Black Panther SAG Awards 2019

Could Black Panther Actually Win the Best Picture Oscar?

When the 2019 Oscar nominations were announced last week, some awards purists were left aghast that a comic book superhero movie like Black Panther could be nominated for Best Picture. Normally I’d say it has no chance of winning, but a big victory at the SAG Awards over the weekend may have bolstered its chances.

In Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony, Black Panther walked away with the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture trophy, SAG’s equivalent to “Best Picture.” Competition in the category included fellow Oscar nominees BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star Is Born, as well as the hit rom-com Crazy Rich Asians (which was ignored entirely by the Oscars).

What’s interesting about this is that Black Panther claimed the top prize despite not being nominated in any individual acting category. Its only other nomination (and win) was for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture – which seems completely ridiculous given that the green-screen action scenes in the film were mostly very poorly choreographed and fake-looking. These two victories amount to a big vote of confidence in the film as whole from the SAG membership, despite the fact that those same voters didn’t find any specific acting performance in it worthy of their acclaim.

Because the two voting bodies share a lot of the same membership, the SAG Awards are considered a key predictor for the Oscars. In recent years, SAG called the victories for underdog champions Argo, Birdman, and Spotlight. On the other hand, it also gave last year’s prize to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and didn’t even nominate eventual Oscar winner The Shape of Water. SAG also had more love for The Help, American Hustle, and Hidden Figures than Oscar did.

How’d It Get Nominated?

The Oscars have long been accused of being out of touch with movies that so-called “real people” want to watch, and have struggled against a perception of being voted on by a collection of stodgy, elderly white men. Additionally, the Oscar telecast’s ratings directly correlate to the popularity of the movies nominated. When all of the nominees are low-budget art films, the show’s ratings plummet.

The Academy tried to address these issues in 2009 by expanding the Best Picture field to ten possible nominees, in order to include some genuine money-makers that might draw viewers back to the ceremony. Nevertheless, more often than not, movies that fit the traditional definition of being Oscar-friendly fare are still heavily favored over the more populist picks. Best Picture nominations for blockbusters like Inception, Gravity, and The Martian were viewed as token recognitions with little chance of actually winning at the end of the night. And indeed, none did.

In many respects, Black Panther easily fits into that same company. Aside from Best Picture, the movie’s seven Oscar nominations were mostly in technical fields. It was shut out of the acting, screenwriting, and directing categories. All of this points to a slim chance of it being taken seriously as a Best Picture contender.

However, recent initiatives to diversify the Academy membership to more women, people of color, and people under 70 could possibly take hold this year with a big shift in the voting. Additionally, the Academy is still stinging from the backlash it faced for snubbing The Dark Knight for a Best Picture nomination back in 2008. This could be the year a comic book movie is anointed Best Picture.

But Should It Win?

I talked about this a bit in my comments to the Oscar nominations post last week, but I see Black Panther as more symbolically important than actually good filmmaking. As the first big-budget superhero movie with a black director and mostly black cast, dealing with story issues of interest to black audiences, its massive billion-dollar blockbuster success proved to Hollywood that audiences are eager for big mainstream movies about people of color. On those grounds, I recognize its cultural significance, and can understand the argument for its inclusion in the Best Picture field.

Is it actually a good movie, though? Frankly, I was not terribly impressed with it. The movie’s action scenes and visual effects are pretty awful. Although Michael B. Jordan is a good villain and the big story beats work well enough, the plot machinations around them are dull and pedestrian. Overall, I found it to be a lower-tier Marvel movie. It’s over-long, plodding, and sometimes quite dumb (traits that could be said about many Marvel movies, honestly). Cultural significance or not, I have a hard time justifying a film this sloppy and poorly made as a “Best Picture.”

Then again, I felt the same way about Gladiator and that somehow won. What the hell do I know, anyway? I’m not an Oscar voter and I am notoriously poor at predicting awards. Maybe Black Panther stands a real shot at being the Best Picture after all. I’ll probably roll my eyes if that happens, but that’s not an uncommon reaction for me to most Best Picture winners.

Should Black Panther Win Best Picture?

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For the complete list of SAG nominees and winners, visit the the official SAG Awards web site.


  1. cardpetree

    As one of the Marvel movie suckers that will buy a movie ticket and go watch any MCU movie at the theater, Black Panther was fine. The movie was entertaining and the Black Panther character is cool as hell but it’s not even a top 5 MCU movie and definitely not Oscar best picture worthy.

