From The Real World to The Real Housewives, reality TV has gifted us with the juiciest, messiest, wildest on-screen moments of all time.
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Though the genre is unpredictable, it’s always sure to deliver unforgettable drama that fuels pop culture memes, GIFs and jokes throughout the years. From death-defying stunts and island starvation, to table-flipping and face-smacking, there is so much to appreciate in the reality TV canon. So we’ve rounded up our own collection of reality TV’s wildest, kookiest, most surprising moments for your careful consideration.
We’ve got Housewives explosions, an overseas Celebrity Big Brother fiasco you have to see to believe, plus iconic moments from Survivor, The Voice, Dancing With the Stars, The Bachelor, Vanderpump Rules and many, many more. We even celebrate our favorite American Idol reject who certainly made the most out of his 15 minutes of fame.
How did we sift through the endless wasteland of reality TV’s biggest moments to settle upon one highly curated list of just 25, you might ask? Well, we kept it loose and we kept it fun! We considered which moments were wild, then weighed them against the entire genre, as well that particular show’s world.
Disagree with any of our picks? Scroll through the list below, then hit the comments and tell us your favorite kooky little reality scene.
The Amazing Race: Watermelon Face-Smash (Season 17)
While trying to complete a roadblock involving the launching of watermelons at suits of armor, Season 17 racer Claire Champlin’s slingshot twisted up, sending one giant piece of fruit directly into her face. The clip instantly went viral and thankfully, she walked away stunned, non-concussed and still able to race on. (Revisit the wild moment here.)
American Idol: William Hung Bangs! He Bangs! (Season 3)
Sure, some great singers achieved stardom through the Fox reality singing competition, but if we’re being completely honest, Idol‘s OG audition episodes were really the series’ must-see TV. Case in point: William Hung’s rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs!” While it’s entirely heartbreaking to see the look on his face once the feedback starts rolling in, you have to give the guy credit: He was a good sport with a great attitude. In fact, Hung got the last laugh. He went on to release three (count ’em!) albums, plus returned to the Idol stage in Season 15 for an encore performance. He even performed on The Tonight Show!
America’s Next Top Model: Tyra Freaks Out on Tiffany (Cycle 4)
What began as a pep talk for aspiring model Tiffany turned into a tirade after the younger woman joked about her elimination moments after it happened. After taking Tiffany to task for her stank attitude, the two women got into a shouting match that ended with Tyra’s now-infamous decree: “I have never in my life yelled at a girl like this! When my mother yells like this, it’s because she loves me! I was rooting for you! We were all rooting for you! How dare you? Learn something from this!”
The Bachelor: Jason Dumps Melissa for Molly (Season 13)
Chris Harrison says it all the time, but this truly was the most dramatic Bachelor moment of all time. Jason Mesnick gave Melissa his final rose and proposed to her in the finale… but then changed his mind on the After the Final Rose reunion special, breaking it off with her and getting back together with runner-up Molly. Jason and Molly eventually got married — and we got an all-time reality TV shocker.
Bad Girls Club: Tanisha’s Kitchen Item Blow-Up (Season 2)
Narrowing down BGC‘s many fights is a near-impossible task, but we’re partial to Tanisha Thomas’ iconic blow-up in Season 2. Pushed to her breaking point by perpetually messy roommates (even the phone had syrup on it!), Tanisha decided to wake up everyone by banging pots and pans in every room. “I didn’t get no f—kin’ sleep ’cause of y’all, y’all not gonna get no sleep ’cause of me!” Tanisha sang, instantly turning her anger into a certified bop.
Below Deck: Rocky Dives Off the Boat (Season 3)
Man overboard! Bravo’s nautical franchise has seen plenty of hi-jinks on the high seas, but it’s hard to top the way that loose-cannon stewardess Rocky let Captain Lee know she wanted to quit: by stripping down to her underwear and doing an Olympic-quality swan dive into the water below. Rocky eventually paddled her way back to her job, but her impulsive decision to jump ship still cemented her as an all-time unforgettable reality TV character. On form and technique, we give her an 8.5… but for stirring up drama, she scores a perfect 10.
Big Brother: Dan’s Funeral Flips the House (Season 14)
When all seemed to be lost for the BB10 winner, Dan Gheesling staged his own funeral, feigning the death of his game and calling out his No. 1 ally, Danielle Murphree. (“In this game, you’ll never earn my trust back. You know what you did. And in this game, you’re dead to me.”) Danielle was crushed, but little did she know, it was all a sham. Dan’s Hail Mary play not only helped him survive the week, but also secured his seat in the final two.
