5. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck win for Best Original Screenplay
Witnessing Matt Damon and Ben Affleck win Oscars for their first Hollywood effort as screenwriters was quite the feel-good moment. Find one person who watched that Academy Awards ceremony who did not grin when the two young men jumped up and down, Oscars clutched tightly in their fists. As they walked off stage, it seemed possible that anyone with a dream could make it in Hollywood. The fact that Ben and Matt are still around only confirms that fact.
4. James Cameron is King of the World
Although anyone who saw Titanic understood the reference Best Director winner James Cameron made during his acceptance speech, his statement that he was the “king of the world” only enhanced his reputation as an egotist.
3. Hattie McDaniel wins for Best Supporting Actress
History! Hattie McDaniel is the first African American to win an Oscar of any kind for her Supporting Actress work in 1939’s Gone with the Wind.
2. Marlon Brando refuses his Best Actor Oscar
Marlon Brando won an Oscar for being The Godfather in 1972. Because of what he felt was the mistreatment of Native Americans, however, he refused his Best Actor statue and sent in a Native American friend to explain. Brando was the first (and remains the only) to refuse an Academy Award.
1. Halle Berry wins Best Actress
Who could forget when Berry became the first African American actress to take the top prize? McDonald blazed the trail seven decades prior, but that is exactly the point: The Academy took another 70 years to recognize another black actress. Watching Berry lose her composure was intense, emotional, raw and as pure of a reaction any winner has emitted since Cuba Gooding jumped up and down for more than five minutes. One can see why: Berry’s victory came on the same night that Denzel Washington won for Training Day and Sidney Poitier received the lifetime achievement award. It was a night to remember in Hollywood history.
Updated by Bethany Ramos on 2/22/2016