Last year's 2021 Oscars — which were plagued by COVID pandemic issues — were the lowest rated in history. So the 2022 Oscars on March 27 had every opportunity to be better — the show made history, as it was the first time an all-Black producing team steered the Academy Awards. Plus, after three years without a host, the telecast had a master of ceremonies — three, in fact, as Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes guided the show. (Wanda, by the way, said she planned to steal an Oscar to make up for the shoddy pay.) What other actors and actresses earned their statues the good ol' fashioned way? What moments fired up social media? What were the big surprises? The 94th Annual Academy Awards, it turned out, were as unpredictable as ever… Join us as we revisit the most talked-about moments… The good news the morning after? The 2022 Oscars drew a bigger audience than the all-time low ratings the show scored in 2021. The bad news? The viewership was still well below past years' figures. On March 28, The Hollywood Reporter reported the ratings — which could still adjust upward after additional viewership (like streaming) is factored in — revealing that the ABC broadcast saw 15.36 million viewers tune in, which is nearly 5 million more than the 10.4 million people who watched the 2021 ceremony. That said, the 2022 show was the second least watched show since Nielsen began tracking ratings in the mid-'70s. Online engagement, however, was massive: The show sparked huge numbers on Twitter and Variety's Trending TV chart, "pulling in more engagements than any other TV series, award show or broadcast — including the Super Bowl — since the chart's launch," Variety reported, with nearly 33 million engagements during the red carpet and telecast, thanks in large part to the Will Smith–Jada Pinkett Smith-Chris Rock drama (more on that in a minute).
Now keep reading to catch up on the most talked-about moments from the 2022 Oscars…
Lady Gaga and Liza close the most awkward Oscars telecast ever
Lady Gaga made it to the Oscars after all. After she was snubbed for her performance in "House of Gucci," failing to earn a nomination, it seemed likely she wouldn't attend the Academy Awards in 2022. However, the "Poker Face" singer stepped on stage at the end of the evening alongside Hollywood icon Liza Minnelli to present the biggest award of the night: best picture. "You see that, the public, they love you," Gaga told Liza, who was presenting from her wheelchair. She called Liza a "true show business legend." In one of the most endearing moments of the show — in a show that needed it! — Liza seemed to flub her lines. Cameras and audio caught Gaga sweetly leaning down and quietly telling Liza, "I got you." Liza replied, "I know." [Tear emoji here.]
Will Smith hits Chris Rock, shouts an obscene warning: Here's what the censors muted
Well, that escalated quickly! When Chris Rock came out to present the award for best documentary feature (which was won by "Summer of Soul"), he cracked a few jokes at the expense of a few celebrities in the audience, including Jada Pinkett Smith, who has a shaved head like the lead character in "G.I. Jane." "Jada, I love you. 'G.I. Jane 2,' can't wait to see it," he quipped. The camera caught Jada's reaction, and she wasn't amused. As it shifted back to Chris, Jada's husband, Will Smith, walked on stage and hit the comedian in the face. The U.S. feed of the show was suddenly censored as a stunned Chris said, "Will Smith just smacked the s*** out of me." Will went back to his seat and continued shouting — an uncensored feed posted on Twitter revealed what American audiences missed: "Keep my wife's name out of your f****** mouth," Will shouted twice at Chris, who appeared shaken by the moment. "Wow, dude, it was a 'G.I. Jane' joke!" Chris explained. He then noted to the audience as the sound returned and he regained his composure, "That was the greatest night in the history of television." Sean "Diddy" Combs later came on stage and joked that it was the "most exciting" Oscars ever and promised the beef would get settled, which drew smiles from Will and Jada. Afterward, both "Good for Will" and "#arrestwillsmith" were trending on Twitter.
