- As they have grown in popularity, superhero movies and films based on comic-book characters have been showing up more and more in award nominations.
- This year, “Joker” and “Avengers: Endgame” were both nominated for Academy Awards, with “Joker” racking up 11 nominations.
- Over the years, more than 25 superhero movies have been nominated for Oscars in categories including best visual effects, best animated feature, and best picture.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Joker” earned 11 Oscar nominations for 2020, making the supervillain origin story the most-nominated film of the year – but it’s far from the first of its kind to be nominated for major awards.
In recent years, high-flying films about superheroes and villains have been nominated for Academy Awards rather frequently – especially in the best visual effects category – and some have even won major titles like best animated feature or best supporting actor.
Here are all of the Oscar-nominated superhero (and supervillain) movies ranked from best to worst, based on critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes.
Editor’s Note: We recognise that “superhero movies” encompass a wide range of films, and although this list is quite comprehensive, it may be missing a few projects that fall under that umbrella. In addition, c
ritic scores were up to date as of publication but are subject to change.
“Suicide Squad” (2016) won the Oscar for best makeup and hairstyling in 2017.
This attempt to flesh out some of DC’s most iconic villains ended up winning an Oscar. Starring Jared Leto as the Joker and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, this story follows the Suicide Squad as they break out of prison and are tasked with saving the world.
“Batman Forever” (1995) was nominated for best cinematography in 1996.
The first post-Tim Burton Batman, “Batman Forever,” starred Val Kilmer as the caped crusader. The movie took Batman back to the world of camp, as Batman and Robin face off against Two-Face and The Riddler.
It was nominated for best cinematography at the 1996 Oscars along with best sound and best effects.
“Joker” (2019) was nominated for 11 Oscars this year, including best picture.
This gritty take on Batman’s arch-nemesis stars Joaquin Phoenix in his best leading actor-winning role as Arthur Fleck.
The origin story is the most-nominated superhero movie in Oscar’s history. The film earned 11 nominations and took home two awards for best actor and best original score.
“Batman” (1989) won the Oscar for best art direction in 1990.
The first serious, live-action Batman movie featured Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Michael Keaton as Batman.
Nicholson was praised for his performance, but the unique art deco take on Gotham City is what won the movie the Oscar for best art direction.
“Iron Man 2” (2010) was nominated for best visual effects in 2011.
The sequel to the movie that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, craze was a visual spectacle nominated for a visual effects Oscar.
Robert Downey Jr. returned as Tony Stark in the critically well-received sequel that was much maligned by fans.
“Iron Man 2” included some major MCU introductions by debuting Don Cheadle as War Machine and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.
“Superman Returns” (2006) was nominated for best visual effects in 2007.
“Superman Returns” was the epic, big-screen revival of the world’s most iconic hero.
With Brandon Routh as Superman and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, this movie told a Superman story rooted in heartbreak and overcoming defeat against all odds.
Although it was fairly well-reviewed, it failed to launch a new Superman franchise and never got a sequel.
“Iron Man 3” (2013) received a best visual effects nod in 2014.
The third and final instalment in the “Iron Man” trilogy was directed by Shane Black and brought in Guy Pearce as the villain. This entry dug into the post-traumatic stress of Tony Stark in the aftermath of “The Avengers.”
Many fans considered it an improvement over the second “Iron Man” film due to its deep, emotional focus on Stark – one of the MCU’s most influential characters.
“Batman Returns” (1992) was nominated for best visual effects and best makeup at the 1993 Oscars.
Tim Burton’s sequel to “Batman” was met with more critical praise, especially for Michelle Pfeiffer’s strange and incredible performance as Catwoman.
With Danny DeVito as the Penguin, this Batman movie features the villains and Gotham politicians more than it does Bruce Wayne.
“Batman Begins” (2005) was nominated for best cinematography at the 2006 Oscars.
The movie that kicked off Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was recognised for its cinematography at the 2006 Academy Awards.
“Batman Begins” is an origin story for Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne and his dark, gritty Batman. The film starred Cillian Murphy as The Scarecrow and Liam Neeson as Batman’s mentor and rival Henri Ducard – the alias of Ra’s al Ghul.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017) was recognised for its visual effects in 2018.
