Oppenheimer Is The First Box Office Blockbuster To Win Best Picture In 20 Years


This is not to say other movies that made money haven’t won Best Picture in the 2000s (more on that in a moment), but we’re talking about a movie that made nearly $1 billion. Even if it is an R-rated, three-hour biopic that’s mostly people talking, it’s unquestionably populist popcorn cinema as well. It’s also the intersection of art and entertainment by way of Nolan as we’ve come to expect and happens to be the kind of movie that The Academy would honor even if it wasn’t a gargantuan blockbuster. Still,┬áthat doesn’t change the fact that we’re dealing with a very mainstream film at the end of the day.

As for recent history, last year’s big winner “Everything Everywhere All at Once” ($141 million worldwide) was popular, yes, but it was more of a breakthrough for what should have been an elevated arthouse play from A24. Nolan’s film was a $100 million tentpole released by Universal Pictures. The year before that, we had Apple’s “CODA,” which was a streaming movie with almost no theatrical component. Meanwhile, 2020’s “Nomadland” was, sad to say, hampered greatly by the pandemic and hardly registered with mainstream audiences.

Yes, we’ve had movies like “Green Book” ($321 million worldwide), “The King’s Speech” ($424 million worldwide), and Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” ($291 million worldwide) take home Best Picture since 2004. All popular movies, but not in the vicinity of “the most popular” by any stretch of the imagination. Nor did any of those movies even come close to touching the overall global gross of Nolan’s latest.

This isn’t really about whether or not The Academy got it right. That said, it’s a tough movie to argue against. What it means is that a movie that general audiences care about won Best Picture, and that’s good for the health of the Academy Awards. And a healthy Academy Awards is good for the future of non-franchise cinema.

“Oppenheimer” is available on Blu-ray and 4K, and is currently streaming on Peacock.

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