'O.J.: Made in America' honored with the group's Special Award
ALL CROPS: Arrival / La La Land / Zootopia / Moonlight split
Credit: Jan Thijs/Paramount; Dale Robinette/Lionsgate; Disney; David Bornfriend/A24

The American Film Institute has announced its annual top 10 movies of the year, reinforcing the Oscar-bound trajectories of several movies in the awards season conversation.

This year’s usual suspects — prior critical and precursor award winners/nominees La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water, Hacksaw Ridge, Sully, and Arrival — all make the list, as do late-breaking contenders Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese, and Denzel Washington’s Fences. The most surprising inclusion, however, is Disney’s Zootopia, which finds a slot amongst nine other films on the esteemed list.

The sprawling, eight-hour ESPN documentary O.J.: Made in America, which has slowly cemented itself at the front of the Best Documentary Oscar race, earns the AFI Special Award, which has gone to Best Picture winners of years past, including The King’s Speech and The Artist.

Noticeably absent from the AFI list are Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, which has struggled to gain footing in the race overall, and Fox’s ensemble historical drama Hidden Figures, which stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe as mathematicians who aided NASA during the international Space Race throughout the 1960s.

As an Oscar bellwether, AFI’s top 10 list typically offers a sampling of what’s on the academy’s early radar, as the list is compiled by a group of journalists, AFI trustees, scholars, and industry professionals — some of whom cross over into AMPAS membership as well. AFI’s top 10 often includes titles with budding prospects that ultimately give way to late-breaking contenders (Carol and Inside Out gave way to The Revenant last year) in the race at large. Take 2011 for example: both Bridesmaids and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo earned slots on AFI’s top 10, though Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close — a surprise Best Picture nominee from Warner Bros. — claimed a spot in the academy’s lineup, though the Kristen Wiig comedy and the David Fincher thriller did not.

Since 2009, when the academy shifted the number of Best Picture slots from five to a hard ten for two consecutive years (it was again changed in 2011 to accommodate anywhere between five and ten nominees), an average of 7 films on AFI’s top 10 list has gone on to receive a Best Picture nomination. AFI came closest to fully replicating AMPAS’ nominees for the 2010 calendar year, when eventual Best Picture winner The King’s Speech did not appear on AFI’s list (the group will not honor widely-distributed english-language films if they are primarily U.K. productions), instead replaced by Ben Affleck’s The Town.

Check out AFI’s top 10 films and television shows of 2016 (in alphabetical order) below.


  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight
  • Silence
  • Sully
  • Zootopia

AFI Special Award: O.J.: Made in America


  • The Americans
  • Atlanta
  • Better Call Saul
  • The Crown
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Night Of
  • The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
  • Stranger Things
  • This Is Us
  • Veep
La La Land
  • Movie