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The nominations for the 94th Academy Awards are in, and Spider-Man: No Way Home only managed to score a nod for Best Visual Effects. And like with previous comic book movies, the Academy seems to have their blinders on when it comes to honoring mainstream fare that can help them get the ratings they complain about not having every year.
It was common knowledge that Sony Pictures — which co-produced the film alongside Marvel Studios — was hoping to garner enough awards season momentum in the hopes of pulling off some Return of the King-style presence at this year's Oscars.
Sadly, the multiverse had other plans and No Way Home joins the countless other comic book movies that deserved so much more Oscar attention than they got. A mere VFX nomination? Really? That's always the Academy's go-to response to bigger studio projects, which have a lot more to offer beyond dazzling computer-generated effects. Just because Tom Holland's third solo outing as Peter Parker is a crowd-pleasing tentpole that made over $1 billion at the worldwide box office doesn't mean it doesn't hold cinematic merit in its own right. Movies like this can bring us together in ways we never imagined.
To that end, we present No Way Home and seven other comic book films that deserved Best Picture nominations.
1. Superman (1978)
Without Superman ’78, there would be no comic book movies. End of story. Goodbye. Don't let the door hit you on the way out of the Fortress of Solitude.
However campy the film may seem to modern audiences, the late Richard Donner’s big screen take on the Man of Steel changed the game forever. No longer were superheroes relegated to ink and print or kid-friendly Saturday morning cartoons. They were now for everyone.
2. Road to Perdition (2002)
Road to Perdition, based on the comic by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, doesn't have all the hallmarks of a traditional comic book adaptation. There are no superheroes or aliens or megalomaniacal villains who want to conquer the world. It's a much more tragic and violent story about a father and son who find common ground while on a Depression-era quest for revenge against a crime boss they once revered. Long before he was asked to join the world of James Bond, director Sam Mendes (a U.K. native) was showing off his flair for presenting visual tales of haunting Americana. (He also had future James Bond, Daniel Craig, in a supporting role as the unpredictable and murder-happy son of the crime boss played by Paul Newman, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.)
3. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Oft-considered to be one of the greatest superhero films ever made (if not the greatest), Spider-Man 2 perfectly builds on the themes of its predecessor, putting Uncle Ben's iconic line about "great power" to the ultimate test. Peter is forced to make the agonizing choice to either live a normal life and allow others to keep the bad guys at bay or keep his powers and isolate himself from the people he loves. His choice becomes obvious when Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) starts wreaking havoc all over town as Doctor Octopus.
Spider-Man 2 is full of iconic moments — from the train battle to the horrific operating room sequence that continues to send shivers down our spines to this day.
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
Do we even really need to say anything at this point? The Dark Knight is one of the purest expressions of Batman ever committed to film. Heath Ledger’s iconic performance as the Joker is everything the villain should be: Chaos incarnate. Some men just want to watch the world burn. Others, like Christopher Nolan, want to craft the finest comic book movies of all time.
5. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Hellboy II's only problem is that it was released the same summer as The Dark Knight. It never stood a chance! Other than that, The Golden Army is Guillermo del Toro firing on all cylinders and hitting Pan's Labyrinth levels of creativity with his second movie based on Dark Horse and Mike Mingola's characters. It would take another eight years and The Shape of Water to make Hollywood stand up, take notice, and give del Toro all the Oscars. Had Hellboy II: The Golden Army actually gotten the recognition it so richly deserved at the time, we'd probably have Hellboy 3 by now instead of talking about what could have been.
6. Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013)
Here we have another Road to Perdition-y comic book film that doesn’t lean into the usual archetypes and tropes. All we have here is a genuine and compelling human story, based on the comic by Jul Maroh, about finding the people who can help us be the greatest versions of ourselves. You don’t need an Infinity Gauntlet or magical spells to change the world. All you need, as The Beatles once said, is love.
7. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
We get it, major blockbusters don't fit into the usual snooty and highbrow mold we often associate with Best Picture nominees. What the Academy failed to realize is that Avengers: Endgame was a landmark achievement for cinematic storytelling. No one in the history of Hollywood was ever crazy enough to play the long game, setting up a legitimate superhero crossover across 21 films over the course of 11 years.
Such a thing was absolutely unheard of, but Kevin Feige's grand experiment paid off. For better or worse, this was the next step in Hollywood evolution and deserved to be designated with a Best Picture nomination at the very least.
8. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Again, we find ourselves at a loss for words.
Like Endgame, Spider-Man: No Way Home is living proof of the power of patience in storytelling. Good things come to those who wait. In this case, we waited 20 years to see three generations of Spider-Men team up to take down their respective rogues galleries. It's a beautiful and heartfelt expression of the way in which cinema can tear down all boundaries — be they cultural or multiversal. If that doesn't deserve a Best Picture nomination, then we don't know what does!