Barbie tries to stop two Kens from fighting in the Barbie movie.

The Case for and Against ‘Barbie’s Best Picture Campaign

She's Oscar Winner Barbie!

It’s no secret that Barbie is the box office queen of 2023, and rightfully so. The film was critically acclaimed, beloved by audiences, and (as of this moment) has grossed a whopping $1.4 billion worldwide. And while the film may have had a bit of help thanks to the Barbenheimer phenomenon, there’s no denying the sincere love that was poured into Barbie, nor the value of the film’s message that so many of us left the theater with.

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But Barbie‘s successful run might not be limited to the dollars it brought in and the impact it left on its viewers; indeed, Barbie looks all but ready to gun for Oscars glory as well. Best Original Screenplay, Best Song, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Actress are the most likely targets on the table for the fantasy feature. Best Production Design and Best Costume Design are all but guaranteed.

But, according to director Scott Derrickson (The Black Phone, Doctor Strange) in a recent interview with The Playlist, Barbie is destined for Best Picture as well. An arguably weighty claim on the surface, but it bears remembering that the Academy nominated Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick over Till and The Woman King last year. They also picked Everything Everywhere All at Once as the winner over The Fabelmans and Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, so who’s to say how any real or imagined (but always chaotic) Oscars rules might stack up for or against Barbie?

It’s anyone’s guess what will unfold, but the question remains: Does Barbie have the chops as a Best Picture favorite?

Now, nominations have yet to be cast, but the climate is certainly pointing toward Barbie popping up on the shortlist, and for good reason. When you strip away the set dressing and the delectably incisive way that Greta Gerwig crafted the film’s ethos, Barbie at its barest isn’t terribly different from the Best Picture-nominated Women Talking. Both concern an all-female collective that grapples with feminism, injustice, and their relationship with their male counterparts. And both films were made by acclaimed women writer-directors, with Polley taking home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Couple that with Promising Young Woman‘s presence at the 93rd Academy Awards (where Emerald Fennell won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), and one might conclude that the Academy is at least starting to listen to the types of stories that Barbie champions. Furthermore, when that story and ethos are rendered as uniquely, engagingly, and expertly as Barbie was, the case is clear.

A significantly more empty point in favor of Barbie is the fact that its ardent fanbase would almost certainly result in higher viewership numbers for the awards show broadcast. Barbenheimer 2: Best Picture Boogaloo, anyone? Awarding Best Picture to Barbie just might be the dubiously sincere dopamine spike that some of those extra viewers would need to keep tuning in to future ceremonies. Am I building this suggestion on the back of poor faith in Academy ethics? Or possibly a twisted sense of just how intensely we respond to things on a psychological level? Yeah, probably, but I’d rather not leave a single base uncovered.

To compound a long-since covered base, though, Barbie is simply an excellent movie on almost every level. From the casting to the cinematography to the brilliant script from Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, (not to mention the cultural significance of its subject matter), every facet of the film was executed magnificently. Indeed, the case for Barbie possibly painting the ceremony pink with a Best Picture win is certainly there.

As for why it isn’t there, it’s the same reason why any Best Picture nominee could arguably be undeserving of the award. The competition might just simply be too fierce. And, as great as Barbie is, that could very well be the fatal obstacle here.

Again, we don’t know who’s nominated just yet, and most of the predicted nominees haven’t even been released. But the same signs that are pointing to Barbie‘s presence on the shortlist are also pointing towards the likes of Oppenheimer, American Fiction, and Killers of the Flower Moon. Plus, there are other contenders such as Poor Things, Maestro, Past Lives, The Holdovers, and The Bikeriders which could stake their claim in the category.

Indeed, Barbie‘s biggest competition may very well be Oppenheimer. Christopher Nolan effectively redefined the biopic with the film, and while both movies boast some excellent performances, the stakes of Oppenheimer make for a more impactful impression. To say nothing of the impossibly heavy ethos of the film.

Meanwhile, Killers of the Flower Moon has the other contenders beat in the realm of cultural significance. It wouldn’t be the only leg up that Martin Scorsese’s latest would have on Barbie either, with Lily Gladstone looking all but uncontestable in the realm of Best Actress.

As for American Fiction, I’ll admit I know nothing about it outside of its impressive cast and a loose grasp of the premise. But given the extreme Best Picture buzz it’s been getting as a satirical dramedy, the genre overlap with Barbie just might see Gerwig’s film be considered second best in that particular department.

But, once again, we don’t even know the nominees yet, and there’s no telling what awards season shenanigans could go down from now until that fateful envelope is opened. We’ll just have to watch with bated breath as Barbie‘s Oscars campaign begins to develop. Whether or not Gerwig and company end up lifting that statuette, Barbie‘s accomplishments will no doubt remain one of the highlights of cinema this decade.

(featured image: Warner Bros. Pictures)


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Author
Charlotte Simmons
Charlotte is a freelance writer at The Mary Sue and We Got This Covered. She's been writing professionally since 2018 (a year before she completed her English and Journalism degrees at St. Thomas University), and is likely to exert herself if given the chance to write about film or video games.