‘Joker’ Is the First Comic Book Film to Win a Major Festival Award. Will the Oscars Be Next?

Closing ceremony, 76th Venice Film Festival, Italy - 07 Sep 2019 Todd Phillips (R) holds the Golden Lion award for the movie 'Joker' next to Joaquin Phoenix (L), Joker poster
 Warner Bros. / Joker, Mirco Toniolo/AGF/Shutterstock

The new Joker film from director Todd Phillips and star Joaquin Phoenix might end up with the last laugh this awards season. After premiering in competition at the Venice Film Festival, Joker took home the prestigious Golden Lion award, the highest prize that’s given out at the long-running Italian film festival.

The award marks the first time that a comic book film has won a major award at a film festival, and could be a sign that Joker has the chance to make some noise during awards season. The film premiered to very strong reviews, with an 86 percent score at Rotten Tomatoes and high-praise from critics for Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck, the man who becomes the Joker in the film.

“There is no movie without Joaquin Phoenix, the fiercest and bravest and most open-minded lion that I know,” Mr. Phillips said in his acceptance speech, The New York Times reports. Phillips, who has previously directed the Hangover trilogy and Old School, also thanked both Warner Bros. and DC Comics for “stepping out of their comfort zone” and “taking such a bold swing on me and this movie.”

While a Golden Lion win at the Venice Film Festival doesn’t guarantee that Joker will win—or even be nominated—for any Academy Awards, recent past winners have gone on to win Oscars. In 2018, Golden Lion winner Roma from director Alfonso Cuarón went on to win Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, while the 2017 winner, The Shape of Water from director Guillermo Del Toro, went on to win Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score.

The win is also another major sign that comic book films are being taken more seriously by critics. At the 91st Academy Awards, Black Panther was nominated for Best Picture and won awards for Best Original Score, Best Production Design, and Best Sound Design. The nomination for Best Picture marked the first time a comic book film was nominated in that category.

After strong reviews out of Venice, if Joker has the same response from audiences when it is released, it could also be in the running for nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor for Phoenix, among other awards.

Joker will be released on October 4.