black panther best picture

The Dark Knight scooped up eight Academy Award nominations for 2008, including a Best Supporting Actor nod for the late Heath Ledger. But many expected more. There were rumblings that Christopher Nolan’s dark and gritty bat-flick would make history, break the mold, and become the first comic book property nominated for Best Picture. It didn’t happen. And the backlash was so severe that the Academy changed its rules, expanding the number of possible Best Picture nominees from five to ten. Now, a decade later, Black Panther has done what The Dark Knight could not.

Today, Black Panther made history. It become the first comic book movie to land a Best Picture nod from the Academy, rising above the endless stream of comic book movies. There was a time when such a nomination might seem unthinkable, and indeed, as recently as last year, the Academy was floating a ridiculous “Most Popular Movie” category idea, presumably to nominate Black Panther without giving it an actual BP nom.

Thankfully, the Academy backtracked, and wisely awarded Black Panther the nomination. And rightfully so – the film is a major achievement in superhero cinema, and a cultural milestone. Per Indiewire, when Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige first saw the final cut of Black Panther, he told director Ryan Coogler: “That’s the best movie we’ve ever made,” later adding: “You’ve made us a better studio.” (Side-note: Coogler was not nominated this year, which is unfortunate).

Ten years ago, another comic book movie seemed poised to land the Best Picture nomination: The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan’s film took Batman into the “real world,” and became one of the best reviewed superhero movies of all time, at the time. Here was a filmmaker taking comic books seriously. Could The Dark Knight buck trends and scoop up a nomination? The answer was no, and people were both surprised, and unhappy. So much so that the Academy shook things up the following year, bumping the number of possible Best Picture nominations from 5 to 10.

As Variety reported:

After 2008’s “The Dark Knight” failed to get a nomination, there were concerns that Academy members had become too esoteric in their tastes. There was also a hope that if superhero films and animated hits were recognized, the Oscars telecast would see ratings gains, as it did in 1998, hitting record highs as “Titanic” swept the awards. It helped that “Titanic” was the highest- grossing movie in history at that time.

When the news of the switch from 5 to 10 Best Picture noms was announced, Sidney Ganis, Academy President at the time, was asked flat-out if The Dark Knight was behind the decision. “I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words “Dark Knight” did not come up,” Ganis replied. And yet, despite this change, it still took another decade before a superhero flick would lock down that coveted Best Picture nom. Why? The answer is simple: no film was quite good enough (although some thought James Mangold’s Logan might pull it off; the film did earn a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, but not Picture). Then came Black Panther.

Is this the beginning of a new era? It’s hard to say. The Silence of the Lambs made history by being a horror movie that swept the Oscars, taking home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. That was in 1991. Can you name another horror movie that’s earned that many Oscar nominations since then? Black Panther deserves its praise for changing the game. But don’t be surprised if it’s a very long time before we see another superhero movie nominated for Best Picture.

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