Steven Spielberg Says The Dark Knight 'Should Have Been Nominated' for Best Picture Oscar

Steven Spielberg, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Steven Spielberg, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight

JB Lacroix/WireImage; Moviestore/Shutterstock

Steven Spielberg is "really encouraged" that big blockbusters Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water earned Best Picture nominations this year — but there's one recent hit he still wishes received a nod.

"I'm really encouraged by that," the director, 76, told Deadline in an interview after Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, regarding the Top Gun and Avatar sequels' inclusion in the category.

"It came late for the film that should have been nominated a number of years ago, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight," Spielberg continued.

The Fabelmans filmmaker explained that The Dark Knight — director Nolan's second in his Batman trilogy and the highest-grossing film of 2008, per BoxOfficeMojo — "would have definitely garnered a Best Picture nomination today" after the Academy committed to nominating a full 10 movies for its most-lauded prize each year in June 2020.

"So having these two blockbusters solidly presented on the top 10 list is something we should all be celebrating," Spielberg added.

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The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight

Warner Bros/DC Comics/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock The Dark Knight

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While actor Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight at the 81st Academy Awards, the comic book movie was shut out from the Best Picture conversation, though it received eight total nominations. Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture that year, and The Dark Knight also won Best Sound Editing.

After that year's ceremony, the Academy moved to change the number of possible Best Picture nominees each year from five to anywhere between five and 10 films, chosen via a preferential ballot, according to IndieWire.

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Elsewhere in Spielberg's conversation with Deadline, the director expressed a certain amount of optimism for the future of adult drama movies and theatrical releases.

"I think the pandemic really encouraged a lot of audiences, not just middle-aged audiences, but younger, to stay at home and watch on the medium screens in their houses," he said.

"We have a social need to be together in the world, I don't think that will be stopped by a pandemic," Spielberg added. "It can be frustrated by the pandemic, but eventually we'll see more adult films doing decent numbers in movie theaters."

The Fabelmans received seven Oscar nominations Tuesday, including Spielberg's first career nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Jimmy Kimmel returns to host the Academy Awards for a third time on Sunday, March 12, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.