From Aubrey Plaza to Ben Affleck to Winona Ryder: When a Single Face Expression Says It All on Awards Night

Awards shows might present to the attendees personal — and of course professional — triumphs and losses but the landmark moments are still being broadcast to millions all over the world.

With a single facial expression celebrities can find themselves instantly turned into a meme. And before the end of the show, they’ve become the talk of Twitter whether they like it or not. Sometimes the expressions have a kind of universal appeal and, in meme format, can fit a variety of contexts — giving them a life long after the awards show has been mostly forgotten.

Read on to see some of the most memed awards moments from the past…

1. Aubrey Plaza

Aubrey Plaza’s season of “White Lotus” may have taken home the award for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series during the 2023 SAG Awards, but she didn’t look too happy on stage. While the cast was accepting the award, her co-star Jon Gries could be seen whispering something in her ear — and her facial expressions had the internet talking.

It turns out that Jon had pointed out the straps on her bodice-baring dress, thinking she was close to a wardrobe malfunction. At the time, he didn’t realize the dress had been designed to show underboob. When Jon later reached out to her, she said all was good and she wasn’t upset.

“I think what she was intimating is why would that be a problem if my nipple is showing,” he told Page Six.

As far as her other expressions and utterances onstage, well Gries’ explanation for Aubrey’s personality and brand seem fitting: “That’s her humor — she has that dry, dead-pan wit; that’s her biting wit.”

2. Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck was by his wife’s side at the 2023 Grammys but he didn’t look thrilled to be there. When the camera panned to him throughout the show, fans noticed he always had a grimace on his face or looked incredibly bored. Halfway through the show he had become a meme — and a nearby seat filler says that JLo was showing him the photos in the middle of the event. Despite knowing the internet was talking about him, Ben didn’t seem super bothered and his grumpy facial expressions remained unchanged throughout the night.

3. Winona Ryder

Back in 2017, Winona Ryder made headlines for her facial expressions at the SAG Awards after the “Stranger Things” cast took home the award for Best Ensemble in a Drama Series. As she took the stage, she looked surprised, confused and shocked by the win. While her co-star David Harbour read his politically-charged acceptance speech, she grew even more stunned. Looking back, David says her emotional onstage journey was all because she couldn’t hear him.

“She couldn’t hear me!” David later told People. “Which I was confused by, because I was screaming! But apparently, she couldn’t hear me.”

4. Chrissy Teigen

When Chrissy Teigen’s husband John Legend won the Golden Globe for Best Original Song in 2015, she couldn’t contain herself. Her grimacing crying face immediately became a meme and has widely been used on the internet, even years after the ceremony.

“Sorry I don’t practice my cry face okay. It’s been 5 minutes and I’m a meme,” she tweeted at the time.

5. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep has become known for her expressive gestures in the audience at award shows, particularly her tendency to cup her hands around her face and yell a supportive message. It all began at the 2015 SAG Awards, where she could be seen cheering on Debbie Reynolds from the crowd. Since then, she even recreated the moment at the 2018 Oscars.

6. Don Cheadle

When the Golden Globes were hosted virtually in 2021, celebrities signed on to Zoom to accept their awards. When Jason Sudeikis was giving his speech after winning Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy, it appeared he went on a little too long for Don Cheadle’s liking. Since he was on Zoom, he was caught making a gesture for Jason to wrap things up — but thankfully it was all in good fun.

“Hey, that’s just Kansas City love,” Jason later said. “If anyone was going to tell me…He knew I’d listen to him. That’s all that is. A lot of people don’t know that he’s an excellent stage manager as well as an American acting icon. The guy’s got chops, you know?”

7. Jennifer Aniston

The internet always goes wild for any interaction Jennifer Aniston has with her ex Brad Pitt — and the 2020 SAG Awards were no exception. When Brad accepted the award for Male Actor in a Supporting Role, Jennifer was captured proudly clapping from the audience. During his speech, Brad even cracked a joke about his ex-wife while discussing his role as Cliff Booth in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

“Let’s be honest. It was a difficult part. A guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife,” he joked.

8. Jennifer Garner

During the 2018 Oscars, the camera panned to Jennifer Garner clapping in the audience. But just seconds into her applause, she appeared to have a troubling realization — suddenly looking horrified. The quick moment was immediately made into a meme and Jennifer later joked about what she could have been thinking about.

“Congrats to Shape of Water! Maybe I should date a fish?” she joked in one Instagram story post, writing in another, “Hey Jimmy Kimmel, what’s in your wallet? Wait, where’s my wallet?”

9. Blue Ivy

At the 2018 Grammys, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s daughter Blue Ivy made headlines for her hilarious reaction to her parents. When they began clapping in the audience, Blue must have thought they were overdoing it because she gently raised her hand, signifying for her parents to stop applauding.

10. Jay-Z

Like his daughter, Jay-Z had his own hilariously awkward moment at the Grammys too. In 2023, Jay and Bey arrived fashionably late to the award ceremony and actually missed Beyoncé’s first Grammy of the night. While the couple were still getting settled into their seats, host Trevor Noah headed over to present the award — right as Jay-Z was trying to hand Bey a drink. Jay clearly didn’t know what was happening because he looked pretty confused and partially offended when Bey turned him down!

11. Jason Sudeikis

During the virtual Golden Globes in 2021, Jason Sudeikis was on Zoom as Norman Lear accepted the Carol Burnett Award. While Norman was speaking, he mentioned he was “close to 99,” which visibly shocked Jason. In a clip, Jason could be seen mouthing, “He’s 99? Wow!” while viewers at home watched — and probably thought the same thing!

12. Leonardo DiCaprio

At the 2016 Golden Globes, Leonardo DiCaprio had a bit of a shady run-in with Lady Gaga. While she was approaching the stage, she brushed by Leo’s seat and he ended up looking pretty offended that she had bumped into him. It turns out there were no hard feelings and he had just been surprised that Gaga passed him.

“Oh lord — that’s trending, huh?” Leo told  Entertainment Tonight shortly after the show. “I just didn’t know what was passing me, that’s all!”

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