Art by Alex Ross.

The nominees for the 91st Academy Awards have been announced, and comics fans’ kvetching and patience were finally rewarded as Black Panther received a nomination for Best Picture. While this is the first superhero movie to be so honored, it’s not the first comics character to score a Best Picture nod. Read on to discover the answer, and the myriad comics films which have been honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences! (and overlooked by  other websites discussing comics movies!) I’ve also included the rare films that use comics or the superhero genre as background for original stories, such as The Incredibles.

Here’s something to ponder…  Will Black Panther be the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to win an Academy Award? (The losing streak is ten.) Or will it get snubbed, like another colored” African-American movie?

CAVEAT: I say “almost definitive” because I created this list by reading the results for each awards show on Wikipedia, and then doing cursory research on the nominees for Foreign Film, Documentary categories, and short subjects. As always, if you discover an omission, please leave us a note below, and we will immediately regret the error.

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4th Academy Awards (1931)

Skippy, based on the comic strip by Percy Crosby, received the following nominations:

  • Outstanding Production  (It lost to Cimarron, a Western.)
  • Best Director  (Norman Taurog won. He was nominated again for Boys Town. For me, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine is probably the most fun, although Elvis and Martin and Lewis fans might quibble.)
  • Best Actor  (Jackie Cooper, who many comics fans recognize as Perry White in the Superman movies.)
  • Best Adaptation  (Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Sam Mintz, based on the comic strip by Percy Crosby)

If you want something really truly bizarre, check out Just Imagine, a science fiction musical-comedy! It received a nomination for Best Art Direction.


14th Academy Awards (1941)

Superman, the first episode of the now-classic Fleischer series, was nominated for Best Short Subjects–Cartoons. It lost to “Lend a Paw“, a Pluto cartoon from Walt Disney. [What’s really amazing is the utter lack of superhero or comics animated shorts in the past century. While hand-drawn animation is expensive, the medium could accommodate almost anything published in a comic book.]


32nd Academy Awards (1960)

Nelson Riddle and Joseph J. Lilley were nominated for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture for Li’l Abner, the motion picture adaptation of the Broadway musical based on Al Capp’s comic strip. [Six Degree of Kevin Bacon fans should note that Jerry Lewis and Valerie Harper both appear in minor roles in this movie.] […and for you Batman fans, Julie Newmar appears as Stupefyin’ Jones.]

33rd Academy Awards (1961)

Munro, directed by Gene Deitch, written by Jules Feiffer, and produced by William L. Snyder, wins the award for Best Short Subjects – Cartoons. The story originally appeared in Feiffer’s Passionella and Other Stories. 


43rd Academy Awards (1971)

A Boy Named Charlie Brown is nominated for Best Original Song Score. Music by Rod McKuen and John Scott Trotter; Lyrics by Rod McKuenBill Melendez, and Al Shean; Adapted by Vince Guaraldi  (Yes, THAT Rod McKuen! Who did they lose to?)


44th Academy Awards (1972) *

Carnal Knowledge, written by Jules Feiffer, receives a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Ann-Margaret.
It would later be the centerpiece of the Supreme Court obscenity ruling in Jenkins v. Georgia.


50th Academy Awards (1978)

The Doonesbury Special by John HubleyFaith Hubley and Garry Trudeau, received a nomination for Best Animated Short Film. It won the Grand Jury Prize from the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Palme d’Or for “Best Short Film”.


51st Academy Awards (1979)

Superman receives three nominations, the most for a comics movie since Skippy in 1931.
  • Best Film Editing (losing to The Deer Hunter)
  • Best Music (Original Score) (a loss for John Williams, losing to Midnight Express and Giorgio Moroder)
  • Best Sound (losing to The Deer Hunter)
  • and a Special Achievement Academy Award for Visual Effects awarded to Les Bowie, Colin Chilvers, Denys Coop, Roy Field, Derek Meddings and Zoran Perisic


55th Academy Awards (1983)

The Snowman, directed by John Coates, based on the graphic novel by Raymond Briggs, is nominated for Best Animated Short Film.

