The Five Worst Political Moments in Oscar History

The Academy Awards ceremony can invite serious divisiveness every year, something it's sure to do again this Sunday

It is not enough to make movies and TV shows these days. Many top stars in Hollywood also feel the need to play the role of political pundit.

Often, they will take opportunities when they have the biggest audiences — and deliver their most divisive messages. These can occur on the internet, during nationally televised interviews or even when accepting awards.

Award shows, in fact, are when the ugliest politics can bubble to the surface. This Sunday’s Oscars may even end up being one of the worst and most politically divisive we have ever seen.

With that in mind, here is a look at five of the worst political moments in Oscars history — and let’s hope none of these moments are topped Sunday night.

1.) Marlon Brando is a no-show. Brando earned the Best Actor Academy Award in 1973 for his performance in “The Godfather.” However, he didn’t even bother to show up to the awards ceremony. Instead, he sent political activist Sacheen Littlefeather to speak for him — and she used the opportunity to complain about how Native Americans were depicted on television and in films. Brando didn’t even accept the award.

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2.) Roman Polanski gets Hollywood’s support. In 2003, Polanski could not accept his Oscar for Best Director for “The Pianist” because he was (and still is) a fugitive from the United States. He was arrested in 1977 for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. He ended up pleading guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor,” but fled the country when he found out he would need to serve prison time.

Still, the crowd gave him an ovation. Even Meryl Streep, who now claims to be a feminist activist and a supporter of the #MeToo movement, stood up and clapped. Embarrassing.

3.) Michael Moore gets boos for bashing Bush. Moore won the Best Documentary Oscar in 2003 for his “Bowling for Columbine” film. When he got on stage, though, he didn’t seem all that interested in talking about his movie.

Moore instead used the opportunity to attack then-President George W. Bush and his administration for the Iraq War.

Many in the crowd actually booed Moore.

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4.) Hollywood refuses to stand for Elia Kazan. Communism was an enemy of many Americans during the Cold War, and Elia Kazan helped fuel the infamous Hollywood blacklist, which prevented known or suspected communists from working in Hollywood.

Kazan spoke as a witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952 and helped end multiple careers. Many people in Hollywood never forgave him for it.

Kazan’s feelings of isolation within his own industry were later what helped fuel the emotional classic film “On the Waterfront.”

When the director received an Honorary Academy Award in 1999, many celebs, including Steven Spielberg, Nick Nolte, Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, refused to stand for him.

Kazan did not use his Oscar moment to make any political statements. He accepted his award with grace despite the reaction from his fellow artists.

5.) Vanessa Redgrave gets anti-Semitic. When Redgrave took the stage in 1978 to accept the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her work in “Julia,” few of those watching were expecting the words that came out of her mouth.

In an aggressive speech, Redgrave “saluted” Hollywood and thanked the industry for not backing down to threats from “Zionist hoodlums.”

A simple thank-you would have sufficed — but she instead chose to attack Jewish people and the state of Israel.

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Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets. 

(photo credit, article image: Oscars, CC BY 2.0, by Pxhere)

Tom Joyce
meet the author

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.

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