The AFI Awards top ten list for 2021 is out, and it’s chock-full of films from big-name directors.
All of Steven Spielberg’s, Guillermo del Toro’s, Denis Villeneuve’s, Paul Thomas Anderson’s, Jane Campion’s, Joel Coen’s, and Adam McKay’s films made the cut. Lin-Manuel Miranda, another well-known figure, appeared on the list with his debut directing credit, tick,tock…BOOM! Add in Ken Branagh, whose film Belfast is receiving special recognition.
The AFI jury, on the other hand, was clearly pleased by filmmakers who had won or been nominated for Oscars several times. Films by lesser-known directors such as Sian Heder’s CODA and Reinaldo Marcus Greene’s King Richard join Spielberg’s West Side Story, Coen’s The Tragedy Of Macbeth (representing a rare solo turn without brother Ethan), Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, Campion’s The Power of the Dog, McKay’s Don’t Look Up, and Villeneuve’s Dune.
The complete list is below, along with links to each film’s Deadline review. The AFI’s top ten television shows can be found here. The awards will be presented at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles on January 7 during a private reception for the AFI Awards.
All of these films are recent fall/winter releases, with the highest crop of December titles in recent memory for a list that covers movies launching in a limited timeframe of 10 months (March 1-December 31, 2021) due to the pandemic and previous year’s prolonged batch spanning 14 months.
Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, another well tipped Oscar contender, did not make the formal list of ten films owing to ineligibility due to its foreign roots (the AFI only accepts American productions), but will receive an AFI Special Award to make up for that very conspicuous omission at first appearance. Summer Of Soul, a critically acclaimed documentary from Searchlight, also earns a Special Award in the film category.
Two films by another renowned director, Ridley Scott, were passed over by the AFI, and his House of Gucci and The Last Duel are among the top Oscar contenders that did not make the cut. Being The Ricardos by Aaron Sorkin, George Clooney’s The Tender Bar, Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter, Mike Mills’ C’mon C’mon, and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch are also absent.
The AFI Awards acknowledge ten exceptional films and television series that are culturally and aesthetically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the moving picture.
“AFI is proud to salute the most exceptional screen tales of 2021, as well as those who collaborated to bring them to screens large and small,” stated AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale. “These are the stories that have bonded us in uncertain times and continue to propel culture ahead, from soaring in spirit to dark and dangerous – from painful to amusing.”