Don Hahn

Best picture Oscar contenders often break the genre film barrier

There is a long-running misconception that members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences love only underdog biopics, literary adaptations and anything in which Meryl Streep speaks with an accent. But if you look at the list of the 500-plus movies that have received best picture nominations since the earliest awards were handed out in 1927, you'll see a surprising number of titles that stray from the straight dramatic film — comedies and genre stories that encompass fantasies, thrillers, westerns and sci-fi epics.

As Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies and author of "80 Years of the Oscar," points out, comedies and musicals such as "The Thin...