Paul Thomas Anderson's Licorice Pizza and Reinaldo Marcus Green's King Richard offered up a delicious serve of awards season goodness among the National Board of Review list of the best films of 2021.
At the end of the busiest week of awards season thus far, the NBR named Licorice Pizza as the best of 2021 among its annual slate of year-end winners, which also included honors for King Richard's cast and West Side Story's leading newcomer Rachel Zegler.
Among the acting winners were Will Smith, who won Best Actor for his portrayal of the film's titular father to tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, while Zegler earned her first ever major film award for her leading turn in Steven Spielberg's critically lauded big-screen update of the Stephen Sondheim classic.
Supporting trophies went to King Richard standout Aunjanue Ellis as the tennis stars' mother, as well as Ciarán Hinds' work in Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical historical drama Belfast.
The NBR's picks join those of the Gotham Awards (which Maggie Gyllenhaal's The Lost Daughter steamrolled on Monday) and the New York Film Critics Circle, which is set to reveal its 2021 award winners throughout the day on Friday.
MGM; Chiabella James/Warner Bros.; Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios National Board of Review winners 'Licorice Pizza' for Best Film, Will Smith for Best Actor in 'King Richard,' and Rachel Zegler for Best Actress in 'West Side Story.'
Established in 1909 by theater owners fighting the revoking of exhibition licenses by New York City officials, the NBR is now comprised of film enthusiasts, academics, and other movie professionals working inside the industry. In recent years, it has evolved into a vital stepping stone (and visibility booster) on the path to potential Oscar glory for would-be contenders.
The group has boosted late-breaking projects into the race at large, like 2013's Her, 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road, and Riz Ahmed's NBR-winning performance in Sound of Metal just last year — all of which went on to generate Academy Awards heat.
Over the last 20 years, only two of the NBR's top-film winners have missed out on a Best Picture Oscar nomination: 2014's A Most Violent Year and 2020's Da 5 Bloods. Last year, NBR acting winners like Ahmed, Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman), Paul Raci (Sound of Metal), and Supporting Actress Oscar winner Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari) all made pit stops at the NBR prior to bagging Oscar attention.
See the full list of the 2021 National Board of Review winners below.
Best Film: Licorice Pizza
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson — Licorice Pizza
Best Actor: Will Smith — King Richard
Best Actress: Rachel Zegler — West Side Story
Best Supporting Actor: Ciarán Hinds — Belfast
Best Supporting Actress: Aunjanue Ellis — King Richard
Best Original Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi — A Hero
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen — The Tragedy of Macbeth
Breakthrough Performance: Alana Haim & Cooper Hoffman — Licorice Pizza
Best Directorial Debut: Michael Sarnoski — Pig
Best Animated Feature: Encanto
Best Foreign Language Film: A Hero
Best Documentary: Summer of Soul
Best Ensemble: The Harder They Fall
Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel — The Tragedy of Macbeth
NBR Freedom of Expression Award: Flee
Top Films (in alphabetical order)
Don't Look Up
The Last Duel
The Tragedy of Macbeth
West Side Story
Top 5 Foreign Language Films (in alphabetical order)
Lingui, The Sacred Bonds
The Worst Person in the World
Top 5 Documentaries (in alphabetical order)
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)
The Card Counter
The Green Knight
The Souvenir Part II
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