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What chance do military movies like ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ have at the Oscars?

Actually a pretty solid one, given how many other war films have come out on top.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
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The 95th Academy Awards are approaching. On March 12, 10 films are up for Best Picture, including two focused on the military — Top Gun: Maverick and the German remake of All Quiet on the Western Front. But what are the chances a military movie can snag the top award?

Not impossible, but it might be unlikely. As of press time, the Las Vegas odds are not leaning toward either film. Still, both are backed by major marketing campaigns. Top Gun: Maverick was a box office smash (Steven Spielberg recently thanked Tom Cruise, saying that the film “might have saved the entire theatrical industry”). Meanwhile All Quiet on the Western Front made a surprise series of wins at the British Academy Film Awards, including taking home the BAFTA for Best Film. 

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Plus the Academy Awards actually have a strong history of favoring military films. A tenth of the films have dealt with the military or war, and several more include elements from that (remember the Vietnam sequence in Forrest Gump?). 

That history goes back to the award show’s start. The very first film to win was 1929’s Wings, the romance and war film focused on World War I aviators (at the time, the award was for Outstanding Picture, which evolved into the current Academy Award for Best Picture). Two years later, the original film adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front took home the top prize. It was a time of peace, but both the recent memory of World War I and the films’ epic depiction of combat captivated audiences and the Academy. 

(Image courtesy Netflix)

The aftermath of the Vietnam War films such as The Deer Hunter and Platoon about the brutality of the war and its impact won big. The Global War on Terror sparked many films about overseas conflicts in the 21st Century, but to mixed critical results. 2009’s Iraq War-set The Hurt Locker is so far the only one about any of the post-2001 wars to win Best Picture.

The Hurt Locker was also the last military film to win. In the years since, several have been nominated for Best Picture, including Zero Dark Thirty, War Horse, American Sniper and Dunkirk. In 2019, Sam Mendes’ World War I film 1917 did well enough to win seven BAFTAs plus earn a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. That could be a positive precedent for All Quiet on the Western Front, but World War I doesn’t guarantee awards; the recently released Great War-set The King’s Man did not earn similar accolades.

Heading into the Oscars, the multiverse-spanning drama Everything Everywhere All At Once has been winning many of the other award shows. But can Top Gun: Maverick or All Quiet on the Western Front win big? We’ll see at the Oscars on March 12.

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