10 Superhero Movies That Deserved Oscar Nominations

Will a superhero movie ever break through their own glass ceiling of awards prestige?

“It’s fascinating, very interesting, very enigmatic how it all works, the Academy,” said Anthony Russo to Deadline this week regarding the prospect of his Captain America: The Winter Soldier being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

“It’s strange that the comic-book film genre is so often thought of only in terms of its economic merits,” said his brother and co-director Joe Russo. “The box office success of these films can often embarrassingly outweigh their merits, but as Christopher Nolan perhaps first proved, real and valuable filmmaking can be achieved with the genre.”

While the Captain America sequel was both highly entertaining and pertinent in its explorations of civil liberties and the thin line between government protection and fascism, it seems like a longshot at nabbing a Best Picture nomination. It’s not alone, as there are many examples of Oscar-caliber work since the dawn of the genre in the late ’70s, and we have ten examples of superhero movies that deserved some Oscar glory.

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SUPERMAN (1978)

Christopher Reeve – Best Actor

To embody all that’s good about truth, justice and the American way while being neither campy nor cynical about it is a tall order. Just ask Chris Evans, who works HARD at bringing that balance to Captain America. Luckily for comic book fans, director Richard Donner didn’t go for a pretty boy or a name (Robert Redford and James Caan were bandied about) when casting the role of Superman. He went with a bonafide Juilliard-trained actor who lent a crucial amount of verisimilitude and believability to both Clark Kent and his Kryptonian alter ego. Even by the time of the dreaded Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, the late Christopher Reeve refused to just phone it in, as he was in many ways our first cinematic ambassador to the superhero mythos… and he nailed it.

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HOWARD THE DUCK (1986)

Phil Tippett – Best Visual Effects

Yes, this George Lucas-produced effort was a colossal turkey when it laid an egg at the box office, but those who have actually taken the time to sit through the film can concur that it’s not the worst thing to carry the Marvel brand. In fact, when you ignore some of the creepy interspecies sex stuff, Jeffrey Jones turning into a wacky sorcerer and Thomas Dolby’s lame ’80s songs, you realize the special effects are actually pretty good! Seriously, the battle scene at the end between Howard and the half crab/half scorpion-like Dark Overlord is outstanding work on behalf of ILM and Phil Tippett’s breakthrough go motion animation. “Eat claw, duck!”

Head to page 2 for two films centered on guys in clown makeup!