25 Most Iconic Moments From The Oprah Winfrey Show

Few talk shows have had as much impact as The Oprah Winfrey Show. Not only was she revered in the United States, but worldwide as well. Since there are so many moments that audiences gravitate to as their fondest memories, a notable online forum decided to discuss some of their favorites. Here's what they came up with as the most iconic moments in history. 

1. Tom's Couch Outburst (2005)

Tom Cruise on the Oprah Winfrey Show
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In a departure from Oprah's usual serious moments, Tom Cruise made a memorable appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Driven by his love for Katie Holmes, Cruise enthusiastically jumped on Winfrey's couch and shouted in excitement. The audience cheered, Oprah was surprised, and the moment became iconic in pop culture history. Unfortunately, their romance didn't endure, but that's Hollywood for you.

2. The OJ Verdict Reaction (1995)

OJ Verdict Reaction The Oprah Winfrey Show
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The O.J. Simpson verdict on Oprah Winfrey's show triggered a mix of emotions. Viewers watched with bated breath as the jury found Simpson not guilty of murder. Oprah's studio audience had varied reactions, reflecting the nation's divided sentiments. Some celebrated the verdict, while others expressed shock and disbelief. The moment was a microcosm of the intense public discourse surrounding the trial.

3. Rodney King Riots Forum (1992)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Rodney King Riots Forum
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The Oprah Winfrey Show addressed the Rodney King incident, a pivotal moment in U.S. history. Oprah dedicated episodes to discussing the 1992 Los Angeles riots sparked by the acquittal of police officers involved in King's beating. 

She provided a platform for thoughtful conversations about race, police brutality, and systemic injustice, contributing to the national dialogue on these critical issues. Some people had mixed reactions during the conversations. Oprah's show served as a catalyst for understanding and change at the time.

4. Black-Eyed Peas Performance (2009)

oprah winfrey show Black-Eyed Peas Performance
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Oprah hosted the Black Eyed Peas for her Season 24 kickoff party in Chicago. As the group performed “I've Got a Feeling,” the crowd of 20,000 spontaneously turned into a flash mob, surprising Oprah. She exclaimed, “That is the coolest thing ever!” The unexpected performance left a lasting impression on the queen of surprises and her audience.

5. Rihanna Interview (2012)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Rihanna Interview
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Oprah's interview with Rihanna following the Chris Brown assault was a candid and emotional conversation. Rihanna shared her painful experiences, shedding light on domestic violence's gravity. The episode highlighted the importance of addressing such issues openly, encouraging victims to seek help and fostering awareness about relationship abuse. Rihanna's resilience and Oprah's empathetic approach made it a powerful and empowering episode.

6. Betty Broderick Interview (1992)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Betty Broderick Interview
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Oprah's interview with Betty Broderick was a compelling exploration of a high-profile murder case. Broderick, convicted of killing her ex-husband and his new wife, spoke about her perspective and the events leading up to the tragedy. 

The episode delved into complex themes of divorce, betrayal, and mental health, providing viewers with insights into the human psyche and the consequences of unchecked resentment and anger. Broderick's case had received extensive media attention, and her interview on the show sparked debates about whether it was appropriate to give a platform to a convicted murderer.

7. Michael Jackson Interview (1993)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Michael Jackson Interview
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Prior to the assault allegations, the famously private King of Pop welcomed Oprah to Neverland Ranch for a rare live interview. They discussed his strained relationship with his father, his sense of a lost childhood, plastic surgery rumors, and his constantly changing skin tone.

However, Jackson avoided discussing his physical relationships. When asked by Oprah if he was a virgin, he responded, “I'm a gentleman,” emphasizing his desire to keep such matters private. People say this interview sparked lifelong strife between the two.

8. Weight-Loss Episode (1988)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Weight-Loss Episode
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Oprah Winfrey's struggle with her weight has been well-documented. In an episode of her show, she famously wore size 10 Calvin Klein Jeans, symbolizing her 67-pound weight loss on a liquid protein diet, while pulling a wagon filled with animal fat.

