Not one, but two sequels were nominated for best film at the Oscars this morning. While other follow-up hopefuls like Glass Onion and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever were left out despite support in other categories, Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water are vying for the top honor.
Only The Godfather Part II and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King have ever won best picture, indicating that the Academy has generally shied away from recognizing sequels. In that category, very few other films have even garnered nominations, but prominent outliers like Toy Story 3 and Mad Max: Fury Road have undoubtedly blazed new paths in the past.
The nominees for this year are intriguing because each of their predecessors has a distinctive Academy story. For example, the first Top Gun received four nominations and won an Oscar for best original song, but it was unable to land a spot in the picture lineup. And 2009’s Avatar, which was nominated in six other categories, including picture and director, won for cinematography, visual effects, and art direction but notoriously lost to James Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. (Cameron is also a striking omission from the 2023 finalists for best director.)
Additionally, Top Gun: Maverick received an astonishing four nominations, for sound, adapted screenplay, original song, and visual effects. While this was happening, Avatar: The Way of Water also excelled in sound, production design, and visual effects.
Knives Out by Rian Johnson received a nomination for best original screenplay despite not winning best film. Similar results are achieved by Glass Onion, which receives just one nomination for adapted screenplay. Additionally, Black Panther by Ryan Coogler, the first Marvel movie to receive a best picture nomination in 2020, made history. It was nominated in three other categories but won for original score, costume, and production design despite not winning that award. Unlike its prequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever didn’t win best picture, but it did earn Marvel their first-ever acting nomination for Angela Bassett in the category of supporting actress. With nominations for original music, makeup and hairstyle, visual effects, and costume design, it also had an outstanding haul.
It’s also important to remember that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Top Gun: Maverick were all regarded as enormous box-office triumphs (Glass Onion only had a limited release before heading straight to Netflix). Many experts predict that on Oscars night, the Academy will place a high focus on movies that show the movie industry can still be profitable.