The 2021 Oscars' most memorable moments

The 2021 Oscars' most memorable moments

Glenn Close and Lil Rel Howery at the 2021 Oscars
Gif: ABC

The 93rd Academy Awards was unique for many reasons—some of the pandemic pivots worked well, others not so much. Here’s a recap of the best, worst, and weirdest moments from the 2021 Oscars, including video of all the acceptance speeches and performances.

You can also get our thoughts on the evening at our liveblog and winners list.

A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

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Lil Rel Howery and Ariana DeBose kick off the night

Lil Rel Howery and Ariana DeBose kick off the night

Ariana DeBose and Lil Rel Howery
Ariana DeBose and Lil Rel Howery
Screenshot: ABC

Oscars: Into The Spotlight started 90 minutes before the official ceremony. Hosted by Lil Rel Howery (Judas And The Black Messiah) and Ariana DeBose (Hamilton, The Prom), the special featured performances of all the Best Original Song nominees.

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“Husavik”

“Husavik”

Molly Sanden and a children’s choir performed the Oscar-nominated “Husavik” from Eurovision. They get bonus points for the fireworks.

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Matthew McConaughey gets us excited to return to the movies

Matthew McConaughey gets us excited to return to the movies

From Austin, Matthew McConaughey introduced a segment honoring those who work in movie theaters.

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“io sì (seen)”

“io sì (seen)”

Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
Screenshot: ABC

Diane Warren and Laura Pausini performed Oscar-nominated “io sì (seen)” from The Life Ahead.

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Hamilton Reunion

Hamilton Reunion

Ariana DeBose reunited with her Hamilton costar Leslie Odom Jr. as he introduced...

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“Speak Now”

“Speak Now”

...his performance of the Oscar-nominated “Speak Now” from One Night In Miami.

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The Promising Young Woman women prove they’re British

The Promising Young Woman women prove they’re British

Promising Young Woman writer/director/producer Emerald Fennell (who also stars in the most recent season of The Crown) was perfectly British when asked to gush about her film’s star, Oscar-nominated Carey Mulligan.

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“Hear My Voice”

“Hear My Voice”

Celeste performed the Oscar-nominated “Hear My Voice” from The Trial Of The Chicago 7.

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Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern

Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern

Presenter Reese Witherspoon awkwardly reminded Ariana DeBose that Laura Dern was not just the reigning Best Supporting Actress winner but also nominated this year for producing one of the recognized animated shorts.

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Chloé Zhao and Lil Rel Howery get caught by surprise

Chloé Zhao and Lil Rel Howery get caught by surprise

The best candid moment from the pre-show special was when Nomadland director Chloé Zhao had to hint to host Lil Rel Howery that the cameras had cut to them.

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“Fight for You”

“Fight for You”

H.E.R.
H.E.R.
Screenshot: ABC

H.E.R. performed the Oscar-nominated “Fight for You” from Judas And The Black Messiah.

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Regina King recovers

Regina King recovers

Regina King
Regina King
Screenshot: ABC

Regina King opened the show with proof the show is live: The One Night In Miami director almost ate it as she started her opening speech.

Watch the full opening.

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Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell wins Best Original Screenplay

Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell wins Best Original Screenplay

“They said write a speech and I just didn’t because I didn’t think this would ever happen,” Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell said while accepting the Best Original Screenplay award. “I’m trying very hard not to cry because I’m an English person.”

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The Borat team

The Borat team

The Borat team
The Borat team
Screenshot: ABC

Regina King deserves a damn Oscar just for getting through the entire title of the Borat sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery Of Prodigious Bribe To American Regime For Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan, while announcing the Best Adapted Screenplay nominees.

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The Father team wins Best Adapted Screenplay

The Father team wins Best Adapted Screenplay

The night’s first satellite acceptance speech went smoothly when Florian Zeller accepted the Best Adapted Screenplay award on behalf of him and his The Father co-writer Christopher Hampton.

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Another Round wins Best International Film

Another Round wins Best International Film

While accepting the Best International Film award for his film Another Round, Danish director Thomas Vinterberg chocked up while recounting how his daughter died in a car accident just days into filming Another Round. He ended his speech by thanking her: “Maybe you’ve been pulling some strings somewhere. I dont know, but this one’s for you.”

