IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Some critically acclaimed films by and about Black people don’t make the Oscars list in a major letdown

Among those who were expected to be nominated and weren’t: Viola Davis for “The Woman King” and Danielle Deadwyler, who portrayed Mamie Till-Mobley in “Till.”
Viola Davis in "The Woman King."
Viola Davis, who portrays a warrior protecting the kingdom of Dahomey in “The Woman King,” did not receive an Academy Award nomination for her performance. Sony Pictures
/ Source: Variety

While the Golden Globes brought several notable nominations and wins for Black performers in television and film, this year’s Oscar nominations look very different.

The few movies by and about Black people that may have been considered Oscar bait this awards season — including a film about the aftermath of Emmett Till’s lynching in 1955, and “The Woman King” — did not make it to the list of nominations announced Tuesday

Past Oscar winner and star Viola Davis did not earn a nomination for her depiction of a woman warrior in 19th century West Africa, protecting the kingdom of Dahomey, in “The Woman King.” Davis, who has become a fixture of awards seasons, did earn a Golden Globe nomination for her performance, as well as a Screen Actors Guild nomination. 

“Till,” starring Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till-Mobley, chronicles the 14-year-old’s mother during her quest for justice after her child was brutally murdered. The film earned no Academy Award nominations. 

No women were nominated in the directing category, shutting out a handful of Black women who helmed films this year, as it happened with the Golden Globe nominations earlier this year. Gina Prince-Bythewood, the director of “The Woman King” starring Davis, was not nominated, nor was Chinonye Chukwu, who directed “Till.”

In December, Chukwu said in an interview with Tyler Perry for Variety that she felt inspired to break through the anxiety she had in directing “Till” by doing justice to Black ancestors. 

“I had deep, deep anxiety beforehand. because of the significance of the story, and the weight of it, and the responsibility of it,” she said. “And so, I had all that going into it, and then I had to let it all go.”

While the science fiction horror film “Nope” had been lauded by film festivals and critics associations, the movie directed by Oscar winner Jordan Peele and starring Keke Palmer, Daniel Kaluuya and Brandon Perea earned no nominations.  

One surprise nominee came for Bryan Tyree Henry who is up for best supporting actor for his role as James Aucoin, an amputee who bonds with a soldier recovering from a traumatic brain injury, as played by Jennifer Lawrence in “Causeway.” 

The latest Marvel blockbuster, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” did earn five nominations — Angela Bassett for best supporting actress, Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” for best original song, makeup and hairstyling, costume, and visual effects — Ryan Coogler was not nominated for his directorial efforts. “Wakanda Forever” also failed to match the best picture nod earned by 2018’s “Black Panther” — the first superhero movie nominated for the top Oscar. 

Bassett makes superhero cinema history as the first woman, the first person of color and the first Marvel Studios actor to be nominated for an Academy Award for performance in a comic book adaptation. It’s Bassett’s second Oscar nomination; her first came 29 years ago for best actress for 1993’s Tina Turner biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

The 64-year-old enters what had been to this point a tiny and exclusive club of white, male actors who’ve earned nominations for comic book and graphic novel adaptations, a list that includes Al Pacino for “Dick Tracy” in 1990, Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight” in 2008 and Joaquin Phoenix for “Joker” in 2019. Bassett is also the second oldest Black woman ever nominated for an acting Oscar, behind supporting actress nominee Ruby Dee, who appeared in 2007’s “American Gangster.”