From Whoopi to Ellen DeGeneres, Every Oscars Host of the Last 30 Years
Let's relive the cringe-y Anne Hathaway and James Franco year, shall we?
ICYMI, the Oscars have been dealing with quite a bit of controversy — namely after comedian Kevin Hart chose to step down from the 2019 hosting gig following a scandal over past tweets. After quite a bit of back and forth, the Academy decided to proceed without a host, marking the second time the show has aired without one. (The only other time was 30 years ago in 1989, according to Variety.)
Naturally, everyone had thoughts on who should fill the vacancy. Past favorites were thrown in the ring, like Whoopi Goldberg, while others were asked to steer clear of the role (ahem ... David Letterman). Which might make you wonder: Who has hosted the Oscars in the past, and what did critics think of their performances?
Well, you're in luck. Here's a rundown of every Oscars host of the last 30 years (minus 1989, of course), as well as what everyone had to say about their performances.
The Jimmy Kimmel Live! star hosted the Oscars in 2017 and 2018. On average, critics, fans and friends agreed that Kimmel did pretty well navigating what Vulture's Jesse David Fox called "an unwinnable situation." (The Oscars hosting gig is a notoriously difficult role when it comes to pleasing the crowd — and that's without a Best Picture mixup.) Even actor Neil Patrick Harris — who hosted the Oscars in 2015 — tweeted about Kimmel's performance, noting that he made it "all look so easy."
The comedian hosted the awards show in 2005 and again in 2016. The latter appearance occurred when #OscarsSoWhite was trending, and Rock wasn't shy about addressing Hollywood's diversity issue. In his opening monologue, Rock said, "I'm here at the Academy Awards — otherwise known as the White People's Choice Awards."
Critics gave Rock an overall thumbs up for his hosting skills. But when asked about whether or not he would fill in for Hart, Rock's answer was clear — no way, according to USA Today. Instead, Rock tossed another past host's name into the mix: "Steve Martin, you should host the Oscars! You were the best."
VIDEO: Kevin Hart Steps Down as Oscars Host After Outcry Over Homophobic Tweets
Neil Patrick Harris
Harris steered the Oscars ship in 2015 and the reviews were mixed. The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney said of Harris: "The song-and-dance showman appeared at ease on the Dolby Theatre stage."
But Daniel D'Addario wrote for Time that Harris didn't seem entirely prepared for the role.
"Whether it was his stumbling repeatedly over names or his truly uncomfortable segues, Harris seemed to violate the awards ceremony host’s mandate: first, do no harm," he wrote. "A star who had in every other setting appeared gleefully eager was, at the Oscars, glum and low energy."
Harris — who has hosted the Tonys four times and Emmys twice — said he didn't think he would host the Oscars again.
"I don’t know that my family nor my soul could take it,” he told the Huffington Post, according to Variety. “It’s a beast. It was fun to check off the list, but for the amount of time spent and the understandable opinionated response, I don’t know that it’s a delightful balance to do every year or even again.”
The talk show host emceed the awards show in 2007 and 2014, and more or less received decent reviews. (Although The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman said her performance featured "an endless string of tired or wince-inducing moments.") DeGeneres's 2014 appearance even included her famous selfie with a crowd of A-listers. It was dubbed the tweet that "broke the Internet" after being retweeted more than 1.1 million times in 30 minutes.
DeGeneres recently came under fire after defending Hart on her talk show, even encouraging him to host the show anyway.
"You have grown, you have apologized, you are apologizing again right now," she said. "You’ve done it. Don’t let those people win — host the Oscars.”
As the Academy was searching for Hart's replacement, MacFarlane told Entertainment Weekly that he understood why no one wanted to fill the spot.
"Look, it’s a gig that has all eyes on it,” MacFarlane said. “And when you’re doing something that’s that much in the spotlight, with that much focus on it, that much intensity, you’re going to have a lot of opinions from a lot of people. I’m trying to think of the last time that I read a review of the Oscars the next day where everyone is raving about it—it’s been a long time.”
The Family Guy creator hosted the Oscars in 2013 and his performance was met with not-so-positive reviews. The New Yorker's Amy Davidson Sorkin noted that watching the Oscars — which included a song by MacFarlane called "We Saw Your Boobs" — "meant sitting through a series of crudely sexist antics led by a scrubby, self-satisfied Seth MacFarlane."
