The Oscars are pretty much the biggest night of the year, entertainment-wise, and even if many of the wins are predictable, the show itself is always a mixed bag of good ideas, bad ideas, and "what were they thinking?" ideas on the part of its producers. Comedians, TV personalities, and even movie stars have stepped in to open the telecast over the years, but what seems promising in theory doesn't always come off in practice, and just because a host worked in years past doesn't always mean they'll score this year.
The 2013 Academy Awards will be hosted by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, which could either be brilliant or catastrophic. Will his low-brow humor gel with this prestigious affair? He sure does love his pop culture zingers. It gets us wondering where he'll rank in the last decade or so of Oscar hosts, ever since the show moved into the Kodak Theater in Hollywood in 2002.
So we've put together a ranking of the past ten years of Oscar hosts. Spoiler alert: one Les Miserables star was the very best, and one Les Miserables star was the very worst. To find out where the rest of them line up, catch it our power rankings below!
1. Hugh Jackman (2009)
Typically, the Oscars calls upon comedians to do the honors — this was the first time in a long time they'd called upon a big star who wasn't primarily known for being funny. But Hugh's dashing charm ended up being just the right mix for the telecast — he's classy, he sings, he puts on a good show, he's a lot easier on the eyes than a certain City Slickers star, and his jokes are actually funny. The bit about a low-budget opening is the rare Oscars number that's actually inspired, with numbers about The Dark Knight's Best Picture snub and the laugh-out-loud funny "I haven't seen The Reader" ditty. (A lot of people never did see The Reader, after all.) Plus, in an "impromptu" performance as a lovelorn President Nixon, Anne Hathaway redeems herself for a future Oscars misfire that you'll find much further down this list...
2. Ellen DeGeneres (2007)
Ellen's trademark self-deprecating humor works well, juxtaposed against a high-fallutin ceremony like the Oscars. She goes less for the obvious cynical showbiz jokes and more for a rambly feel-good approach, which keeps the light chuckles coming even without many gut-busting moments. "A lot of British nominees... would I say too many? Not here, no," she cracks. "At home in my pajamas with a box of chardonnay, who knows what I'd say?" And while a little more chardonnay might spice things up, clearly Ellen didn't need any liquid courage to pull of this feat.
3. Chris Rock
Chris' screechy, racially-charged brand of humor may not fit such a classy affair as the Oscars like a glove, but the man deserves props for keeping things funny (something some of the hosts ranked below were unable to do...). He makes a mean (but funny) jab at Michael Moore's weight and does a pretty hilarious bit about George W. Bush working at The Gap. What could've been a disaster hosting choice ended up providing a fair amount of entertainment.
4. Jon Stewart (2008)
Jon is sharper on political satire than Hollywood gags, but the Oscars never met a presidential jab they didn't like. Following the WGA writer's strike that shut down the industry for a number of months, Jon was the perfect guy to let America see that Hollywood could still make fun of itself.
5. Whoopi Goldberg (2002)
This was Whoopi's fourth (and final) hosting gig at the big show, and it was a mixed affair. As usual with Oscars hosts, a few of the jokes land while some of them thud. She compares Mariah Carey's Glitter to 9/11 (too soon!) . Plus, people are always complaining about the show going too long, and she seems to spend ten minutes just shaking the feathers on her costume. (Julia Roberts sure thought she was hilarious, though.)
6. Billy Crystal (2004)
The eighth of nine hosting duties pulled by Billy Crystal, by now the Parental Guidance star had his song-and-dance-and-joke routine down to a T. It's hit or miss, but at least he doesn't embarrass himself horribly... which does happen on the Oscars sometimes...
7. Billy Crystal (2012)
For his final tour as Oscar host (to date, anyway), Billy returns and does the same old schtick, from inserting himself into the year's biggest movies to singing about them.... a routin ewhich hasn't exactly aged gracefully. Worse, after selecting a host that appeals mainly to grandparents, the show decides to chase youth by including Justin Bieber in an unfunny skit. This show can't seem to decide whether it wants to be the Academy Awards or the MTV Video Music Awards, and succeeds at pleasing neither young nor old. It's probably time to retire this act... for good.
8. Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin
Steve Martin had a few successful stints at hosting, most recently in 2003. Unfortunately, he didn't end on a high note. A somewhat odd pairing for the honors, Alec and Steve relied on a "look, there's [insert celebrity]!" format that ran almost ten minutes... with fewer than ten genuine laughs elicited. Even the weakest episode of 30 Rock packs more punch than these jokes (the one directed at Inglourious Basterds nominee Christoph Waltz was just edgy enough to emerge as the standout). Others, like divorce jabs at Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron or stoner jokes about Woody Harrelson just missed the mark completely.
9. Anne Hathaway & James Franco (2011)
Oy, what happened here? On paper, selecting two young, likable movie stars to host a show that's all about extremely attractive and talented people isn't a terrible idea. In execution? Painful. The energies of the hosts were a complete mismatch. James seemed incredibly stoned while Anne acted like she'd just overdosed on uppers (she was playing to the room rather than the TV audience, she explained later). It's maybe the most unanimously-panned Oscars debacle since that thing between Snow White and Rob Lowe. We give Anne props for trying to save the show, but she was a lot better when she was just crashing Hugh Jackman's show.
Which Oscar host do you think was worst?