AFI Awards Film Top 10: Big-Name Directors Dominate List

The 2021 AFI Awards top 10 list is out, and it’s top heavy with films from big-name directors.

Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Denis Villeneuve, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jane Campion, Joel Coen and Adam McKay all have movies that made the cut. Another boldface name, Lin-Manuel Miranda, also showed up on the list with his first directing credit, tick,tick…BOOM!

The AFI jury was clearly impressed, though, with filmmakers who either have won or been nominated for Oscars, some multiple times. 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 are joined by films form lesser-known directors including Sian Heder’s CODA, and Reinaldo Marcus Greene’s King Richard.

See the full list below, with links to Deadline’s review of each film. Click here for the AFI’s TV top 10. The trophies will be presented during the AFI Awards’ private reception January 7 at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles.

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Apart from CODA, which premiered way back at Sundance in January, all these films are recent fall/winter releases, including the largest crop of December titles in recent memory for a list that covers movies opening in a shortened window of 10 months (March 1-December 31, 2021) due to the pandemic and last year’s extended batch over 14 months.

Another much-buzzed Oscar contender, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, did not make the formal list of 10 movies due to ineligibility in terms of its foreign origins (AFI sticks to American productions) but will receive an AFI Special Award to make up for that rather glaring absence at first glance. Searchlight’s acclaimed documentary Summer Of Soul also receives a Special Award on the movie side.

The annual AFI Awards honor 10 outstanding films and TV programs deemed culturally and artistically representative of this year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image.

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“AFI is honored to shine a proper light upon the most outstanding screen stories of 2021 and those who worked collaboratively to bring them to screens large and small,” AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale said. “From soaring in spirit to dark and dangerous – from heartbreaking to hilarious – these are the stories that have united us in uncertain times and continue to drive culture forward.”

Here are the 2021 AFI Awards honorees for film; click on each to read Deadline’s review:

Don’t Look Up
King Richard
Licorice Pizza
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog
Tick, Tick… Boom!
The Tragedy of Macbeth
West Side Story

Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.

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