Training Day.

The longest-standing ovation, 1972

This accolade went to British cinematic legend, Charlie Chaplin, who was 82 at the time, at the 44th Academy Awards.

Handed the Lifetime Achievement Award for his unparalleled career, Chaplin's presence at the event also marked the first time in 20 years he had returned to the US, having been exiled from America in 1952 for alleged Communist sympathies during the McCarthy witch-hunts of the era.

The actor was welcomed with a 12-minute standing ovation which became the longest in Oscars history.

“This is an emotional moment for me,” he told the audience, “and words seem so futile, so feeble.”

Jennifer Lawrence trips over her dress, 2013

Riding high as Hollywood's hot new star, Jennifer Lawrence raised laughs and eyebrows, but not too much surprise when she tripped on the steps leading up to the stage at the 2013 Oscars.

In keeping with her klutzy, every-girl persona, Lawrence, who was 22 at the time, fell over the hem of her Dior dress as she approached the stage to collect her Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, causing the ever chivalrous Hugh Jackman to leap from his seat to help her up.

The world’s most A-list selfie, 2014

Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Jared Leto, Kevin Spacey, Channing Tatum and Lupita Nyong’o were all part of the most retweeted tweet of the year at the 2014 Oscars.

Host Ellen DeGeneres gathered the A-list group together for the photo, which was shared and retweeted more than two million times in two hours during the broadcast of the 86th annual Academy Awards. The best photobombing award goes to Lupita's brother, Peter, who saw his chance to be in the picture too and took it.

Roberto Benigni’s joy, 1999

Years before Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch, Italian film director, Roberto Benigni leapt up on to the seats at the Kodak Theatre when his film won the Best Foreign Language award.

When Italian film legend Sophia Loren announced the Life is Beautiful director as the winner, he jumped on to the chairs, rousing the audience to their feet, before bouncing up to the podium and taking a bow.

“This is the moment of joy, and I want to kiss everybody because you are the major of the joy,” he said.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway bomb as hosts, 2011

Hired by Academy bigwigs in a bid to appeal to a younger audience demographic – something they joked about in their opening monologue – Franco appeared to be checked out from the start. While Hathaway tried her best to stay upbeat and keep the show flowing, Franco, who was nominated that year for Best Actor for 127 Hours, failed to bring any enthusiasm to his hosting duties whatsoever.

"She showed up ready to play and committed 110 per cent," Jordan Rubin, a writer for that year's show, told The Ringer. "And he was a great guy but often looked like he had just woken up from a nap."

Jack Palance’s on stage push-ups, 1992

Taking to the stage to accept his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for City Slickers, Jack Palance didn't let being 70 stand in the way of showing off his fitness levels. Breaking off midway through his acceptance speech, Palance dropped to the ground to perform three one-armed push-ups to show that older actors are definitely not past it when it comes to performing.

“There are times when you reach a certain age plateau where the producers say: ‘Well, what do you think? Can we risk it? Can we do it? Can we use him?’ And the other guy says: ‘I don't know, let's look at some younger one’,” he said. Adding of his impressive push-up skills: “That's nothing, really. As far as the two-handed push-ups are concerned, you can do that all night.”

John Travolta fails to pronounce ‘Idina Menzel’, 2014

Who on earth is Adele Dazeem? That was the big question that emerged from the 2014 Academy Awards after presenter John Travolta mangled Frozen star, Idina Menzel's name live on camera, introducing her as: "The wickedly talented Adele Dazeem."

Travolta later went on Jimmy Kimmel Live and blamed his assistant being stuck in a lift, getting starstruck by Goldie Hawn and Menzel's name being spelt phonetically on the teleprompter for the mix-up.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s acceptance speech, 1999

Gwyneth Paltrow later said of her teary acceptance speech for her Best Actress win for Shakespeare in Love: "That girl looks like she needs a hamburger and a vacation". Paltrow has admitted she was all over the place when accepting the award. Even her actress mum, Blythe Danner, looked uncomfortable as her daughter breathlessly sobbed and hiccupped her way through her three minutes on stage while wearing a pink Calvin Klein gown that became as famous as her speech.

A version of this story was first published in 2021.