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AMERICAN SPLENDOR is a celebration of the painful dance between life and art. This wry and original comedy of depression tells its story through fiction, documentary, animation and archival footage as if it were turning the pages of a comic book. Harvey Pekar and Paul Giamatti, in a brilliantly bruised performance as the fictional Harvey Pekar, capture the theme of the film best when they say, "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff." Read the AFI Catalog entry

FINDING NEMO swam its way into America's heart by combining a razor sharp script that harkens back to the comedy of Preston Sturges and a stunning animated world that entrances with each shift in the light. Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres bring a funny, but always touching human element to the film that will make it an animation classic for generations to come. Read the AFI Catalog entry

THE HUMAN STAIN is a moving exploration of three American obsessions — sex, race and class. The bold casting of Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman addresses the fundamental issue of the film — the silent pain of passing for something you're not. Their brilliant performances and Robert Benton's nuanced direction create a complex, emotional core for this skillful adaptation of Philip Roth's novel. Read the AFI Catalog entry

IN AMERICA is a spellbinding fable that captures the modern day immigrant experience and retells it through the eyes of a child. Jim Sheridan's heartfelt tale struggles between the thrill of a new life and the longing to escape the ghosts that follow us there. Real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger bring a sense of wonder and excitement to a film that overflows with joy for the adventure of tomorrow. Read the AFI Catalog entry

THE LAST SAMURAI presents a timeless story of honor in the cinematic tradition of Akira Kurosawa. This beautifully crafted star vehicle serves one of America's modern screen icons, and Tom Cruise not only rises to the challenge, but carries the film into the history books with great dignity. The recreation of 19th Century Japan is a feast for the eyes, and Ed Zwick's masterful direction not only presents spectacular battle scenes, but never loses sight of what the individual warriors stood for. Read the AFI Catalog entry

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING punctuates the greatest trilogy in American film with an exclamation point. Peter Jackson proves himself to be the true magician of this masterpiece, for only a wizard could summon all the forces of American film three times and utilize them to such astounding success. Against all odds, Jackson met the challenge of visualizing J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved classics for a demanding, global audience. Read the AFI Catalog entry

LOST IN TRANSLATION is only the second feature film by Sofia Coppola, yet it presents a unique voice in American film. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson bring great humor and credibility to characters adrift inside the neon and steel of today's Tokyo. The film creates and sustains a bold, but delicate mood where they share days of isolation and celebrity and marriage and loneliness — two foreigners who need each other in an alien landscape. Read the AFI Catalog entry

MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD transports its audience to a 19th Century ship and shows what it would be like to live among its crew. The film unfolds in the tradition of sea-going movie classics, but with a modern attention to detail and camerawork that fully enlists the viewer in the journey. Russell Crowe proves once again that he is the leading man for human tales in epic form. Read the AFI Catalog entry

MONSTER tells the gruesome story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos and manages to find a human being amidst the horror. Writer and director Patty Jenkins brings light to this dark tale of a woman whose tragic story is never condoned but deftly brought to life in all its complexity. Charlize Theron gives a breathtaking performance that ranks among the best of the year. Read the AFI Catalog entry

MYSTIC RIVER is a masterful portrait of fate and friendship across generations. Director Clint Eastwood draws brilliant performances from an outstanding ensemble cast in which Sean Penn's searing portrayal of a father in pain calls to mind a young Marlon Brando. The use of locations in working class Boston presents an authentic background for a story of people whose lives are woven together in a world that they cannot escape. Read the AFI Catalog entry


24 is a Molotov cocktail of conflict, tension and surprise. Hour by hour, this groundbreaking exercise in sustained suspense never ceases to amaze. Most importantly, what may appear to be a sheer guilty pleasure is also a rumination on how far people will go for their country and demands viewers to ask this question of themselves.

ALIAS is a weekly thrill ride that races through mind-bending plot twists and drops viewers in a maze of identity and motive. There is a rare, emotional core to this spy saga, however, as family and friends find themselves loving and loyal, but never trusting. With production values worthy of a James Bond film, ALIAS also boasts one of the finest acting ensembles on television.

ANGELS IN AMERICA was born a masterpiece of the theater and lives on as a masterpiece of television. The imaginations of Tony Kushner and Mike Nichols explode and embrace as their collaboration expands the boundaries of the art form. This heroic achievement carries a message for the ages that is delivered by some of the greatest actors of our day.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is a quirky comic voice in the grand tradition of MISTER ED and GREEN ACRES. Entertaining and distinctive in its documentary style, this eccentric look at the extremes of American family life delivers the all-too-rare belly laugh and instills new hope for growth and maturity in today's stunted comedy environment.

EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND continues to tilt America's laugh meter as it enters its eighth season. The show's writers never fail to find timeless comedy in the simplest details of everyday life. Each member of this peerless comic cast makes the effort appear effortless, and together, they have become part of the nation's extended family.

JOAN OF ARCADIA is proof of divine intervention. Just when it appeared that original family dramas were dead, the airwaves brought America this fresh and funny story of a girl who talks to God. Spiritual without being self-righteous, Joan's struggle to live with the inconvenience of a moral life raises issues the entire family can watch, discuss and enjoy.

NIP/TUCK takes a glamorous look at the ugly reality of plastic surgery. The series is propelled by an addictive storytelling style that graphically cuts under the skin of America's obsession with appearance and, ultimately, will change the way audiences look into the mirror.

PLAYMAKERS takes viewers into the locker room for an unsparing look at the lives of professional football players, coaches, fans and fanatics. This courageous programming for an evolving sports network not only shatters assumptions about the world of football, but it also humanizes these modern day gladiators by dramatizing the pressures they endure both professionally and personally.

SOLDIER'S GIRL carries the flag for thoughtful television movies that address extraordinarily complex and emotional matters through the strength of character. Inspired by the true story of a soldier who falls in love with a transgendered woman, the film skillfully finds a voice for two people who grapple with emotions they can't explain, all without exploiting the haunting tragedy of their destiny.

THE WIRE portrays mundane police work with tragic grandeur and, in doing so, captures the seemingly intractable problem of drugs in American society in a daring and unique way. Complex and subtle, the series offers a look at police procedure more realistic than any show on television.