One Thing That Won’t Change This Year: Superhero Movies Woes at the Oscars

By  · Published on January 9th, 2017

Deadpool seems ill-equipped to change history.

Superhero movies have never been successful at the Oscars. There has been plenty written about Deadpool being a dark horse Oscars contender. The precursors are there with multiple Golden Globe nominations for the film with Ryan Reynolds nominated for Best Actor and the film nominated for Best Comedy/Musical. Add in the fact the the script was recently nominated by the Writers Guild of America for Best Adapted Screenplay and maybe it does have a shot. That would be if history was on its side. Given the Academy’s distaste for Superhero movies does Deadpool really have what it takes to be nominated for Oscars?

One of the best barometers outside of nominations from prestigious voting bodies is a movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score. Outside a few anomalies, most films that have won Best Picture at the Oscars have been in the mid-80s and above for overall score. Deadpool fits those credentials, although some of its contemporaries had a much higher score and failed to get recognition. Movies like Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers, and The Dark Knight all had significantly higher scores. Noticeably, Guardians of the Galaxy also received a WGA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, but that never resulted in Oscars glory either.

Perhaps the best argument for a superhero movie being nominated for Best Picture was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The film was widely adored by critics and audiences alike. One of its stars, Heath Ledger, even won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his magnificent portrayal of The Joker. At the time, the academy had a rule that only five films could be nominated for Best Picture. There was a huge uproar when instead of The Dark Knight (RT 94%) being nominated, The Reader was nominated (RT 61%) proving that the academy could care less about superhero films.

Even if critics don’t love a movie sometimes a historically huge box office could lead the film to get Oscars attention. In the time since the release of Deadpool it is easy to forget just how huge the film really was. In terms of box office, Deadpool is the second highest grossing R-rated film of all-time. It also is the highest grossing film in the X-Men series and the sixth highest grossing film of 2016. For an R-rated film, there is no question that Deadpool did phenomenal business. That didn’t seem to matter in the past though. Guardians of the Galaxy is a great reference for this because it made just about as much as Deadpool and also received that WGA nomination. Guardians of the Galaxy was nominated for two Oscars: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Achievement in Visual Effects.

Just how much prestige do those Golden Globes nominations bring? While they can’t hurt sales of a nominated film, their winners don’t automatically equate to Oscars success. Just take a look at last year where The Martian won for Best Musical/Comedy and The Revenant won Best Drama. The point is the Golden Globes and by extension the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) march to the beat of their own drum. Having a popular movie like Deadpool compete in many of their prestigious categories might bring more viewers to the telecast and they get to take pictures with Ryan Reynolds. Even if Reynolds wins Best Actor (and he just may), that won’t necessarily mean he’s even getting a Oscars nomination, never mind winning the category.

The Oscars have never been big fans of Superhero movies. Even though they continue to be some of the biggest movies released year after year, that means squat to the voters. Neither box office or critically praise seems to be enough. Saying that superhero movies will never make waves at the Oscars seems pretentious, statistically they have the same chance as any other movie in a given year. Deadpool just probably isn’t going to be the movie that makes history as the first Superhero film nominated for Best Picture.

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News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.