‘Moonlight’ and ‘American Honey’ Top the 2016 Independent Spirit Awards Nominations

And so, the awards season begins.

As usual, the first awards body out of the gate is the Independent Spirit Awards, which reward cinema that operates outside of the studio system, on a smaller budget. Some high-profile awards season contenders don’t qualify for the Independent Spirit Awards under that criteria, and not just major studio products. J.A. Bayona’s heartbreaking A Monster Calls won’t be making an appearance here for exactly that reason, nor will Nocturnal Animals or La La Land.

Fortunately, there was still more than enough quality filmmaking to go around. Leading the nominations this year are Barry Jenkins’ superlative Moonlight, about the journey of a gay black man from childhood to adulthood, and Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, about a teenaged girl who gets caught up in a cross country magazine sales trip. Both films earned six nominations a piece, although Moonlight‘s impressive ensemble cast was snubbed in the main acting categories. Perhaps they split their votes, or perhaps the Independent Spirit Awards decided that the film’s Robert Altman Award covered all those bases, freeing the acting categories for more worthy recipients.

Wild Bunch

Wild Bunch

The Independent Spirit Awards usually include several surprises, films that most audiences are unfamiliar with and that many critics ignored entirely. This year was no exception, with the Tim Roth hospice care drama Chronic earning nominations for Best Feature and Best Actor, seemingly out of the blue, and David Harewood and Edwina Findley Dickerson both earned acting nominations for the storefront church drama Free in Deed. Try to find headline news about those two films before today, and I think you’ll have a pretty hard time of it. That’s the value of awards programs like The Independent Spirit Awards, which aren’t about confirming that films you’ve already heard about are good, but rather about raising awareness of films you may never have even heard of.

That being said, many of the nominees here are considered major awards season contenders, and seemingly destined for Oscar nominations. Kenneth Lonergan’s incredible drama Manchester By The Sea earned nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Editing, and Jackie earned nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Editing.

Check out the complete list of nominations below, and find out the winners when the Independent Spirit Awards are given out on February 25, 2017.


Best Feature

American Honey



Manchester by the Sea



Best Director

Andrea Arnold (American Honey)

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Pablo Larrain (Jackie)

Jeff Nichols (Loving)

Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women)


Best First Feature

The Childhood of a Leader

The Fits

Other People

Swiss Army Man

The Witch


Best Male Lead

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

David Harewood (Free in Deed)

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Jesse Plemons (Other People)

Tim Roth (Chronic)


Best Female Lead

Annette Bening (20th Century Women)

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Sasha Lane (American Honey)

Ruth Negga (Loving)

Natalie Portman (Jackie)


Best Supporting Male

Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash)

Ben Foster (Hell or High Water)

Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Shia LaBeouf (American Honey)

Craig Robinson (Morris from America)


Best Supporting Female

Edwina Findley (Free in Deed)

Paulina Garcia (Little Men)

Lily Gladstone (Certain Women)

Riley Keough (American Honey)

Molly Shannon (Other People)


Best Screenplay

Hell or High Water

Little Men

Manchester by the Sea


20th Century Women


Best First Screenplay



Jean of the Joneses

Other People

The Witch


Best International Film



My Golden Days

Toni Erdmann

Under the Shadow


Best Documentary Feature



I Am Not Your Negro

O.J.: Made in America


Under the Sun


Best Cinematography

American Honey


Free in Deed

Eyes of My Mother



Best Editing

Hell or High Water


Manchester by the Sea


Swiss Army Man


John Cassavetes Award

Free in Deed

Hunter Gatherer



Spa Night


Robert Altman Award



Piaget Producers Award

Lisa Kjerulff

Jordana Mollick

Melody C. Roscher

Craig Shilowich


Truer Than Fiction Award

Kristi Jacobson (Solitary)

Sara Jordeno (Kiki)

Nanfu Wang (Holligan Sparrow)


Someone to Watch Award

Andrew Ahn (Spa Night)

Claire Carre (Embers)

Anna Rose Holmer (The Fits)

Ingrid Jungermann (Women Who Kill)

Top Photo: A24

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most CravedRapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.