Award shows are always a great way to see what's happening on the pop culture landscape, and the MTV Video Music Awards always contribute some good, dramatic moments. In honor of the 2020 MTV VMAs airing on Aug. 30, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at some of the best moments from VMAs past, starting with Madonna and Britney Spears' infamous kiss on stage during the 2003 show. Keep reading to relive more of our favorite moments in VMAs history…
RELATED: The business of being Britney Spears
When Queen B comes to an award show, you know it's a major occasion. That was doubly the case at the 2011 MTV VMAs when Beyonce performed her fan-favorite hit "Love on Top" then capped it all off by announcing she was pregnant with Blue Ivy Carter! What a moment!
RELATED: Duos of MTV VMAs past
The first couple of grunge, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, arrived at the 1993 MTV VMAs with young daughter Frances Bean Cobain and pretty much won the red carpet. Who doesn't remember that moment?! They were like the alternative Beyonce and JAY-Z of the early '90s and we loved it.
The snake seen 'round the world! Britney Spears pretty much set the world on fire when she performed her sexy hit "I'm a Slave 4 U" with an albino Burmese python during the 2001 MTV VMAs. It's still one of the most visually stunning moments in MTV history.
Who can forget Kanye West's infamous "Imma let you finish" diss?! During the 2009 show, Taylor Swift won the Moonman for best female video for "You Belong With Me." But before she could make her acceptance speech, Kanye jumped on stage, grabbed the microphone and announced, "I'm sorry, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time!" The crushed country cutie later told People magazine, "I was standing onstage, and I was really excited because I'd just won the award, and then I was really excited because Kanye West was onstage. And then I wasn't excited any more after that."
Back in 2000, no one thought twice about Aaliyah winning an award. She was at the top of her game and the world loved her like they had never loved an R&B star before, but in hindsight it reads like a tragedy. This award show was the last one she attended before her untimely death the following year.
Miley Cyrus performed her hit "We Don't Stop" before joining Robin Thicke for his hit "Blurred Lines" during the 2013 VMAs. After she stripped down to a latex two-piece ensemble and twerked with a foam finger alongside Robin, who was dressed like he was channeling Beetlejuice, it was clear the performance would go down as one of the most outrageous — and one of our favorite — moments in VMA history.
When Cardi B walked on stage cradling what seemed to be a baby at the 2018 MTV VMAs, audiences everywhere thought they might be getting a glimpse of her newborn daughter, Kulture. But Cardi tricked us all! Instead, she was actually pretending to nurse a Moonman!
LL Cool J won a best rap video trophy for hit "Mama Said Knock You Out" in 1991, but the real story was his affinity for being shirtless during the whole award show. Hey, we aren't complaining!
Man on fire! For the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, Kendrick Lamar pulled out all the stops for his performance of hits "DNA" and "HUMBLE" — including serving up a man literally on fire. The memorable moment happened when the rapper opened the show that year, which he also dominated. His song "HUMBLE" took home the top prize for video of the year that night as well as five other trophies.
Long before she was known as a savvy businesswoman, Jessica Simpson was known as the It girl of MTV thanks to her hit show "Newlyweds" with then-husband Nick Lachey. While that relationship might have ended, the world had just started its intense love affair with the Southern beauty. Chicken or fish, am I right?
Everyone was shocked to see 50 Cent arrive at the 2003 MTV VMAs show with actress Vivica A. Fox. The rapper, who won that night for his banger "In Da Club," lived out a childhood fantasy of romancing the actress. The couple went on to date for a while longer, but ultimately had a very messy breakup.
At the 2018 MTV VMAs, Jennifer Lopez not only received the MTV Video Vanguard Award — she proved why she deserved it! In honor of the big accomplishment, she performed an amazingly impressive medley of some of her biggest hits with a fleet of dancers and cameos by DJ Khaled and Ja Rule, all while wearing an exclusive wardrobe custom-designed by Versace.