Will Smith's awkward acceptance speech
After all the drama, Will Smith came out on top — he won the Academy Award for best actor for his performance as Richard Williams in "King Richard," which came less than 20 minutes after his uncomfortable spat with Chris Rock. Will seemed to reference the slap-heard-round-the-world by opening his acceptance speech, "Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family." (Will's issue with Chris stemmed from a joke the comedian made referencing his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.) "I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern," he said. Will brought up advice that Denzel Washington gave him after the act of aggression, which was: "At your highest moment, be careful. That's when the devil comes for you." The crowd was tense but seemed to cheer for Will's expected win. "Art imitates life," he quipped later in his speech. "I look like the crazy father, just like they said. Love will make you do crazy things." Will also apologized to his fellow nominees and the Academy. "Thank you for this honor. I hope the Academy invites me back."
Timothée takes it off
Timothée Chalamet likes his fashion like he likes his sandwiches: open! The "Dune" actor, who's known for his playful and risky fashion choices, walked the 2022 Oscars red carpet shirtless. He covered up with an open Louis Vuitton suit jacket and accessorized with Cartier jewels. This kind of fashion works at the Academy Awards, but try going shirtless to an Applebee's. Chances are you'll get a much different reaction.
Will Smith sits out traditional Oscar acting winners photo
Best actress in a supporting role winner Ariana DeBose (for "West Side Story"), best actor in a supporting role winner Troy Kotsur (for "CODA") and best actress in a leading role winner Jessica Chastain (for "The Eyes of Tammy Faye") posed together in the press room during the 94th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 27, 2022. In the wake of his altercation with presenter Chris Rock, best actor winner Will Smith (for "King Richard") missed the traditional acting winners group photo.
Funny or too far?
Co-host Regina Hall raised eyebrows when she did a bit where she joked that the Academy had lost some stars' COVID test results, so she needed some personal time backstage with a few "random" celebrities to ensure they underwent more testing. She called for single Hollywood heartthrobs Bradley Cooper, Simu Liu, Tyler Perry and Timothée Chalamet to come up on stage, and they all obliged. Regina, who made it known she's single, also did a "COVID pat down" on presenters Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin. Twitter was mixed on whether this was funny or even appropriate.
"We Don't Talk About Bruno" delivers an unexpected surprise
The Oscars surprised "Encanto" fans with a performance of "We Don't Talk About Bruno" during the Academy Awards telecast that was very different from the song everyone knows and loves from the animated film — and fans at home had mixed reviews. Joining cast members including Adassa (who voiced Dolores), Stephanie Beatriz (who voiced Mirabel), Mauro Castillo (who voiced Felix), Carolina Gaitan (who voiced Pepa) and Diane Guerrero (who voiced Isabela) were music stars from the Latin music world — Becky G and Luis Fonsi. But the wildest addition was a new verse from rapper Megan Thee Stallion. "They did not just pull out Megan Thee Stallion for We Don't Talk About Bruno," tweeted one fan, who was pleased. However, others didn't think they should have messed with an already good thing. "Not sure what that was, but it sure wasn't 'We Don't Talk About Bruno,'" tweeted another.
"Euphoria" actor Jacob Elordi and "West Side Story" actress Rachel Zegler took to the Oscars stage together inside the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on March 27 to present the award for best visual effects. But Twitter couldn't stop commenting about their wild height difference. So how far apart are they? The Australian actor is 6-foot-5-inches tall while the American beauty is 5-foot-1.
Why a Kardashian is at the Oscars
As if the Kardashian family wasn't already omnipresent, Kourtney Kardashian is at the Oscars. Yep, it's true. The eldest of the K-clan is attending as the date of her fiancé, Travis Barker. The drummer is part of the Academy Awards' all-star band. Prior to her arrival, Kourtney posted a video on Instagram that shows her getting a facial treatment. "A little Oscars prep with the beauty sandwich," she said. Welcome to the AKademy Awards.
Jason Momoa's great hair moment
Back in 2019, Jason Momoa delighted fans when he hit the Oscars red carpet in a pink suit and matching scrunchie. This year, he charmed the internet again, this time when he hit the red carpet — solo, following his split from wife Lisa Bonet — with his long hair in a French braid secured with a pale pink scrunchie!
