Awards analysis is provided by Sean from @MathTeacherMovies.
Netflix and Best Picture: Two Ships in the Night
Netflix was essentially the original streaming service and when they began to create original content it began to seem likely that they would start being considered for awards. It began with Emmys and then eventually was given attention from the Oscars.
In recent years, Netflix has gotten many Oscar nominations and wins in numerous categories but has only been nominated for Best Picture and never won. Now with Netflix’s recent problems and AppleTV+ beating them in the race to a Best Picture this year it seemed only right to look at Netflix’s past and future in the category of Best Picture.
Starting in 2015, Netflix came out of the gate running in the movie department with the beautiful Beasts of No Nation from esteemed Director Cary Fukunaga. This film got quite a lot of praise and awards buzz by Idris Elba for Best Supporting Actor and while the film didn’t receive a nomination, it did show that Netflix was capable of prestige films.
From here, Netflix released many films ranging in quality that were clear baits for Oscar contention. The Meyerowitz Stories, War Machine, Private Life, and Okja all received Oscar buzz before or after their release but none of them received nominations.
Netflix finally received its first nominations for the film Mudbound including a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Mary J. Blige in 2017. It was a tremendous moment that opened the floodgates for the very next year.
In 2018, Roma received a Best Picture nomination subsequently giving Netflix its first Best Picture nomination. Not only that but it was the front runner for quite some time even getting a Best Director win for Alfonso Cuaron. However it missed out on Best Picture to Green Book, mainly because of several older members of the Academy who were loyal to seeing movies in the theaters and weren’t ready for a movie from a streaming service to win Best Picture.
The next year there were two films that came close to the Best Picture win with nominations for The Irishman and Marriage Story. However, The Irishman was blanked and Marriage Story only received a well deserved win of Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern. This year was not due to a vendetta against streaming service movies but just from the popularity of Parasite which was a train that couldn’t possibly be derailed that year with 1917 clipping at its heels.
With the pandemic causing theaters to either be closed or be empty throughout 2020, this was the year and chance for a Netflix film to win Best Picture and The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Mank were two very likely candidates as one is an accessible political drama and the other is a love letter to old Hollywood and these should have been catnip for the Oscars but the artsy indie film, Nomadland became the front runner from the very start, and ironically was one of the few movies that was in theaters during that year.
At this point Netflix has not won the Best Picture mainly due to the narrative of the Academy wanting films from the theaters to win instead of movies from a streaming service. That narrative was shattered in 2021 where The Power of the Dog was the clear front runner when the nominations came out with the most nominations this year for a prestige arthouse film and the return of Jane Campion. Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up received popular reception and was also nominated for Best Picture. However, another streaming service named AppleTV+ came out of the woodwork and won the award with CODA and while AppleTV+ is no underdog, Netflix still has to feel a bit of a sting.
So what is next for Netflix as they head on their unending journey toward Best Picture? It’s very difficult to predict, but it’s not looking good. With their recent drop in quarterly earnings and subscribers, there seems to be a drop in faith in the product. This doesn’t mean a Best Picture win will solve such a problem but more movies and television of quality probably would turn more heads.
Netflix has many upcoming films but at this moment there are two standouts that have the chance of Oscar contention. Noah Baumbach will return to Netflix to adapt the beloved work White Noise with Adam Driver, Don Cheadle, and Greta Gerwig and George C. Wolfe is also returning to Netflix directing Rustin where Colman Domingo plays civil rights activist Bayard Rustin and will be written by Dustin Lance Black.
These films aren’t the frontrunners for Best Picture but they might help Netflix win that prize depending on how the race shapes up. However with the way everything is going this year for Netflix it doesn’t look for the future years.