She later referred to this as her “biggest, fattest” mistake and admitted in a 2010 interview with Barbara Walters, “I think I did myself a great disservice focusing so much on the external body features… What I've learned is that overeating for me is about being out of balance and being disconnected and using that as a comfort for the stress.”

9. Everybody Gets a Car (2004)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Everybody Gets a Car
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Oprah once left her studio audience in tears by gifting each member a brand-new 2005 Pontiac G-6 midsize sports sedan. These weren't typical attendees; Oprah chose them through a selection process where friends submitted compelling entries on their behalf. These individuals were genuinely in need of new cars, and this extraordinary act showcased Oprah's transformative impact on people's lives.

10. The Mary Tyler Moore Surprise Appearance (1997)

The Oprah Winfrey The Mary Tyler Moore Surprise Appearance
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During the early days of Oprah's television career, it was no secret that she adored Mary Tyler Moore and her captivating TV show. One time, Oprah did a spoof of the show's opening, which caught Moore's attention, leading to a live call from Mary herself. 

She shared a laugh about her signature hat toss, and then, to everyone's astonishment, including Oprah, Moore's theme song started playing and she walked out onto the stage. Oprah commented that it was a moment she'd never forget. The icon wowed the audience as well with her graceful entrance and smile. 

11. The “A Million Little Pieces” Book Lies (2006)

The Oprah Winfrey Show The
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Oprah is warm and nurturing, but like a Mama Bear, she can be formidable. James Frey, author of “A Million Little Pieces,” experienced this in 2006. Oprah had endorsed his memoir about addiction, boosting sales until it was revealed he had embellished the story. Oprah then conducted a harsh on-air interview, personally chastising him for his deceit, highlighting her uncompromising stance on authenticity.

12. Road Trips With Gayle (1986-2011)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Road Trips with Gayle
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Oprah Winfrey and her best friend, Gayle King, embarked on memorable road trips that became beloved episodes of  The Oprah Winfrey Show. These adventures showcased their enduring friendship and featured candid conversations, laughter, and heartwarming moments. The road trips allowed viewers to witness the genuine connection between Oprah and Gayle and provided a refreshing break from the show's usual format, earning them a special place in fans' hearts.

13. Olsen Twins Weight Concerns (2004)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Olsen Twins Weight Concerns
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During an interview with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Oprah raised eyebrows by asking them about their weight, a question widely considered intrusive. The twins' response, “That's a little personal,” sparked controversy and discussions about body image and privacy.

This cringeworthy moment highlighted the importance of respectful interview boundaries and shed light on the pressures faced by young celebrities in the spotlight. The girls were going through a lot at that time and many people thought it was too much for the young actresses. 

14. Mad Cow Disease Comments (1996)

Oprah Winfrey
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Oprah once had a discussion with activist Howard Lyman, which motivated her to stop eating hamburgers. However, it also triggered a sharp decline in beef prices, hitting a ten-year low. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association blamed Oprah's controversial interview with Lyman and filed a defamation lawsuit that dragged on for years.

Eventually, the court ruled in Oprah's favor, a triumph for free speech, which she celebrated as a win, stating, “Free speech not only lives, it rocks.”

15. Forsyth County Debacle (1987)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Forsyth County Debacle
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Six months into The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah boldly tackled racism in a groundbreaking episode. She took her show to Forsyth County, Georgia, a predominantly white community, confronting its residents about their racist views. 

Oprah refused to compromise and compelled Forsyth County to voice their raw, disparaging, and shocking comments on air. The segment powerfully exposed deep-seated prejudice, and in 2010, Oprah returned to find a transformed Forsyth County with over 7,000 African Americans living there.

16. Children Suffering From Crime (1990)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Robert Jones Blind Child
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Robert Jones was a special child guest who lost his sight at 10 due to a stray bullet, and he left an indelible mark on viewers. When asked if he could see in his dreams, Robert hesitated before softly replying, “Yes,” evoking deep emotions. At 18, he returned to the show as a talented pianist and songwriter. Robert's journey, including earning a degree from Columbia College, demonstrated the power of breaking boundaries in life.

17. Oprah's Social Experiment (1992)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Eye Color Experiment
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Following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, school teacher Jane Elliott employed an eye-color-based exercise to teach her students about racism. Oprah replicated this experiment with her audience, separating them by eye color. 

