AFI’s annual best-of list has formally kickstarted this year’s extended awards season — and, perhaps, previewed the Oscars’ Best Picture race.
The American Film Institute — whose jury this year included Debbie Allen, Cynthia Erivo, Rian Johnson and Lulu Wang, among others — has unveiled its 10 best movies of 2020. Indicative of the year that was, the list is heavy on titles from Netflix, with additional streaming offerings via Amazon Studios, Disney+ and HBO Max.
“All of the honored works advance the art of the moving image, inspire audiences and artists alike, enhance the rich cultural heritage of America’s art form and make a mark on American society,” reads the press release. “When placed in an historical context, these stories provide a complex and rich visual record of our modern world.”
Here is this year’s list:
AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR
Da 5 Bloods
Judas and the Black Messiah
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
One Night in Miami
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7
So, what does this tell us about the Academy Awards? AFI’s list is considered one of the more reliable harbingers of a Best Picture nomination in a regular year, but in an unprecedented year like the one we’re having, it’s at the very least a bit of good press when all support is welcomes.
Films like Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland and Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, as well as Mank, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night in Miami and The Trial of the Chicago 7, were early favorites, so it’s no surprise they’ve popped up here. Judas and the Black Messiah and Sound of Metal, meanwhile, get a welcomed boost, while Soul‘s inclusion is cause to wonder whether it can pull off the rare feat of breaking out of the animation field and into Best Picture.
As for the films that didn’t make AFI’s cut, we can’t help but notice the omission of titles like The Father, News of the World and Promising Young Woman. Which doesn’t mean they’re out of the running, by any means.
AFI rarely, if ever, lines up with the Academy 10 for 10, especially since the Academy can nominate anywhere between five and 10 films. Last year, AFI landed on seven eventual Best Picture nominees and awarded a special award to eventual Best Picture winner Parasite.
In addition to the above films, AFI picked its top 10 TV series of 2020, below, and announced an AFI Special Award for Hamilton, a work “outside the Institute’s criteria for American film and television.”
AFI TELEVISION PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR
Better Call Saul
The Good Lord Bird
The Queen’s Gambit
The AFI Awards will air a virtual benediction on Feb. 26 on YouTube and AFI.com.
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