Annie, an adaptation of the musical based on the comic strip created Harold Gray, is nominated for two awards:

  • Best Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Adaptation Score: Adaptation Score by Ralph Burns
  • Best Art Direction: Art Direction: Dale Hennesy (posthumous nomination); Set Decoration: Marvin March

Annie is the rare movie which also received Golden Raspberry Award nominations for numerous “worst” categories: Worst Picture, Worst Director (John Huston), Worst Screenplay (Carol Sobieski), and Worst New Star (Aileen Quinn). Ms. Quinn did win the award for Worst Supporting Actress. [I guess it wasn’t good, or bad, enough?]


62nd Academy Awards (1990)

The Academy Award for Best Art Direction is awarded to Batman (Art Direction: Anton Furst; Set Decoration: Peter Young).
[DC Comics would then hire Furst to retroactively redesign Gotham City, via the “Destroyer” story arc which exposed forgotten landmarks from “Old Gotham”.  Sadly, Furst would commit suicide before the issues were published. His designs would remain until the “Cataclysm” earthquake storyline which led into “No Man’s Land”.  The look of Gotham City in the movie also inspired the “Dark Deco” look of Batman: The Animated Series.]


63rd Academy Awards (1991)

Dick Tracy earns seven nominations, and wins three Academy Awards:
  • Best Supporting Actor: Al Pacino as Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice  (Lost to Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.
  • Best Original Song: “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)”  Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim  [!!!]
  • Best Sound: Thomas Causey, Chris Jenkins, David E. Campbell, and Doug Hemphill  (Lost to Dances With Wolves.)
  • Best Art Direction: Art Direction: Richard Sylbert; Set Decoration: Rick Simpson
  • Best Makeup: John Caglione Jr. and Doug Drexler
  • Best Costume Design: Milena Canonero (Lost to Cyrano de Bergerac)
  • Best Cinematography: Vittorio Storaro(Lost to Dances with Wolves)


64th Academy Awards (1992)

Ruth Myers earns a nomination for Best Costume Design for The Addams Family.


65th Academy Awards (1993)

Batman Returns receives two nominations, but fails to win:
  • Best Makeup:  Ve Neill, Ronnie Specter and Stan Winston
  • Best Visual Effects: Michael L. Fink, Craig Barron, John Bruno and Dennis Skotak

66th Academy Awards (1994)

Addams Family Values is nominated for Best Art Direction (Art Direction: Ken Adam; Set Decoration: Marvin March) but loses to Schindler’s List.


67th Academy Awards (1995)

Scott Squires, Steve Spaz Williams, Tom Bertino and Jon Farhat are nominated for Best Visual Effects for their work on The Mask.


68th Academy Awards (1996)

Batman Forever is nominated in three categories:

  • Best Sound Effects Editing: John Leveque and Bruce Stambler (losing to Braveheart)
  • Best Sound: Donald O. Mitchell, Frank A. Montaño, Michael Herbickand Petur Hliddal (losing to Apollo 13)
  • Best Cinematography: Stephen Goldblatt (losing to Braveheart)

69th Academy Awards (1997)

The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story, directed by Susan W. Dryfoos, is nominated for Best Documentary Feature


70th Academy Awards (1998)

Men in Black earns three nominations, and wins one Oscar.

  • Best Original Musical or Comedy Score: Danny Elfman loses to The Full Monty. [No, he was not nominated for his iconic Batman score.]
  • Best Art Direction: Art Direction: Bo Welch; Set Decoration: Cheryl Carasik (Loss to Titanic.)
  • Best Makeup: Rick Baker and David LeRoy Anderson win.


74th Academy Awards (2002)

Ghost World , adapted by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes, becomes the first comic book to be nominated for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published/Adapted Screenplay. (Skippy, way up at the beginning of the list, was the first comic strip.)


75th Academy Awards (2003)

The Road to Perdition earns six nominations and one win:

  • Best Supporting Actor: Paul Newman lose to Chris Cooper in Adaptation.
  • Best Original Score: Thomas Newman loses to Frida.
  • Best Sound Editing: Scott Hecker loses to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Best Sound: Scott Millan, Bob Beemer, and John Patrick Pritchett lose to Chicago.
  • Best Art Direction: Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh, lose to Chicago.
  • Best Cinematography:  Conrad Hall wins the award posthumously.

Spider-Man receives two nominations:

  • John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara, and John Frazier are nominated for Best Visual Effects.
  • Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell, and Ed Novick for Best Sound.

76th Academy Awards (2004)

American Splendor  receives a Best Adapted Screenplay  nomination for Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini based on the comic book series American Splendor by Harvey Pekar and Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner.


