2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Full Winners List

Searchlight's "Nomadland" was the big winner of the night at the virtual 2021 Spirit Awards, a celebration of the best in independent cinema.

Matt Lissauer

By Matt Lissauer

2021 Spirit Award Winner - "Nomadland"

© Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

The 2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards went off without a hitch last night. The Independent Spirit Awards are usually a breezy affair, held in the daytime under a tent on a beach. This year it had to be different. But where some award shows stumbled in their Zoom-awkwardness, the Independent Spirit Awards largely shined with a smooth and well-edited presentation.

The show mostly leaned heavily on self-aware humor and featured a great hosting performance from "SNL" cast member Melissa Villaseñor. The comedian's celebrity impressions, in particular, were so on point and in full force that you wish "SNL" used her more in their own sketches.

Going into the show, Oscar snubbed drama "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" led the award nominations. And, Netflix was the studio to beat. But in the end, it was Searchlight's "Nomadland" that came out the big winner, while Universal's arthouse studio Focus Features claimed the most awards.

© Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

© Amazon / Courtesy Everett Collection

"Nomadland," which has been sweeping up awards all season, picked up four more including Best Feature and Best Director (Chloé Zhao). Amazon's "Sound of Metal" also made a strong impact, claiming three wins. This included Best Male Lead (Riz Ahmed), Best Supporting Male (Paul Raci), and Best First Feature.

The Best Actress race also got ever closer, with Carey Mulligan claiming a win for her knockout performance in "Promising Young Woman" over "Nomadland" favorite Frances McDormand.

2021 Independent Spirit Awards - Additional Honors

© Focus Features / courtesy Everett Collection

© Focus Features / courtesy Everett Collection

Last year Adam Sandler summed up the Independent Spirit Awards best as "the 'Best Personality Awards' of Hollywood." However, the pandemic seemed to have upended that notion. In a year where practically every movie was a limited and largely at-home release, it came down to things like the budget to define what exactly is an independent film. As a result, films like "Mank" and "The Trial of the Chicago 7" were shut out. They likely would have been there at the virtual table in other years.

In those films' place were several movies that deserved more attention from other award shows. This included Kelly Reichardt's "First Cow" and Eliza Hittman's "Never Rarely Sometimes Always." It is a bit sad, too, that pandemic delays meant some of the honored films still haven't been released, like Edson Oda's 2020 Sundance gem, "Nine Days."

This was also the first year the Spirit Awards included television categories. Which begs the question: what is an independent television show? Villaseñor's Kristen Wiig jokingly summed the definition up as "the vibe" of the show, among other things like budget. Certainly, that was the running thread that ties all of this year's great indie films and shows together.

2021 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Winners & Nominees

Best Feature

  • “First Cow”
  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
  • “Minari”
  • “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
  • “Nomadland” < WINNER

Best Director

  • Lee Isaac Chung - “Minari”
  • Emerald Fennell - “Promising Young Woman”
  • Eliza Hittman - ”Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
  • Kelly Reichardt - “First Cow”
  • Chloe Zhao - “Nomadland” < WINNER

Best Female Lead

  • Nicole Beharie - “Miss Juneteenth”
  • Viola Davis - “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
  • Sidney Flanigan - “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
  • Julia Garner - “The Assistant”
  • Frances McDormand - “Nomadland”
  • Carey Mulligan - “Promising Young Woman” < WINNER

Best Male Lead

  • Riz Ahmed - “The Sound of Metal” < WINNER
  • Chadwick Boseman - “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
  • Rob Morgan - “Bull”
  • Steven Yeun - “Minari”
  • Adarsh Gourav - “The White Tiger”

Best Supporting Female

  • Alexis Chikaeze - “Miss Juneteenth”
  • Yeri Han - “Minari”
  • Valerie Mahaffey - “French Exit”
  • Talia Ryder - “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
  • Yuh-jung Youn - “Minari” < WINNER

Best Supporting Male

  • Colman Domingo - “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
  • Orion Lee - “First Cow”
  • Paul Raci - “Sound of Metal” < WINNER
  • Glynn Turmann - “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
  • Benedict Wong - “Nine Days”

Best Screenplay

  • Lee Isaac Chung - “Minari”
  • Emerald Fennell - “Promising Young Woman” < WINNER
  • Eliza Hittman - “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
  • Mike Makowsky - “Bad Education”
  • Alice Wu - “The Half of It”

Best Editing

  • Andy Canny - “The Invisible Man”
  • Scott Cummings - “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
  • Merawi Gerima - “Residue”
  • Enat Sidi - “I Carry You With Me”
  • Chloé Zhao - “Nomadland” < WINNER

Best Documentary Feature

  • “Collective”
  • “Crip Camp” < WINNER
  • “Dick Johnson Is Dead”
  • “Time”
  • “The Mole Agent”

Best Cinematography

  • Jay Keitel - “She Dies Tomorrow”
  • Shabier Kirchner - “Bull”
  • Michael Latham - “The Assistant”
  • Hélène Louvart - “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”
  • Joshua James Richards - “Nomadland” < WINNER

Best First Feature

  • “I Carry You With Me”
  • “The 40 Year Old Version”
  • “Sound of Metal” < WINNER
  • “Miss Juneteenth”
  • “Nine Days”

Best First Screenplay

  • Kitty Green - “The Assistant”
  • Noah Hutton - “Lapsis”
  • Channing Godfrey Peoples - “Miss Juneteenth”
  • Andy Siara - “Palm Springs” < WINNER
  • James Sweeney - “Straight Up”

John Cassavetes Award

  • “The Killing of Two Lovers”
  • “La Leyenda Negra”
  • “Lingua Franca”
  • “Residue” < WINNER
  • “Saint Frances”

Robert Altman Award

  • One Night in Miami

Best International Film

  • “Bacurau”
  • “The Disciple”
  • “Night of the Kings”
  • “Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time”
  • “Quo Vadis, Aida?” < WINNER

Piaget Producers Award

  • Kara Durrett
  • Lucas Joaquin
  • Gerry Kim < WINNER

Someone to Watch Award

  • David Midell - “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain”
  • Ekwa Msangi - “Farewell Amor” < WINNER
  • Annie Silverstein - “Bull”

Truer Than Fiction Award

  • Cecilia Aldarondo, “Landfall”
  • Elegance Bratton, “Pier Kids” < WINNER
  • Elizabeth Lo, “Stray”
Matt Lissauer

Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.

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