Oscars: 10 Epic Mistakes and Unplanned Moments Throughout the Years

8:30 AM 2/12/2018

by Deirdre Durkan

Even the Academy Awards has fallen victim to viral slip-ups that become the source of memes and shock.

Jimmy Kimmel, left, and Warren Beatty at the 2017 Oscars
Jimmy Kimmel, left, and Warren Beatty at the 2017 Oscars
Eddy Chen/ABC

With any live show, there are bound to be a few flubs and unplanned surprises. Over the years, the Oscars telecast has faced unforeseen moments and cringe-worthy mistakes.

Following 2017’s La La Land/Moonlight mix-up, new precautions will be put into place to prevent naming the wrong winner, but even with the new protocols, some errors may not be avoidable.  

Here are complied 11 unforgettable times the Oscars took a stunning turn, giving show producers and directors a moment they, too, likely never forgot.

  • 'La La Land' Wins Best Picture ... and Then Doesn't

    2017

    Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty named La La Land as the year’s best picture at the end of the 2017 broadcast only to be corrected a few minutes later.

    “Guys, guys, I’m sorry. No. There’s a mistake. This is not a joke. Moonlight has won Best Picture," La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz said, amid audible gasps from the audience. The producer even held up the card announcing the winner to show he was serious. 

    Two months after the fiasco, Dunaway said, “Beatty took the card out, and he didn’t say anything. He paused, he looked over me, off-stage, he looked around, and I finally said, ‘You’re impossible.’ I thought he was joking! A dramatic pause.”

    Two PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants were later found to be responsible for incorrectly handing the presenters the wrong envelope, which was a duplicate envelope for the best actress award, which had earlier been won by Emma Stone for La La Land. 

  • John Travolta Introduces 'Adela Dazeem'

    2014

    John Travolta sent the Twitterverse in an uproar after botching Idina Menzel by introducing her as "Adela Dazeem" ahead of her performance of Frozen's "Let It Go."

    Travolta explained on Jimmy Kimmel Live that the award show changed the Broadway star’s name to the phonetic spelling, which made him panic.

    “So I go out there and I get to her thing and I go 'Huh?' In my mind I'm going 'What? What is that name? I don't know that name.' And it was this phonetic spelling, and I didn't rehearse it that way,” Travolta said about the incident. 

  • Laurence Olivier Forgets to Announce the Nominees

    1985

    After being introduced as presenter of the award for best picture during the 1985 Academy Awards, Laurence Olivier received a standing ovation. Instead of naming each nominee, the four-time Oscar winner simply announced, "Amadeus!"

  • A Streaker Shows His "Shortcomings"

    The 46th Academy Awards will always be synonymous with the year Robert Opel streaked across the stage waving a two-fingered peace sign. Elizabeth Taylor was set to announce the winner for best picture, but as co-host David Niven was introducing her, Opel ran across the stage behind him, completely naked and flashing the crowd. It wasn’t the Opel first streak. The photographer had shown up naked to a few Los Angeles City Council meetings to protest the ban on nudity at area beaches.

    To redeem decorum, Niven quipped, "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"

    When she came onstage, Taylor joked, "That's a pretty hard act to follow."

  • Sammy Davis Jr. Announces the Wrong Winner

    1964

    Decades before the La La Land/Moonlight mix-up, Sammy Davis Jr. announced the wrong winner. While presenting the winner for best music score for an adaptation or treatment, Davis announced John Addison as the winner for "Tom Jones."

    He promptly returned to the microphone to retract his announcement, telling the crowd, “They gave me the wrong envelope. Wait till the NAACP hears about this.”

  • Mystery Man Disappears With Best Supporting Actress Statuette

    1938

    Photofest

    Alice Brady won her first best supporting actress OScar in 1938 for her role in Old Chicago but was unable to attend the event due to a broken ankle.

    A man stepped in to accept the award on her behalf, but after walking away with the trophy, he was never seen again.

    Once organizers realized she did not know the man, the Academy issued a replacement statuette. 

  • Sam Smith Mistakenly Says He's the First Openly Gay Man to Win an Oscar

    2016

    During his acceptance speech for the best original song Oscar, Sam Smith suggested that he might be the first openly gay man to win an Academy Award. Smith, however, was not the first; he had misquoted Ian McKellen from an interview in which he said that no openly gay man had won the Oscar in the best actor category.

    In fact, past winners Elton John, Dustin Lance Black, Howard Ashman and Scott Rudin were all openly gay when they accepted their Oscars.

  • Jennifer Lawrence Falls En Route to Accept Her Oscar

    2013

    As Jennifer Lawrence made her way to accept her Academy Award, once on the stairs, she tripped over her voluminous Dior gown. The Silver Linings Playbook star quickly picked herself and laughed about it.  

    Upon accepting the award to a standing ovation, Lawrence said, “Thank you. You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell and that's really embarrassing but thank you.”

  • The 'In Memoriam' Segment Shows the Wrong Photo

    2017

    The La La Land/Moonlight mix-up dominated the coverage, but another big error was made at the 2017 Oscars, during the "In Memoriam" segment.

    A picture of Jan Chapman, who is very much alive, was shown. The still was intended to be of costume designer Janet Patterson, who worked on films like The Piano and Far From the Madding Crowd. 

  • The Wrong Frank Accepts the Award

    1933

    New York Times Co./Getty Images

    During the 1933 Academy Awards, presenter Will Rogers stated, "Come on up and get it, Frank." He didn't realize that there were two nominees named Frank. Frank Capra was so excited he immediately stood up and headed toward the stage, but the real winner was Frank Lloyd. 

    In his autobiography Capra wrote, "That walk back through applauding V.I.P.’s yelling 'Sit down! Down in front! Sit down!' as I obstructed their view was the longest, saddest, most shattering walk in my life. I wish I could have crawled under the rug like a miserable worm. When I slumped into my chair, I felt like one. All my friends at the table were crying."