The exercise showcased how easily people can be taught to discriminate based on arbitrary factors, demonstrating the power of propaganda and highlighting the potential vulnerability to other falsehoods. Jane Elliott's message resonated: questioning what else we might unwittingly accept as truth.

18. Book Club Launch (1996)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Book Club Launch
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In the late 90s, Oprah introduced a new segment on her show, unknowingly creating a cultural phenomenon. Lasting 15 years, the book club featured titles handpicked by Oprah herself. It garnered immense popularity, propelling lesser-known books to bestsellers. This phenomenon, dubbed the Oprah Effect, showcased her Midas touch. The original club endorsed 70 books, and though it concluded, Oprah's book club segments now continue on the OWN network. 

19. Mattie Stepanek (2001)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Mattie Stepanek
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Coined the “Mattie Stepanek Episode,” audiences remember when Oprah introduced the world to 11-year-old Mattie Stepanek when he was facing a dire prognosis due to a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Doctors were concerned about a sore on his head.

When asked about his Christmas wish, he simply requested prayers. Thousands prayed, and 30 days later, his healing was nothing short of a medical miracle. Unfortunately, Mattie's condition worsened in March 2004, and he never recovered, but he remained an inspiring presence on the show.

20. Oprah's Favorites (1996)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Oprah's Favorites
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“Oprah's Favorite Things”, a segment that began in 1996, remains an iconic part of her legacy. During this holiday season episode, Oprah showcased her favorite items, ranging from small treats like key lime pie to grand gifts like week-long Caribbean cruises, all given away for free. Known for her generosity and spirit, Oprah made it a heartwarming tradition. The annual “Favorite Things” show consistently ranked as her most-watched episode each year.

21. Whitney Houston Interview (2009)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Whitney Houston Interview
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Oprah excelled at coaxing vulnerability from her guests. In 2009, Whitney Houston broke a seven-year interview silence to share her struggles on Oprah's season premiere. Houston candidly discussed her descent into drug addiction following the triumph of The Bodyguard and the birth of her daughter. 

She also delved into her tumultuous relationship with ex-husband Bobby Brown, acknowledging his role in her addiction. The interview was highly anticipated, with Houston's emotional honesty making it profoundly impactful.

22. Tina Turner Tour (1997)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Tina Turner Tour
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There's no denying that Tina Turner is an icon, and Oprah once expressed that one of her wildest dreams was to sing on stage with her. Here's her account of the experience. 

“That dream became a reality when our show joined Tina on tour. I felt incredibly nervous, especially after Tina playfully pointed out my lack of rhythm during backstage dance rehearsals. As we performed, my focus wavered. In those final moments, I reminded myself to savor the fleeting thrill, thinking, ‘Okay, girl, this is almost over—so make the most of it.'” 

23. Oprah's 50th Birthday Bash (2004)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Oprah's 50th Birthday Bash
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Oprah Winfrey's 50th birthday celebration was a star-studded extravaganza filled with surprises and special guests. The event featured notable figures from various fields, including entertainment, politics, and philanthropy, who came to honor and celebrate Oprah's milestone birthday. It was a grand and memorable occasion that highlighted Oprah's impact and influence in the media and beyond.

24. The President and The First Lady (2011)

The Oprah Winfrey Show The President and the First Lady (2011)
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In 2011, Oprah hosted a highly anticipated interview with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. They discussed their experiences in the White House, personal lives, and Michelle's “Let's Move!” campaign against childhood obesity. 

This marked one of their final appearances on the show before its conclusion, offering insights into Barack Obama's historic presidency as the first African-American president of the United States. It was also the first time in history that the show had a sitting president. 

25. The Final Goodbye (2011)

The Oprah Winfrey Show Final Show
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Oprah Winfrey's final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show was an emotional and highly anticipated event. It marked the end of her iconic 25-year run as a talk show host. Oprah expressed gratitude to her audience and shared personal reflections.

The episode featured surprise celebrity appearances and a heartfelt farewell message, leaving viewers and fans with a profound sense of closure and appreciation for her influence in the world of television and media.

Source: (Reddit)