Lights, camera, action! The Oscars have been the pinnacle of award shows since their inception in 1929, celebrating the best in film with unforgettable moments that go down in history.
This year, the anticipation is palpable as Indian cinema gears up for one of its biggest moments at the Academy Awards on Sunday. With the Golden Globe already in hand, S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR is in the running for Best Original Song, while two documentaries, Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes and Kartiki Gonsalves’s The Elephant Whisperers, have been nominated in their respective categories. It feels like our year, with celebrations already planned and congratulatory messages at the ready.
And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, Deepika Padukone announced that she will be presenting at the Oscars alongside Hollywood giants like Riz Ahmed, Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, and Samuel L. Jackson. Padukone follows in the footsteps of Priyanka Chopra, a regular at the Oscars, and her presence is sure to add even more excitement to the proceedings. With MM Keeravaani conducting a lively rendition of ‘Naatu Naatu’ on stage, Indian viewers are in for a double treat on Monday morning.
So, to get us into the Oscar spirit, we decided to take a walk down memory lane and relive some of the stuff that went down at previous Oscar ceremonies.. From historic wins to touching speeches, here are some of the most unforgettable moments in Oscar history.
The streaker at the 46th Academy Awards
On the night of the 1974 Academy Awards, English teacher Robert Opel made Oscar history when he stripped naked and ran across the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion behind actor and Oscar co-host David Niven before being escorted offstage by security. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen,” said the actor. In truth, Opel’s stunt was part of a plan—or ongoing piece of performance art—designed to tweak the nose of what he regarded as a too-conformist society. The incident caused a stir and was talked about for years to come.
Halle Berry’s emotional acceptance speech
In 2002, Halle Berry made history as the first Black woman to win the Best Actress award for her role in Monster’s Ball. Her tearful acceptance speech addressed the lack of diversity in Hollywood and paid tribute to all the women who had come before her and broken down barriers in the industry, inspiring a generation of actors of colour.
Ellen DeGeneres’ star-studded selfie
In 2014, host Ellen DeGeneres took a star-studded selfie during the ceremony that quickly became the most retweeted photo in history. The iconic picture featured the who’s who of Hollywood, including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Jennifer Lawrence. The viral moment was a lighthearted break from the seriousness of the awards show and showcased the camaraderie and star power of the industry’s biggest names.
Jennifer Lawrence’s fall on the way to the stage
In 2013, Jennifer Lawrence tripped on her way up to the stage to accept her Best Actress award for Silver Linings Playbook. The graceful way in which she recovered from the fall only added to her charm and likability.
The first Indian nominee
In 1983, the Academy Awards saw a groundbreaking moment in Indian cinema when Satyajit Ray became the first Indian filmmaker to be nominated for an Academy Award. His film, The Home and the World, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, setting the stage for future Indian filmmakers to be recognised at the Oscars. Ray may not have won, but his nomination marked a turning point in the history of Indian cinema at the Oscars.
Fast forward to the early 1990s, and the Academy began honouring international cinema legends like Akira Kurosawa, Jean Renoir, Charlie Chaplin, and Orson Welles. Finally, it was Satyajit Ray’s turn to be recognised by the Oscars. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the ceremony due to his failing health, but he appeared via a video feed from his hospital bed in Kolkata to accept the award presented by the iconic Audrey Hepburn. With his signature calm, eloquent and witty tone, Ray spoke about the influence of American cinema in his life. He may have passed away just a few weeks later, but his legacy as a master filmmaker and an influential figure in Indian cinema lives on.
Marlon Brando’s Oscar boycott
In 1973, Marlon Brando won the Best Actor award for The Godfather, but he boycotted the ceremony in protest of Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans. He sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist, in his place to deliver a speech on his behalf, making a powerful statement and sparking conversation.
Slumdog Millionaire’s triumph
The 2009 Oscars saw the success of the film Slumdog Millionaire, which won a total of eight awards, including Best Picture. The film’s director, Danny Boyle, and its cast and crew took the stage to celebrate the groundbreaking achievement. The film’s success was a moment of pride for India and a sign of the growing influence of Indian cinema on the global stage.
A. R. Rahman taking home two Oscars
This one was special. In 2009, A. R. Rahman made history at the 81st Academy Awards by becoming the first Indian to win two Oscars in one night. The music maestro was nominated for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for his work on the British-produced film Slumdog Millionaire, and he won both awards.
Lady Gaga’s powerful performance
In 2016, Lady Gaga delivered a stunning performance of her song ‘Till It Happens to You,’ which was nominated for Best Original Song. The emotional performance, which featured survivors of sexual assault joining Gaga on stage, was a powerful statement on the importance of speaking out against sexual violence. Gaga’s performance was the highlight of the ceremony and a reminder of the role of art in addressing important social issues.
Parasite’s unexpected sweep
In 2020, the South Korean filmParasite made history by becoming the first non-English language film to win Best Picture. The film, which also won three other Oscars, including Best Director for Bong Joon-ho, was a surprise winner and a sign of the Academy’s growing recognition of international cinema. The film’s triumph was a moment of celebration for South Korean cinema and a reminder of the power of storytelling to bridge cultures and languages.
From groundbreaking wins to powerful performances, these moments have left an indelible mark on the history of the Oscars. As the industry continues to evolve, we can only wait and see what unforgettable moments the future (or this Monday) will bring.