Black Panther is a movie of milestones.
After breaking numerous box office records, such as becoming the largest February opening, largest winter season opening, largest President’s Day weekend opening, and largest single-day gross for a Monday, Black Panther secured multiple awards nominations, including Golden Globe nominations for Best Score, Best Original Song for Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All the Stars” and Best Motion Picture – Drama nomination.
But, with Oscar nominations on the horizon, many have wondered if Black Panther could win another milestone and take home the Best Picture Oscar. By the time you watch this, the question of whether or not it should be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar may have been answered. [Ed. note: It did!] In either event, Black Panther deserves not only a nomination but a Best Picture win. Follow me now.
No movie in 2018 had a cultural impact as large as Black Panther. 2018 was the Year of Black Panther. Starting with the announcement of Black Panther in 2014, internet users made every bit of breaking news about Black Panther trend.
This only intensified when the movie was released. Social media was filled with memes and adorable children doing the M’Baku challenge. Offline, celebrities, sports stars, and 2018’s hottest musical acts were throwing up the Wakanda Forever salute every chance they got. Additionally, the Black Panther challenge gave those with the means to do so a chance to ensure that kids who needed to see heroes who looked like them got a chance to do so in theaters. Importantly, even those who aren’t usually the audience for superhero movies saw Black Panther multiple times in theaters.
In fact, Black Panther was such a runaway critical and financial success that when The Academy announced plans for a new category honoring Outstanding Achievement in a Popular Film, many speculated that Black Panther would not only be the obvious winner but may have served as inspiration for the new award.
This new category was postponed, but 2018’s Oscar win for The Shape of Water reinforces the idea that the Academy is open to awarding genre film. In the same way that 2004’s Best Picture win for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King feels like a win for the entire trilogy, a win for Black Panther could also represent a step forward in the superhero genre as a whole.
But most importantly, beyond popularity, Black Panther is a great film. Science fiction mixes with African culture and a Shakespearean narrative about timeless themes like family, sacrifice, and what it means to be a leader. The beautiful wardrobe and styling choices feel period and futuristic at once. Every character moves with purpose and motivation, and the villain is so well written that though his methods were wrong, many walked away fully understanding why he became who he became.
Part of what makes Black Panther’s story so compelling is that the movie is about the black experience as told by black creators. One of the many great things about the film is the combination of the grounded lived experiences of director Ryan Coogler’s upbringing in Oakland with the mythical fantasy setting of Wakanda.
Very few movies, superhero or otherwise, manage to combine what is happening in the real world as it is right now with an aspirational view of what can be in the future. No other movie this year has done so. This is a story told with specificity that also illustrates the best of who we can become.
Black Panther is more than a movie, more than a financial juggernaut — it’s a cultural touchstone. Black Panther is a film that will be studied by film historians, critics, number crunchers, and aspiring filmmakers for decades to come. That is why Black Panther is worthy of winning the Academy’s highest award for 2019.