Given how close the Oscar race for Best Picture was in 2018, it got somewhat lost in the conversation how rare it is for a genre movie to win. “The Shape of Water” took the top prize despite featuring an unconventional romance between a woman (Sally Hawkins) and a mysterious fish creature (Doug Jones). But which genre is it exactly? The film defies easy categorization, but most of the readers we polled said it’s a fantasy film, not sci-fi. Either way it’s an almost unheard-of achievement. Scroll down for our complete poll results at the bottom of this post.
Only 16% of respondents think “The Shape of Water” is strictly sci-fi. That would make it the first science-fiction film ever to win the top Oscar after years of overlooked classics like “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” (1982) and “Gravity” (2013). Far more of our readers (48%) think the film is a fantasy, which would still be historic because that would make it the second such winner. The only other fantasy film that has ever won Best Picture was “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003). But 33% think the film is both sci-fi and fantasy with its science-lab setting and creature with magical powers. And the last 3% of readers think it’s neither sci-fi nor fantasy. Fairy tale perhaps? Fable? Allegory?
So how can we know exactly what kind of history the film made? Genres are subjective, especially from a director like Guillermo Del Toro whose previous films have ranged from “Pan’s Labyrinth” to “Pacific Rim.” So while it may be impossible to definitively determine whether it’s strictly sci-fi, fantasy, or something else entirely, it has nevertheless opened the door for a more clear-cut sci-fi film to prevail in the future — “Black Panther,” maybe?