Nominated for best achievement in visual effects, the sequel to the MCU breakthrough “Guardians of the Galaxy” marked the return of the charismatic cast in a much more personal journey.
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and the rest of the Guardians crew returned in a story that introduced Kurt Russell as Peter Quill’s father – who also happened to be a god.
The movie jacked up the stakes and humour, but it was still not quite as beloved as the original.
The stunning visual effects in “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) were nominated at the 2019 Oscars.
Part one of the Infinity Saga’s grand finale was a visually impressive action feast. The film features all of the Avengers who have been gathering since “Iron Man” in their attempt to take down Josh Brolin’s Thanos.
The infamous “snap” at the end of the film is one of the most iconic and tragic moments in MCU history.
“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (2008) received an Oscar nomination for best makeup in 2009.
It may not be recognised as a superhero film in the same vein as “The Avengers,” but Hellboy is very much a classic comic-book character.
Written and directed by Academy Award-winner Guillermo del Toro, this sequel featured Hellboy and his team fighting in a supernatural war on humanity.
The trippy visuals of “Doctor Strange” (2016) earned it a best visual effects nomination at the 2017 Oscars.
“Doctor Strange” introduced Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular doctor who became infused with mystical powers.
This MCU origin story was visually distinct and had a standout cast featuring Tilda Swinton, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Mads Mikkelsen.
“Big Hero 6” (2014) won the award for best animated feature film at the 2015 Oscars.
Based on Marvel comics, “Big Hero 6” was an emotional roller coaster of a superhero movie.
The animated film follows the coming-of-age origin story of young genius Hiro Hamada. After discovering a robot that his late brother created, Hiro gathers a team of students and their robots to save Sanfrantokyo.
Though the film is not a part of the official MCU, Stan Lee still makes his iconic cameo in animated form.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014) was one of three superhero movies nominated for best visual effects at the 2015 Academy Awards.
The time-travelling epic “X-Men: Days of Future Past” was a crossover between the old “X-Men” cast and the youngsters introduced in “X-Men: First Class.”
Two timelines of heroes need to band together to save both worlds from assured destruction.
Featuring all the “X-Men” favourites including Patrick Stewart as Professor X and both Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as Magneto, this was the ultimate “X-Men” crossover event.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014) was another visual effects nominee in 2015.
Critic Score: 90%
The sequel to “Captain America: The First Avenger” featured the return of Chris Evans in his now-iconic role.
This “Captain America” movie had a Cold War, espionage-thriller vibe to it that makes it distinct among the MCU canon. Its action-packed, twisty plot earned it a nomination for best visual effects.
The movie also introduced the world to Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) as the Winter Soldier.
“Spider-Man” (2002) was nominated for best visual effects and best sound mixing in 2003.
The first Sam Raimi-directed “Spider-Man” was a smash hit for the web-slinger.
Nominated for two Academy Awards, the Spidey origin story starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker and Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane set the stage for the trilogy of “Spider-Man” movies that defined the decade of superhero movies.
No mention of this film is complete without acknowledging Willem Dafoe’s unsettling performance as Norman Osborne/Green Goblin.
“The Avengers” (2012) was nominated for best visual effects in 2013.
The first big collection of the MCU minds assembled to defeat Loki in 2012.
The big climax of the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brought together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye to fight the ultimate battle.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) received nominations for best visual effects and best makeup and hairstyling at the 2015 Oscars.
Introducing the world to Peter Quill, Groot, and Drax, this take on the superhero comedy skyrocketed Chris Pratt to stardom.
An otherwise basic superhero plot about saving the world from a generic villain gained a great reputation thanks to its humour and loveable, diverse cast of characters.
The Guardians went from being an obscure group of Marvel heroes to one of the biggest movie franchises in the world thanks to this successful debut.
“Birdman” (2014) received nine nominations and won three Academy Awards in 2015 including best picture.
Although it’s debatable whether or not “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” is a superhero movie, it’s certainly the closest thing to one that has won best picture so far.
Michael Keaton was nominated for his performance as a washed-up actor known for playing the superhero Birdman.
The film is known for its appearance of only being shot in one take, and in turn, won the Academy Awards for best cinematography and best director.
