5 Times Superhero Movies Were Robbed at the Oscars

Chris Tilly
Movies Comics
Movies Comics Marvel DC

With Logan nabbing a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at this year’s Academy Awards, there’s a chance that a superhero movie will win one of the big prizes. And if there was any justice, Hugh Jackman would also be up for Best Actor, as his performance deserves to be part of the conversation alongside current favourite Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour. Plus did you see the size of Jackman? That body deserves an Oscar of its own.

But his loss is par for the course when it comes to superhero movies. With only Heath Ledger’s performance as Joker in The Dark Knight taking home a major Oscar back in 2009. We think the Academy has been getting it wrong. So for that reason we’re listing the times when we think that comic book movies were robbed at and by the Oscars.

Best Actor: Christopher Reeve

Year: 1978

Who Actually Won: Jon Voight

Christopher Reeve as Superman.

Coming Home was one of the first mainstream movies to deal with the Vietnam War head-on. And it was perfect Oscar fodder. Jon Voight plays a paralysed Vietnam veteran who falls in love with Jane Fonda, whose own husband has been deployed to fight in the war. And the story of both tragedy and hope was directed with great sensitivity by Hal Ashby, winning both his actors Academy Awards in the process.

Superman was the first big-budget comic book movie. And as such it was seen as something of a kid’s film. But Richard Donner’s film is surprisingly mature, dealing with some pretty heavy themes concerning both love and loss in between the action sequences. And it’s anchored by an otherworldly performance from Christopher Reeve as the Kryptonian. No, make that two amazing performances, with Reeve note-perfect as the good-natured and clumsy Clark Kent, and radiating truth, justice, and above all strength as Superman. He had everyone believing a man could fly, and it’s FANDOM’s belief he should have got the vote over Voight.

Best Picture: The Dark Knight

Year: 2009

What Actually Won: Slumdog Millionaire

Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight.

Slumdog Millionaire was a big deal at the time. Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Vikas Swarup’s bestselling novel was a surprise hit at the box office, received rave reviews, and won the Best Picture Oscar, as well as Best Director for Boyle. But although it has been less than a decade since the film hit screens, Slumdog Millionaire doesn’t seem to be part of many movie conversations, in terms of Danny Boyle’s CV, memorable Oscar-winners, or just plain great movies.

Unlike The Dark Knight, which thus far seems to be the high benchmark when it comes to superhero movies. Tim Burton got serious with 1989’s Batman, but it was Christopher Nolan who had comic book movies actually being taken seriously with Batman Begins. And while that was good, The Dark Knight took superheroes to the next level. The film won Ledger that aforementioned Oscar for his unforgettable turn as Joker, while it also dealt with real-world issues in a superhero setting, most notably the war on terror. Making it the comic book movie by which others are now judged. And the film that should have been crowned Best Picture in 2009.

Best Supporting Actor: Jack Nicholson

Year: 1990

Who Actually Won: Denzel Washington

Jack Nicholson as The Joker.

Denzel is one of the greatest actors of all-time. No doubt. And he delivers a powerhouse performance in Glory as Silas Tripp; a brave, honourable and rebellious member one of the first all-black regiments in the Union Army. To win the Academy Award, he beat stiff competition from both Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing) and Martin Landau (Crimes and Misdemeanors).

But Jack Nicholson delivered the most talked about performance of 1989, dominating Batman from beginning to end as the Joker, and blowing Michael Keaton‘s ‘Caped Crusader’ off the screen. You couldn’t call his work subtle or nuanced, and there are times when you wonder if Jack is simply playing an exaggerated version of himself. But it’s as committed a performance as you are ever likely to see; one that leaves you in no doubt as to the mad genius of both the character, and the actor.

Best Original Score: Superman

Year: 1978

What Actually Won: Midnight Express

John Williams' Superman score.

This one is a mistake, pure and simple. Giorgio Moroder’s Midnight Express score is good. But it isn’t in the same league as John Williams’ majestic music for Superman. Why the miscarriage of justice? Well, Williams had won the year before for the equally wonderful Star Wars score, so maybe the Academy didn’t want to reward him with two Oscars in a row. Also, electronic music was relatively new, so maybe the voters wanted to celebrate something fresh and current, compared to the more traditional orchestration of Superman.

Whatever the case, the Oscars quite simply got it wrong. As in 1978, Williams crafted one of the greatest film scores of all-time, so much so that comic book fans have been waiting for a superhero movie to equal it ever since. Hans Zimmer has come close on a couple of occasions. But that wait goes on. With Williams the only composer who has been able to sum up a superhero with just a few notes, via the most magical and memorable of theme tunes.

Best Supporting Actor: Alfred Molina

Year: 2005

Who Actually Won: Morgan Freeman

Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus.

Morgan Freeman is good in Million Dollar Baby. Really good. His performance — alongside those of Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood — was much better than the film from which it came. And it’s up there with his fellow nominees that year — Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), and Jamie Foxx (Collateral). But Alfred Molina — who didn’t even get a nod — was incredible in Spider-Man 2, lending the film a humanity that you don’t normally see in comic book movies.

He’s solid in the film’s early scenes, all decency and brains as Otto Octavius, the brilliant scientist endeavouring to create a sustainable fusion power reactor. But when those efforts go wrong, and he accidentally kills the love of his life, Otto starts to go mad. While the tentacles fused to his spine also start to corrupt his mind. Turning Otto into Doctor Octopus, a super-villain that you love and hate in equal measure, while at the same time feeling some sympathy towards him. And while Molina eats up the screen while doing bad stuff, it’s during the film’s finale — when Otto comes to his senses and sacrifices himself for the greater good — that Molina truly excels. His death scene not leaving a dry eye in the house. And thoroughly deserving of that Academy Award.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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