Celebrity Big Brother UK: ‘David Is Dead!’ (Season 17)
If there’s one thing the U.S. rendition of Celebrity Big Brother was missing, it was Tiffany “New York” Pollard. On Day 7 of CBBUK, Angie Bowie found out that her ex-husband, David Bowie, had sadly passed away. When Tiffany asked Angie what was wrong, Angie responded by telling her, “David is dead,” which Tiff mistook as: Fellow houseguest David Gest died in the house! Bowie’s death was devastating news for the entire world, but this miscommunication of epic proportions is a YouTube treat that delivers with every. single. watch.
The Challenge: CT Unleashes on Adam (Season 17)
The Challenge is no stranger to the occasional fist fight, but unfortunately for Adam King, he was on the receiving end of CT Tamburello’s fists on The Duel 2. The cause of the clash? CT mistakenly thought his former Real World Paris roomie told Diem, his ex, about his latest hook-up. What spawned from there was one of the show’s gnarliest, bloodiest, craziest fights ever. It took five guys just to prevent CT from pulverizing Adam, and when they finally let him go, he chased down his prey once again. Needless to say, both were disqualified from the show and sent home.
The Circle: The Spice Girls Make an Appearance (Season 4)
Mel B and Emma Bunton spiced up The Circle in Season 4, entering the chat as catfish “Jared,” a 28-year-old children’s author. Their appearance was only a short, planned stint, but after they remained undetected, the prize money was bumped up to $150,000. It was a shocking and fun li’l twist that paid off… literally!
Dancing With the Stars: Ryan Lochte Gets Bum-Rushed (Season 23)
Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte joined the Season 23 roster on the heels of controversy in Rio de Janeiro: After claiming that he and three other swimmers had been robbed at gunpoint in a Brazil gas station, Lochte admitted to embellishing his story (the swimmers had actually vandalized the gas station in question), and DWTS was part of his redemption tour. But on the season premiere, two audience members were less than thrilled with Lochte’s casting, and they rushed the stage during Lochte’s first-ever critiques from the judges. “I would like to personally thank our security team for staying in shape,” then-host Tom Bergeron joked afterward, bringing some levity to one of the ballroom’s most bizarre moments.
Flavor of Love: Somethin’ Poops on the Stairs (Season 2)
Flavor Flav’s mansion has plenty of bathrooms… but contestant Tykeisha Thomas (aka Somethin’) couldn’t get to any of them in time during the premiere’s elimination ceremony. Instead, Somethin’ chose to answer a persistent call of nature by defecating on the mansion floor, then quickly skedaddling to the restroom after the cocktail party was over. Fortunately, we were spared the visual of Somethin’s housewarming gift, but her description of the incident — “It just, like… pushed itself out” — is burned in our brains forever. (Watch the clip here, if you must!)
The Hills: The Series Finale Gets Meta (Season 6)
We were under no illusions when it came to the authenticity of the hit MTV reality series, which was clearly largely scripted and full of manufactured drama. But even still, we were not prepared for the series finale’s closing shot to pan out and reveal that Brody was standing on a studio backlot. Even if it was just meta commentary on how fake reality TV is, the unexpected ending left fans reeling with theories. (And don’t even get us started on the alternate ending!)
Jersey Shore: Snooki Gets Punched in the Face (Season 1)
To be clear, Snooki getting knocked out by a random Jersey bro during a bar fight was a horrifying assault that should not be glorified in any way. But the incident, which happened early in Season 1, did help the cast of guidos and guidettes bond as a family unit and bring the show to prominence, making it an unlikely breakout hit and Snooki a household name. So thanks, random Jersey bro… we guess?
Love Is Blind: Zanab Destorys Cole at the Altar (Season 3)
Netflix’s dating franchise is just asking for wedding day turmoil by matching up people who’ve never even seen each other before and making them decide if they want to get married in just four weeks. Most of them don’t end up living happily ever after, but not many of them ended quite as unhappily as Zanab and Cole. After a bumpy courtship, she used their wedding day as an opportunity to go off on her prospective beau, announcing to their friends and families: “You have disrespected me. You have insulted me. You have critiqued me… you have singlehandedly shattered my self-confidence. And I hate that you have that kind of effect on me.” She said no to marriage, he walked away shellshocked… and we knew we had witnessed grade-A reality TV mess.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey: Teresa Flips the Table (Season 1)
The Real Housewives franchise has seen plenty of awkward dinner parties and explosive confrontations, but this Season 1 gem — with Teresa unleashing her volcanic temper on Danielle, calling her a “prostitution whore” while lifting a rather large table off the floor for emphasis — takes the cake… and then promptly spills it on the floor. For emphasis.
The Real Housewives of New York City: Aviva Throws Her Prosthetic Leg (Season 6)
Aviva Drescher’s time as a RHONY cast member was short-lived, but she sure made it memorable: During a fight where some of the other ladies called her fake, Aviva removed her prosthetic leg, declaring it the only artificial thing about her, and hurled it across the room at her accusers. Top that!