“Logan” (2017) was the first superhero movie to get a screenwriting nomination.
Critic Score: 93%
This dark-yet-heartfelt send-off to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was a groundbreaking superhero movie – the first to be nominated in a screenwriting category.
The violent and gory film finds Wolverine and Professor X at the end of their lives. Their final journey is to ensure a future generation of mutants survives to carry on their legacy.
The film may have lost to James Ivory’s “Call Me By Your Name,” but it still marks a milestone for movies adapted from comic books and graphic novels.
“Spider-Man 2” (2004) was nominated for best sound mixing and best sound editing, and it won the best visual effects award at the 2005 Oscars.
Until recently, “Spider-Man 2” was the superhero movie with the most Oscar nominations, and remains the only one with a win in the best visual effects category.
The sequel to 2002’s “Spider-Man” featured the return of Tobey Maguire to the titular role, but this time he was facing off against Dr. Otto Octavius, portrayed in an emotive performance by Alfred Molina.
“Spider-Man 2” remains a stand-out superhero film, digging into everything that makes Spider-Man fragile, strong, and persistent as a character.
“Incredibles 2” (2018) was nominated for best animated feature at the 2019 Oscars.
This long-awaited follow up to a Pixar favourite delivered.
The crime-fighting Parr family returned in the series’ second film, which follows through another one of their action-packed adventures – this time with Elastigirl at the centre of the plot.
The film also added Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener as a brother-sister villain team.
“Superman” (1978) was nominated for three Oscars including best film editing, best original score, and best sound.
The 1978 Christopher Reeve-led “Superman” was a landmark superhero movie.
Both critically acclaimed for its performances from Reeve, Marlon Brando, and Gene Hackman and financially a hit, it was an early Oscar superhero favourite that went on to receive a Special Achievement Academy Award for visual effects.
It’s the classic story of Superman versus Lex Luthor, but it was the first time comic fans got to see that story on the big screen done with this kind of budget.
“Avengers: Endgame” (2019) picked up a nomination for best visual effects.
The conclusion to the epic Infinity Saga is one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
The final fight against Thanos involved time-travel and plenty of emotional character moments as the deaths of major characters were mourned, and torches were passed on to the next generation of Avengers.
“Iron Man” (2008) was nominated for best sound editing and best visual effects at the 2009 Academy Awards.
Although it was not technically the first movie in the MCU, it’s safe to say Marvel movies would not be the same without 2008’s “Iron Man.”
Starring Robert Downey Jr., this origin story is about one of Marvel’s most iconic superheroes and it helped officially kick off a new generation of superhero movies.
“The Dark Knight” (2008) received eight Oscar nominations in 2009 and won the awards for best sound editing and best supporting actor.
One of the few superhero movies to win multiple Oscars, “The Dark Knight” is Christopher Nolan’s modern Batman classic.
This film took a more realistic approach to Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker that inspired the 2019 film and was loved by critics and fans alike.
The movie, alongside “Iron Man,” moved the needle for superhero movies to come.
“The Incredibles” (2004) won the Academy Awards for best animated feature and best sound editing at the 2005 Oscars.
“The Incredibles” is one of Pixar’s most critically-acclaimed movies. It also happens to be one of cinema’s few original superhero stories.
In it, a family of superheroes must come together to save the world, and each other, from the supervillain Syndrome. The movie was also nominated for best sound editing and best original screenplay.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018) won best animated feature at the 2019 Academy Awards.
This new look at what a Spider-Man story could be starred Shameik Moore as Miles Morales.
The beautifully animated “Spider-Verse” tells the interwoven stories of multiple Spider-people across different multi-verses.
They all must come together to save the world from destruction, but first, they must teach Miles what it means to take a leap of faith and become the Spider-Man his universe needs.
“Black Panther” (2018) received seven nominations at the 2019 Oscars and won for best costume design, best original score, and best production design.
Currently, the most successful superhero movie at the Oscars is also tied for the highest-rated on Rotten Tomatoes.
The critically acclaimed “Blank Panther” is the story of T’Challa after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and follows him in his return to Wakanda to claim his right to the throne
This tale about home, country, and rivalry featuring great performances from Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan is one of the most morally complex stories in the MCU.