February 24, 2008 will mark the 80th year that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts its annual Academy Award ceremony. It will be the 80th year presenters fumble their lines; the 80th year a director is honored for his efforts; the 80th time members of the Academy determine the Best Motion Picture of the previous year; and the 80th time Cate Blanchett is nominated. Okay, maybe not her 80th nomination, but with multiple nods a few years running, it sure seems like it.

It has been quite a run for the prestigious Hollywood ceremony. Throughout the years Oscar audiences have witnessed some of cinema’s most unforgettable, endearing and watershed moments—not just in the films that were nominated, but on the ceremony’s stage itself. Remember David Letterman’s Uma-Oprah joke that will forever be mocked? Cuba Gooding Jr.‘s jump for joy upon winning his Best Supporting Actor award? Roberto Benigni‘s acrobatics over the chairs (and heads) of the audience on his way to the stage? What about Cher‘s barely-there black ensemble or Bjork‘s blindingly white swan attire? To think: These are just some of the moments that have made Oscar history in the past 80 years.

But bigger than the antics of its attendees, the Academy, as George Clooney pointed out in his 2006 acceptance speech, has often been at the forefront of the country’s—and quite possibly the world’s—most pressing issues. As evidence, look to Hattie McDaniel‘s win in 1940. By accepting that statue, she became the first African American to be honored with one of the Academy’s trophies. And even though Brokeback Mountain‘s homosexual depictions became late-night talk show fodder, the drama put up a good fight for its Best Picture nom.

As for the movies the Academy has honored in its 80 years? Well, they’re nothing but the best of course. Best Picture awards have been bestowed on early films like All Quiet on the Western Front, Rebecca, An American in Paris, Ben-Hur and recent classics like Midnight Cowboy, Ordinary People, Out of Africa, American Beauty and The Departed.

Happy 80th, Oscar.