The 13 Biggest Jaw-Droppers at the 2021 Golden Globes

The 78th Golden Globes occurred in February, so there's one. But despite the technical glitches and the lack of alcohol-fueled fun (as a group, anyway), history was made and many moments stuck out.

By Natalie Finn Mar 01, 2021 7:59 AMTags
Watch: 2021 Golden Globes: British Invasion

Your first clue that the 2021 Golden Globes was going to be different from all that had come before?

It's March 1.

Award season is usually over by now or at least 75 percent behind us, but instead, we're just getting started with the coronavirus pandemic-delayed festivities. And yes, as co-host Tina Fey noted at the top of the show, the presenting of the Globes could have been taken care of in an email. (A no-frills news conference sufficed in 2008, when the Writers Guild of America was on strike.)

And while it's been six years since the Emmys in September, so we really barely remember, it felt as though there were a few more technical snafus last night, winners going quiet or the acceptance speeches starting too early, Tina and Amy Poehler—emceeing from New York and Los Angeles, respectively—not always in sync, nominees waiting remotely seemingly not always realizing that they were part of the broadcast right that second, resulting in more than a few awkward pauses.

But, the Globes being a celebration of both film and TV, there was also substantially more star power, as well as a fabulously diverse array of fashion on display, from gorgeous gowns on the likes of Kate Hudson and Angela Bassett to Jeff Daniels' plaid button-down, Bill Murray's vividly colored Hawaiian shirt and Jason Sudeikis' tie-dye hoodie. And all of the presenters made it to the stage at the Beverly Hilton, the Globes' usual home, albeit in front of socially distanced tables for one or two instead of the usual raucous set-ups for a film's whole main cast.

See the Winners of the 2021 Golden Globes

And in the end, when actors were happily/excitedly/wryly/emotionally accepting awards for work that they're proud of, it almost felt normal. Meanwhile, Netflix continued to show Amazon that it can't dominate every facet of life, things were said (on purpose and accidentally), tears were shed and history was made.

These are the moments that left a mark during the 2021 Golden Globes:

History Made

Chloé Zhao became the first Asian woman to win Best Director at the Globes, and only the second woman ever, Barbra Streisand being the first—for Yentl—in 1984.

"It's about time! Congratulations Chloé! Well deserved!" Streisand tweeted from home.

Though the HFPA has other issues, some of which they've vowed to rectify, the mysterious group did make history in this category by nominating more women than men for the first time—and seven years since even one woman was nominated, Ava DuVernay for Selma. Zhao, whose Nomadland also won Best Motion Picture, Drama (meaning the most-nominated film of the night, Mank, was 0-for-6), topped David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, Regina King and Emerald Fennell.

When he won earlier in the evening for Best Screenplay for The Trial of the Chicago 7, Sorkin said Zhao, Fennell and King were the reasons his teenage daughter wanted to be a filmmaker—"and I am never going to forgive you for that."

Epic Sadness

Even if everything was so-called "normal" and all the stars had been crammed into the Beverly Hilton ballroom as always, there still would have been the gaping empty space where Chadwick Boseman should've been.

The star of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, who died last August after battling colon cancer for several years, was a posthumous winner for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama, and we can expect a recurrence of this bittersweet celebration at the SAG Awards (he's nominated four times, twice individually and as part of the ensembles for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Da 5 Bloods) and probably at the Oscars, too.

Boseman's widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted the Globe on his behalf. (Interestingly, one of the actors he beat, Gary Oldman, accepted Heath Ledger's SAG Award when the late actor won for The Dark Knight, Oldman one of the handful of people who scooped up posthumous honors on the fallen star's behalf in 2009.) 

"He would thank God," said the emotional Ledward, dressed in a golden gown fit for a warrior queen. "He would thank his parents. He would thank his ancestors for their guidance and their sacrifices. He would thank his incredible team...He would thank his team on set for this film...He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you you can, that tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing at this moment in history. He would thank [the film's director] Mr. George C. Wolfe, [producer] Mr. Denzel Washington, lots of people at Netflix. He would thank Ms. Viola Davis..." She named a slew of other castmates. "And I don't have his words," she concluded. "But we have to take all the moments to celebrate those we love, so thank you, HFPA, for this opportunity to do exactly that. And honey, you keep 'em coming."

All Hail Lady Day

Just two days after The United States vs. Billie Holiday hit Hulu, Andra Day swooped in and won Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama, for her turn as the embattled blues chanteuse. 

