How all of the best actor Oscar nominees are also pop culture icons

Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER..Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018
Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER..Black Panther/T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018 /

Not only are the Academy Award nominees for best lead actor elite performers in their profession, they are also known for their iconic genre roles in comic book movies.

This day and age, many prominent actors have worked in popular film franchises, genre series, or even a mega blockbuster movie, but there are still some A-list Oscar favorite actors that have remained dedicated to prestige cinema, such as Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio.

However, all of this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Actor In A Leading Role have operated within the superhero/comic book space. All five have played noteworthy characters in popular comic book adaptations.

And those nominees are…

Gary Oldman

Pop culture icon status: Gary Oldman is prevalent in many types of genre movies, such as The Professional, The Fifth Element, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and he even starred as Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker adaptation. But Oldman will always have a special place in superhero movie fans’ hearts for portraying Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight Trilogy. It is, to date, the best live-action depiction of the character as Oldman fleshed out the police commissioner over the course of the trilogy. In contrast, Pat Hingle’s Gordon was barely given the chance to leave a mark during his four appearances in the Burton/Schumacher movies.

Does he deserve the nomination? This time, not really. That’s not a criticism of his actual performance but Oldman’s nomination for Mank is very similar to his first nod back in 2011 for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Both times he played a cold, calculating individual with limited emotional range. In 2011, he stole the nomination from Michael Fassbender for Shame, and this time the nod should have went to either one of the career best performances of Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods) or Ben Affleck (The Way Back). Oldman was much more deserving of his Oscar for embodying Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

Steven Yeun

Pop culture icon status: Yeun played Glenn on The Walking Dead for many years. He was one of the great original cast members and grew Glenn into an undeniably lovable character on the show, particularly as his romance with Maggie developed. Yeun’s status as a pop culture icon skyrockets because Glenn’s death scene, at the hands of Negan, will go down as one of the most shocking in television history.

Does he deserve the nomination? Definitely. While Yeun is obviously not a household name like Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins (yet), Yeun has proven his effective screen presence with Burning, a few years ago, and now with Minari. He received an Oscar nomination for Minari because he offers such a moving and deeply personal depiction of, not just an immigrant father’s experience, but a father’s struggles with social belonging, financial security, and marital satisfaction.

Anthony Hopkins

Pop culture icon status: Hopkins is one of the best examples of a legendary prestige thespian who is also an important pop culture icon. His role as Hannibal Lecter alone exemplifies this parallel. More recently he was the architect of Westworld in the HBO sci-fi western. Yet his regal status among comic book movie fans is due to his portrayal of Odin in the Thor trilogy (we can still call it that until the fourth movie comes out). His royal robustness shines through in every second of his MCU screen time as his classical acting expertise works perfectly in the Asgardian setting.

Does he deserve the nomination? Yes. I’m sorry, but “he was just nominated last year”, or “he was nominated five times before” just isn’t a viable excuse for not nominating someone for the current eligibility year, if their acting is indeed worthy. In The Father, Hopkins is absolutely heartbreaking in one of the most mentally frightening illustrations of dementia ever presented to audiences of cinema. This is poignant acting on a scale Hopkins exhibited in his profound 1990s performances.

Riz Ahmed

Pop culture icon status: Over the past decade Ahmed has become one of those prevalent actors that does a little bit of everything, jumping back and forth between serious dramas and genre pics. His representation in the latter may not be as significant as the other nominees, yet he did have a small role in Jason Bourne and is featured as the antagonist in Venom. He also plays a pivotal role in Rogue One, and having any part of the best Star Wars movie of the century warrants popular culture recognition.

Does he deserve the nomination? Hell yes! For some years now Ahmed has been proving himself as a great actor. Before Sound of Metal, his best film role was in Nightcrawler, as Jake Gyllenhaal’s susceptible assistant, and his finest work overall was in the HBO miniseries The Night Of. It is one of HBO’s best limited series of the century (they put out several a year), and much of its success is owed to how Ahmed infuses subtle complexities into the main character. Now Ahmed gives the performance of a lifetime in Sound of Metal as a drummer slowly losing his hearing – his larghetto suffering is so raw and his growing uncertainty about the musician’s future is authentically reconciled.

Chadwick Boseman

Pop culture icon status: Boseman actually made a name for himself portraying momentous 20th Century African American trailblazers. Before he was introduced as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, Boseman brought both Jackie Robinson and James Brown to life. He also took on the role of Thurgood Marshall before the monumental Black Panther was released. His transformative translation of the African hero lifted Boseman to a super-iconic stratosphere as the movie and his performance has had an enormous groundbreaking cultural impact. Boseman’s legacy has become even more iconic in the wake of his tragic passing.

Does he deserve the nomination? Boseman not only deserves his best lead actor nomination for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but should have also been nominated for best supporting actor for Da 5 Bloods, instead of Lakeith Stanfield, who played the primary protagonist in Judas and the Black Messiah. It is sad that his passionate, visceral performance in Ma Rainey will be the late Chadwick Boseman’s first and last nomination. His soulful turn in Da 5 Bloods, his commanding portrayal of King T’Challa, and especially his electrifying depiction of James Brown in Get On Up should have also garnered him nominations. Boseman should win the Oscar this year – not just as a tribute because he passed away, but because he delivered the best performance.

Next. Superhero movie schedule. dark

Which iconic actor do you think should win the Oscar for Best Actor this year? Let us know in the comments below.