After months of worrying whether or not Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens could live up to the hype, fans are relieved to see that the film has been garnering universally positive reviews (read ours). The consensus seems to be that even though the movie has some flaws, it’s the return to form many had hoped for and sets the stage for an exciting future.

Star Wars 7 is the latest in a long line of 2015 blockbusters that have become outright critical darlings, joining the ranks of Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Outand The Martian. Now, that foursome of populist entertainment share a notable distinction with each other. They’ve all been named to the American Film Institute’s 10 best films of the year list.

The organization revealed their selections for the 10 best movies and television programs of the year today, honoring a diverse range of projects on the big and small screens. While several of the films have been popping up in the various Oscar precursors (see: Carol, The Big Shortand Room), this marks the first time Star Wars 7 has cracked an awards list. But there’s a good reason why it’s been “snubbed” by the other circles so far.

Disney opted to not send out early screeners of The Force Awakens to critics groups in an effort to avoid spoilers getting out ahead of its theatrical debut. The first time awards voters could see the finished film was at the world premiere that took place on December 14, 2015. The AFI even pushed back the unveiling of their annual list by a week so they could account for the new Star Wars when voting. It turns out they were wise to do that, as the movie apparently left a substantial impression on the group’s jury.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Han Solo Chewbacca Star Wars 7 Makes AFIs 10 Best Movies of 2015 List

Now, this doesn’t mean fans of the galaxy far, far away should get visions of J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy receiving Best Picture Oscars in February. While awards organizations tend to have some overlap, each is defined by their own preferences. Last year’s AFI films list saw the likes of Interstellar, Nightcrawler, and Unbroken, none of which contended for the Academy’s top prize. In fact, the AFI tends to be more inviting towards commercial fare than others; in 2008, they honored Iron Man and The Dark Knight. This is a boost for Star Wars‘ awards profile, but major Oscar nods are far from a lock at this point.

The AFI somewhat curiously passed over The Revenant and The Hateful Eight, both of which have had strong showings with the National Board of Review and Golden Globes. It goes to show that there is no rhyme or reason to this year’s awards season. Several of the races are up in the air, and Spotlight appears to be the only sure thing. That kind of unpredictability is welcomed, however, since it makes following the whole process a little more interesting. Perhaps the mystery of the unknown will bring in more viewers for this year’s Oscars ceremony telecast.

Here are the full lists of the AFI 2015 honorees:

MOVIES OF THE YEAR

THE BIG SHORT
BRIDGE OF SPIES
CAROL
INSIDE OUT
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
THE MARTIAN
ROOM
SPOTLIGHT
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

TV PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR

THE AMERICANS
BETTER CALL SAUL
BLACK-ISH
EMPIRE
FARGO
GAME OF THRONES
HOMELAND
MASTER OF NONE
MR. ROBOT
UNREAL

AFI SPECIAL AWARD

MAD MEN

NEXT: Star Wars 7 Makes $100 Million in Pre-Orders

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.

Source: American Film Institute

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