Barbie’s Best Picture Hopes Are Weaker Than You Might Think For 1 Unexpected Reason


  • Barbie‘s PG-13 rating may hurt its chances of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, as historically, movies with this rating have performed much worse than R-rated films in the category.
  • The imbalance of R-rated Best Picture winners suggests that the Oscars tend to favor films with mature themes and dark elements.
  • Despite the rating bias, Barbie has the qualities of a strong Best Picture contender, with its crossover appeal and the precedent of popular films winning in the past.



Given Barbie’s massive box office and rave reviews, it’s no surprise that the PG-13 movie is seeing awards chatter, but one core aspect of the film hinders its chances of winning Best Picture at the Oscars. The movie, from writer-director Greta Gerwig, is likely to finish the year as 2023’s highest-grossing title, as Barbie‘s $1.44 billion box office maintains a lead over The Super Mario Bros. Movie‘s $1.36 billion and Oppenheimer‘s $952.5 million hauls (via Box Office Mojo). Ever since the Oscars widened the top category to 10 movies in 2010, more widely popular films like Dune and Black Panther have seen nominations, thus giving Barbie strong chances of a Best Picture nomination.

Barbie’s somewhat sunny tone and massive appeal allow the film to stand out against its current Best Picture competition at the 2024 Oscars, but the blockbuster doesn’t have a clear path to the award. For instance, Oppenheimer‘s epic scale, grave subject matter, and R-rating means Barbie’s release date partner poses significant competition. What’s more, many predicted Oscars contenders, such as The Color Purple and Poor Things, have yet to be released. Yet, one of the greatest obstacles to Barbie’s Best Picture win isn’t a competing title, but a label which has made similar films see disproportionate Oscars losses.


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Barbie’s PG-13 Rating Hurts Its Chances Of Winning Best Picture: Oscars History Explained

While Barbie’s massive critical success makes the film a likely Best Picture contender, the commercial accessibility of the film may have actually hurt its Oscar chances. Barbie’s PG-13 rating helped the movie pull in more audiences at the box office, but historically, the label has performed poorly at the Oscars. In the last 20 years, only five PG-13 movies have won the Best Picture Oscar: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Million Dollar Baby, The Artist, Green Book, and CODA. Indeed, if Barbie does take home the top prize at the Academy Awards, it will only be the 12th PG-13 movie to do so in the nearly 100-year history of the ceremony.

It bears mentioning that the PG-13 rating has only existed since 1984, but 11 is still a strikingly small figure for nearly 40 years’ worth of ceremonies. The discrepancy can, in part, be attributed to the type of films that usually go for a PG-13 rating. The label allows for violence and some mature language while still being suitable for younger viewers, making PG-13 the sweetspot for blockbuster movies seeking to cast the widest possible viewership net. Tentpole blockbusters are generally more interested in box office receipts than awards prestige, but many movies by filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Greta Gerwig, and Christopher Nolan prove that mainstream popularity and awards clean-up aren’t mutually exclusive.

56% Of Best Picture Oscar Winning Movies Are R-Rated

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer

Often, the types of films most likely to take home the Best Picture Oscar are aimed at a narrower audience. Since the R-rating was introduced in 1968, a surprising 32 Best Picture winners over the past 55 years have held the label, making the R-rating a bigger winner than every other MPAA age rating combined. The imbalance makes sense; the Academy Awards tend to favor films which speak to mature themes. Dark elements like graphic violence, drug use, and profane language, when utilized properly, can take films to a deeper thematic level and qualify them as “serious” and “prestige.” Some R-rated Oscar films merit the rating with mature and sophisticated stories, while others seem to purvey grimness for its own sake.

What’s more, studios may be more likely to pour money into the Oscars campaign for an R-rated movie, since awards buzz can help bring more box office to a film which doesn’t have the massive audience pool of a PG-13 title. Campaigning plays a major part in awards nominations, meaning Barbie’s Best Picture chances are also partially contingent on how hard Warner Bros. lobbies for the film. An Oscar would certainly be helpful for the studio’s reputation, particularly after a year plagued with controversies like the Coyote vs. Acme cancelation, but the PG-13 Barbie movie being released in the summer means awards buzz no longer significantly boosts its box office.

How Barbie Can Break The Oscars’ PG-13 Best Picture Bias

Close up of Margot Robbie as Barbie wearing pink jumpsuit and smiling

Historical trends aside, Barbie has all the merits of a strong Best Picture contender. The film has substantial crossover appeal, with its blockbuster charms bolstered by the kind of lofty political themes that the Oscars regularly reward. There’s certainly precedent for vastly popular films taking home the top statue; Barbie wouldn’t even be the highest-grossing movie ever to win, thanks to 1997’s box office smash Titanic. What’s more, two of the last five Best Picture winners were rated PG-13, and last year’s winner, Everything Everywhere All at Once, was a crowd-pleasing action-comedy. Barbie could be the film that cements the Oscars’ pivot away from their prestige R-rating bias.

Source: Box Office Mojo

  • Barbie Movie Poster


    Release Date:

    Greta Gerwig

    Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Simu Liu, Ariana Greenblatt, Helen Mirren, Nicola Coughlan, John Cena, Will Ferrell, Ritu Arya, Michael Cera, America Ferrera, Alexandra Shipp, Kate McKinnon


    114 Minutes

    Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy

    Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig

    $100 Million

    LuckyChap Entertainment, Mattel Films, Heyday Films

    Warner Bros. Pictures



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