Increasingly breathless and emotional as she battled back tears to finish her speech, she sang the praises of her fellow nominees—Frances McDormand (who was the frontrunner but skipped the affair altogether), Carey Mulligan, Viola Davis and Vanessa Kirby—finishing with, "and to the amazing, transformative, dynamic Billie Holiday, who just transformed me with this role and with her presence and with her spirit. I love all of you so much and, just, I can't..."

But she could, finishing up before letting the tears take over.

Daniel Kaluuya and the Muted Zoom

The first award handed out, Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, didn't exactly portend well for the rest of the evening, as the joy over Kaluuya's win for his turn as Black Panther Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah quickly turned to WTF when no one could hear his speech. The camera had even switched back to presenter Laura Dern when the British actor's microphone finally kicked in. And it was worth the wait. 

"You're doin' me dirty!" he playfully accused the sound powers that be. "I'm on! Is this on? Is this on? Alright, cool. Can you hear me now?"

He proceeded to thank a number of family members, as well as director Shaka King and producer Ryan Coogler. To co-star Lakeith Stanfield, who played FBI informant and Fred's ultimate betrayer William O'Neal, he said, "I stand with you, my bro." He called Dominique Fishback "a light." 

"Man, this took it out of me," he continued. "I gave it everything. Like the great Nipsey Hussle said, 'We're here to give till we're empty, and I gave everything.' And I couldn't give it to a more noble man, that's Chairman Fred Hampton [who led the Panthers' Chicago chapter before being killed at 21 in a police raid]…And I hope generations after this can see how brilliantly he thought, how brilliantly he spoke and how brilliantly he loved. He taught me about myself. He helped me grow as a man, and I appreciate that with all my heart. And I hope people, there's a lot of information about how he died, but I hope people out there will grow and learn about how incredibly he lived."

And in toasting his fellow nominees, he couldn't not give a special shot-out to Bill Murray, up for On the Rocks and fittingly hoisting a martini—or possibly a gimlet—from his Zoom window.

The Hard Truth

Mark Ruffalo's acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Limited Series, Anthology or TV Movie for his turn playing identical twins in HBO's I Know This Much Is True got so heated and went on for so long that his wife had to cycle through a variety of expressions and arm pats, and eventually his son walked over and put a hand on the actor's shoulder in a show of comfort and support.

"At 54 years, it is my humble belief that what will give all this sadness and loss, that we all have lived through, meaning is our common humanity," he said, about midway through. "What connects us is greater than what keeps us apart, and the more we include each other and see each other and hear each other, the faster we will heal our broken hearts and minds. We have a dying mother, just like the mother in our story, she's Mother let's be courageous together, guys. And let's turn the page on the cruel past of this nation. The good news is inclusion and justice and care for Mother Earth is breaking out everywhere. The godly light of decency is breaking through the hideous dark storm we've been living through. We are all in this together. We are the ones we have been waiting for, so let's do this, now. I love you."

We love him, too, but he may be the reason so many other winners got exit music.

Woman of Her Word

Eight years after she cracked open a window into her fiercely guarded private life with a beautiful shout-out to her co-parent and, by then, ex-partner Cydney Bernard on the Globes stage while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, there Foster was in 2021, happily chilling at home with her wife, Alexandra Hedison—whom she had occasion to kiss when she won Best Supporting Actress for The Mauritanian. The win itself was a bit of a shocker, considering this is one of those classic Globes moves, nominating a movie that most people haven't had a chance to see yet. It's technically out, but coronavirus means many theaters remain closed, and the film won't be on Amazon Prime until April 1.

But it was a pleasant surprise, one that Foster didn't expect—just as she said eight years ago that she didn't expect to ever be on that stage again. And she followed through on her promise to Jimmy Kimmel that she would thank Aaron Rodgers, who randomly referred to Foster as a member of his "team" when he was named MVP of this past NFL season. They don't actually know each other, but Foster is an admitted Packers fan and her Mauritanian co-star and football neophyte Shailene Woodley is now engaged to Rodgers. So they're at least cosmically linked.

Charles and Di Strike Back

It's only fitting that, just as the younger royals—of whichever generation they may be—tend to start overshadowing those who came before, Emma Corrin as Princess Diana topped Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II for Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama, this year.

"Whaat?!" the adorable actress exclaimed. After thanking a slew of the living, Corrin added, "and most of all thank you so much to Diana. You have taught me compassion and empathy beyond any measure that I could ever imagine, and on behalf of everyone who remembers you so fondly and passionately in our hearts, thank you."

She was virtually joined on the throne later by Josh O'Connor, a winner for Best Actor for his performance as Prince Charles, and then The Crown itself was named Best Drama Series in a year in which a U.K. official suggested Netflix specially stamp the show with a "fiction" tag, lest anyone mistake the dramatization of the royal family's trials and tribulations to be ripped from reality word for word. It last won best series in 2017.

Gillian Anderson, who played Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, marked the show's fourth win of the night when she was named Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series (the supporting categories encompassing basically anything on TV, which is why they announced it after drama series) and reminding us that she is not, in fact, British. But has a great British agent, who she obviously thanked.

The Sound of Music

Diane Warren wasn't a first-time Globe winner in 2021, actually earning her second overall for "Io Sì (Seen)" from The Life Ahead (shared with lyricists Niccolò Agliardi and Laura Pausini), but she's been nominated 11 times and still hasn't won an Oscar—so perhaps this will be the propellant the Academy needs to remedy that.

In the next category, Best Original Score, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, nominated for both Mank and Soul, won for the latter from Pixar, sharing the honor with Jon Batiste. "Also I think this is the first piece of art I've ever made in my life that I can ever show my kids," Reznor noted.

Sal Glow

Presenter Tracy Morgan gave former co-star Fey something to work with on the fly when, in announcing the winner for Best Original Score, he pronounced Soul to rhyme with "Sal." instead. 

As they went to commercial, Don Cheadle asked the other nominees in his Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy, category, "Did Soul also win or just 'Sal'?" Ramy Youssef agreed, "That was so funny." "Soul's Pizzeria!" suggested Jason Sudeikis.

And when Fey came back on, she called Morgan "a beautiful Sal," the gaffe from her unpredictable 30 Rock co-star making her "feel very much at home."

Lassoed a Win

Jason Sudeikis both seemed utterly unprepared and cited Tolstoy, so we say he struck a perfect balance when called upon to accept the win for Best Actor in a TV Comedy for his utterly charming turn as a fish-out-of-water manager of an English football team in Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso.

"Wow! Alright. Can I talk now? Yeah? Boy, OK. That's nuts. Uh, thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press," he began. "I mean this is for me the coolest thing that a group of… that's nuts. Crazy. OK. Wow. Well, here's what I'll say. I'll say this. I want to thank everyone that works on the show." Then came the tale of reading Leo Tolstoy's "The Three Questions" to his son Otis and the ultimate point of his story was that it takes a village to make Ted Lasso and he was honored to live in that village.

His tie-dye hoodie that said "FORWARD" was merch from his sister Kristin Sudeikis' multimedia arts company.

Roses by Any Other Name

But though Ted Lasso may have been the sleeper comedy hit of quarantine, it would have been unacceptable not to bestow Best Comedy Series on Schitt's Creek. Unlike at the Emmys, the stars were beaming in from different places, but they did sweetly split the screen to show Eugene Levy watching proudly as son Dan Levy accepted for the group. Catherine O'Hara was the show's only other winner, for Best Actress in a TV Comedy—her first-ever Globe win and, if you can believe it, first-ever nomination.

Rosamund Pike Perks Up

It's a good thing Pike won Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, for her turn as a congenial conwoman in the Netflix film I Care a Lot, because otherwise our last glimpse of her would have been of the British star resting her cheek in her hand, looking kind of tired of this whole thing while possibly not realizing they were teasing her category by showing all the nominees before going to commercial.

But once presenter Ben Stiller read her name, she perked right up (fittingly in a ruffled red babydoll dress that made her look like a rose blooming before us) and was raring to go. "In my movie I had to swim up from a sinking car. I think I still would rather do that than have been in a room with Rudy Giuliani," she offered in a shout-out to fellow nominee Maria Bakalova, a nod to the infamous scene in Borat between Bakalova and the former mayor of New York turned Trump attorney.

That exchange was one of many reasons why Sacha Baron Cohen made sure to thank Bakalova as being essential to the success of his Borat sequel, winner for Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical. Back onscreen minutes later to accept for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy (as he did for the 2006 original), he revealed that his win was being contested by Giuliani's latest client.


As much as fans of Normal People fell head over heels in love with Connell and Marianne's alternately heartwarming and heart-wrenching, scream-at-the-screen romance in the Hulu series, based on Sally Rooney's book, it was the other story audiences went gaga over this past year, The Queen's Gambit on Netflix, that won Best Limited Series, Anthology or TV Movie.

Star Anya Taylor-Joy was a winner for Best Actress in the category, and Netflix ended the evening with a leading nine Globes.

Relive all the winners and biggest show moments from the 2021 Golden Globes here!