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Streamers reign on AFI's top 10 films of the 2020-2021 season.

By Joey Nolfi
January 25, 2021 at 02:00 PM EST
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The American Film Institute's annual top 10 list has narrowed one of the most unpredictable awards seasons in history.

Widely considered one of the most reliable precursors on the Oscar trail, AFI has announced its yearly list of best movie and TV projects of the year (though eligibility extends into February 2021), cementing the awards prospects of major contenders like Chloé Zhao's Nomadland, Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods, and Disney's Soul.

Among the top 10 list are mostly streaming-based titles, with four from Netflix (Da 5 Bloods, David Fincher's Mank, George C. Wolfe's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and Aaron Sorkin's The Trial of the Chicago 7) and two from Amazon (The Riz Ahmed vehicle Sound of Metal and Regina King's One Night in Miami) landing on the list. More traditional players like Disney (Soul), A24 (Minari), Warner Bros. (Judas and the Black Messiah), and Searchlight (Nomadland) round out the set, representing a notable minority for major Hollywood studios that typically dominate the Oscar race.

Outside of the top 10, Disney+'s feature presentation of Hamilton also earned a special honor from AFI. Noticeably absent from the lineup are buzzy, critically acclaimed American productions like Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman, Paul Greengrass' News of the World, and Kelly Reichardt's First Cow.

"For 20 years, AFI Awards has been a moment to gather artists in one room with a singular goal: to create community over competition," said AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale in a statement. "This year we cannot gather but will instead celebrate each honoree by creating exclusive content to be shared with a global audience through AFI Movie Club, shining a proper light on excellence."

Comprised of filmmakers, critics, and other industry professionals, AFI is a non-profit film organization that supports American productions, meaning internationally produced Oscar contenders are ineligible to receive placement on the group's top 10 list. Still, missing out on the AFI's top 10 — due to eligibility or otherwise — doesn't always signal impending Oscars snubs. Omissions didn't stop foreign-made titles like 2011's The Artist, 2010's The King's Speech, and last year's Parasite — all of which were honored with special AFI awards — from winning Best Picture at their respective year's Academy Awards ceremony.

Traditionally, the AFI annual list usually lines up between five and eight films with the Academy's crop of Best Picture nominations since the Oscars expanded its top category's field in 2009 to include anywhere between five and 10 nominees after a preferential vote. Last year, seven movies that landed on the AFI top 10 list crossed over into the Best Picture Oscar category, including The Irishman, Joker, Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917, Marriage Story, and Little Women, while eventual Best Picture winner Parasite received a special AFI award outside the top 10, as it was produced in Korea.

This year's AFI jury included Debbie Allen, Cynthia Erivo, Rian Johnson, David Mandel, Marlee Matlin, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Wes Studi, and Lulu Wang.

The AFI Awards will be presented in a virtual ceremony on Feb. 26. See AFI's 2020-2021 selections in film and television below.

AFI's top 10 movies of 2020 (listed alphabetically):

Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee)
Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King)
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (George C. Wolfe)
Mank (David Fincher)
Minari (Lee Isaac Chung)
Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
One Night in Miami (Regina King)
Soul (Pete Docter)
Sound of Metal (Darius Marder)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Aaron Sorkin)

AFI's Top 10 TV shows of 2020 (listed alphabetically):

Better Call Saul
Bridgerton
The Crown
The Good Lord Bird
Lovecraft Country
The Mandalorian
Mrs. America
The Queen's Gambit
Ted Lasso
Unorthodox

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