The MTV Video Music Awards have the distinct honor of being a very memorable party every year, whether that's Taylor Swift being at the center of not just one but two crazy moments or Miley Cyrus' bold antics. From Madonna to Kanye West, relive these jaw-dropping onstage antics in VMAs history.
And fans can find out who reigns supreme this year when the 2023 VMAs air Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. ET on MTV. And follow along at ETonline.com for full coverage from this year's VMAs, including the complete list of the nominees and the night's big winners.
Lizzo kicked off her 2019 performance with "Truth Hurts," and within moments, she proved exactly why she's the best. With a giant inflatable butt in the background and a bunch of twerking backup dancers, the number was already unlike anything the VMAs had seen in some time. When she dove into "Good as Hell," her anthem to self-acceptance and love was puree magic and the exact kind of message the world needed. Lizzo's escapades were some of the best ever seen at the VMAs.
Cardi B's Baby Fakeout
Cardi B opened the 2018 live show at New York City's Radio City Music Hall by entertaining the audience with a funny introm joking, "I am the empress, the liberals voted for me." What got people talking, however, was the object in her hand while she was onstage. The "I Like It" rapper was holding what appeared to be her baby girl, Kulture, wrapped in a pink blanket, but towards the end of her speech, she revealed it was just a Moon Person. "I got a new surprise for you, you know what I'm saying,"'she teased, before introducing the first performer of the night, Shawn Mendes.
Party of Four
Fifth Harmony kicked off their performance at the 2017 VMAs with a major statement -- and a side of shade. Ally Brooke, Normani, Dinah Jane and Lauren Jauregui took the stage alongside a stand-in for ex-group member, Camila Cabello, who jumped ship as the performance begins. Naturally, fans assumed the ladies were dissing the “Havana” singer. After the show, the foursome stopped by Good Morning America to set the record straight. “We get asked all the time if we’re getting a fifth member and we wanted to show the world, in an artistic way, that the four of us are fifth harmony, and we’re stronger and better than we’ve ever been,” Dinah explained before adding that the performance was a "monumental moment" for the group.
Jared Leto's Tribute to Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington
Jared Leto paid emotional tribute to Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington at the 2017 VMAs. The musicians, who died in May and July of 2016, respectively, were also close friends and mutually admired each other’s work. Leto and his band, 30 Seconds to Mars, toured with both Cornell and the Linkin Park frontman. “They were close friends with each other,” Leto told the crowd. “Chester said of Chris, 'Your voice was joy and pain and anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped up into one.' Just weeks later, Chester himself was gone.” The Oscar winner added a touching statement on how Bennington inspired him. “Chester was my friend -- as he was to so many -- and witnessing his life taught me important things, especially about working relentlessly, pursuing dreams and being kind and caring while doing it,” Leto said. "When I think about him, Chester, I see his face, which was always smiling. I think about his heart, which he wore on his sleeve. I think about how kindly he treated me, my brother, our band. I think about his wife and his six incredible children. I think about his family, I think about his band, they were really his brothers, and I remember his voice. At once ferocious and delicate, that voice will live forever."
Katy Perry vs. Taylor Swift
The "Bad Blood" between Katy Perry and Taylor Swift didn't exactly boil over at the 2017 VMAs, but the former frenemies did appear to take shots at each other in front of millions of viewers. Although Swift didn't attend, the premiere of her "Look What You Made Me Do" video was an obvious dig at her rivals, including Perry, that night's VMAs host. The "Fireworks" singer seemingly clapped back at Swift later in the show. “Ed Sheeran’s Friends: Dead,” Perry said to the camera, in what sounded like a reference to "the Old Taylor is dead" line in Swift’s single, as well as the former country singere's friendship with Sheeran. Ouch!
Love on the Brain
Drake professed his love for Rihanna while presenting her with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 VMAs. RiRi was rumored to be dating the “Views” rapper at the time, and he couldn’t stop gushing about her to the crowd. The attention proved to be a little too overwhelming for Rihanna, who sweetly thanked Drake before turning her focus to fans. The lovefest continued after the awards show, with the two exchanging sweet messages on social media.
