In 2008, The Dark Knight grossed $158.4 million in its opening weekend, which at the time was a record. It went on to gross $533.3 million domestically, as well as $469.7 million overseas, for a whopping final cume of $1,004,558,444 billion, which is still good for #4 in all-time gross domestically; #7 worldwide. So one of the highest grossing films of all-time should surely secure, at the very least, a nomination for Best Picture, no? I mean, the classic film Gone With The Wind (which is still the highest grossing film of all-time after adjusted for inflation) and Titanic, another gigantic financial success, were both not only nominated for Best Picture, but both WON Best Picture.
The Dark Knight was NOT nominated. Well, how about Best Screenplay? Someone wrote all of those memorable lines for The Joker and someone had to create that world of Gotham and incorporate all of those post-911 themes? It was not nominated. Ok well, surely it got Nolan a Best Director nomination? I mean, as great as Heath Ledger's performance was, it's the director's job to pull out the performance consistently. He was not nominated. Weird. The only nomination (and win) was for Ledger's timeless and mesmerizing performance as The Joker. I'd say that's a travesty, don't you think?
Aside from certain technical nominations for his films (cinematography, editing, etc.), Nolan has only been nominated for an Academy Award three times: Inception was nominated for Best Picture and Best original Screenplay at the 2011 ceremony and Memento also nabbed a Screenplay nomination at the 2002 ceremony. Noticeably absent from that list, aside from a win (Memento was voted one of the 101 greatest scripts by the WGA. Number 100 to be exact.) Is a Best Director nomination, as previously mentioned.
Yet, it is widely believed that the reason the Academy expanded its Best Picture category from 5 to 10 in 2009 is because of the commercial and critical success of The Dark Knight the year before. The success and brilliance of one of Nolan's films was enough to make the sometimes rigid and always uptight Academy Of Motion Pictures And Sciences expand the Best Picture Category to give films that otherwise wouldn't be nominated, a fighting chance.
Now, I am in no way saying that The Dark Knight was worthy of winning the Oscar that year for Best Picture (No Country For Old Man is as close to a masterpiece as you can get), but it at the very least deserved a nomination. But the Academy has always shied away from action and comedy films and have never even acknowledged a comic book film as worth of nominations, the fact that an action film about a comic book character was able make enough noise (no pun intended) to shake-up a category at the Academy Awards is a win in and of itself.