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Daniel Kaluuya wins Best Supporting Actor (and embarasses his mom)

Daniel Kaluuya wins Best Supporting Actor (and embarasses his mom)

Daniel Kaluuya and his mom
Daniel Kaluuya and his mom
Screenshot: ABC

Judas And The Black Messiah actor Daniel Kaluuya ended his Best Supporting Actor acceptance speech by expressing gratitude for being alive: “My mom, my dad, they had sex. It’s incredible,” he said, embarrassing his mom watching live at the London satellite venue.

Watch the whole speech.

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West Side Story trailer!

West Side Story trailer!

West Side Story
West Side Story
Screenshot: ABC

Surprise! We got a West Side Story trailer debut. You can watch it here.

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The Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom team wins Best Makeup and Hairstyling (and Best Costume Design)

The Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom team wins Best Makeup and Hairstyling (and Best Costume Design)

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s Mia Neal, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, and Jamika Wilson made history, being the first team with Black female members to win Best Makeup and Hairstyling. When speaking of breaking that “glass ceiling,” they expressed hope that they’d soon be joined by winners of all genders and races and “it wont be groundbreaking, it will just be normal.” The film was recognized again just moments later when costume designer Ann Roth (who was not in attendance) won the Best Costume Design award—making the 89-year-old the oldest woman to ever win an Oscar.

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Bong Joon Ho emerges from the darkness

Bong Joon Ho emerges from the darkness

Bong Joon Ho...somewhere
Bong Joon Ho...somewhere
Screenshot: ABC

Someone tell Bong Joon Ho to find his light! The Parasite director started his introduction of the Best Director presentation in almost complete darkness before stepping down into visibility to announce...

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Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao wins Best Director

Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao wins Best Director

Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao as 2021's Best Director winner. In her acceptance speech, Zhao recalled six words from a poem she and her father used to recite in her childhood: “People at birth are inherently good.” “Hold onto the goodness in each other, no matter how hard it is to do that,” she asked the audience.

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Riz Ahmed smiles (and the Sound Of Metal team wins Best Sound)

Riz Ahmed smiles (and the Sound Of Metal team wins Best Sound)

Riz Ahmed
Riz Ahmed
Screenshot: ABC

Nicolas Becker’s acceptance speech on behalf of his fellow Sound Of Metal sound team (Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés, Phillip Bladh) was great, but the best moment of this award was the film’s star smiling after announcing his colleagues as the winner.

Watch Becker’s whole acceptance speech.

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Two Distant Strangers team wins best live-action short

Two Distant Strangers team wins best live-action short

Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe get Best Dressed duo in addition to the best live-action short. But more than their clothes, Free and Roe should be remembered for speaking about police violence ahead of their thank yous.

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If Anything Happens, I Love You wins best animated short

If Anything Happens, I Love You wins best animated short

“I never thought I’d get to say this, Thank you to the Academy,” said Will McCormack, accepting the award for best animated short, giving Laura Dern (a producer on the film) her second Oscar in as many years.

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Reese Witherspoon loves The Secret of NIMH (and Soul wins)

Reese Witherspoon loves The Secret of NIMH (and Soul wins)

Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon
Screenshot: ABC

Before announcing Soul as the winner of Best Animated Feature Film, presenter Reese Witherspoon regaled us with an unexpected story of why she loves the first animated film her mom ever took her to see in a theater, The Secret Of NIMH.

Watch Pete Docter and Dana Murray’s acceptance speech for Soul.

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Marlee Matlin honors Darnella Fraizer

Marlee Matlin honors Darnella Fraizer

Marlee Matlin
Marlee Matlin
Screenshot: ABC

In between presenting the Best Documentary Short (to Colette) and Best Documentary Feature (to My Octopus Teacher), Marlee Matlin—who was just 21 when she won and Oscar for 1986's Children Of A Lesser God and still holds the record for youngest Best Actress winner—spoke of the power of the recording real-life moments, like the cell phone footage Darnella Fraizer recorded that allowed George Floyd’s story to spark calls for social justice and police reform across the nation.