77th Academy Awards (2005)

The Incredibles receives four nominations, and wins two Oscars:

  • Best Animated Feature Film:  Brad Bird
  • Best Sound Editing:  Michael Silvers and Randy Thom
  • Best Original Screenplay: Brad Bird loses to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
  • Best Sound Mixing: Randy Thom, Gary Rizzo and Doc Kane lose to Ray.

Spider-Man 2 receives three nominations, and wins one Oscar:

  • Best Visual Effects:  John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier
  • Best Sound Editing: Paul N. J. Ottosson loses to The Incredibles.
  • Best Sound Mixing: Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Joseph Geisinger lose to Ray.

78th Academy Awards (2006)

A History of Violence is nominated twice. Once for Best Supporting Actor for William Hurt, and again for Best Adapted Screenplay for Josh Olson based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke.
Wally Pfister was nominated for Best Cinematography for Batman Begins.

79th Academy Awards (2007)

Mark StetsonNeil CorbouldRichard R. Hoover and Jon Thum receive a nomination for Best Visual Effects for Superman Returns.


80th Academy Awards (2008)

Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud receive a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film for Persepolis. Based upon Satrapi’s graphic novel memoir, it was also France’s official entry for Best Foreign Film, but did not receive a nomination.

81st Academy Awards (2008)

The Dark Knight sets a record for comics movies by garnering eight nominations, but not Best Picture, and winning two. [The Academy would change the structure the next year, showcasing ten nominees instead of five. My feeling is, given the production of the film, its influence upon on other movies (for good: Black Panther and the MCU; for bad: the grim and gritty DCEU films), and its nomination for the Producers Guild Award, it would have qualified on the larger slate. As would have WALL-E.]
  • Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight as The Joker
  • Best Sound Editing: Richard King
  • Best Sound Mixing: Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick (losing to Slumdog Millionaire)
  • Best Art Direction: Art Direction: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Peter Lando (losing to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
  • Best Cinematography : Wally Pfister (losing to Slumdog Millionaire).
  • Best Makeup: John Caglione Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan (losing to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
  • Best Film Editing: Lee Smith (losing to Slumdog Millionaire)
  • Best Visual Effects: Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin (losing to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Iron Man, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, gains two nominations:

  • Best Sound Editing: Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes (losing to The Dark Knight)
  • Best Visual Effects– John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan (losing to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Hellboy II: The Golden Army gains a Best Makeup nomination for Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz.

Wanted earns a Best Sound Editing nomination for  Wylie Stateman (he loses to The Dark Knight) and a Best Sound Mixing nomination for Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt (who lose to Slumdog Millionaire ).

[PHEW! ]


83rd Academy Awards (2011)

Iron Man 2 is nominated for  Best Visual Effects by Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Dan Sudick. They lose to Inception.


84th Academy Awards (2012)

[As much as I love The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, I’m not including this hybrid novel on this list. If you want to see its Oscar history, check here. Eleven nominations, five wins.]
John Williams earned his 46th nomination for The Adventures of TintinThe award went instead to The Artist.

85th Academy Awards (2013)

Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick are nominated for Best Visual Effects for their work in Marvel’s The Avengers (which lost to Life of Pi).

86th Academy Awards (2014)

Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick receive a Best Visual Effects nomination for their work on Iron Man 3, but lose to Gravity.

The Wind Rises, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Toshio Suzuki, receives a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film, losing to Frozen. According to Wikipedia, “The film is adapted from Miyazaki’s manga of the same name, which was in turn loosely based on both the 1937 novel The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori and the life of Jiro Horikoshi.”


87th Academy Awards (2015)

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) receives nine nominations, and wins four, including Best Picture and Best Director. Why mention it? Well, here’s the official synopsis from Fox Searchlight:

BIRDMAN or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play.  In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.

Just sticking a pin in it, and moving on… [but, we fans of the last century loved this sort of thing… a comics poster seen in a sitcom, Bob Hope spoofing Batman and Robin, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends… we were hungry for any notice or acceptance from mainstream media! Back then, comics fans were part of the Weird Nerd community, which included fans of Oingo Boingo, Hunter S. Thompson, and Night Flight. Now, Hollywood is chronic for comics!    OOPS… looks like I added some red string to that pin. Sorry.]

