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One of the most prestigious awards in the movie industry is the Academy Award for Best Picture. So few sequels are ever nominated for the award because they tend to be a part of action and comedy movies, which don"t exactly appeal to the Academy. However, every now and then, there’s a sequel that makes the members of the Academy pay attention.
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Between a drama about a nun and a priest locking horns, an extremely mature animated movie, or the conclusion to an epic gangster series, there have only ever been seven sequels that have been nominated for Best Picture. However, of those seven, there were actually two sequels that achieved the seemingly impossible and won the Oscar.
The Bells of St. Mary’s follows a priest and a nun set aside their differences to try and save their school from closing down. It’s an uplifting and heartfelt movie, which were so popular at the time following The Great Depression. What makes it a sequel is that Bing Crosby had also played Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way the previous year.
Going My Way had won the Best Picture award, and Bing Crosby even won Best Actor too, and it was looking like The Bells of St. Mary’s was going to clean up at the ceremony as well. However, it lost to the Billy Wilder directed noir drama, The Lost Weekend.
At the time of its release, The Godfather Part III was looked at as just as prestigious as the first two movies. The epilogue to Michael’s story arc was so acclaimed that it was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. But it didn’t take long for the hyperbolic cloud to dissipate and fans and critics realized it was the lesser entry in the series, as the movie didn’t win a single one of the awards it was nominated for. It’s hardly surprising, as it’s the worst kept secret that everyone involved in the movie, especially director Francis Ford Coppola and Al Pacino, only made the movie for the money.
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However, though it isn’t a great Godfather movie - as it goes against the whole point of the first two films by redeeming Michael’s actions - it’s still a very good movie. And whether Part III was nominated because of how adored the series is or because fans and critics wanted to believe it was great, the recent changes to The Godfather Part III have made the movie a lot better than the first cut back in 1991.
Looking back on at 75th Academy Awards, the ceremony in which The Two Towers was nominated, it probably should have won. The musical-comedy Chicago won over the fantasy sequel, and as more time passes, one is clearly remembered much more than the other. However, it could even be that the Academy held off voting for it because they knew that the closing chapter of the trilogy would be released the following year, and that it would be such a better and more epic movie.
But it could also be that, though the movie is just as good as The Fellowship of the Ring, there’s still a lot about The Two Towers that makes no sense. The former is most likely true, as the thing that The Two Towers does best is build momentum, and it got even more fans invested in the series for the epic finale that would follow.
4 Nominated: Toy Story 3 (2010)
At the Academy Awards, the Best Animated Feature category has a lot in common with the Best Foreign Film category. Movies that fall into those categories have rarely ever been nominated for Best Picture, which has often been the subject of controversy. And though Parasite set a precedent for being the first ever foreign language film to win Best Picture in 2020, an animated film is still yet to win.
If there’s any animated movie, let alone a sequel, that should have won Best Picture, it’s Toy Story 3, which was nominated in 2011. Toy Story 3 may feature the most disturbing scene in the series - when the toys are in the incinerator and have accepted their fate - but it also makes it the most mature movie in the franchise. The movie tackles the theme of mortality better than almost any mature movie aimed at adults, and it’s seen as the best sequel in the series, too.
It comes as a massive surprise that Mad Max: Fury Road was nominated for Best Picture, and director George Miller was probably just happy to be nominated. That isn’t because the movie didn’t deserve to win, but because it was such an outlier choice from the Academy, which tends to nominate emotional and impactful dramas.
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Fury Road is almost the polar opposite, as not only is it a sequel to a cult-action series, but there’s such little dialogue and most of the movie is one giant chase scene across the Australian desert. However, the movie was the perfect storm of so many successful elements (quite literally, as the storm in the movie is one of the most visually stunning action sequences of the past 20 years). And outside of that, it’s perfectly paced, rebuilt the whole Mad Max world, and Furiosa is Charlize Theron’s best role.
2 Won: The Godfather Part II (1974)
Just like with The Godfather Part III, the anticipation for The Godfather Part II was at an all time high - only, the difference is that Part II paid off big time. Just like the first movie in the series did, Part II won the Oscar for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and it was so well deserved.
The movie is considered the greatest sequel of all time, and rightly so, as Part II ups the scope and production value of the first, and above all else, serves as a prequel to The Godfather as well as a sequel. Part II didn’t just take home the award for Best Picture either, as it won four other awards too, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (for Robert De Niro) and Best Screenplay.
There was so much anticipation for The Return of the King, and it unsurprisingly captured all the magic of the first two movies and more. Though it’s a little on the long side - and Peter Jackson even released a longer cut that almost reached four hours - it’s arguably the best closing chapter to a movie trilogy ever.
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It’s extremely hard for movies to satisfyingly wrap up the story arc of every character when there are so many of them, but Return of the King pulls off exactly that. The third film in the Lord of the Rings series is often seen as the best fantasy movie of all time, as it perfectly balances action, exposition, and incredible establishing shots of New Zealand, even if there are a few too many.
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