The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced their Top 10 Films of 2015 and it’s a list packed with mega-blockbusters more than any year in recent memory. The AFI actually held off its announcement date to ensure being able to see and consider Star Wars: The Force Awakens and sure enough, it showed up today. It sits along Inside Out, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian and Straight Outta Compton as an undeniably mainstream and populist group of choices.
THE AFI 2015 MOVIES OF THE YEAR:
Carol and Spotlight, two films that have been winning critics awards left and right made the cut, as did Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominee The Big Short. But the most interesting film on the list is Room. As this is an American list, the Irish/Canadian production seemed prime to be ineligible like many Oscar Best Picture winners and nominees have been here. Most notably, The King’s Speech and The Artist were two films deemed ‘not American enough’ in their production to qualify yet went on to win the Producers Guild of America award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture and the Oscar for Best Picture.
Curiously missing from the list is The Revenant. That seemed like an easy get (and a should have gotten) here. Also, The Hateful Eight. Although Inglourious Basterds missed here it ended up with a PGA and Oscar nom. Django Unchained hit all three. Brooklyn was not eligible so its missing isn’t surprising. It still stands a good chance for an Oscar nom. Looking at last year, only five AFI Top Films made it to Oscar’s Best Picture list of eight. That included two films ineligible for AFI, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Theory of Everything. Interstellar, Into the Woods and Nightcrawler also found themselves without an Oscar Best Picture nomination.
So what does the AFI mean in terms of Oscar? Starting in 2009, when the Oscars changed from a 5-Best Picture nominee list to 10 (and then moving to a flexible 5-10 nominees in 2011), it’s interesting to see what crosses over and what doesn’t. And of course, hindsight is 20/20 and things look clear from a distance. I’ve made charts from 2009-2014 correlating AFI, PGA and Oscar to see where and what films hit all three and what probably would have had eligibility not been an issue.
It’s very interesting that 2009 and 2014 saw the least amount of crossover. As previously mentioned, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Theory of Everything would very likely have kicked out any number of AFI’s choices last year – Into the Woods, Unbroken or Interstellar, most likely. But, the AFI does love their moneymakers Nightcrawler could have been on the chopping block.
2010 and 2012 saw a whopping 8 films hit all three. 2012 is especially impressive because that was a year in which the Oscars Best Picture could have been as low as five. I feel like we’re going to see a 2009 or 2014 year with the PGA and Oscars this year. The AFI list is just too blockbuster-heavy for AMPAS’s taste but imagine the ratings if AFI’s top 10 matched the Oscars.
There are three examples of films that hit AFI, missed PGA but made it to Oscars’ Best Picture; 2009’s A Serious Man, 2010’s Winter’s Bone and 2011’s The Tree of Life. Indies all, and from our AFI list today only Carol, Room and Spotlight would qualify there. I suppose Carol or Room could miss PGA they feel pretty safe right now.
Five films have made the AFI and PGA lists only to be stopped at the velvet rope of the Kodak/Dolby theater: 2010’s The Town, 2011’s Bridesmaids, 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks and 2014’s Nightcrawler. A wide range of films and studios there, indies, family films, adult thrillers and a blockbuster comedy.
Looking at all but two years, the trend is that the Best Picture Oscar winner hits both AFI and PGA before being crowned at the Oscars. You can bet that if The King’s Speech and The Artist had been on AFI’s list we’d be looking a very compelling statistic.
For the chart below, films in red with an asterisk (*) indicate a win.