AFI AWARDS 2016 – American Film Institute

AFI Awards

Honoring a year of excellence.


AFI AWARDS celebrate the year’s most outstanding achievements in the art of the moving image — with 10 films and 10 television programs deemed culturally and artistically significant.

This year, AFI also recognizes O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA with an AFI Special Award.



signals cinema’s unique ability to bend time, space and the mind. Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral celebration of communication — fueled by Eric Heisserer’s monumental script – is grounded in unstoppable emotion. As the fearless few who step forward for first contact, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker prove the imperative for finding a means to connect — with awe-inspiring aliens, nations in our global community and the knowledge that even the inevitable loss that lies ahead is worth living.


towers among the essential tales of America. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis’ thundering performances infuse lightning into the words of August Wilson’s iconic stage play, sparking emotion to leap from the screen and live in the heart. Washington’s sure direction adds layers of cinematic nuance to embrace a family that stands tall and together in a world demanding happiness and hardship be earned, not asked for — and responsibility resonate in the struggle to “take the crookeds with the straights.”


explodes the conceit of heroism in this epic American war movie with hope at its beating heart. Mel Gibson commands an army of artists in this true tale of World War II combat medic Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector whose weapon of choice was faith. Andrew Garfield’s wondrous resolve is a bright light amidst the unforgiving imagery of the battle scenes — a dance macabre choreographed to plant the seeds of humanity with each living soldier who descends from the heavens – and the hell of Hacksaw Ridge.


holds up the classic American western to new heights. From a lean, mean script by Taylor Sheridan, David Mackenzie directs this cowboy crime story for a new generation — one that lives in debt to the economic collapse of modern times. Embodying the dusty desperation of men with nothing left to lose, Chris Pine and Ben Foster are brilliant as brothers seeking justice at any expense, as Jeff Bridges’ weathered lawman defends the order — and the disorder of moral ambiguity.


reaches for the Hollywood heavens like a rainbow — glowing incandescent with color, song and dance, and infectious energy that channels a time gone by to inspire today. Damien Chazelle’s valentine to “the ones who dream” beats to the music of Justin Hurwitz and leaps to the stars through the triple-threat talents of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. As it takes a final bow after an emotional encore, the film is an ode to all storytellers — and a timely toast to the art they create.


ebbs and flows in silence to unleash a vast ocean of loss, grief and regret. This powerful tale of a life lived in flashback etches Kenneth Lonergan’s name in stone alongside the great American auteurs, and achingly nuanced performances from Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams embody deep humanity and warm hearts that yearn to blossom even in the most frigid of life’s ill winds.


illuminates the peerless power of cinema to inspire empathy for others and embrace a greater understanding of ourselves. Barry Jenkins’ poetic tour de force presents a deeply emotional triptych — the journey of boy to man searching for connection amidst the labyrinth of societal boundaries. An extraordinary ensemble lights the way in this sublime realization of a world where the question “Who is you?” echoes in the pain of dreams deferred and the strength of an inner truth.


reigns as a booming testament to the passion of an American master. Martin Scorsese’s eternal search for a light that guides began on the mean streets of New York and continues deep into the jungles of 17th-Century Japan — where interpretations of the divine catalyze mortal conflict. The journey is illuminated by soulful performances from Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson as they test their faith in what lies beyond and demand answers that resonate today.


soars into the cinematic history of heroism — demanding attention be paid not only for the actions of Captain Chesley Sullenberger, but for the strength to defend decisions made under inhuman pressure. Two American treasures bring this film to flight — Clint Eastwood guides the breathless story to its miraculous landing with the sure hand of a master craftsman, and Tom Hanks’ effortless embodiment of valor stands tall as a testament to his endlessly inspiring talents.


illustrates a tale for our times — and for all time. This animated exploration of atavism is presented with cuddly characters in confectionary colors, but laced with savage insights into issues of race and class. Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore paint a rich canvas with rapid-fire comedy and heart-pounding action in a masterful balance between family entertainment and the darkness beneath the American ideal “where anyone can be anything.”