Watch the whole acceptance speeches from the teams behind Collette and My Octopus Teacher.

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Steven Yeun remembers Terminator 2

Steven Yeun remembers Terminator 2

Steven Yeun
Steven Yeun
Screenshot: ABC

Before presenting the Best Visual Effects award to the Tenet team, Minari star Steven Yuen recalled watching the his mother’s face while they sat watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day in a movie theater in 1991. The Oscar nominee wasn’t sure if her face was because she was shocked she’d brought her young son to such a violent film or because she was in awe of watching a badass mom as an action hero.

Watch the Tenet visual effects team’s whole acceptance speech.

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Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn wins Best Supporting Actress

Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn wins Best Supporting Actress

Winner for most endearing actor at the 93rd Academy Awards goes to Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn. “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally. It’s nice to meet you,” she told the category’s presenter as she accepted her Best Supporting Actress trophy. “Where where you while we were filming?” While she didn’t feel like she was “competing” with her fellow nominees, Youn did have an explanation for Glenn Close as to why she on stage over the Hillbilly Elegy star: “I’m luckier than you.” Backstage, someone reportedly asked Youn what Brad Pitt sounds like. “I don’t know. I’m not a dog,” she replied.

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It’s not an honor to be nominated?

It’s not an honor to be nominated?

Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas
Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas
Screenshot: ABC

While Halle Berry announced the Best Production Design contenders, the camera panned to each of the nominees. This was the face Tenet’s Kathy Lucas decided to make through it all—maybe it was because she’d seen the future and knew they were about to lose to Mank’s Jan Pascale.

Watch Pascale’s whole acceptance speech.

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Halle Berry apparently forwent the dialect coach

Halle Berry apparently forwent the dialect coach

Halle Berry
Halle Berry
Screenshot: ABC

When introducing the Best Cinematography nominees, Halle Berry appeared to mispronounce at least half of their names, including winner Erik Messerschmidt. Though, we do admit the Mank cinematopgrapher’s name has a lot of consonants.

Watch Messerschmidt’s whole speech.

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Blade Runner got some rough notes

Blade Runner got some rough notes

Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford
Screenshot: ABC

Before presenting Best Editing (to the Sound Of Metal’s Mikkel E.G. Nielsen) presenter Harrison Ford pulled out a piece of paper and read off some of the “editorial notes” he says they received while making 1982's Blade Runner. They ranged from “Opening too choppy” to “Why is this voice-over track so terrible?” to “This movie gets worse every screening.”

Watch Nielsen’s whole speech.

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Let’s all bask in the glory of Zendaya

Let’s all bask in the glory of Zendaya

Zendaya
Zendaya
Screenshot: ABC

Sure, Zendaya was there to present the Best Score trophy to Soul’s team, but we also just wanna celebrate her. (Not to discount Jon Batiste’s fantastic acceptance speech.)

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The “Husavik” guys live from Sweden

The “Husavik” guys live from Sweden

Fat Max Gsus and Savan Kotecha
Fat Max Gsus and Savan Kotecha
Screenshot: ABC

They ultimately lost to H.E.R., but at least we got this one green-screen shot of Fat Max Gsus and Savan Kotecha, two of the songwriters behind Eurovision’s “Husavik.”

Watch H.E.R.’s acceptance speech for Judas And The Black Messiah’s “Fight For You.”

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Glenn Close does “Da Butt”

Glenn Close does “Da Butt”

Glenn Close goes for it
Screenshot: ABC

“I don’t know how much that’s gonna cost,” Lil Rel Howery told Andra Day after she cursed while discussing “Purple Rain” not being nominated for an Oscar during a skit—the lone “skit” during the telecast. The awkward bit, which also involved Quest Love and Daniel Kaluuya finally paid off when Glenn Close ended up dancing to “Da Butt” from Spike Lee’s School Daze. After the ceremony, Howery told Oscars After Dark hosts Andrew Rannells and Coleman Domingo that he had no idea she knew that much about School Daze or would do the dance. We question that...

Watch the full awkward segment.

