While the 2019 and 2020 Academy Awards went without a host, TheWrap looks back at the best Oscars hosts, from Anne Hathaway to Jimmy Kimmel.
14. James Franco & Anne Hathaway (2011)
He was nearly comatose; she overcompensated by being mind-numbingly perky. And a pairing that didn’t make a lot of sense on paper ended up making no sense at all on stage.
13. Seth MacFarlane (2013) It’s not a good idea to start your Oscar show with a lengthy bit about what a terrible host you might be. But MacFarlane did just that, playing down his swankiness, playing up his smuttiness (“Show Us Your Boobs!”) and setting exactly the wrong tone for the big night.
12. Neil Patrick Harris (2015)
Harris has the skill set to be a great host, as the Tonys and Emmys have shown. But NPH saved his worst hosting job for his biggest gig, maybe because the show had no idea how to play to his strengths. And hey, there were some truly impressive sleight of hand magic tricks at the end of the night -- but after a three-hour build-up, nobody cared.
11. Hostless Oscars (2019, 2020)
In 2019, after Kevin Hart stepped down from the role after old homophobic tweets of his resurfaced, the Oscars ceremony went ahead with no host. The no-host awards show actually worked, to the point where the Academy did it again in 2020. But even though a hostless show can be perfectly acceptable, it can't help but miss the personality and continuity that an emcee provides.
10. David Letterman (1995)
You have to feel bad for Letterman, who followed his idol Johnny Carson onto the Oscar stage but didn’t adapt to the job the way Carson had. Some of his stuff was actually pretty funny, but his Oscarized version of the "Late Show" was a bad fit, and you could tell that he knew it.
9. Alec Baldwin & Steve Martin (2010)
Individually, sure. Together, ho-hum. There’s something about hosting the Oscars that diminishes a performer if they have to share the spotlight.
8. Chris Rock(2005, 2016)
Rock’s first hosting gig got a bad rap because Sean Penn didn’t appreciate that Jude Law joke, but his monologue had real bite and his filmed bits were funny. Although he seemed to be exactly the right host for the year of #OscarsSoWhite 11 years later, he squandered a strong start by rarely talking about anything except the elephant in the room.
7. Jon Stewart (2006, 2008)
Stewart got off to a rocky start the first time he hosted, no doubt thrown by the notoriously difficult Oscar audience. But he got more assured as that show went along -- and when he hosted again two years later, he was sharp and smart and funny.
6. Jimmy Kimmel (2017, 2018)
Before his first Oscars hosting gig was overshadowed by that Best Picture envelope fiasco, Kimmel was smart and entertaining enough that we forgave him for a few too many Matt Damon jokes. The following year was more of the same, suggesting that he's a capable host who won't light up the room but won't really let you down either.
5. Ellen DeGeneres (2007, 2014)
She’s an easy, comfortable Oscar host, which is quite an accomplishment given the pressures of the job. Never a thrilling presence on the Oscar stage, DeGeneres is nonetheless a reliable one who can be counted on to deliver moments like her Oscar selfie.
4. Whoopi Goldberg (1994, 1996, 1999, 2002)
For a host who was rarely the producers’ first choice in the four years she did the job, Goldberg supplied plenty of indelible Oscar moments: her “Moulin Rouge”-style entrance in 2002, her costume changes in 1999 and her delight in tweaking the ABC censors every chance she got whenever she hosted.
3. Billy Crystal (1990-93, 1997-98, 2000, 2004, 2012)
Let’s face it, his last few times hosting the show were pretty stale -- but Crystal deserves to be high on the list (or maybe even top the list) for the four years, 1990-1993, in which he reinvented the job. Bonus points for the 1997 return in which he debuted the montage that inserted him into the year’s top movies.
2. Hugh Jackman (2009)
When it seemed as if the standup-comic-as-Oscar-host tradition was becoming awfully tired, producers Bill Condon and Lawrence Mark brought in a singing, dancing, charismatic movie star to show what a new kind of host could do. Since then, no other star has come close to doing what Jackman did, maybe because none could.
1. Steve Martin (2001, 2003)
He’s smart, classy and relaxed, an effortless performer with a sharp wit who knows how to hit the right tone, even when he hosted a show that began a few days after the Iraq war began. Plus the crew all say he's the most low-maintenance host imaginable.