It’s becoming something of an annual tradition now: A mainstream blockbuster does big numbers, and people start talking about whether it has a chance at a Best Picture nomination. The billion-dollar opening weekend for Avengers: Endgame
should be plenty to make fans and the Disney company happy, but a few rumblings have already begun online about whether it has a shot at being included among the nominees for next year’s biggest award.
The odds would certainly seem to be against a super-hero movie, Black Panther
’s 2018 nod notwithstanding. While generally well-received by critics, the Marvel movies haven't typically been treated with the reverence that makes them seem deserving of awards (again, Black Panther
being a notable exception). Yet if there’s one thing that might tip the odds ever so slightly back in Endgame
’s direction, it could be its much-talked-about 3-hour running time. Because if there’s one reliable indicator of a movie’s odds for getting a Best Picture nomination historically, it’s been an epic length.
Over the 60 years from 1956-2015, only 40 English-language films running at least 180 minutes were released in the U.S., ranging from Biblical spectaculars (The Ten Commandments
) to historical biopics (Reds
) to effects-driven blockbusters (Titanic
, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
). Of those 40 films, 22 of them were nominated for Best Picture—or better than a coin-flip chance of getting a name called on nomination day. And of those 22 nominees, nine ended up taking home the big prize, meaning that 180 minutes of movie gives you an almost 25 percent shot at cinematic immortality. This isn’t even taking into account winners and nominees that come up just a few ticks short of that three-hour mark, like The Godfather
(175 min.) and Braveheart
It’s clear that awards voters tend to give a bit more credibility to movies with some meat on their bones, though in recent years the winning films have trended away from being mega-long spectacles. The question is whether the grand super-hero finale of a Marvel Cinematic Universe cycle can overcome its genre disadvantages, even considering the expanded roster of nominees over the past decade. Three-hour gravitas might not be kind to backsides or small bladders, but it could be the one factor giving the Avengers a shot at a golden prize slightly less deadly than the Infinity Gauntlet.