Could 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' be an Oscar contender?

The American Film Institute put 'Force' on its list of the top 10 best movies of the year, while those behind the Critics' Choice Awards recently added it to their list of contenders for the best picture prize. Could 'Force' succeed at the Oscars, too?

Disney/Lucasfilm/AP
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' stars Adam Driver.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has taken over the box office, setting records for its current gross and causing some to wonder whether the film can bypass such movies as “Avatar” and “Titanic” to become the highest-grossing film of all time.

But could the film also be an Oscar contender? 

Genre pictures, such as horror, fantasy, or science fiction films, traditionally have a difficult time at the Oscars. But “Force” has gotten very good reviews and the American Film Institute recently added the movie to its list of the 10 best movies of the year. Other movies on the AFI’s list include leading awards season contenders such as “Carol,” “Spotlight,” and “Room.” 

Last year, almost all the eventual Oscar Best Picture nominees appeared on the AFI’s top 10 list as well. 

Meanwhile, those behind the Critics’ Choice Awards recently added “Force” to its list of contenders for its own best picture prize. Again, “Force” stands alongside such buzzed-about movies as “The Revenant” and “The Big Short.” 

If "Force" gets a Best Picture nod, it wouldn’t be the first film in the series to have that honor. The 1977 movie “Star Wars,” which is often lauded for its groundbreaking special effects, was a big presence at the ceremony that year – it was nominated for Best Picture when it was released, with director George Lucas also earning nods for directing and his screenplay. Actor Alec Guinness received a nomination for best supporting actor for his role in the film. 

“Star Wars” missed out on those prizes but picked up a slew of technical awards, including best visual effects, best sound, and best film editing.

What’s even more remarkable about the fact that “Star Wars” got a Best Picture nod is that it did so when there were still only five slots for nominees. Now the Academy can select between five and 10, so if “Force” makes the cut, it may be competing alongside more movies than the 1977 original. 

“Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back,” often called the best of the series, did not receive a nod, nor did “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.” The critically maligned prequel trilogy did not, either. 

But the Academy may be more accepting of genre films now than in 1977. The 2003 movie “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” became the first fantasy movie to win the Best Picture prize after being released. 

We’ll see if the Force is with the newest “Star Wars” movie when the Oscars nominations are announced. (Sorry. We couldn’t resist.)

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