Black Panther is the first superhero movie to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, a move that many critics, industry members, and fans have deemed a watershed moment.
It wasn’t too long ago that debates sprung up around Hollywood about whether a superhero movie could or should earn a Best Picture nomination when standing alongside more stereotypical dramatic films.
In fact, it was exactly 10 years ago that those conversations started, after Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight failed to earn a Best Picture nomination, which many people still regard as one of the biggest Oscar snubs in history. At the time, Ben Child wrote in The Guardian that “there remains the sneaking suspicion that many voters refrained from nominating The Dark Knight not because they did not believe it to be a great film, but because they did not believe it to be the right sort of great film.”
The outcry that followed The Dark Knight’s snub seemingly forced the academy to change a core facet of its approach in handing out nominations: the number of films within the Best Picture category jumped from five to 10.
That change was designed to make room for less traditional “best picture” movies. “The message was clear: War pictures, tearjerking dramas, biopics, and message movies were on notice; they’d now have to share the room with action blockbusters, superhero films, sci-fi flicks, animated features and comedies,” Nathaniel Rodgers wrote for Polygon last year.
That was the assumption, anyway. Between 2009 and this year, superhero movies still didn’t receive much attention from the academy in its biggest categories. That’s the entire lifespan of Marvel’s current Cinematic Universe — a total of 22 movies passed over. Genre films have largely been relegated to the science categories, including Visual Effects.
Black Panther still has to beat out films like Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice, The Favourite, and Green Book, all of which are seen as potential favorites. But the fact that it was nominated at all is a defining moment for both superhero movies and the Oscars: Black Panther is not just a popular movie. It’s a damn good film.