Beyoncé served up a full glass of Lemonade for her epic performance at the 2016 VMAs. The 15-minute stage production featured five songs from the album, including “Sorry” and “Formation,” two outfit changes, incredible choreography, pyrotechnics, smoke machines and dozens of dancers. Just another day at work for Queen Bey!
Nicki Minaj Shades Miley Cyrus
Major shade was thrown at the 2015 VMAs, courtesy of Nicki Minaj. The "Anaconda" rapper called out Cyrus for comments she had made in the press earlier in the week, leading to the now infamous, "Miley, what's good?" Cyrus, who was hosting the show, brushed it off, but Minaj later told New York Times Magazine, "I saw [Miley] just looking at me, with her face screwed up, and I thought, What the! The fact that you feel upset about me speaking on something that affects black women makes me feel like you have some big balls."
The Biebs' Tearfest
Emotions were running very high at the 2015 VMAs, with the most obvious example of that coming when Justin Bieber began epically sobbing onstage. The Canadian pop star delivered a spot-on performance of his summer hit, "Where Are U Now," and his latest single, "What Do You Mean?" -- even flying up into the air at one point -- but then he broke down in tears at the end of the set. With no explanation at all, Bieber sobbed into his hands while a stunned crowd looked on. Naturally, all eyes were searching for Bieber's ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez, who was attending the show alongside her pal Taylor Swift and the "Bad Blood" squad, but the ladies had already exited the venue before Bieber's set. Thus, the world will never know how Gomez might have reacted to those tears.
Twerk it Out
Robin Thicke blurred some lines during his controversial performance at the 2013 VMAs, when the singer was joined onstage by a twerking Miley Cyrus.
Blue Ivy Steals The Show
Blue Ivy is easily Beyoncé’s biggest fan! Queen Bey's adorable daughter stole the show in 2014, as cameras caught her happily dancing along as her mom performed “Flawless.” The heart-melting moment got even cuter when JAY-Z brought Blue on stage to present Bey with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.
Bey's Baby Bump
The GRAMMY winner didn't even need words to announce her pregnancy at the 2011 VMAs. The singer simply rubbed her growing belly at the end of her show-stopping performance, and the crowd went wild.
'Ima Let You Finish'
Kanye West put himself straight into headlines when he interrupted Taylor's Swift acceptance speech for Best Female Video to campaign for Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" video at the 2009 VMAs. He was subsequently removed from the awards show.
The Kiss Heard 'Round the World
Slim Shady Fights a Puppet
Eminem continued his one-sided feud with techno artist Moby at the 2002 VMAs while also getting into new beef with comedy writer Robert Smigel and his Late Night With Conan O'Brien character, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. The rapper shoved the puppet out of the way while he was conducting a pre-planned interview and a member of Em's posse tossed Smigel's notes in the air.
I'm a Snake 4 U
Spears one-upped her striptease at the 2000 VMAs with a not-so-subtle, innuendo-laced performance complete with a giant python for her live performance of "I'm a Slave 4 U" the following year.
Rage Against the Bizkit
Rage Against the Machine bassist Tim Commerford was not happy when his band lost out to Limp Bizkit for Best Rock Video in 2000, so the rocker decided to interrupt Fred Durst's acceptance speech by climbing the scaffolding on the awards show stage. Commerford spent the night in jail for his protest, and the band broke up shortly after.
Diana Ross Cops a Feel
Lil' Kim went all out in 1999, donning a sparkling purple dress with a matching wig and pasties. When she was joined by Diana Ross and Mary J. Blige to present Best Hip-Hop Video, Ross couldn't help herself -- she reached out to jiggle the rapper's breast in a now infamous VMA moment.
Courtney Love Being Courtney Love
After infamously interrupting Madonna's post-show interview with MTV VJ Kurt Loder in 1995, the Hole frontwoman got dragged off the press room stage for pulling her usual antics.
The "King of Pop" Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, who were married from 1994-96, showed off their new love at the 1994 VMAs, sharing an awkward onstage kiss.
Madonna's 'Like a Virgin'
She wouldn't be the controversial "Queen of Pop" if she wasn't on this list more than once. Madge's writhing, wedding-themed performance of her hit single "Like a Virgin" at the 1984 Video Music Awards was controversial at the time but has now cemented itself as VMA legend.