Before Kanye West crashed Taylor Swift, Tim C from Rage Against the Machine decided to protest the VMAs when Limp Bizkit won for best rock video. In fact, he interrupted so much that security ended up chasing him up a pillar! HARDCORE!
Madonna, who pretty much set the stage for outrageous VMA moments, slayed at the first ever MTV Video Music Awards in 1984. While singing her song "Like a Virgin," the legend writhed around sensually on the stage while wearing a white wedding gown. While it might seem super low-key by today's standards, it certainly raised eyebrows back in the '80s.
"This world is bulls—." Those are the immortal words of Fiona Apple spoken during the 1997 MTV VMAs when she won the award for best new artist. Many were shocked that she didn't speak about her music, but the moment will always be remembered as one of the greats!
During the 2009 VMAs, JAY-Z and Alicia Keys performed their hit "Empire State of Mind" while in New York City and the crowd went wild! But none more so than Lil Mama who, for some reason, decided to jump on onstage and sing with the two. Alicia and Jay took it all in stride and continued on, but it was still strange!
The world was just getting to know the Williams sisters when they presented the best male video Moonman at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards show! The confluence of pop culture and sports culture was on full display that year, but no one could have predicted the influence that this dynamic duo would have on the world at this point. Game. Set. Match.
Kanye West has never been one to hold back during award shows, and the 2015 MTV VMAs were no exception. While accepting the Video Vanguard Award that year, the controversial rapper launched into a bizarre rant against Justin Timberlake and MTV and admitted that he'd smoked marijuana before the show started. The whole thing culminated in Yeezy's announcement that he planned to run for president in 2020. He then dropped the mic (no, literally — he dropped his microphone) before walking off the stage. He also hugged frenemy Taylor Swift — who'd presented him with the prize — which made everyone happy, if only for a moment!
During the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, Andrew Dice Clay got in a lot of trouble — and earned a lifetime ban — for reciting a dirty nursery rhyme while on stage. The only crime we think he committed was wearing that jacket!
Courtney Love infamously interrupted Kurt Loder's live interview with Madonna during the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards, but that was hardly the lowest point of the rocker's night. In addition to throwing makeup at Madonna and falling off a chair while crashing the interview, the Hole singer also had to be dragged off the VMAs pressroom stage due to her ridiculous antics. She may have been a mess, but it was the BEST kind of mess.
We all remember "Livin' La Vida Loca" from Ricky Martin in 1999. The Latin hitmaker's song introduced him to new American audiences with a flourish and we are still obsessed with him today.
This kiss was crazy! To kick off the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards, Michael Jackson and new bride Lisa Marie Presley took the stage and told the crowd, "Just think, nobody thought this would last" as they publicly declared their love and gave us all that super cringe-worthy kiss. Unfortunately for the newlyweds, it didn't last: They divorced less than two years later in August 1996.
Prince. A yellow bodysuit. Exposed buttocks. The 1991 MTV VMA show was crazy!
Lady Gaga took the stage during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards as her male alter-ego, Jo Calderone, and to be honest, it was one of the tamest Gaga moments in VMAs history — but one we still ate right up.
After leaving girl group Destiny's Child, Beyonce made her debut as a solo artist during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Descending from the stage upside down, the singer began her performance with "Baby Boy" before transitioning into her massive hit "Crazy in Love," when she was joined on stage by then-boyfriend JAY-Z.
During the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards when Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston — two of the greatest voices of all time — walked on stage together in matching brown gowns, everyone froze. It's not every day that two legends and divas share a stage, a dress and a sense of humor. We'll never forget it!
Spice up your life! When the Spice Girls showed up at the 1997 MTV VMAs, the world stood still! During the peak of their global domination, no one could look away from the British power pop group as they hit the red carpet in their spiciest fashions!
