The Most Controversial Golden Globes Moments Ever

Mix casual seating with a teeming guest list, add an open bar, and...well, you'll see.

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Sometimes considered the Oscars' younger sibling, the Golden Globes runs unpredictable. Combine a casual seating plan with a large list of attendees (the Globes honors television as well as film), throw in an open bar—something many ceremonies don't have—and, well, you'll see. If you've forgotten some of the wildest and most-discussed Globes moments of our time, settle in: Things are about to get wild (and, in some cases, illegal).

Cate Blanchett's Speech

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At the 2014 Golden Globes, Blue Jasmine winner Cate Blanchett gave a meandering speech that involved calling out fellow winner Matthew McConaughey and tell a story about a man leaving Russia and building a boat (?). She later laughingly admitted she'd been tipsy.

Jennifer Coolidge's Speech

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In what might have been one of the more relatable speeches of all time, Jennifer Coolidge celebrated her Globes win by delightedly telling the audience, “My neighbors are speaking to me and things like that. I was never invited to one party on my hill, and now everyone’s inviting me!”

Michelle Williams' Speech

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In a (depressingly relevant) speech, Michelle Williams spoke to a cause that she cared about. “I’m also grateful to have lived at a moment in our society where choice exists. Because as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our in your own self-interest. It’s what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them.”

Beyoncé Arrives an Hour Late

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Listen, Queen Bey doesn't have to do anything for anyone. But fans had to laugh when she and Jay-Z snuck in the back about an hour after the ceremony started. She was nominated for best original song for a motion picture, and it's usually considered good form to, if not walk the red carpet, show up for the start time.

Tina Fey Calls Out Her Internet Haters

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In the early days of the Internet, it would be easy to identify which users didn't like you. Tina Fey used her opportunity at the microphone to call them out. "If you ever start to feel too good about yourself, they have this called the internet, and you can find a lot of people who don't like you. And I'd like to address some of them now." She then told several users to "suck it," lol.

Renee Zellweger Wins an Award Mid-Pee Break

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It's a tale as old as time that you go to the bathroom at an awards ceremony, and then your name is called as the winner. Such was the case for Renee Zellweger, who was so delayed for her win for Nurse Betty (she admitted she was trying to get lipstick off her teeth) that Hugh Grant had to start accepting the award on her behalf.

Brad Pitt Thanks Kaopectate in His Speech

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In case you forgot, Brad Pitt won a Globe for 1996's 12 Monkeys and immediately thanked an anti-diarrhea medicine, saying, “They’ve done a great service for their fellow man.” He later gave some context to the free ad/bizarre comment by saying he gets a nervous stomach at awards.

Seth Rogan and Kate Beckinsale Present

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Listen, it might be nerve-wracking to present alongside Kate Beckinsale, icon of stage and screen. But when you're Seth Rogan, and you immediately offer the (unscripted!) line, “Hello, I’m Seth Rogen, and I am currently trying to conceal a massive erection," that's...not great. Beckinsale looked shocked and uncomfortable.

Ewan McGregor's Speech

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In one of the cringier acceptance speeches for his role in TV show Fargo, McGregor said, “I want to take a moment to just say thank you to Eve, who always stood by me for 22 years and our four children Clara, Esther, Jamyan and Anouk," then added, “And there wouldn’t have been any Ray [his character on Fargo] without Mary Elizabeth Winstead.” Thanking your estranged wife and new girlfriend? Ouch.

Sacha Baron Cohen's Speech

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I actually can't put Sacha Baron Cohen's full speech here; It's that dirty. A sampling! "Ken [Davitian], when I was in that scene and I stared down and saw your two wrinkled golden globes on my chin, I thought to myself, ‘I better win a bloody award for this.'"

Oliver Stone's Speech

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Frankly, Oliver Stone is almost as well-known for his off-screen behavior as his movies. In 1979, he took the opportunity while on stage to give a lecture on United States drug policy. Audience members started booing, he was unsuccessfully encouraged to leave the stage, and finally security had to be called.

'The Tourist' Is Nominated

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The Tourist, which was a not very good movie starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, was nominated for three Globes, including one for Best Picture. It was so strange that it sparked rumors of bribery (and even came up in the host's speech—more on that later).

'Burlesque' Wins

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Burlesque, a not very good movie starring Christina Aguilera and Cher, was part of the Globes controversy that there might have been bribery involved to secure their nominations. But unlike fellow flop The Tourist, Burlesque actually won for Best Original Song.

The Ceremony Is Cancelled in 2008

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It wouldn't be the only time the ceremony was cancelled, but in 2008 the Writers Guild strike (and the fact that SAG members said they would not cross picket lines to attend) caused the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to cancel any kind of live televised event.

Brendan Fraser Skips the Ceremony

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Brendan Fraser accused former HFPA president Philip Berk of sexual assault and claimed to have been blacklisted from the industry. When nominated for The Whale in 2023, "I didn't ask to be considered even, that was presumed," he said. "They needed me, I didn't need them. Because it wouldn't be meaningful to me. Where am I gonna put that hood ornament? What would I do with that?"

