With the debut of the 2023 Oscar nominations, James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water joined an exclusive club amongst some of the best sequels of all time.
The nominees for the 95th Academy Awards are here, and Cameron's Avatar 2 has been put up with some of the best of last year (including one of Marvel Studios' 2022 blockbusters). The box office phenomenon won nominations in four categories, earning a chance to win Oscars for Best Picture, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, and Best Sound.
Now, as the Avatar sequel continues its record-breaking run at the box office, the sci-fi epic also made history in the awards race.
Avatar 2 Makes Oscars History
Avatar: The Way of Water's Best Picture nomination for the 95th Academy Awards makes it the sixth sequel to have been put up for the category that also had its predecessor nominated.
It also marks the eighth time a sequel has made the Best Picture list.
The other seven sequels include some of the best films of all time, giving Avatar 2 director James Cameron yet another accolade for his already packed trophy cabinet.
The other members of this exclusive Oscars club can be seen below:
The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers showed that the director's take on the Tolkien world of Middle Earth was not a one-hit-wonder with The Fellowship of the Ring garnering a Best Picture nod a year earlier. This middle story of the trilogy did not win the big award at the 74th Academy Awards, but it did take home four Oscar statuettes on the evening, setting up an even bigger celebration for the cast a crew a year later.
The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)
Following up on the resounding awards success of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was a send-off for Peter Jackson's ground-breaking cinematic endeavor. This epic was nominated for a whopping 11 Oscars that year, winning every category it was put up for in a full sweep. This included a Best Picture win that fans have been using as an example of how a popcorn movie can win big at the Academy Awards ever since.
The Godfather Part II (1974)
The Godfather Part II made its own history in April 1975, when it not only was a sequel that was nominated for Best Picture along with its predecessor but won the award just like The Godfather had done so a year earlier. Francis Ford Coppola's mafia epic was up for 11 categories at the awards show, taking home six, including Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert De Niro).
The Godfather Part III (1990)
Despite being considered the black sheep of the Godfather franchise, The Godfather Part III was still nominated for Best Picture just like both of its predecessors. It came into the night with seven nominations, although it didn't come away with any wins, marking not only the end of the Corleone family's story but the end of Francis Ford Coppola's Academy Award dominance.
The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945)
The earliest instance of this Best Picture doubling up comes with The Bell Of St. Mary from 1945. While not a numbered sequel akin to some of the other names on this list, this Leo McCarey-directed drama features star Bing Crosby playing the same character as Going My Way from the year before. The film did not end up taking home the big award but it was nominated in seven categories, winning one.
Now, as mentioned above, Avatar 2 is also the eighth sequel to ever make the Best Picture cut. Two of that list did not have any other of their predecessors up for the big award.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
Marking the third time an animated film had been nominated in the category (the other two being Beauty and the Beast and Up), Toy Story 3 was the first animated sequel to have ever made the list. The film did not win, and some credit its inclusion to the Academy expanding their Best Picture nominee list from five to 10 starting in 2009, but it's hard to deny the merit of what was at the time the biggest animated movie ever.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
And the other sequel to have gotten a Best Picture nomination without any of its prior films is Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller's post-apocalyptic odyssey was a juggernaut during the 2015 awards cycle. It was nominated for 10 Oscars and won six, and despite not taking home Best Picture, it is still considered by many to be the best film of 2015.
Avatar at the Oscars
While it currently seems unlikely that Avatar: The Way Of Water will win Best Picture this year, it is exciting to continue to see Jame Cameron's Pandoran franchise get recognition from the Academy.
With more of a push for the Oscars to give credence to bigger blockbuster films, and two such movies (Avatar 2 and Top Gun: Maverick) being nominated for Best Picture this year, it will be interesting to see if Cameron's success at the awards show continues.
Having won Best Picture before, for 1997's Titanic, Cameron's prestige amongst Academy voters means that Avatar 3, 4, and 5 will surely be in the awards conversation when they hit theater screens over the next half-decade. If they will continue this Best Picture trend for the direct remains to be seen, however.
The 95th Academy Awards airs on March 12 at 8:00 pm ET.