Ariana DeBose makes history
With her best supporting actress win for her performance as Anita in "West Side Story," Ariana DeBose became the first Afro Latina and first openly queer woman of color to win an Academy Award for acting. "You see a[n] … openly queer woman of color and Afro Latina who found strength in life through art," she said as she concluded her acceptance speech. "If anyone has ever questioned your identity, I promise you this, there is indeed a place for us."
Troy Kotsur's win is an Oscars first
History. Made. Again. Troy Kotsur became the first man who is deaf to win an Academy Award for acting, for his portrayal of a deaf fisherman in "CODA" — which later in the night won the best picture Oscar. As he made his way to the stage, many in the audience signed applause rather than clapping. "I cannot believe I'm here," Troy signed while accepting his best supporting actor trophy. His speech was both heartwarming and funny, as he shared a story about visiting the White House and contemplating teaching President Joe Biden curse words in sign language (Marlee Matlin told him not to!). Troy thanked the deaf stages that helped him develop his craft, as well as his father, who lost his ability to sign after a car accident. "Dad, I learned so much from you. You are my hero," he signed. "This is dedicated to the Deaf community, to the CODA community. This is our moment." Troy was also the first deaf male actor to ever be nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar. He followed in the footsteps of "CODA" co-star Marlee Matlin, who in 1987 became the first deaf performer period to be nominated for an Oscar. She ended up winning that year for her performance in "Children of a Lesser God."
Jessica's big night
Jessica Chastain is no stranger to the Oscars, having been previously nominated twice before. But she now has a win, as she took home the trophy for best actress for her performance in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." In her speech, she called out "discriminatory and bigoted legislation," likely citing recently controversial bills in Florida, Texas, Utah and more. "We're faced with discriminatory and bigoted legislation that is sweeping our country with the only goal of further dividing us. There's violence and hate crimes being perpetuated on innocent civilians all over the world. And in times like this, I think of Tammy and I'm inspired by her radical acts of love," Jessica said. "We've talked about love a lot. And I'm inspired by her compassion, and I see it as a guiding principle that leads us forward. And it connects us all in the desire that we want to be accepted for who we are, accepted for who we love, and to live a life without the fear of violence or terror. And for any of you out there who do in fact feel hopeless or alone, I just not you to know you are unconditionally loved for the uniqueness that is you."
Beyonce plays ball
Well, that was a change. Rather than the show opening with a typical monologue, the Oscars opened with a shot of tennis greats Venus Williams and Serena Williams, whose life story was portrayed in "King Richard," a film focused on their father (who's played by best actor nominee Will Smith) that's nominated for best picture. As the crowd applauded loudly for the sports superstars, they introduced Beyonce's performance of the film's "Be Alive," which was filmed on a tennis court in Compton, California, where the Williams sisters were born and raised. Bey's set and costumes were all appropriately monochromatic — the same neon color of a tennis ball. The Oscars are playing ball this year!
Male stars bring their mamas
We love when celebrities bring their parents on the red carpet — especially what it's the Oscars red carpet! Bradley Cooper's date for the 2022 Academy Awards? His mom, Gloria Campano. Retired Olympic snowboarder Shaun White also brought his mom, Cathy, as his plus-one (instead of girlfriend Nina Dobrev!) on March 27.
A big night for Deaf culture at the Oscars
Deaf actors, Deaf culture and sign language were heavily steeped into the 2022 Oscars, with three films prominently featuring all three up for major awards, namely "CODA" (whose stars Daniel Durant and Troy Kotsur are pictured here — the film took home the best picture Oscar as well as a best supporting actor statue for Troy and a best adapted screenplay prize for Sian Heder), "Audible" and "Drive My Car." The Oscars are ensuring that deaf nominees and guests at the ceremony, as well as deaf fans at home, have the best experience possible. The Los Angeles Times reported that top-notch translation is readily available for everyone who needs it. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Times reported, is testing tablet technology for the purposes of translation. "Guests at the Dolby Theatre can request a tablet at their seat, which hooks into the cup holder. Each tablet … features a fully adjustable arm, so guests can move it into a position that best suits them. Two ASL interpreters, situated in a room directly next to the main house, will sign everything that happens inside the Dolby, and they will be livestreamed to those tablets," the report explained.
