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Steven Spielberg: ‘The Dark Knight’ Should Have Been First Blockbuster Nominated for Best Picture

The "Fabelmans" director added he was "encouraged" by the inclusion of "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way of Water" among the 2023 Best Picture nominations.

Steven Spielberg, Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight"

Steven Spielberg, Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”

Getty/Everett

According to Steven Spielberg, you either die a critically ignored blockbuster or live long enough to see a Best Picture nomination.

The “Fabelmans” director, who landed his first Best Original Screenplay nomination for the 2023 Oscars, reflected on the expanded Best Picture category. The semi-autobiographical “The Fabelmans” is also up for Best Picture, and the category was doubled in size in 2009 from five nominees to 10. This year’s contenders are “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Elvis,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “TÁR,” “Triangle of Sadness,” “Women Talking,” and two blockbuster sequels: “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Top Gun: Maverick.”

“I’m really encouraged by that,” Spielberg told Deadline of the Academy recognizing the two crowd-pleasing features that made history at the box office.

However, Spielberg doesn’t want anyone to forget the mistake of not nominating one particular film: “It came late for the film that should have been nominated a number of years ago, Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight.’ That movie would have definitely garnered a Best Picture Nomination today, so having these two blockbusters solidly presented on the top 10 list is something we should all be celebrating.”

“The Dark Knight” was released in 2008 and acted in part as a catalyst for the Academy’s decision to expand the Best Picture nominations list. The film was nominated for eight Oscars, with Heath Ledger posthumously winning Best Supporting Actor. Joaquin Phoenix later won Best Actor for portraying the same Joker character in the eponymously-titled Todd Philipps’ 2019 film.

“Black Panther” became the first superhero film nominated for Best Picture in 2019. Its sequel, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” was not nominated for Best Picture but earned five nominations, including Angela Bassett in the Best Supporting Actress category, marking the first time a Marvel actor earned an Oscar nomination.

This year, “Top Gun: Maverick” received six nominations, tying with Todd Fields’ “TÁR.” James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” received four nominations.

To see the full list of 2023 Oscar nominations, click here. For IndieWire’s analysis on snubs and surprises, much like “The Dark Knight” being iced out over a decade ago, go here.

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