Christopher Nolan knows a little something about comic book movies that are big-time awards contenders. He directed The Dark Knight, which remains the most highly-decorated film ever based on superhero comics. There was, however, one major honor that eluded TDK that Nolan believes will not escape Black Panther‘s Vibranium claws: an Oscar® nomination for Best Picture.
Deadline’s Pete Hammond spoke with Nolan at the Governors Ball after party for this year’s Academy Awards. Hammond does not quote Nolan directly, but he does share that the director predicted a Best Picture nomination for Black Panther at next year’s Oscars®.
A Disney executive also told Hammond that Black Panther and Mary Poppins Returns will be getting big awards campaigns this year, aiming for the top prize.
No film based on comic book superheroes has ever been nominated for Best Picture. Nolan’s The Dark Knight came the closest in 2008 (for the Academy Awards ceremony held in 2009), but was ultimately snubbed in favor of Slumdog Millionaire (the eventual winner), Frost/Nixon, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Milk, and The Reader.
There were only five nominees back then and it was the snubbing of The Dark Knight that led to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expanding the Best Picture field to include up to ten nominees. That expansion has not led to any Best Picture nominations for other superhero movies as fans had hoped.
There have been theoretical contenders. The Avengers got a little awards chatter after its phenomenal success in 2012, as did Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. Deadpool was believed to have a shot in 2016 and the same went for Wonder Woman in 2017. The truth, however, is that none of those films really stood a chance because most of that chatter ignored what it takes for a film to actually be nominated for Best Picture.
The Best Picture nominees are not the Academy’s “Top Ten” list for a given year. Even if everyone in the Academy believes Black Panther is one of the ten best films of 2018, that will not matter because that’s not how the voting works. It won’t even matter if they all think Black Panther is one of the five best movies of the year, which is actually the number of films listed on a nomination ballot.
In order to be nominated for Best Picture, a film has to be put down as the best movie of the year on at least 5% of the ballots turned in. That translates to nearly 300 members of the Academy believing Black Panther is the best film of 2018. It might need to be over 300 members once new Academy voters are added this year.
There is a way to compensate for a lack of first place votes with some second place votes. You can find out more about that with additional analysis of Black Panther‘s chances in just about every Oscar® category here. Even so, we’re still talking about almost (or more than) 300 ballots that have Black Panther in the top spot or at least in the top two, over all of the usual prestige films we see at the end of every year.
That is why The Avengers, Wonder Woman, and others were never anywhere close to the Best Picture nominations fans were hoping for and that is the obstacle Black Panther will have to overcome.
As the saying goes, there’s a first time for everything. I am not at all ruling out a Best Picture nomination for Black Panther. I really can see at least 5% of Academy voters feeling like Black Panther, with its relevant themes woven seamlessly into a brilliant and optimistic superhero spectacle, is the best movie of 2018, especially if none of the usual awards contenders make a big impression.
The Academy is obviously aware of Black Panther and the impact it has already made, as they praised it multiple times throughout Sunday’s ceremony. The opportunity is there and Black Panther has the best chance any comic book movie has ever had (or at least since The Dark Knight) at securing a Best Picture nomination.
In order to overcome a challenge such as this, however, it’s best to know all that it entails. Regardless, I’m sure King T’Challa accepts.