Gwen Stefani has been giving us major looks since the '90s — but none was as adorably out-there as what she wore to the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards when she walked the red carpet with her band, No Doubt: blue cotton-candy hair, bindis galore, fake tattoos, a fuzzy blue bikini top, a Judy Jetson skirt over pants, white platform geta-inspired sandals and, of course, her trademark flat stomach.
"Miley, what's good?" is probably one of the most buzzed-about lines in MTV VMAs history. During the 2015 ceremony, which was hosted by Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj got on stage to accept the prize for best rap video and decided to call out the pop star for talking negatively about her in the press. You could feel the tension in the room, as no one knew whether this was staged or not. Remember, Miley, Nicki is "the generous queen," so you might not want to cross her.
The 2016 MTV VMAs were all about Rihanna. Not only did she perform four different times during the show, but she also took home the Video Vanguard Award that night. And who better to present her with the iconic prize than her rumored lover and frequent collaborator, Drake? When the rapper introduced RiRi, he revealed a little too much about their relationship, proclaiming, " [Rihanna is] someone I have been in love with since I was 22 years old." He also called her "one of my best friends in the world." Didn't anyone tell him that she was a savage?
At the 1995 MTV VMAs, TLC won the video of the year prize for their smash hit "Waterfalls" — and we all remember those outfits and their infectious enthusiasm. It wasn't the craziest moment, but their pure joy made everyone smile.
Who can forget Michael Jackson's 1995 performance at the MTV VMAs? Michael and Slash cut one of the most classic silhouettes in the history of the show: the pair standing downstage, wind machines blowing around smoke (and their hair), MJ dancing and Slash killing the guitar solo during "Black or White." When the performance ended, the crowd at Radio City Music Hall went wild!
During the 2013 MTV VMAs ceremony, the guys of *NSYNC reunited to honor Justin Timberlake, who received the network's Video Vanguard Award that year. Chris Kirkpatrick, Lance Bass, JC Chasez and Joey Fatone joined JT on stage to perform two of their hits, "Girlfriend" and "Bye Bye Bye." Cue the screaming!
Only at the VMAs! During the 2018 show, Post Malone first performed a chill version of his hit "Rockstar" with 21 Savage before joining in on Aerosmith's show-closing performance, playing guitar on "Dream On" and "Toys in the Attic" with the rockers in a truly bizarre collaboration that no one expected — but everyone loved.
The Bieber apology train has arrived at the station! In 2015, the MTV VMA show was where the troubled pop star attempted to redeem himself after committing seemingly countless wrongs — from a DUI arrest to assault charges — perpetrated during 2014. The Biebs performed his hit "What Do You Mean?" live for the very first time and it turned out to be an especially emotional evening for the singer. The audience rewarded his performance with a standing ovation that left him crying. With his hands on his knees, the pop star appeared to fight back sobs before gathering himself and expressing his gratitude to the crowd. Guess he was "Sorry"!
Van Halen chose the 1996 MTV VMAs ceremony to reunite after a 10-year hiatus! While it was still a little awkward, everyone loved seeing the iconic rock boys back together. They had us thinking "Why Can't This Be Love?"
In one of the most emotional moments in MTV VMA history, Janet Jackson took the stage during the 2009 ceremony to celebrate brother Michael Jackson, who'd died two months earlier, with a fantastic performance that showcased his-and-hers hits. There wasn't a dry eye in the house while witnessing greatness recognize greatness.
That's one way to promote your album! Posing for photographers at an award show is great exposure, but Macy Gray wanted to make sure people knew about her next album too. The singer showed up at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards in this self-serving getup — a hot pink and blue metallic dress complete with an advertisement for her upcoming release. The dress read "My new album drops Sept. 18, 2001" on the front and "Buy it" on the back. Hey, social media didn't exist yet, so we can't blame her!
Who can forget when Green Day performed "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" during the 2005 MTV VMAs with a crazy pyrotechnic show?!
The Pussycat Dolls captivated the MTV set for a minute there in 2006! The group, which is no longer together, won big for their international smash "Don't Cha?" Who doesn't LOVE a girl group moment?