Oscars 2023: 9 unmissable moments that defined the biggest night in Hollywood

Michelle Yeoh and Rihanna at the Oscars 2023.

From shock slaps to the wrong winners being announced, every year the Oscars delivers some of the best, most exhilarating moments in Hollywood history.

This year, on the back of Ariana DeBose’s iconic BAFTAs rap, there was a lot to live up to. However, as is always promised, this year served a series of the most powerful, poignant and downright astonishing moments on record. Here’s a look at just a handful of them.

Ke Huy Quan’s speech was an emotional tribute to refugees

Everything Everywhere All at Once actor Ke Huy Quan bagged the Best Supporting Actor award for his role as Waymond Wang in the absurdist sci-fi comedy.

It was a much deserved and somewhat anticipated win, but no one could have prepared for the absolutely beautiful sobfest that was his acceptance speech.

“My mum is 84-years-old, and she’s at home watching,” he began. “Mum, I just won an Oscar.”

Ke Huy Quan cries into his hand as he accepts the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
Ke Huy Quan tears up as he accepts the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. (Getty/Kevin Winter)

That line alone sent shivers down the spines of those watching, but he continued by sharing his own personal journey to the Oscars stage.

Sniffing back tears and visibly emotional, Quan said: “My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow I ended up here, on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it is happening to me. This is the American dream.”

Quan’s win was all the more special for one particular reason. Despite a successful film and TV career throughout the ‘80s, the actor packed it all in to become film producer. His role in Everything Everywhere All at Once is his first one back on the big screen, and now it’s an Oscar-winning one. Now that is what you call a comeback.

“Dreams are something you have to believe in,” Quan continued.

“I almost gave up on mine. To all of you out there, keep your dreams alive.”

Lady Gaga’s toned down performance of “Hold My Hand”

It wasn’t until the very last minute that Lady Gaga agreed to perform at the Oscars, so it’s unsurprising that there weren’t any of the theatrics or outlandish costumes that Gaga fans are used to.

Plus, with a song like “Hold My Hand,” a slightly more subdued look felt appropriate. Taking to a stool in a black t-shirt, ripped jeans and Converses, Gaga did her best Ally Maine impression with a simple, soulful performance of the Top Gun: Maverick track.

Speaking about the inspiration for the song, Gaga said: “It’s deeply personal for me and I think that we all need each other. We all need a lot of love to walk through this life. We all need a hero sometimes. There’s heroes all around us in unassuming places.”

Gaga fans were ecstatic at the surprise performance, with many sharing that it had them “crying,” “weeping” and the like.

You can’t blame them – it was unarguably the most emotional performance of the evening.

Rihanna uses her “god-given” voice to perform “Lift Me Up”

It might not be everyone’s favourite track, but Rihanna sure knows how to belt out the lyrics to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever track “Lift Me Up”.

Appearing in black and silver haute couture, Maison Margiela by John Galliano, complete with baby bump on show, Rihanna silenced the room with a graceful rendition of the song.

It helps, of course, when you’ve got a “beautiful, god-given” voice, as Rihanna told reporters before she entered the ceremony.

She is most certainly right there.

Jamie Lee Curtis wins Best Supporting Actress, shocking many, many people

Look, Jamie Lee Curtis was great as Deidre in Everything Everywhere All at Once. She deserves all of the love she’s received this awards season.

However, there were very few people who expected her to walk away from the Oscars with the Best Supporting Actress gong. Not least because her co-star Stephanie Hsu, who was also nominated, was the film’s main protagonist and helmed much of the storyline.

Then, there’s Angela Bassett. Her astonishing role as Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had Oscar winner all over it, and many people inside and outside of the film industry saw her as the only winner in the category. 

But Curtis prevailed, beating off both Hsu and Bassett to take home the trophy. It’s safe to say that the internet was not impressed at all.

A few subtle nods to LGBTQ+ inclusivity

In a room full of allies and stars, there was only one mention of the abhorrent drag ban that has passed in Tennessee. Everything Everywhere All At Once director Daniel Scheinert took aim at the legislation by thanking his parents for not “squashing his creativity” when he was “dressing in drag” as a kid, adding that drag is “a threat to nobody”. In response, the room erupted into a rapturous cheer.

Then, after accepting her award for Best Supporting Actress, Jamie Lee Curtis spoke to reporters about the importance of inclusivity when it comes to awarding actors who don’t fit the male/female gender binary.

“The inclusivity then involves the bigger question, which is, how do you include everyone when there are binary choices which is very difficult,” Curtis said.

“As the mother of a trans daughter, I completely understand that.”

Elsewhere, Carnival Row actress Cara Delevingne made a very quiet nod to trans inclusion while introducing Sofia Carson’s performance of “Applause,” from the film Tell It Like a Woman. Introducing the song, Delevingne made a point of shouting out anyone who identifies as a woman.

Michelle Yeoh makes Oscar history, takes on ageist Hollywood

In what can only be described as a chef’s kiss moment, Michelle Yeoh became the first openly Asian woman to win Best Actress in the Oscars’ 95-year history.

Taking home the gong for her role as Evelyn in Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won seven of the 11 awards it was nominated for, Yeoh made a point of celebrating her unique position.

“For all the little boys and girls who look like me who are watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that dream big and dreams do come true,” she said.

“And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are past your prime. Never give up.”

It was a stunning moment in Oscars history, made that much better by the fact that Yeoh was given her award by a tearful Halle Berry – the only other woman of colour to ever receive the Best Actress trophy.

John Travolta has Hollywood weeping hysterically

In among the host’s forced wise cracks and the faux thrilled faces of those who don’t win, it’s nice to see genuine emotion at award shows. Besides Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, this year’s tears came courtesy of John Travolta.

Introducing the ‘In Memoriam’ section of the evening, Travolta used a classic song title to reference his Grease co-star Olivia Newton-John who passed away from breast cancer last August at the age of 73.

Paying tribute to the dozens of actors and film industry talents that have died in the last year, Travolta said: “Each of them left an individual and undebatable mark, that shared and informed us. They’ve touched our hearts, they made us smile, and became dear friends who we will always remain hopelessly devoted to.”

Voice cracking, it was clear that Travolta was struggling to remain composed. In a touching moment, the audience cheered him on with a round of applause.

Jimmy Kimmel rips into Congressman George Santos

There’s always one or two political figures who get a roasting at the Oscars, and this time it was truth-stretcher New York Congressman George Santos.

After Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert won the Best Director award for Everything Everywhere All at Once, Kimmel headed back on stage and continued with this one-liner: “The last directing team to win an Oscar was… Congressman George Santos.”

Santos has come under fire recently, both for “embellishing” his CV and allegedly making up several other statements about his background, including that his mother died in 9/11.

According to researchers, though, she died in 2016 due to unrelated complications.

Elizabeth Olsen and Pedro Pascal are named Mother and Father of the year

Every year sees at least two or three moments which lead to the people of the internet combusting. This year, one such moment came in the form of The Last of Us actor Pedro Pascal and WandaVision star Elizabeth Olsen presenting together.

The Oscars’ organisers knew exactly what they were doing when they paired the two together to present the Best Documentary Short Film and Best Animated Short Film awards, considering they are currently two of the world’s most beloved, and most fawned over, celebrities.

As the pair headed onto the stage, viewers headed onto social media, and the memes were memeing.

Once again, the Oscars delivered one of the year’s most memorable and most meme-able nights. From that awkward Malala and Harry Styles joke, to the drop-dead gorgeous fashion statements on the cream carpet, it was an evening to remember.

Catch up on all our Oscars coverage you might have missed now.

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