Oscar contenders King Richard, West Side Story , Dune hit big on AFI Awards winners list

·3 min read

A wealth of Hollywood films are hitting their stride on the Oscars circuit, as the American Film Institute has named the best movies of 2021 on its annual awards list.

Repeating earlier recognition from groups like the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle last week, Will Smith's King Richard, Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, and the Timotheé Chalamet–starring sci-fi epic Dune each landed a spot on the AFI Awards' top 10 list.

The trio appeared alongside other consistent contenders from the current season, including Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog, Paul Thomas Anderson's Licorice Pizza, Joel Coen's black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation The Tragedy of Macbeth, and the popular Apple TV+ drama CODA, starring Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, and Marlee Matlin.


Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Demi Singleton, Saniyya Sidney, and Will Smith in 'King Richard'

Picking up more steam on the AFI Awards' list are Guillermo del Toro's late-breaking contender Nightmare Alley, Adam McKay's ensemble apocalypse satire Don't Look Up, and the Lin-Manuel Miranda–directed Jonathan Larson musical biopic adaptation, Tick, Tick... Boom!

The AFI Awards' top 10 list typically encompasses films that go on to receive major Oscar attention. Last year, six of the Oscars' eight Best Picture nominees earned AFI Awards recognition before the Academy Awards.

On the TV side, popular comedies Hacks, Succession, The White Lotus, and Ted Lasso scored placement on the top 10 list next to dramas like Mare of Easttown and The Underground Railroad.

Though staples on the awards trail and pop culture at large, Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical drama Belfast and Netflix's Korean thriller Squid Game were ineligible for the AFI's main film and TV awards, as they were produced with international dollars. Past Best Picture contenders like Roma and Parasite also missed out on the AFI's top 10 list, but were included as special honorees during their respective years of release. This year, Questlove's Summer of Soul documentary was also recognized outside the AFI's roster of scripted films that made it to the final list.

A jury process composed of the nonprofit's trustees, artists, critics, and scholars deliberated on the 2021 AFI Awards this year, with Minari's Lee Isaac Chung, Liz Hannah, Anjelica Huston, Ed Zwick, and more determining the winners. AFI was established in 1967 as a means to work for the conservation and promotion of domestic projects.

See the 2021 AFI Movies of the Year list below, followed by the AFI Television Programs of the Year list immediately after. Stay up to date on who's winning (and losing) Hollywood's top precursor awards on EW's Oscars scoreboard here.

King Richard, West Side Story, Dune
King Richard, West Side Story, Dune

Chiabella James/Warner Bros.; Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios; Chiabella James/Warner Bros. The 2021 AFI Awards winners include 'King Richard,' 'West Side Story,' and 'Dune.'

AFI Movies of the Year (alphabetical)

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

AFI Television Programs of the Year (alphabetical)

Mare of Easttown
Reservation Dogs
Ted Lasso
The Underground Railroad
The White Lotus

AFI Special Awards

Squid Game
Summer of Soul

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring Oscars analysis, exclusive interviews, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's movies and performances.

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