Anne Hathaway and James Franco
The general takeaway from this duo's 2011 appearance was that it was one big snoozefest. While the Washington Post was quick to point out that Hathaway "worked her derriere off," TV critic Hank Stuever was not as impressed with Franco.
"Franco came off like that lacrosse boy you wish your daughter didn't hang out with so much, sort of heavy-lidded and smirky and ... well, let's give him credit for being James Franco, the 23-hour-a-day workaholic/grad student/filmmaker/soap-opera/not-Best Actor wunderkind of his generation," Stuever wrote.
The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman agreed, writing: "Anne Hathaway at least tried to sing and dance and preen along to the goings on, but Franco seemed distant, uninterested and content to keep his Cheshire-cat-meets-smug smile on display throughout."
Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin
The comedic duo took on the 2010 hosting gig and was not met with much applause. The Los Angeles Times noted: "Despite everyone's best efforts, this year's Oscars seemed to suffer from a crisis of confidence. Although studded with entertaining and emotional moments, it just never seemed to get going."
The Guardian agreed, writing that the show "was a night that lived down to expectations" and said Baldwin and Martin "weren't even phoning it; they were texting it in."
The Australian actor hosted the 2009 awards and viewers were generally pleased with his performance. CNN said Jackman was "high-energy, classy and charming" and The Mercury News said The Greatest Showman actor was "a solid choice to help bring needed new life to what’s all-too-routinely billed as 'Hollywood’s biggest night.'"
In 2018, Jackman told Variety he would be "love" to host the Oscars again, noting, however, that the job isn't easy.
"Luckily the first time I did it, I was doing nothing else at the time," he said. "I’m amazed that people say yes to doing it when they’ve got day jobs."
The former Daily Show host took on the role in 2006 and 2008. But while many assumed Stewart was a shoo-in for the role, he was met with lukewarm reviews. Entertainment Weekly pointed out that while "there’s nothing particularly wrong with Stewart’s two outings as host" there was also not anything particularly extraordinary about them.
In addition to his co-hosting gig with Baldwin, the beloved funnyman also hosted the Oscars in 2003. The Guardian's Xan Brooks called Martin "the host with the most," writing: "Martin, for my money, has been the most reliably witty and sure-footed of all the recent presenters; the host that best navigates this most cramped and compromised of positions."
Next to Billy Crystal — who has hosted the Oscars nine times — Goldberg is easily one of the most celebrated Oscars hosts. The View co-host has hosted the awards show four times (in 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2002). When rumors began to surface that the Oscars may go without a host, Goldberg shared her thoughts on the talk show.
"If you want to go hostless, that's your prerogative,” she said, according to ABC News. “I think it's a dumb idea. People need someone to take them through things. I think it needs to be somebody who loves the films."
No one would have guessed that the late-night host's 1995 Oscars gig would have been met with such terrible reviews. After all, he seemed like a natural choice. But Letterman's performance ended up going down in Oscars history as one of the worst ever.
"In 1995, the late-night host was at the peak of his career," Matt Schiavenza wrote for The Atlantic. "His Late Show, which debuted on CBS two years before, was wildly popular, consistently beating NBC's Tonight Show, hosted by Letterman's bitter rival Jay Leno, in the ratings. But almost from the minute the Oscars began, it became clear that it wasn't going to be Dave's night."
Critics said jokes akin to those Letterman was famous for on the Late Show, as well as poking fun at Oprah Winfrey's and Uma Thurman's names fell totally flat.
After first taking the Oscars stage in 1990, Crystal hosted the show another eight times (in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004 and 2012) , making him the second most recurring host. (Bob Hope hosted the awards show a record 18 times). And each of Crystal's performances has been met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. That is, up until 2012, when critics more or less unanimously agreed that Crystal's appearance left something to be desired.
The Hollywood Reporter's TV critic Tim Goodman said the Oscars had become a "badly paced bore-fest."
"The pacing was sloppy and slow until — hey, here we go — best actors," Goodman wrote. "People could be forgiven for having nodded off by then or perhaps, lulled into a stupor, missing the whole thing because they walked to the fridge or went to the sink to splash cold water on their faces."
And Newsday's Verne Gay wrote: "Billy was back and it was very good to have him back. But the hard truth is that the Oscars, like life itself, has moved on. The world has changed, and sometimes it's better to cherish our memories than rehash them."
But even still, Crystal is one of the most celebrated hosts in Oscars history. The Independent even noted that the When Harry Met Sally actor is credited with "reinventing the role of Oscars host during his four-year run from 1990 to 1993."
The 91st Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 24 on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.