The red carpet at the Academy Awards is usually considered hallowed ground. Unlike the
Grammys or the MTV Awards, or even the Golden Globes, it is neither the time nor the place for funny business. In fact, it is sometimes, as Sofia Coppola recently warned, too tasteful, too safe, and, sadly, too dull. But, in between the usual fishtail dresses and retro ballgowns, a few fearless women sometimes dare to really wow on the red carpet. There was Nicole Kidman in 1997, for example, spectacular in chartreuse by John Galliano for Dior. Then there was Marion Cotillard, redefining the meaning of fishtail gowns in Gaultier couture that actually looked like fish scales. Sharon Stone once turned a Gap button down into a power statement, and Lupita Nyong’o gave us princess dressing without being predictable. As for sheer bravado there’s always Cher, perpetually clad in Bob Mackie and eager to flout the conventions of “tasteful dressing.” Here, the 30 most memorable gowns of all time. Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Theron hit the red carpet at the 2019 in a backless, periwinkle Dior gown—and brunette bob.
Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage
Wu gave Belle realness in this Versace gown at the 2019 Oscars.
In 2018, Moreno walked the Oscars red carpet in the same black and gold gown she wore to the Oscars in 1962.
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The Azzedine Alaïa dress—and gloves—that inspired a thousand memes in 2015.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Euphoria actress fielded unsavory commentary about her choice to wear her hair in locs to the 2015 awards, where she stunned in Vivienne Westwood. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images
In Dior at the 2013 awards show.
Us actress wore Prada at the 86th Annual Academy Awards in 2014. Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic
In jaw-dropping Lanvin at the 2012 Oscars.
At the 84th Annual Academy Awards in 2012 wearing a Tom Ford cape.
Wearing Atelier Versace at the 84th Annual Academy Awards in 2012.
Lawrence at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards in 2011 wearing a red Calvin Klein Collection dress.
The actress chose an Atelier Versace gown for the 79th Annual Academy Awards in 2007.
The French actress stunned at the 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008 wearing Jean Paul Gaultier couture.
Swank at the 77th Annual Academy Awards in 2005 wearing backless Guy Laroche.
At the 76th Annual Academy Awards wearing a three-piece menswear-inspired suit with bowler hat.
Lopez during the 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003, donning an unexpected mint hue.
To collect her Best Actress award—as the first Black woman ever to do so—Berry wore a sheer Elie Saab gown at the 74th Annual Academy Awards in 2002.
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We know. We can’t believe it’s taken this long into the gallery to get to Julia Roberts wearing Valentino at the 2001 Oscars, either.
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To really drive the point home at the 2001 Oscars, Björk mimicked giving birth to an egg on the red carpet wearing this unforgettable Marjan Pejoski dress.
At the 71st Annual Academy Awards in 1999 wearing a sheer John Galliano dress with an open back.
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Wearing Ralph Lauren at the Oscars in 1999.
Who could forget the backward Dior tuxedo at the 71st Annual Academy Awards in 1999?
Ever the envelope-pusher, Stone wore a Gap shirt paired with a Vera Wang skirt to the 70th Annual Academy Awards in 1998.
Speaking of Galliano: At the 69th Annual Academy Awards in 1997, Kidman would forever change red carpet dressing by sporting one of his designs for Dior, a flawless, devastating silk gown in iridescent chartreuse that immediately appalled Joan Rivers and upstaged Tom Cruise.
Like a Virgin superstar wore Bob Mackie and $20 million worth of Harry Winston diamonds at the 63rd Annual Academy Awards in 1991.
At the 58th Annual Academy Awards in 1986 wearing a one-sleeve emerald green dress.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Photographed here in 1982.
Kim Kardashian recreated this look, which Cher wore to the 45th Annual Academy Awards in 1973, for Halloween.
At 41st Annual Academy Awards in 1969 wearing sequin see-through bell-bottom pants with a matching top.
In mint Givenchy at the 1955 Oscars, where she won Best Actress for her role in the 1954 film
The Country Girl.