All of the Top 10 lists that have been released up until now have made one brash assumption: that late-in-the-year contender Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which didn’t screen for critical audiences until early this week, wouldn’t be one of the year’s best films. But The Force Awakens is on the cusp of becoming public knowledge with the earliest theatrical screenings taking place this evening. And as the Top 10 lists continue rolling out, the latest installment in the timeless sci-fi franchise has gotten in the game. The American Film Institute has refrained from publishing its list until today, and while we would never suggest that the populist-leaning critical body would deliberately hold their rulings until they could include The Force Awakens, we will note that there it is, on the list.
The full, unranked list has been reproduced below, but if you were to boil their selections down to one identifiable pattern, it would be a commitment to balancing crowd-pleasing popularity with respectable artistic merit. The latest Star Wars is joined by Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton, The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Bridge Of Spies, all of which generated robust box-office intake while making fans out of non-believers and winning over critics. They’re uniquely crafted successes on a blockbuster scale, wins that the major studios backing them can proudly put their name on.
The rest of the list was rounded out by the usual suspects, films that have solidified into staples of any popular list decreeing the year’s best. Room, check, Carol, check, Spotlight, check. There were more surprises in the parallel list of the year’s best TV programs that AFI also runs, where they straightened up and paid attention to some promising freshman programs such as Mr. Robot, UnReal and Aziz Ansari’s Netflix program Master Of None. Otherwise, they mostly played it safe with universally loved programs The Americans, Game Of Thrones, and Empire. Read on for the full list: