All the Jaw-Dropping Moments From the 2022 Oscars

Rarely do the Oscars' biggest jaw-droppers involve actual jaws during the show, but this year they did. Read on for all of the night's most memorable moments.

By Natalie Finn Mar 28, 2022 7:00 AMTags
Watch: Will Smith's SLAP at Oscars 2022: Celebrities REACT

Hollywood loves a comeback. This year, it was the Oscars' turn.

After a bummer of a mid-pandemic show last year, one that was too dour in all the wrong places, way too self-congratulatory and uncomfortably divided between venues, what's supposed to be the movies' biggest night was back in a big way Sunday.

It all started on the right note with Beyoncé performing Best Original Song nominee "Be Alive" from a Compton tennis court, her gown the same shade as the countless balls Venus and Serena Williams smacked on their way to biopic-level greatness, and ended with a heartwarming win for the little film that could, the Best Picture category back where it belongs.

And in between those moments...  

Well, let's just say, people will still be talking about the show tomorrow.

The Oscars were also back home at the Dolby Theater, part of which was cordoned off into cabaret-style seating as opposed to the usual rows-upon-rows, but that was as far as the social distancing went. Especially once Regina Hall started patting the hunky male presenters down for COVID "protocol."

See the Winners of the 2022 Oscars

Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes also marked the much-needed return of Oscar hosts, the trio comporting themselves admirably—aka hilariously—both together and on their own. Schumer delivered a top-of-the-show monologue that appropriately skewered the nominees and poked fun where it was due without going off the "actually, we're ridiculous so why are we doing this again?" cliff. Or the equally precarious, "we know we're a little frivolous so we'll overcompensate by reminding you constantly of the bad stuff" promontory.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Attention was paid, of course, to issues beyond the walls of the Dolby, often with humor (promising Floridians that the night would be "gay, gay, gay"; offering a pre-shredded Texas voting ballot as a consolation prize), but also more directly, the broadcast included a moment of silence for the people of Ukraine. A number of attendees also wore blue ribbons in support of refugees from the now war-torn nation.

But the show worked because this ceremony was undeniably a celebration, not a scolding—and it had enough laughs, emotion, epic fashion, heartfelt speeches and pugilism to last us till next year.

Here are the biggest jaw-droppers from the 2022 Oscars:

"The Greatest Night in the History of Television"

A Zapruder film-level analysis of the moment when Will Smith—taking offense at Chris Rock's not particularly revelatory "G.I. Jane 2" joke regarding Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head (she has candidly discussed having alopecia)—got up from his front-row seat and slapped Rock was necessary.

Because nothing since the La La Land debacle of '17 had bewildered TV audiences more than what ensued. It looked at first like a feigned jab, but Rock was visibly rattled as he proceeded to present Best Documentary to Questlove's Summer of Soul (hooray, and too bad his deserved moment was overshadowed).

And even though the sound cut out, you could see Smith yelling at Rock from his seat, and some countries got the unbleeped version: "Keep my wife's name out of your f--king mouth!" 

Go inside the room where it happened here.

Oh yeah, and Smith won Best Actor for King Richard. We all had guessed before Sunday that his speech was going to be a moment to remember, and... it was.

Music of the Heart

To every awards season, a speech slayer is born, and in 2022 that titan of the dais has been Troy Kotsur, who capped off the biggest year of his long career with the Best Supporting Actor win for CODA, in which he played a career fisherman who's struggling with the idea of letting his hearing daughter, who serves as her deaf family's ears and interpreter, follow her dreams out of town.

Presenter and last year's Best Supporting Actress Youn Yuh-jung signed the winner as well as announced him and was happy to hold Kotsur's statue while he gave his speech in ASL, resulting in signed applause from the audience and rivulets of tears on multiple faces.

"It's really amazing that our film, CODA, has reached out worldwide," Kotsur said through a translator. "It even reached all the way to the White House." He planned on teaching the Bidens some "dirty sign language" when the cast met the president and first lady, "but Marlee Matlin told me to behave myself. Don't worry, Marlee, I won't drop any F-bombs in my speech today."

Matlin, who plays his wife in the film, was the first deaf performer to ever win an acting Oscar, Best Actress for 1986's Children of a Lesser God, and Kotsur is the second.

He also shared that his late father was the best signer he ever knew, before he was paralyzed from the neck down in a car crash and could no longer communicate. "Dad, I learned so much from you," Kotsur said. "I'll always love you, you are my hero. I just wanted to say that this is dedicated to the deaf community, the C.O.D.A. community and the disabled community. This is our moment."

Wait, you're crying?! We're crying too!

As Good a Time as Any to Win

Adele and Sam Smith will tell you: Write a Bond theme song, win an Oscar.

And now Billie Eilish, who performed "No Time to Die" from the film of the same name, is an Oscar winner for Best Original Song, as is her brother and co-writer Finneas.

At 20, Billie is also the youngest-ever artist to win a Golden Globe, a Grammy and an Oscar for the same song. 

The siblings' shining moment denied Lin-Manuel Miranda's second shot at achieving the EGOT, and now perennial Best Original Song nominee Diane Warren is 0-for-13 on Oscar night. But 13 isn't the greatest number anyway, so maybe next year...

Hometown Boy Makes Good

Did you know that Kenneth Branagh was a five-time Oscar bridesmaid before this year, racking up Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Live Action Short nominations over the past 30 years?

And though Belfast, based on his own boyhood growing up in 1960s Northern Ireland at the onset of The Troubles, was very well-liked, its momentum seemed to be flagging as CODA became the charming, intimate movie everyone was talking about.

Yet just when it seemed as if the film's six nominations might go unanswered, Branagh won for Best Original Screenplay. "This story is the search for joy and hope in the face of violence and loss," he said, going on to add, "and we will never forget those who were lost in the heartbreaking, heartwarming, human story of that amazing city of Belfast on the fabulous island of Ireland. This means a lot, thank you so much."

Regina Hall Plays Doctor

Having announced that she was single earlier in the show, co-host Regina Hall took the opportunity to, um, test some of the hottest actors in the room for COVID.

First she called for eligible bachelors Bradley Cooper, Timothée ChalametSimu Liu and Tyler Perry to come backstage for "random" tests—and she tried to get Will Smith up there, too, assuring him that his wife had signed off on it, but he stayed in his seat.

Yet it was Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin who got the TSA-style pat-down to cap off the funny-but-cringey bit that worked but maybe went on a hair too long.

Spice, Spice Baby

Dune cleaned uin technical categories—which makes sense, considering how amazing the famously hard-to-get-right sci-fi epic looked.

And though director Denis Villeneuve was snubbed a nod despite the sweeping film's Best Picture nomination, it still led the night with six Oscars for cinematography, editing, visual effects, production design, sound and score. Composer Hans Zimmer was not there—and not just because his category was relegated to the pre-hour—but he got the news in his bathrobe at 2 a.m. in Amsterdam.

We Found Out What People Are Actually Into

Constantly dinged for choices that don't exactly coincide with the preferences of the general moviegoing public, this year the Oscars took a beat to recognize Twitter voters' most "cheer-worthy" moments—which, as it turned out, had very little in common with what attracts the most prestigious prizes.

The moments that put folks on the edges of their seats over the past two decades included Neo dodging bullets in The Matrix, Jennifer Hudson belting out "I'm Telling You" in Dreamgirls (OK, the Academy nailed that one), the Avengers assembling to fight Thanos in Endgame, three Spideys assembling in Spider-Man: No Way Home and, in the No. 1 spot...

The Flash entering the Speed Force in Zack Snyder's Justice League.

Which at least dispels the notion that young audiences are incapable of sitting through something that's four hours long. 

As for fans' favorite movie of the year: Army of the Dead, starring Dave Bautista and zombies.

Reunions and Anniversaries and Surprises, Oh My!

If you've got the power to get the casts of your favorite movies to reunite, you use it!

And so we got White Men Can't Jump stars Wesley Snipes, Rosie Perez and Woody Harrelson together again after 30 years presenting Best Sound; Juno's Elliot Page, Jennifer Garner and J.K. Simmons (also a nominee for Being the Ricardos) handing out Original Screenplay, which their movie won 15 years ago; and the twistingly talented John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson presiding over Best Actor. Not a round number, it's been 28 years since Pulp Fiction came out, but just because it was cool.

And then the pièce de résistance, at least by the tenor of standing ovation (of which there were many last night): Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Francis Ford Coppola taking the stage to mark the 50th anniversary of The Godfather.

"I feel moments like this should be sincere and brief," the director of some of the longest films ever said. 

There was also a 60th anniversary salute to James Bond delivered by Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater and Shaun White (something about GOATs squabbling over how to pick a GOAT Bond), and Bill Murray showed up during the livelier-than-usual in memoriam segment to pay special tribute to Stripes and Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman.

Life Can Be Bright in America

Ariana DeBose is one for one: first-time Oscar nominee, first-time winner after being named Best Supporting Actress for her turn as Anita in West Side Story, the culmination of one hell of an award season for the veteran Broadway performer.

She also made history as the first openly queer woman of color to win an acting Oscar, 60 years after Rita Moreno—who was at the ceremony Sunday—won for the same role in the 1961 version of the film and became the first Latina to win an acting Oscar. DeBose is the first Afro Latina actress to win.

"Imagine this little girl in the back seat of a white Ford Focus. When you look into her eyes, you see an openly queer woman of color, an Afro Latina, who found her strength in life through art," she said in her acceptance speech. "And that's what I believe we're here to celebrate.

"So to anybody who's ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us."

The Case of the Missing Categories

It's not news anymore, but the relegation of eight categories, almost all of which were won by people who worked on Dune (Best Original Score winner Hans Zimmer is seen here getting the news at 2 a.m. in Amsterdam), to the hour before the live telecast began didn't go over well with seemingly anyone who didn't have a hand in making that decision. So, we'll wonder if that part stays the same next year.

Wasn't combining sound mixing and sound editing into just "sound" enough?!

She Has the Power

For the first time in Oscars history, a woman won Best Director for the second year in a row. New Zealander Jane Campion—a previous winner for Original Screenplay for The Piano in 1994—collected The Power of the Dog's sole honor of the night out of its field-leading 12 nominations.

"I love directing because it's a deep dive into story, and yet the task of manifesting a world can be overwhelming," she said. "The sweet thing is I'm not alone."

Last year Chloé Zhao became the first-ever Asian woman—and only second woman ever—to win Best Director, for Nomadland, 11 years after The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow broke through that celluloid ceiling.

A Fitting Coda

After being an audience favorite at Sundance last year—as in January 2021—CODA quietly premiered on Apple TV+ in August, kept picking up steam and ended up running right over the competition, becoming the least nominated Best Picture winner since 1932's Grand Hotel, which was famously only nominated for that one award.

But with Kotsur's win, it went 3-for-3: Director Siân Heder also won Best Adapted Screenplay for the funny, heartwarming and tear-jerking tale of a girl who's the only hearing person in her family (in case you hadn't heard by now, "coda" is an acronym for "child of deaf adults") and is torn between her dream of going to music school and sticking around to help with their business.

"Thank you to the Academy for letting our CODA make history tonight," producer Philippe Rousselet said in his acceptance speech, a nod to the first-ever Best Picture win for a film with a primarily deaf main cast. "And congratulations to all of our fellow nominees. Your movies were all so incredible. We're so honored to be here."

To actors Kotsur, Matalin, Emilia Jones and Daniel Durant, Rousselet said, "You guys have made such a wonderful and loving family on screen, but also off-screen. And everybody wants to be a part of it."

Well, we don't know if all that did the trick for fickle at-home watchers of telecasts about movies, but we do know that the Oscars felt like the Oscars again. And kinda like a bar fight for a minute.

But the show was pretty darn entertaining from start to finish, and that's all we can ever hope for.

The 2024 Academy Awards air live Sunday, March 10, from 7 to 10:30 p.m. ET/4 to 7:30 p.m. PT on ABC.