Oscar nominations morning has seen not one but two sequels nominated for best picture in a single year. Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water are in contention for the top prize, while other follow-up contenders like Glass Onion and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever were shut out, though they received support in other categories.
The Academy has historically shied away from honoring sequels — only two have ever won best picture: The Godfather Part II and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Precious few others have even received nominations in that category, though notable outliers like Mad Max: Fury Road and Toy Story 3 have certainly paved a trail in the past.
This year’s nominees are interesting in that each of their predecessors has a different Academy tale: the original Top Gun nabbed four Oscar noms, winning for best original song, but couldn’t secure a place in the picture lineup. And 2009’s Avatar won for cinematography, visual effects, and art direction, and was nominated in six additional categories including picture and director, but famously lost out to James Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker. (Cameron is also a surprising snub from the 2023 best director nominees.)
Top Gun: Maverick also picked up an impressive additional four noms, for sound, adapted screenplay, original song, and visual effects. Avatar: The Way of Water, meanwhile, also cracked sound, production design, and visual effects.
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out didn’t crack best picture, but scored an original screenplay nom. Glass Onion follows a similar path, racking up a sole nomination for adapted screenplay. And Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther made history in 2020 as the first Marvel film nominated for best picture. While it didn’t take home that prize, it did win for original score and costume and production design, and was nominated in three other categories. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever didn’t make best picture like its prequel, but it did land Marvel its first-ever acting nom for Angela Bassett in supporting actress. It also scored an impressive haul with noms in costume design, original song, makeup and hairstyling, and visual effects.
It’s also worth noting that Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever were all considered massive box office successes (Glass Onion only had a limited release before heading straight to Netflix). Many pundits are expecting films that prove moviegoing can still be a financially viable industry to be at the top of the Academy’s priority list come Oscars night.
See a full list of nominees here.