bleeds with empathy for idealism on both sides of the wall, tapping into an unsettling common humanity with the enemy next door. Joe Weisberg’s taut thriller has set the table with secrets now shared, and in its fourth year serves up just desserts — including increasingly deadly decisions driven by the compromised loyalties of Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys’ Soviet spies and Holly Taylor as their all-American daughter.


pulses with music, comedy and drama — masterfully mixed and managed with the assured voice of an auteur. Creator and star Donald Glover lays down the laughs with shock and awe to present a universal story of artistic ambition rooted in raw realism, social urgency and a perspective utterly unique.


rises to new heights in its second year, if only to illustrate how far its unscrupulous hero can fail, fall and fly again. Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould heap endless trials upon Bob Odenkirk’s colorful hustler as he wiles his way through clashes with friends, foes and an electric sibling rivalry that proves against the allure of a con, he just can’t help himself.


sparkles with epic ambition and emotional nuance. Peter Morgan’s pristine production crowns this mannered majesty in a tale of divine right — particularly through Claire Foy’s poised performance as Elizabeth, and John Lithgow’s portrayal of Winston Churchill as an aging lion clinging to power with a shrewd devotion to the young monarch.


rises from scorched earth and takes to wing toward resurrection, redemption and retribution. Having planted the seeds of Shakespearean tragedy on a scale rarely envisioned in the medium, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss unleash unholy vengeance across the map — delivering vicious ends for those deserving, and glimmers of dark hope even against lengthening shadows of encroaching winter.


shines a stark light on a complex case against a young Muslim man charged with murder — proving that truth may be incidental in the darkness of a system that consumes and corrupts. The revelations of Richard Price and Steven Zaillian’s provocative series are illuminated by the wrenching, realistic performances from Riz Ahmed and John Turturro — and, ultimately cast a harsh shadow upon racial prejudice, institutional perversion and criminal injustice.


witnesses the trial of the century as a searing insight into our cultural obsession with celebrity schadenfreude. With an outcome already widely watched around the world, Ryan Murphy serves up surprises amidst the spectacle of this gripping legal theater — aided and abetted by a murderers’ row of all-star talent, including Sterling K. Brown, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Sarah Paulson, John Travolta and Courtney B. Vance. The verdict is in: this show is a killer.


unearths a monster built from nightmarish nostalgia — and reveals horrors wholly original. As the series’ dungeon masters, the Duffer Brothers turn genre upside down with this homage to the 1980s inhabited by icons of the era — including a masterful, maternal turn by Winona Ryder. At the heart of this heart-pounding mystery, however, is the marvelous motley crew of misfit kids and the indelible arrival of Eleven — played by Millie Bobby Brown.


blossoms with uncynical sentiment to celebrate the emotional complexity of a true modern family. Interwoven with warmth, humor and heartbreak by an ensemble that includes Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore and Sterling K. Brown, Dan Fogelman’s big-hearted series jumps through time to explore the infinite — and the universal — catalyzing causes and effects that illustrate the power of storytelling to unite a global audience as if we all share the same birthday.


proves the power of comedy to parody — and even predict — an American political system in pieces. This consistently incisive satire inspires laughter amidst the horror on both sides of the aisle — remaining urgently relevant and utterly essential to unite a nation in the common belief that America is stronger in stitches. Hail to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the leader of a free world of wonderful talent who never fail to find the funny in the halls of perceived power.



is an epic indictment of a nation’s ideals and a dark reflection of its shattered soul. Ezra Edelman’s gripping retelling of infamous events bounds beyond a masterpiece of investigative journalism and scores as a cataclysmic cultural confession. In the spotlight are America’s lethal fascinations with power and the cult of personality as well our crippling inability to intellectualize, articulate and act upon the imperative issues of race and justice for all.