Marvel's Black Panther made Hollywood history this week by becoming the first superhero film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Of course, it's not the only film in the subgenre reaching for Oscar gold, as both Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Incredibles 2 are in the running for Best Animated Feature, while Avengers: Infinity War is vying for Best Special Effects, familiar territory for superhero movies.
Black Panther, which received six other nominations, represents a major breakthrough for superhero adaptations, which, like so many other genre films, have largely been relegated to the technical categories.
With that in mind, we look back at every superhero film that's been nominated for an Academy Award.
The film that sparked Hollywood's modern love affair with superheroes, 1978's Superman also made actor Christopher Reeve an international superstar. Directed by Richard Donner, the DC Comics adaptation was the first big-budget superhero film, telling the origin of the Man of Steel, his romance with Lois Lane and his rivalry with criminal genius Lex Luthor. Its tagline famously promised, "You'll believe a man can fly," and audiences did.
For its groundbreaking special effects, Superman received a Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects at a time when the category recognized a single, specific recipient until eventually shifting to the familiar multiple-nominee format. The film also earned nominations for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score for John Williams' instantly iconic themes. The Best Sound and Film Editing trophies went to the Vietnam War film The Deer Hunter, which earned the most Academy Awards that year, including Best Picture, while Best Original Score was awarded to Giorgio Moroder's score for the prison drama Midnight Express.
More than a decade after Superman opened the door for big-budget superhero films, Batman brought audiences back to the cinemas for the genre. Second only to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the highest-earning film of 1989, Batman made a household name out of director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton (then known primarily for comedy), while Jack Nicholson earned rave reviews for his portrayal as the Joker.
Batman also had the distinction of winning the Academy Award for Best Art Direction, which recognized the visual design and stage decoration by Anton Furst and Peter Young, respectively. Among the nominees Batman beat out were the Civil War film Glory and fantasy-adventure The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
Batman Returns (1992)
The dark sequel to his 1989 hit, Tim Burton only after being given more creative control by Warner Bros. Keaton reprises his role as Bruce Wayne, whose crime-fighting crusade has become a full-blown obsession. As corrupt businessman Max Schreck looks to install his own candidate for mayor of Gotham City, the Christmastime streets become a yuletide war zone between the Dark Knight and new villains Penguin and Catwoman.
While audiences were more divided by Batman Returns' darker tone, the film received two Academy Award nominations, for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup, the latter in particular recognizing Danny DeVito's transformation into the Penguin. Ultimately, Francis Ford Coppola's Gothic horror interpretation of Bram Stoker's Dracula won for Best Visual Effects, while Robert Zemeckis' black horror-comedy Death Becomes Her earned Best Makeup.
Batman Forever (1995)
In response to criticism of the dark tone of Batman Returns, its 1995 follow-up, Batman Forever, leaned into camp. Directed by Joel Schumacher, with Val Kilmer succeeding Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader, the sequel teamed Bruce Wayne with orphan Dick Grayson to stop the combined forces of Two-Face and the Riddler.
Although certainly divisive, Batman Forever received three Academy Award nominations, for Best Cinematography, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing. Best Cinematography and Best Sound Effects Editing went to that year's Best Picture winner, the historical epic Braveheart, while Best Sound was scooped up by Ron Howard's historical drama Apollo 13.
While predated by Blade and X-Men, 2002's Spider-Man effectively cemented the place of Marvel Comics adaptations in modern cinema. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film starred Toby Maguire as Peter Parker and retold the web-slinger's origins as he fought Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin while trying to romance Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane Watson. Spider-Man held the title of highest-earning comic book film for more than six years.
The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Sound and Best Visual Effects, although it lost in both categories. Best Sound went to that year's Best Picture winner, Chicago, while Best Visual Effects was won by The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Sam Raimi's 2004 sequel explored the consequences and responsibilities of Peter Parker's double life. As the wall-crawler agonized over the impending nuptials of Mary Jane to another man, he struggled with a temporary loss of his powers while the villainous Doctor Octopus embarked on a scheme that endangered New York City.
Still hailed as one of the greatest superhero films, Spider-Man 2 became the first Marvel Comics adaptation to win an Academy Award, beating out Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for Best Visual Effects. The sequel was also nominated for Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, losing in the former category to the biopic Ray and the latter to ... the next film in this list.