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association Chief Resigns/Is Fired

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In 1958, former HFPA president Henry Gris resigned from the board, telling Variety it was over concerns that "certain awards are being given more or less as favors." In 2021, Philip Berk was fired after (allegedly) sending an email calling Black Lives Matter a "racist hate movement."

Jacqueline Bisset's Speech

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Winning a Globe in 2014 for Dancing on the Edge, Jacqueline Bisset's rambling, sweary, overly long speech concluded with this confusing advice: "I believe, if you want to look good, you’ve got to forgive everybody. You have to forgive everybody—it’s the best beauty treatment.”

Jeremy Renner Praises Jennifer Lopez's 'Globes'

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When on the stage to present and faced with opening the award, Jennifer Lopez asked Jeremy Renner, “You want me to do it? I’ve got the nails.” Renner looked down and shot back, “You’ve got the globes, too.” The audience gasped/moaned, and J. Lo looked flattered/annoyed.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Roast the Heck out of George Clooney

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Amy Poehler and Tina Fey weren't pulling any punches when they hosted the Golden Globes in 2014, including this gem: “Gravity is nominated for best film. It’s the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.”

Bette Midler Makes a 'Golden Globes' Joke

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In a joke that is now, frankly, tame by comparison, Bette Middler came onstage to receive her Golden Globes and said, "When Joan Crawford won her Golden Globe...I have to be tasteful...she said, 'I'll show you a pair of Golden Globes.' I'm sorry! I'm different now!"

Elizabeth Taylor Has an Envelope Snafu

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In 2001, it was very likely that Elizabeth Taylor, uh, imbibed before coming onstage to present, as she very confusedly held up the envelope and wondered aloud, “What, I don’t open this?” before Dick Clark gently reminded her she was supposed to say the nominees first.

The HFPA Disbands

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With corruption and anti-diversity allegations, the Golden Globes were already facing controversy in 2021. Then COVID-19 delayed the ceremony by months. And then in April, the HFPA expelled HFPA president Philip Berk. NBC cancelled the ceremony in 2022. These were just a few of the major events that snowballed into the HFPA disbanding in 2023.

Tom Cruise Returns His Awards

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As a part of a protest against the HFPA, Tom Cruise returned three of his Golden Globe trophies. Jerrod Carmichael, host in 2023, brought out said trophies and made a Scientology joke that made the audience gasp: "Maybe we take these three things and exchange them for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige."

Seth Meyers Hosts (2018)

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Seth Meyers has never been afraid to get political, and his time as 2018 Golden Globes host was no exception. In his opening monologue, one of his most gasp-inducing zingers included: “It’s time to address the elephant not in the room: Harvey Weinstein...But don’t worry, he’ll be back in 20 years when he becomes the first person ever booed during the ‘In Memoriam.’”

There's an 'Aloha' Joke...and Emma Stone Apologizes

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As cohost of the Globes, Sandra Oh made quite a timely joke, quipping Crazy Rich Asians was "the first studio film with an Asian American lead since Ghost in the Shell and Aloha." Emma Stone (whose casting in Aloha was considered white-washing of an Asian character) loudly shouted, "I'm sorry!!"

Amy Schumer Swears on Live TV

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The 2016 ceremony apparently got quite sweary, but no moment was more shocking than when Amy Schumer, bantering with Jennifer Lawrence about celebrity nicknames, joked that people just called her the c-word. People in the audience were visibly shocked.

Jack Nicholson Admits to Taking Valium

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In his acceptance speech for About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson made some jokes about his costars in a rambly speech, and then just straight-up admitted, "I know the evening is getting short... I took a Valium tonight." Even for the over-the-top star, it was a wild admission.

Ricky Gervais Hosts (2020)

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Gervais hosted the Globes more than once and became known for some jaw-dropping statements. It was he who called out the controversy over The Tourist: "I’d like to crush this ridiculous rumor that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so that the foreign press of could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. That was not the only reason; they also accepted bribes.”

Ricky Gervais Hosts (2016)

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Even more shocking, in 2016 Ricky Gervais introduced Mel Gibson to the stage (after making fun of him in a previous ceremony) by saying, in part, "I blame NBC for this terrible situation. Mel blames...we know who Mel blames." He then proceeded to reference one of Gibson's (expletive-laced) rant, and then Gibson semi-jokingly threatened to punch him.

Jo Koy Hosts

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There was a lot of criticism following Jo Koy's 2024 Golden Globe monologue (and it was obvious he was bombing in the room, too), but the one that people hated the most was: "Oppenheimer is based on a 721-page Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Manhattan Project, and Barbie is on a plastic doll with big boobies.”

Jodie Foster Comes Out...Sorta

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Jodie Foster, who's notoriously private, hit back at critics who said she should publicly come out of the closet by quipping at the 2013 ceremony, "I guess I have a sudden urge to say something that I’ve never really been able to air in public...But I’m just going to put it out there, right? Loud and proud, right? So I’m going to need your support on this. I am single."

Isaac Mizrahi Gropes Scarlett Johansson on the Red Carpet

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In 2006, designer Isaac Mizrahi was admiring Scarlett Johansson's red dress so much that he apparently needed to feel for himself how its interior bra was constructed. In one of the most awkward and cringeworthy moments, he reached out, grabbed her, and Johansson reacted with, “What is going on?!”

Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.