Big Hero 6, based on the Marvel superheroes, is awarded Best Animated Feature Film. Don Hall, Chris Williams, and Roy Conli accept the award. [It would take three years for Disney to produce a spin-off TV series, and no further Disney-Marvel animated films have been announced. Perhaps Sony will drink Disney’s milkshake with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Or maybe Disney will realize that animated features are a great way to showcase younger characters without the harsh realities seen in the MCU?]

[IT’S NOT A GENRE!!!]

Guardians of the Galaxy earns two nominations:

  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David Whit (losing to The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  • Best Visual Effects: Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner, and Paul Corbould (losing to Interstellar)

Best Visual Effects lists three comic book movies among the five nominees:

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill, and Dan Sudick
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner, and Paul Corbould
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie, and Cameron Waldbauer

[The other two nominees are Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the winner, Interstellar.]


88th Academy Awards (2016)

Nicole Paradis Grindle and Sanjay Patel are nominated for Best Animated Short Film for Sanjay’s Super Team.

89th Academy Awards (2017)

Robert Valley and Cara Speller are nominated for Best Animated Short Film for Pear Cider and Cigarettes. Both the animated feature and the original graphic novels were financed via Kickstarter.

Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson win the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for their work on Suicide Squad.

Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould are nominated for Best Visual Effects for their work on Doctor Strange.


90th Academy Awards (2018)

Logan is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, the first superhero comic book so honored. Screenplay by Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold based on characters created by Len Wein and John Romita Sr. [I don’t think Marvel officially credits them as the creators in the comics, nor pays them any equity fees.]  Call Me by Your Name wins instead.

Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick are nominated for Best Visual Effects for their work on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.  Blade Runner 2049 wins the award.


91st Academy Awards (2019)

As noted everywhere, Black Panther received seven nominations:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Original Song [Competing with corporate cousin Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.]
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Costume Design

There are two superhero movies among the five nominees for Best Animated Feature Film:

  • Incredibles 2
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Avengers: Infinity War is nominated for Best Visual Effects. If history is an indication, Marvel will lose this category, again.


7 COMMENTS

  1. What is the significance of the asterisk in the note about the 44th Academy Awards (1972)? And I confess it’s been years since I gave “Carnal Knowledge” any thought, so I don’t remember it a whole lot–is that movie really comics-based or comics-themed? Aside from the fact that Jules Feiffer is most thought of as a cartoonist, and that its related obscenity trial would be referenced in future similar cases involving comics (and other media) of course?

  2. “[What’s really amazing is the utter lack of superhero or comics animated shorts in the past century. While hand-drawn animation is expensive, the medium could accommodate almost anything published in a comic book.]”

    I think it’s because until the 1960s, animation was seen largely as (aside from Disney’s feature films) for comedy; the medium was dominated by popular franchises like “Looney Tunes” and “Tom and Jerry.” (The latter was a big favorite among Oscars judges apparently, dominating the animated short subject category in the 40s.) This mindset carried over into early television animation in the late 50s (see: early Hanna-Barbera TV shows, “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” etc.), and we don’t seem to get much dramatic animated TV fare until the mid-60s (“Jonny Quest,” an explosion in superheroes). The comics that were adapted into animation in the 30s-50s tended to be comedic ones (such as “Little Lulu,” “The Katzenjammer Kids,” and the aforementioned “Skippy”).

    Thus, I’m not surprised that the Fleischer/Famous “Superman” shorts seemed to be an aberration, and superheroes stuck with either the printed page or live action.

  3. “Carnal Knowledge” was not comics-based, unless Feiffer inserted bits from his Village Voice cartoons in it. Its theme of screwed-up male-female relationships was a frequent thread in his cartoons.

  4. I place the asterisk there because Jules Feiffer is primarily known as a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist (and one of the last living links to the Golden Age of comics), but he’s also a noted playwright.

    Carnal Knowledge is not a comics-based or comics-influenced movie, but I note his involvement, and the historical importance of the movie on censorship law.

  5. Carnal Knowledge is not a comics-based or comics-influenced movie, but I note his involvement, and the historical importance of the movie on censorship law.

    Thanks for the clarification. At the risk of playing back-seat-editor, it would’ve been good to include a bit more of that explanation in the piece itself. Certainly speaking to why “Carnal Knowledge” merits inclusion in a list of “comics films [and] films that use comics or the superhero genre as background for original stories” warrants more explanation than does, say, “Birdman.”

    Regardless, a great exercise in research here. Thanks.

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