Can Top Gun: Maverick Win Best Picture At This Year's Oscars?

Tom Cruise pumps his fist in excitement in Top Gun: Maverick.
(Image credit: Paramount)

Top Gun: Maverick is unequivocally the most successful movie of 2022. It’s not only the highest-grossing movie of the year, it’s also beloved by those who have seen it, including the critics. However, with award season on the horizon, the question now becomes this: does Top Gun: Maverick have what it takes to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards? 

Between this year’s competition for Best Picture and the history of blockbusters winning (or rather not winning) the sought-after award, the Top Gun sequel receiving the biggest award of the ceremony feels like a long shot. To elaborate on why I think this, let's break it down. 

Tom Cruise talking into the radio in an airplane during Top Gun: Maverick.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Overall Success Of Top Gun: Maverick 

Top Gun: Maverick is a rare success of a movie that was both critically acclaimed and couldn’t stop making money at the box office. As of September 2, the movie had grossed $1.4 billion globally and $692 million domestically, according to Variety, making it the highest-grossing project on the 2022 movie schedule. These numbers also made it the sixth highest-grossing movie of all time, passing Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, and eventually making more money than Titanic

On top of audiences adoring the film, critics also loved Top Gun: Maverick. Those reviewing the movie praised the high-flying action, groundbreaking special effects and camera work, as well as the heartfelt story. 

Now the film is coming back into theaters for a limited run in December. This means it will not only make even more money, but it will also continue to be culturally relevant, which is great if it’s trying to make a serious push for a Best Picture nomination and possible win. 

From left to right: Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans, Miles Teller in Top Gun: Maverick and Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once

(Image credit: Universal, Paramount and A24)

How Does Top Gun: Maverick Compare To This Year’s Competition? 

To get right into it, based on current predictions, according to Variety and EW, Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical film The Fabelmans is the frontrunner for Best Picture. It won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and previous winners of that award have gone on to win Best Picture, including 2020’s Nomadland, 2018’s Green Book and 2013’s 12 Years a Slave

Not to mention, this movie will likely end up being nominated in both performance and technical categories, I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s the most nominated movie of the year. The film is a shoo-in for a Best Director nod and possibly win for Steven Spielberg, as well as a nomination and possible win for Best Original Screenplay for Spielberg and Tony Kushner. Along with a John Williams score, and gorgeous cinematography from Janusz Kaminski the film is bound to be an award-season favorite in most categories. 

Other sure-fire nominees likely are The Banshees of Inisherin, Tár, and Everything Everywhere All at Once. All three of these movies are likely guaranteed acting nominations this year based on performances by Colin Farrell in Banshees, Cate Blanchett in Tár, as well as Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere

Tom Cruise seems like the only chance for Top Gun in the acting categories, and even then he’s on the bubble. There are a lot of other actors the Academy will likely prioritize from films that might not get a Best Picture nod, like Brendan Fraser in The Whale, Bill Nighy in Living, and Hugh Jackman in The Son

Where I find myself really skeptical about Top Gun’s chances is the idea of more than one massive box office success getting a Best Picture nod. Both Everything Everywhere All at Once and Top Gun: Maverick performed well at the box office. The A24 film became the highest-grossing film from the production company, and the high-flying sequel is the highest-grossing movie of the year. To see two massive movies in the Best Picture race feels unusual, and I don’t know if it's possible for either to win, based on the history of blockbusters and the Oscars. 

From left to right: Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road, Zoe Saldana in Avatar and Timothee Chalamet in Dune.

(Image credit: Warner Bros and 20th Century Studios)

How Blockbusters Have Historically Held Up In The Best Picture Race

I think the thing that makes me the most skeptical about Top Gun: Maverick’s chances of winning Best Picture is the history of blockbusters at the Oscars. The list of blockbuster films that have been nominated is small, and the list of those that have won Best Picture is even shorter (Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Titanic are really the only massive films to win). Not to mention there is a slew of films that never got nominated in the first place. 

Let’s start with films that didn't get a nod for Best Picture. It might surprise you to find out that box office hits that were also critically acclaimed, like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, last year’s hit Spider-Man: No Way Home and all of the Harry Potter films, were never nominated for the big award. However, unlike all these movies, I do think Maverick will receive a nomination for the biggest award of the evening. 

The category I think Top Gun: Maverick will fall into is blockbusters that received many nominations, including Best Picture, but didn’t win. This list includes the first two Lord of the Rings movies, the MCU’s only Best Picture nomination Black Panther and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. The films Top Gun: Maverick will likely have the most in common with are Best Picture nominees Dune, Avatar and Mad Max: Fury Road

Dune had ten nominations and six wins, Avatar had nine nominations and three wins, and Mad Max had ten nominations and six wins. I think it’s highly likely we'll see Top Gun win quite a few of the technical categories, like these three movies did, but fall short of the big prize. 

Jay Ellis, Monica Barbaro and Danny Ramirez in Top Gun: Maverick

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Oscar Nominations Top Gun: Maverick Will Almost Certainly Get 

While Top Gun: Maverick will likely not get nominated for any of the acting categories, and I doubt it will get a directing nod -- Denis Villeneuve being snubbed last year for Dune gives me little hope for Joseph Kosinski -- what the movie will almost certainly get is technical nominations. 

The one place blockbusters truly shine at the Academy Awards is in the technical categories. I’d place my money on this movie nabbing nominations and maybe even winning in categories like cinematography, production design, sound, editing, visual effects, and possibly score as well as original song for Lady Gaga’s power ballad “Hold My Hand.” 

So while Top Gun: Maverick may not get any of the mainstream nominations, don’t count this movie out. I think it’s safe to say it will be present at the award ceremony this year for its groundbreaking technical work. 

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Can Top Gun: Maverick Actually Win Best Picture?  

In short, no, I personally don’t think it can. Historically, blockbusters have a hard time even getting nominated for Best Picture, and when it comes to winning the odds are even slimmer. 

However, you never know what could happen as we get into awards season. If you would have asked me at this time last year who I thought would win CODA would not have even been on my shortlist. While I may be a bit pessimistic about Top Gun: Maverick’s chances, anything can happen. This film might flip awards season on its head, and fly its way to winning the biggest award of the year. 

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is a Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She spent many years working in local journalism across the country writing about art, news and sports. One of her favorite films is When Harry Met Sally and she walks around constantly quoting Ted Lasso.