Just last week we were going la la for the films nominated for Oscar awards, but since then our attention has been drawn to those that didn’t make the grade.
Among them was Deadpool, a feisty box-office hit that satirized the biggest genre of them all: the superhero movie. It failed to get a single mention, not for Best Picture or Best Actor for Ryan Reynolds‘ star turn, nor for its pin-sharp script, not even in any of the technical categories where genre films often succeed, like Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects or Best Costume Design.
Some deemed it a snub, though the lack of love shown for “the Merc with a Mouth” can easily be seen as just another example of the Academy just not rating superhero movies. Sometimes it can seem as if a film is out of the running as soon as an actor snaps on a bodysuit, even if that actor is previous Oscar-nominee Robert Downey Jr.
It got us thinking about all the other superhero movies that went unloved over the years. And when we say “unloved”, we mean positively neglected: Not even picking up a typically cursory nod like Spider-Man and The Avengers did, or even Tim Burton‘s 1989 blockbuster Batman.
Below is a list of the 11 greatest superhero movies that completely passed the Academy by.
The Crow (1994)
The tragic on-set death of lead actor Brandon Lee overshadowed this film’s release, which is a shame, as Alex Proyas‘s adaptation of James O’Barr‘s graphic novel deserves more than morbid notoriety. Okay, so it’s not strictly speaking a superhero movie, as Brandon’s character is brought back from the dead, but a vengeful vigilante with special powers? That counts in our books. Critical acclaim and cult status followed, but it did nothing to sway the Academy.
A much darker and violent action thriller compared to the more shinier, mainstream likes of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, Blade arguably jumpstarted the current trend for superhero movies two years before Bryan Singer‘s X-Men. Wesley Snipes in particular deserved an award for managing to pull off some cheese-tastic lines with aplomb and downright menace — but nope. Did the Academy budge? Not a flicker.
Mystery Men (1999)
Okay, so everybody knows comedies never fare as well at the Oscars as long-form, meaty dramas. But Mystery Men had at least two tricks up its sleeve: its rich source material and once-in-a-lifetime cast. Where else will you find Ben Stiller, Geoffrey Rush, William H. Macy, Janeane Garofalo, Kel Mitchell, Hank Azaria, Tom Waits, Cee-Lo Green, Pras, Eddie Izzard, Wes Studi, Ricky Jay, Paul Reubens, and Greg Kinnear all on one screen? It’s gone on to be somewhat of a comedy classic, despite getting short shrift from the Academy.
Released just a few months after the first X-Men film, M. Night Shyamalan‘s thriller starring Bruce Willis as a troubled security guard who develops superpowers was a mainstream movie that examined the idea of superheroes in a realistic way. It was quiet, it was sad, delicate, and intelligent, and yet did the Academy deem it worthy of a nod? Ah. You know the answer already.
X2: X-Men United (2003)
X-Men might have provided the jolt that made the superhero genre morph into one of the most dominant genres in Hollywood today, but its sequel improved on it in every possible way. Not only that, but it grounded the mutants’ emotional arcs, driving home the idea that their struggle for equality is an allegory for anyone suffering prejudice because of their race or sexual orientation. As a result, the movie offers a rich and satisfying story that more than matches the spectacle. Did it move the Academy though? Of course it didn’t.
Guillermo del Toro‘s contribution to the superhero genre is an underrated masterpiece that’s every bit as imaginative, energetic, and aesthetically weird as you’d come to expect from the visionary director. The 2008 sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army was even more ambitious, but at least it managed to pick up a nomination from the Academy for Best Make-Up. Its predecessor got nothing.
Zack Snyder‘s take on the classic Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons comic divided fans, but the film was pretty spectacular in several ways. Relentless justice-seeker Rorschach was brought to life by a surprisingly complex performance from Jackie Earle Haley, who just two years earlier had earned an Oscar nomination for his role in Little Children. That and the film’s astonishing visuals suggested it might have a chance with the Academy, but, after being “pre-nominated” for Best Visual Effects, Watchmen was eventually not shortlisted.
Kick-Ass and Super (2010)
Not one but TWO movies dealing in amateur superheroes were released in 2010, and both garnered rave reviews. The first, Kick-Ass, was an adrenaline-fuelled action comedy directed by Matthew Vaughan (X-Men: First Class, Kingsman: The Secret Service):
…while comedy drama Super starred The Office‘s Rainn Wilson as an everyday man who becomes a superhero called the Crimson Bolt after his wife falls under the influence of a drug dealer.
The nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards came and went; neither got a mention.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2012)
The 2014 sequel Winter Soldier may be a better film, but that doesn’t mean the first movie starring Chris Evans as the all-American hero isn’t a fantastic pastiche of 1940s adventure stories. Hayley Atwell‘s role as the redoubtable Peggy Carter was so successful it led to hugely popular TV spin-off series Agent Carter, but it — not to mention that big musical number — did nothing for the Academy.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Christopher Nolan‘s third outing in the Batman universe received the biggest Oscars snub in recent memory, made all the more prominent by the fact that both its predecessors were acknowledged by the Academy. Batman Begins, for its cinematography, and The Dark Knight for its Sound Editing and Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger as an unbelievably menacing The Joker), making it the first superhero movie to bag a major Oscar. The Dark Night Rises is every bit as visually stupendous, and Tom Hardy, though admittedly a little hard to make out at times, makes a terrifying supervillain in Bane. It wasn’t enough to match Ledger, however, and the trilogy’s final instalment wasn’t nominated in any category.
Despite the snubs, there’s no sign of our obsession with superheroes abating, with Logan, Lego Batman, Power Rangers, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Justice League all set to appear in 2017.
What’s the betting at least one of them will be in the running for a gold statuette this time in 2018?Read More