The American Film Institute(AFI) announced its 10 best films of 2003 today (Dec 14), unveiling a heavilydramatic roster of mainstream and independent titles that is also distinguishedby several notable omissions.

After deliberating for twodays the 13-person jury comprising academics, critics and trustees named thefollowing titles: American Splendor, Finding Nemo, The Human Stain, InAmerica, The Last Samurai, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, LostIn Translation, Master And Commander, Monster and Mystic River.

The list bolsters the awardsseason credibility of titles like Mystic River, which was recently voted film of the year by theNational Board of Review, and In America and American Splendor,which both picked up a handful of IFP Independent Spirit Award nominations.

However several highlyregarded titles that are expected to win awards this season were missing fromthe list, principally Cold Mountain, Seabiscuit and 21 Grams.

The AFI will publish therationale behind its decisions tomorrow, along with a list of what jurorsregarded as the most significant moments of the film year.

"Narrative story-telling isvery strong in America," Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI director and chiefexecutive officer, told Screendaily. "It's cyclical and we are very struck bythe fact that the beginning and end of centuries brings a lot of difficulties.

"Our artists are the oneswho have to explain these phenomena to us. This list speaks to us of the humancondition and how we treat each other and how we deal with moral questions."

Now in its fourth year, theAFI Awards recognise the ensemble contribution of a film's cast and crew.Honorees will receive their awards at a lunch ceremony on Jan 22 in LosAngeles.