“My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh.
But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.”
The nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards have been announced, and Joker leads the field with eleven nominations, an impressive number for any movie, and a record for any movie based on a comic book or strip. The previous record holder was, ironically, The Dark Knight, which had eight nominations and won two. (It was not nominated for Best Picture, and the Academy changed the rules for that category the next year.)
For the second year in a row, a comicbook movie has been nominated for Best Picture. Is this a coincidence, or are these types of movies getting better? DC Entertainment seems to have success with their “Elseworlds” type of movies, producing variants on familiar characters without being shackled with continuity or fan service. Joker, Lego Batman, the Dark Knight trilogy…all worked because viewers knew the character, but wanted something new and different. (And if you don’t know the character, a good movie will introduce the character to viewers without lots of exposition or red string.)
Viewers are also now familiar with the superhero genre, and independent movies are using that familiarity to produce independent films such as Brightburn. I suspect that it will take the cinematic version of Watchmen or Jimmy Corrigan to win Best Picture. (Birdman came close, with its main character a serious actor who was typecast earlier because of a superhero blockbuster.)
What follows is a near-canonical listing of comics-based movies that have been nominated for Oscars – some straight adaptations, others which are original genre films, and others with a tangential link to comics creators. I’ve explained those choices below.
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.
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)
32nd Academy Awards (1960)
33rd Academy Awards (1961)
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 McKuen, Bill 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 Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer, receives a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Ann-Margaret.
Carnal Knowledge is not a comics-based or comics-influenced movie, but I note Feiffer’s involvement, and the historical importance of the movie on censorship law. It would later be the centerpiece of the Supreme Court obscenity ruling in Jenkins v. Georgia. Hence the asterisk.
50th Academy Awards (1978)
The Doonesbury Special by John Hubley, Faith 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)
- 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 Oscar 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)
63rd Academy Awards (1991)
- Best Original Song: “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim [!!!]
- Best Art Direction: Art Direction: Richard Sylbert; Set Decoration: Rick Simpson
- Best Makeup: John Caglione Jr. and Doug Drexler
- Best Sound: Thomas Causey, Chris Jenkins, David E. Campbell, and Doug Hemphill (Lost to Dances With Wolves.)
- Best Supporting Actor: Al Pacino as Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice (Lost to Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.
- Best Costume Design: Milena Canonero (Lost to Cyrano de Bergerac)
- Best Cinematography: Vittorio Storaro (Lost to Dances with Wolves)
64th Academy Awards (1992)
The Addams Family: Ruth Myers earns a nomination for Best Costume Design
65th Academy Awards (1993)
- 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)
The Mask: Scott Squires, Steve Spaz Williams, Tom Bertino and Jon Farhat are nominated for Best Visual Effects.
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 Herbick and 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 Makeup: Rick Baker and David LeRoy Anderson win.
- 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.)
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 Cinematography: Conrad Hall wins the award posthumously.
- 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.
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)
79th Academy Awards (2007)
Superman Returns: Mark Stetson, Neil Corbould, Richard R. Hoover and Jon Thum receive a nomination for Best Visual Effects.
80th Academy Awards (2008)
81st Academy Awards (2008)
- 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 ).
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)
85th Academy Awards (2013)
86th Academy Awards (2014)
Iron Man 3: Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick receive a Best Visual Effects nomination, 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. Sony drank Disney’s milkshake with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Maybe Disney will realize that animated features are a great way to showcase younger characters without the harsh realities seen in the PG-13-rated 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)
89th Academy Awards (2017)
Pear Cider and Cigarettes.: Robert Valley and Cara Speller are nominated for Best Animated Short Film. Both the animated feature and the original graphic novels were financed via Kickstarter.
Suicide Squad: Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson win the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.
Doctor Strange: Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould are nominated for Best Visual Effects, but lose to The Jungle Book
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.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.: Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick are nominated for Best Visual Effects . Blade Runner 2049 wins the award.
91st Academy Awards (2019)
- Best Original Score, won by Ludwig Göransson
- Best Production Design: Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart
- Best Costume Design, won by Ruth E. Carter
- Best Picture, losing to Green Book
- Best Original Song, “All the Stars” loses to “Shallow” from A Star Is Born
- Best Sound Editing, losing to Bohemian Rhapsody
- Best Sound Mixing, again losing to Bohemian Rhapsody
There are two superhero movies among the five nominees for Best Animated Feature Film:
- Incredibles 2, which lost to…
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the second Marvel animated feature to win this award.
Avengers: Infinity War, nominated for Best Visual Effects, continued the MCU losing streak in this category, losing to First Man.
92nd Academy Awards (2020)
Joker received eleven nominations:
- Best Picture: Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger Koskoff
- Best Director: Todd Phillips
- Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker as Arthur Fleck / Joker
- Best Adapted Screenplay: Joker – Todd Phillips and Scott Silver based on the characters created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson
- Best Original Score: Hildur Guðnadóttir
- Best Sound Editing: Alan Robert Murray
- Best Sound Mixing: Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland
- Best Cinematography: Lawrence Sher
- Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
- Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges
- Best Film Editing: Jeff Groth
Avengers: Endgame: Dan DeLeeuw, Matt Aitken, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick received a nomination for Best Visual Effects.