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Angela Bassett introduces the ridiculously speedy in memoriam

Angela Bassett introduces the ridiculously speedy in memoriam

Regal as always, Angela Bassett was brought out to introduce the in memoriam segment. “We remember you in our hearts always,” the actress said in her commanding voice before the insanely rapid slideshow began.

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Best Picture gets announced before the end of the ceremony

Best Picture gets announced before the end of the ceremony

There were gasps in newsrooms across the country when Rita Moreno revealed she was presenting Best Picture, usually served for the final award of the night, ahead of the announcements for Best Actress and Best Actor. Ultimately, the prize went to Nomadland (and Frances McDormand’s howl).

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Nomadland’s Frances McDormand wins Best Actress

Nomadland’s Frances McDormand wins Best Actress

“Look, they didnt ask me—but if they had, I would have said karaoke,” Frances McDormand said, starting her Best Actress acceptance speech with a nonsequiter and commenting on the musical talent in the room. “I have no words,” she continued. “My voice is in my sword. We know the sword is our work. And I like work. Thank you for knowing that, and thanks for this.”

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A lackluster ending

A lackluster ending

We have to assume the producers saved the Best Actor category for the end knowing that people were more interested in seeing if Chadwick Boseman won a posthumous Oscar than if Nomadland bested Promising Young Woman and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. But we can’t imagine they thought that instead of Boseman winning or at least a great speech from Steven Yeun or something we would get presenter Joaquin Phoenix accepting the award on The Father star Anthony Hopkins’ behalf. We weren’t looking for La La Land/Moonlight dramatics but this was ending on quite a dull note.

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Andrew Rannells is not happy

Andrew Rannells is not happy

Andrew Rannells and Colman Domingo
Andrew Rannells and Colman Domingo
Screenshot: ABC

Because ABC and the Oscars producers have no mercy, they added an aftershow this year. Oscars After Dark didn’t really have any standout moments aside from the opening moments when the announcer completely mispronounced co-host Andrew Rannells’ last name (adding an acccent to the second n). The photo above is the moment Rannells processes the mispronunciation, which he and cohosts Colman Domingo and Elvis Mitchell continued to talk about for an uncomfortable amount of time.

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A.V. Club Editor in Chief...but really just a She-Ra, Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, Big Brother, Top Chef, The Good Place superfan.

All slides

  1. The 2021 Oscars' most memorable moments
  2. Lil Rel Howery and Ariana DeBose kick off the night
  3. “Husavik”
  4. Matthew McConaughey gets us excited to return to the movies
  5. “io sì (seen)”
  6. Hamilton Reunion
  7. “Speak Now”
  8. The Promising Young Woman women prove they’re British
  9. “Hear My Voice”
  10. Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern
  11. Chloé Zhao and Lil Rel Howery get caught by surprise
  12. “Fight for You”
  13. Regina King recovers
  14. Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell wins Best Original Screenplay
  15. The Borat team
  16. The Father team wins Best Adapted Screenplay
  17. Another Round wins Best International Film
  18. Daniel Kaluuya wins Best Supporting Actor (and embarasses his mom)
  19. West Side Story trailer!
  20. The Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom team wins Best Makeup and Hairstyling (and Best Costume Design)
  21. Bong Joon Ho emerges from the darkness
  22. Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao wins Best Director
  23. Riz Ahmed smiles (and the Sound Of Metal team wins Best Sound)
  24. Two Distant Strangers team wins best live-action short
  25. If Anything Happens, I Love You wins best animated short
  26. Reese Witherspoon loves The Secret of NIMH (and Soul wins)
  27. Marlee Matlin honors Darnella Fraizer
  28. Steven Yeun remembers Terminator 2
  29. Minari’s Yuh-Jung Youn wins Best Supporting Actress
  30. It’s not an honor to be nominated?
  31. Halle Berry apparently forwent the dialect coach
  32. Blade Runner got some rough notes
  33. Let’s all bask in the glory of Zendaya
  34. The “Husavik” guys live from Sweden
  35. Glenn Close does “Da Butt”
  36. Angela Bassett introduces the ridiculously speedy in memoriam
  37. Best Picture gets announced before the end of the ceremony
  38. Nomadland’s Frances McDormand wins Best Actress
  39. A lackluster ending
  40. Andrew Rannells is not happy