The Real World Seattle: Stephen Slaps Irene (Season 7)
After a season full of growing tension and resentment, Irene McGee finally decided to move out of the Pier 70 compound, but not before taking a dig at fellow housemate Stephen Williams. “Stephen, I left everybody a gift, and I want to leave you one, too. You were right. A marriage between you and I would never work out. You know that… because you’re a homosexual, Stephen.” At the time, Stephen wasn’t out yet, so he reacted in a pretty extreme way — by slapping a woman in the face on national television. Real talk, it wasn’t a good look for either party, but the drama shocked audiences and became one of the series’ most infamous moments.
Road Rules: Kalle Goes Wing-walking (Season 4)
MTV’s casts have endured some pretty outrageous stunts, but nothing compares to what Road Rules Islands‘ Kalle Dedolph faced when she strapped herself to the top of a plane — thousands of feet in the air! — for a very special flight. How many people can say they stood on top of an airplane while it looped, twirled and soared through the skies? It was a truly WTF?! moment, and by far one of the craziest missions completed by any reality-TV cast member. (Check it out here.)
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Asia O’Hara’s Finale Flop (Season 10)
Asia O’Hara’s Season 10 finale lip sync left us gagging, all right, but not in a good way. When she released from her costume butterflies that she hoped would flutter over the crowd, they instead… fell to the stage, dazed and dying. “I don’t even have words for what I just witnessed,” said TVLine’s own Andy Swift at the time. We still don’t.
The Surreal Life: Naked and Drunk Verne Troyer Pees in the Corner (Season 4)
A group of C-list celebs living in a mansion together… what could go wrong? Lots, as one would expect. And Season 4 got off to a roaring start when a drunk Troyer raced around the crib on his scooter buck naked in the middle of the night. To top it all off: He peed in the corner of a bedroom. It was a total WTF moment we’ll never forget.
Survivor: The Snakes and Rats Speech (Season 1)
Over 51 million viewers watched the finale of Survivor: Borneo, which made Sue Hawk insta-famous after she absolutely skewered the Final 2 contestants, Richard Hatch and Kelly Wiglesworth. After calling Hatch an “arrogant, pompous, human being,” and Wiglesworth “two-faced and manipulative,” Hawk declared: “My vote will go to Richard. And I hope that is the one vote that makes [Kelly] lose the money. If it’s not, so be it. I’ll shake your hand and I’ll go on from here. But if I were to ever pass you along in life again and you were laying there dying of thirst, I would not give you a drink of water. I would let the vultures take you and do whatever they want with you, with no ill regrets.
“I plead to the jury tonight to think a little bit about the island that we have been on. This island is pretty much full of only two things: snakes and rats. And in the end of Mother Nature, we have Richard the snake, who knowingly went after prey, and Kelly, who turned into the rat that ran around like the rats do on this island, trying to run from the snake. I feel we owe it to the island’s spirits that we have learned to come to know to let it be in the end the way that Mother Nature intended it to be. For the snake to eat the rat.” (Revisit this savagery here.)
The Traitors: Cirie Chooses Not to End the Game (Season 1)
In the finale of Peacock’s wildly addicting reality series, Cirie Fields had the game in the bag alongside fellow traitor Arie Luyendyk, Jr. The two could’ve easily walked away with $125K a piece, but Cirie went for the jugular, opting to banish again to get her last remaining partner-in-crime out of the game. Knowing he’d never be able to convince the faithfuls of Cirie’s villainy, Arie walked away knowing his game was cooked, leaving the Survivor legend to snag the full quarter-million-dollar prize.
Vanderpump Rules: Stassi Slaps Kristen (Season 2)
It was the slap heard ’round the world… or at least ’round the Bravoverse. Stassi’s vicious backhand of Kristen after suspecting her former BFF had slept with Stassi’s ex Jax (Kristen denied it, but later confessed) cemented #PumpRules as a must-see guilty pleasure — and as a juicier, more addictive watch than its Real Housewives inspiration.
The Voice: Adam Plays Favorites (Season 15)
NBC’s Voice coaches might say they love all their contestants equally, but that wasn’t exactly true for Adam Levine in Season 15. When Levine’s two remaining team members — DeAndre Nico and teenager Reagan Strange — were both in the Bottom 3, Levine threw his full support behind only Strange, who was under the weather and couldn’t sing for the Instant Save during the results show. “There is an unbelievably talented little girl right now who is not able to fight for her position on this show,” he said (while Nico was still on stage). “The thought of breaking her heart by not urging everyone to give this girl a shot to go and redeem herself next week would be too far beneath me.” Strange was indeed saved by viewers after her coach’s plea, but Nico was left to twist in the wind.
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