Licorice Pizza


‘Licorice Pizza’

Paul Thomas Anderson was named best director and Licorice Pizza best film by National Board Of Review (NBR) on Thursday (December 2) as the group honoured a wide range of films mostly from traditional distributors.

The top two wins will help Licorice Pizza build early momentum in a fairly open season that is set to get more interesting when the New York Film Critics announce its winners tomorrow.

Rachel Zegler and Will Smith earned lead acting honours for portraying Maria in West Side Story and Richard Williams, father to tennis legends Serena and Venus, in King Richard, respectively.

Aunjanue Ellis won best supporting actress for playing Smith’s on-screen wife Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams, and Ciarán Hinds won best supporting actor for playing director Kenneth Branagh’s grandfather in Belfast.

Encanto is the NBR’s best animation, while Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero was named best foreign language film and also earned the filmmaker the best original screenplay prize. Joel Cohen took the adapted category for The Tragedy Of Macbeth, which added the best cinematography award for Bruno Delbonnel to its haul.

Questlove’s Summer Of Soul was named best documentary and in further honours for Licorice Pizza, Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman shared the breakthrough performance award. Best directorial debut went to Michael Sarnoski for Pig, while Jeymes Samuels’ The Harder They Fall claimed best ensemble and Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee took the NBR Freedom of Expression Award.

Summer Of Soul and The Harder They Fall were the only two pure winners for streamers and come from Netflix and Hulu, respectively. King Richard debuted on HBO Max day-and-date with the theatrical release, and The Tragedy Of Macbeth hails from A24 and Apple Original Films.

The NBR also announced its top 10 lists which include foreign language and independent film. The former category featured two particularly divisive selections – Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta and Titane from Julia Ducournau – while Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir Part II and Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby were among the independent favourites.

NBR president Annie Schulhof said, “In a moment of transition and uncertainty, there is nothing like Licorice Pizza to remind us of the joy, hope, and exhilaration that great cinema can inspire. The NBR is honored to award the movie as its Best Film of 2021, as well as its brilliant creator, Paul Thomas Anderson, and all of our other awardees.”

The group comprising film enthusiasts, filmmakers, professionals, academics, and students viewed 221 films. The NBR awards ceremony is set to take place on January 11, 2022.

National Board of Review full list of 2021 winners:

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


King Richard

The Last Duel

Nightmare Alley

Red Rocket

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)




The Rescue

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Top 10 Independent Films (in alphabetical order)

The Card Counter

C’mon C’mon


The Green Knight



Old Henry


Shiva Baby

The Souvenir Part II.