A true GOAT move
Tony Hawk walked onto the Oscars stage. While that's not normally a story, keep in mind that the legendary skateboarder broke his leg less than three weeks ago and underwent surgery to repair the damage (the man shattered his femur… just this month!). Tony was joined on stage by two fellow extreme sports GOATs — snowboarder Shaun White and surfer Kelly Slater — to honor the James Bond franchise on its 60th anniversary.
Kenneth Branagh's first Oscar win caps a special awards season
"Belfast" writer, director and producer Kenneth Branagh — who, after much speculation, was able to attend the Academy Awards after finally testing negative for COVID-19 after getting sick following the BAFTAs in London two weeks earlier — won his first Oscar (in a career eight nominations), for best original screenplay for "Belfast," at the 2022 ceremony. He also notched a place in Academy Awards history in 2022 courtesy of the film's best picture and best original screenplay nods. He's now the only person ever to be nominated in seven Oscar categories, having previously been nominated for best director ("Henry V"), actor ("Henry V"), best supporting actor ("My Week With Marilyn"), best adapted screenplay ("Hamlet") and best live-action short ("Swan Song"), Variety reported. Kenneth is also now one of just three stars who've been nominated in all the major Oscar fields — best picture, director, lead or supporting actor, original screenplay and adapted screenplay. He shares the latter honor with George Clooney and Warren Beatty.
Movies weren't the only shorts at the 2022 Oscars. Best actress nominee (for "Spencer") Kristen Stewart took a fashion risk when she arrived on the red carpet in a pair of short shorts — by Chanel. Presenter Wesley Snipes also chose shorts, wearing a silky pair as part of his gorgeous wine-colored suit, pairing them with matching socks.
Nicole's very own shade of blue
Stars are nothing like us! Nicole Kidman, who's nominated for best actress for her performance as Lucille ball in "Being the Ricardos," isn't wearing just any blue Armani Privé peplum gown. She revealed on E!'s red carpet pre-show that Mr. Armani created this specific shade of blue just for her for her 2022 Oscar dress!
Red carpet interview criticism
While Laverne Cox's Oscar outfit by August Getty Atelier has been lauded over, her hosting abilities got the opposite reaction. The "Orange Is the New Black" actress did red carpet interviews for E! News's pre-show, and her one-on-one chats weren't quite polished. "I hate to say it, but The Laverne Cox Experiment with hosting the E! red carpet categorically does not work," one Twitter user wrote. "She is not an interviewer, and her (I think nervous?) constant high-pitched giggling is really odd. It's a harder job than it looks like! Let an actual reporter do it." Another social media user added, "Her interviews so far are pretty [awkward]." Several Twitter users cringed at how often Laverne used the word "icon." Another tweeter wrote, "I'm so conflicted about Laverne Cox — love to see her in film & tv projects but not as red carpet host. She doesn't seem to listen, it always seems like she's hurrying to the next person to talk to." You know what they say: TV is like sausage — you like the end result but hate to see how it's made.
