This morning, the nominations for the 76th Golden Globes were announced, recognizing achievements this past year in film and television by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Often regarded as an early indicator for awards season favorites, especially the Academy Awards, this year's group of nominees included February's Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster Black Panther, which was nominated for Best Picture - Drama.
The superhero genre has historically been written off during awards season, overlooked in favor of traditional "artistic" fare even more so than science fiction and comedy. The films are more often recognized by genre-specific awards including the Saturn Awards and Nebula Awards rather than other, more "prestigious" award shows.
There are exceptions, of course, though they tend involve the less visible award categories. This year alone, the Golden Globes nominated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for Best Animated Film while Black Panther also earned nods for Best Original Score to composer Ludwig Göransson and Best Original Song for Kendrick Lamar and SZA's "All the Stars." While certainly worthwhile achievements in their own right, they are constantly overshadowed by that fact that the films are shut out of Best Picture, Best Director, and the top acting categories.
Fortunately, the increase in superhero films, both in number and quality, over the past decade has gradually increased their representation during award season. 2016's Deadpool was nominated for Best Picture - Musical/Comedy at the 74th Golden Globes, while star Ryan Reynolds earned a nomination for Best Actor in Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy for his performance as the Merc with Mouth. However, the musical/comedy nomination carries considerably less visibility and prestige than its drama category counterpart. Often, films that the HFPA is unsure of are relegated to the comedy category. For example, the 2010 DC Comics adaptation Red scored a nomination for Best Picture - Musical/Comedy at the 68th Golden Globes to the widespread bemusement of many who considered the comic book adaptation more of action film.
There are other notable instances of mainstream superhero films getting interesting nods by the major award shows. Jack Nicholson earned a Best Supporting Actor - Musical/Comedy for his performance as the Joker in 1989's Batman. 1990's Dick Tracy was nominated for Best Picture - Musical/Comedy and Best Supporting Actor for Al Pacino's performance as Big Boy Caprice. This would lead the film to nab seven nominations at the Academy Awards that year, including a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Pacino, making it the most nominated comic book film at that time.
Perhaps the most prestigious award moment for superhero films was 2008's The Dark Knight's posthumous wins for Best Supporting Actor at both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards for Heath Ledger's instantly iconic performance as the Joker. This marked the first time a superhero film had won an acting award at either of the shows and helped elevate the superhero genre into the Hollywood mainstream. Sadly, outside of technical awards and last year's Logan being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards, there has been little award season recognition for subsequent films despite a number of them getting earning acclaim.
Black Panther has exceeded every traditional expectation in terms of critical expectation, box office performance, and award season viability. While comic book superhero films had been recognized sporadically by the major award shows in the past, as the first superhero film to earn a nod for the Globe Globes' most prestigious category, Black Panther potentially opens the door for other comic book films to follow suit and elevate the genre beyond its widespread association with standard summer blockbuster fare.