One popular debate on the internet during this year’s Oscar season was whether or not comic book movies are “Oscar-worthy”. We are in an age of amazing superhero film adaptations and while some of them are definitely nothing more than an entertaining, visually-stunning blockbuster with loud noises and explosions, some classic and recent comic book movies from both Marvel and DC, have been a lot more than eye-candy. They’ve been critically acclaimed films with realistic themes and intricate storylines and characters. So, let’s take a look at 10 “Oscar-Worthy” comic book films sorted in order of release date.
Superman: The Movie, also known as the grandfather of superhero movies, is certainly a film that deserves some Oscar recognition – and the Academy agrees! The movie won the Special Achievement Academy Award, which is a very prestigious honor gifted to films that have made a great contribution to cinema. Superman definitely deserves this award because it changed the way movies were made and shined a light on comic book characters.
Also, Superman was nominated for Best Original Score, but ultimately lost to Midnight Express – which is one of the biggest Oscar snubs ever considering how delightful and iconic the John Williams’s Superman score really is. On top of this, Superman was nominated for two other Oscars – Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing – which in total is 4 nominations. Clearly, the Academy recognized Superman: The Movie very fairly, but we cannot say the same for some other recent comic book movies.
Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992)
Like Superman: The Movie, Batman also won an Oscar, but it was for Best Production Design. Tim Burton’s gothic style in both Batman and Batman Returns was so unique and intriguing and his interpretation of Gotham City was absolutely brilliant. However, this movie had a lot more to it than just an amazing style. The visual effects were ahead of its time and they still hold up today.
Also, Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson both could have been nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. It is also worth mentioning that Danny DeVito should have also snagged a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Batman Returns. Whether or not Batman should be nominated for Best Picture is up in the air and too hard to tell 30 years later, but nevertheless, it is still an “Oscar-worthy” movie in my eyes.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Spider-Man 2 is still, to this day, one of the greatest comic book movies ever created. Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films were absolutely stunning and deserve every compliment that comes their way. Spider-Man was a fantastic film, but its sequel actually topped the first as it elevated every great aspect of its predecessor.
Spider-Man 2 won Best Visual Effects at the Oscars and received two other nominations for Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. Considering the visual effects from this superhero flick still look fantastic almost 15 years later, the Oscar win was more than deserved. Two other categories Spider-Man 2 should have been nominated for are Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Score. Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus is an extremely overlooked performance that has a great layer of depth to it and Danny Elfman’s score is probably my favorite score for a comic book movie.
Iron Man (2008)
Superhero movies were heavily criticized for not being realistic enough, then Iron Man came out in 2008! It was such a great film on its own that many people were unaware it was a comic book movie. The feature was nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing, but it deserved a lot more credit than that.
First of all, Robert Downey Jr. owned the role of Tony Stark and there isn’t one actor who could have done a better job. Downey played the character with such charisma that the audience connected with Tony and fell in love with him. If it wasn’t for The Dark Knight, Iron Man might have gotten more credit. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t even manage to win an Oscar, let alone be nominated for a larger category such as Best Actor in a Leading Role or possibly even Best Picture, which would be very unlikely, of course. However, the film tackles real-world issues and themes similar to other Oscar-nominated films.
The Dark Knight (2008)
For a long time, The Dark Knight was the most “Oscar-worthy” comic book film out there (until recently). While I believe this movie is slightly overrated, it is still one of the greatest movies ever made, which is key considering a “great comic book movie” and a “great movie” are two completely different things.
The Dark Knight was not ignored (besides the iconic Best Picture snub) by the Oscars, like most comic book films, as it received a staggering 8 nominations and 2 wins. Heath Ledger’s Joker was the most praised role of the entire year, which lead to him winning Best Supporting Actor posthumously. The Dark Knight also won an Oscar for Best Sound Editing. The other 5 categories it was nominated for were Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Makeup. Adapted from a comic book or not, this movie is a masterpiece and the Oscars could not ignore The Dark Knight.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best Marvel movies ever created, but the Academy didn’t even bother nominating it for an Oscar. The movie perfectly demonstrated the fact that comic book films can blend multiple genres as well as any other sort of film.
This movie was a spy thriller with elements from multiple genres and at the same time, it told a fantastic, well-written story with fantastic actors portraying the characters. The Dark Knight was adored for being realistic and pushing the boundaries of the genre. Deep down inside, we all know that in some ways, Captain America: The Winter Soldier does it better.
Deadpool was a film that didn’t follow the guidelines of cinema; it made its own rules. The raunchy, fourth wall-breaking, superhero flick had a lot of Oscar buzz this past year after being nominated at other award shows such as the Golden Globes. Fans were hoping that Deadpool could be nominated for a category outside the technical awards, including Best Actor and Best Picture.
This could have been an amazing comeback for comic book movies at the Oscars. Ultimately, Deadpool fell flat on its face when it didn’t receive a single nomination from the Academy. This was a huge disappointment, but it wasn’t even the most overlooked comic book movie from 2016. The reason Deadpool is “Oscar-worthy” is because it isn’t. Deadpool would have changed the history of the Oscars forever just like it did for cinema. Maybe the movie’s sequel will have better luck…
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Captain America: Civil War is my personal favorite comic book movie of all time and even more than that, it is one of my favorite movies ever. Truthfully, it is very difficult for me to find a flaw with this film. Everything that makes an Oscar movie wonderful was fantastic in Civil War. This movie had a magnificent story, terrific characters and actors portraying them, and some real-life themes and messages about morality.
Civil War sprouted intelligent debates between not just comic book fans, but the entire general audience who went out to see the movie. I had a friend who had never see a Marvel Cinematic Universe film besides Ant-Man, come to the theater with us and he was astonished at what an incredible movie it was. Sure, there was an abundance of fantastic movies in 2016, but that does not take away from this film’s merits.
I saved the best for last. No one would have ever thought another comic book movie could come along like The Dark Knight. When I saw Logan this past weekend, the comic book movie side of me diminished and I viewed Logan as an intellectual movie on its own. James Mangold created an absolute masterpiece and I couldn’t imagine a better ending to Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s X-Men careers.
Unless we get an extremely talented Oscar movie year, there is no way the Academy will be able to ignore Logan. The movie had a very small scale, which gave it a very independent film feel, similar to Hell or High Water. From the brutal and realistic storytelling, to the breathtaking cinematography, to the precise action sequences, this movie is more “Oscar-worthy” than any other film on this list.