  2. Csm101

    If it weren’t for all the money it made, I don’t think it would’ve been considered, but it still feels like a popularity vote. As much as I love superhero and action movies, I don’t ever really see them as Oscar contenders (aside from technical achievements). I felt the same about Fury Road. Logan is probably the closest a superhero movie that I thought could’ve stood a chance for a best picture, I didn’t love it like most but I saw some real acting and drama surrounding the violence and action. Anyways, I don’t care all that much, it’s just a trophy.

  3. The Marvel movies all have the Big Beat Down as an action climax. This wore out my interest after the first dozen films.

    I can try to take it when it is iron men or hulks or norse gods, but in Black Panther it was just offensive. There are two guys trying to be alpha male of a choice African kingdom. In this case the Big Beat Down seems to be in the constitution of Wakanda, which is nuts.

  4. Clark

    I think “Black Panther” doesn’t stand a chance, it’s just a token nomination for a dull movie to shut up its fans. If voters want to give the Oscar to a “black movie”, they’ll probably give it to “BlacKkKlansman”. I actually think Spike Lee will win, because Cuarón already has his Oscar (for “Gravity”) and because the Academy likes to reward artists for their whole body of work, and many think Lee is long overdue for a Best Director statuette.
    In my humble opinion, “A Star is Born” is still the best of the eight nominees. And, since the Best Picture award goes for the producers, I think “Bohemian Rhapsody” should win just because they managed to recreate Queen’s live performances perfectly, even with the whole director-change.

  5. Bolo

    The superhero genre just doesn’t resonate with me in a big way. I’ve been entertained by many films in this genre, but they just don’t really speak to me on a deep level. I get that guys who grew up reading comics get big satisfaction out of seeing this genre sell lots of tickets, attract big talent, and collect awards; but I just don’t care.

    I just consider superhero movies to be the action films of the day. I like lots of lowbrow action flicks, but I’ve always been fine with the Oscars trying to reward more mature dramatic fare, with action films getting recognition in technical categories for their effects and spectacle.

  6. Plissken99

    I chose who cares about the Academy.. seriously it’s impossibly dumb. I thought Black Panther was a perfectly serviceable middling Marvel movie. The acting was ok, the effects were mediocre and the plot was more predictable than Titanic.

    If they nominate this, then Infinity Wars should be as well, being a much better movie in every regard. And The Dark Knight still beats everything before or since.

    • Pedram

      I agree about Avengers being better than Black Panther (though I still liked BP), and about the Dark Knight being better than both.
      It definitely seems like a political move, and to make up for the #oscarssowhite controversy.

      I saw a video recently about how Aquaman and Black Panther are basically the same movie in many respects, even down to the 1Billion+ box office. I guess not to the Academy, since it wasn’t nominated for anything, not even the VFX nomination it deserved.

      Let’s see how this plays out, but I’d definitely be shocked if Black Panther wins best picture. Probably a technical award though.

  7. Plissken99

    Oh the Oscars have always been political, yet this is the most blatant act of politics I’ve ever seen it commit. And don’t get me wrong, us white people are awful and need to be voted out of most all offices.

  8. Al

    Agreed. Logan and TDK are still the only two comic book films that deserved a best picture nomination. None of the other ones have ever come close to sniffing such acknowledgement.

  9. Nestor

    I enjoyed BP, but it sure isn’t worthy of all of the praise that it has received. I thought it was on par with Justice League in terms of entertainment and quality, which is not that huge of a compliment. Both movies were entertaining but lacked quite a bit. Michael B. Jordan was very good. But my favorite character of the movie was Ulysses Klaue. Has Andy Serkis ever done a bad character?

  10. Timcharger

    Logan should have been nominated last year. This year, Into the Spiderverse was the best comic book movie.

    So Black Panther is just like the 50%, 60%, or 70% of other Oscar nominated films, where we question why it deserved nomination for Best Picture? That’s sounds fair to me. How is this any real difference?

    If only Crazy Rich Asians got nominated too, would we then have a poll on how undeserving that film is too?

  11. Timcharger

    Way too much praise for the Dark Knight. It DID get the award* that it deserved. Because it’s the award that the Dark Knight deserves, but not the one it needs right now, so we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it, because he’s not a hero. My previous sentences makes no sense, just like the ending of the Dark Knight makes no sense, you gotta admit right?

    * It was awarded with Best Supporting Actor, and Heath Ledger was the most mesmerizing thing about that film. (Comments with footnotes, yay!)

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