Will Ukraine's president make an appearance? Not so fast…
One of the biggest questions leading into the Academy Awards: Will Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appear? Earlier in the week, reports indicated the Oscars were desperate to get the actor-turned-politician on the show. There was a belief that he might appear in some facet, whether it was in a livestream or in a prerecorded message. Sean Penn — who's been working to help Ukrainian refugees through his CORE response organization — even said Hollywood should boycott the Oscars if the president wasn't allowed to speak. Sean, who's won two Oscars, vowed to "smelt [my Oscar statues] in public" if the popular Ukrainian leader was snubbed by the Academy, CNN reported. One of the night's hosts, comedian Wanda Sykes, played down the possibility, telling Variety of Zelenskyy, "I think he's very busy right now. We so admire him… Hollywood, we can get a little full of ourselves and we think that what we're doing is also important. I understand that what we do reaches a lot of people. We can persuade people, but it's also in perspective to know your lane. Know your lane." But that doesn't mean the Academy didn't acknowledge Ukraine…
Support for Ukraine
There was something about Reba McEntire's performance of "Somehow You Do" (from the film "Four Good Days") that seemed to have a deeper meaning. And that feeling turned out to be correct. At the end of the Oscar-nominated song, a moment of silence was observed for "the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their borders." The message then implored viewers and attendees to do more. "While film is an important avenue for us to express our humanity in times of conflict, the reality is millions of families in Ukraine need food, medical care, clear water and emergency services. Resources are scarce, and we — collectively as a global community — can do more," the message read.
Why Lin-Manuel Miranda wasn't there despite potential EGOT win
Lin-Manuel Miranda announced on March 26 that he would be M.I.A. from the Oscars on March 27 after his wife tested positive for COVID. "Made it to Hollywood… This weekend, my wife tested + for COVID. She's doing fine. Kids & I have tested [negative], but out of caution, I won't be going to the Oscars tomorrow night," he wrote on social media. The "Hamilton" creator added that he will be cheering on "Tick, Tick … BOOM!," which he directed. Lin, by the way, was up for the best original song Oscar for "Dos Oruguitas" from the Disney film "Encanto." If he'd won, he would have become the youngest EGOT winner in history (winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) as well as the 17th EGOT winner ever. But the prize instead went to Billie EIlish and Finneas for the James Bond theme "No Time to Die."
Samuel L. Jackson gets an Oscar
Samuel L. Jackson finally has an Academy Award. At the March 25 Governors Awards in Hollywood, the honorary arm of the annual Academy Awards, the actor was given a lifetime achievement prize, which was presented to him by pal Denzel Washington. "It is something that will be cherished forever," the "Pulp Fiction" star said.
Two couples make Oscar history…
In 2022, for the first time ever, two couples were nominated in all four Oscar acting categories. First-time nominee Kirsten Dunst was up for best supporting actress for her performance in "The Power of the Dog" while her partner, Jesse Plemons, was a best supporting actor nominee for his work in the same film. The nomination was also Jesse's first. "I mean, it's just so crazy to be a couple and have our first nominations together," Kirsten marveled in an interview with Variety. "It's like a storybook. You know what I mean? It's so weird. It's amazing." Keep reading to see the other couple… who also didn't win…
…Two couples make Oscar history
Married Hollywood duo Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz also both had a chance to win Oscar gold on March 27. Javier was up for best actor for playing Desi Arnaz in "Being the Ricardos" while Penelope was nominated in the best actress category for her performance as Janis Martinez Moreno in "Parallel Mothers." That makes Javier and Penelope the sixth married couple in history to earn Academy Award nominations in the same year.
Denzel's still the king
Thanks to his 10th Oscar nomination in 2022 — for his lead performance in filmmaker Joel Cohen's "The Tragedy of Macbeth" adaptation — two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington broke his own record to remain the most nominated Black actor in Academy Awards history. Denzel previously took home the best supporting actor Oscar for his work in 1989's "Glory" and the best actor Oscar for his work in 2001's "Training Day," the latter of which made him one of four Black actors to win the prize, along with Sidney Poitier ("Lilies of the Field"), Jamie Foxx ("Ray") and Forest Whitaker ("The Last King of Scotland").
Cate Blanchett's double whammy
Cate Blanchett's first performance in a film nominated for best picture, 1998's "Elizabeth," also earned her the first best actress nod of her career. She made history in 2022 by starring in two of the year's best picture-nominated films, "Nightmare Alley" and "Don't Look Up." Cate previously appeared in seven movies that were nominated for the top Oscar prize. Now, with credits in nine best picture nominees, she's appeared in more best picture-nominated films than any actress in history, according to Goldderby.com.