The AFI Life Achievement Award was established by the Board of Directors of the American Film Institute on February 26, 1973, to honor a single individual for his or her lifetime contribution to enriching American culture through motion pictures and television. The recipient is selected and honored at a ceremony annually, with the award presented by a master of ceremonies and recently, the prior year's recipient, who usually gives a brief synopsis of the awarded individual and career background including highlights and achievements.
The Trustees initially specified that the recipient must be one who fundamentally advanced the art of film and whose achievements had been acknowledged by the general public as well as by film scholars and critics and the individual's peers. The Trustees also specified that the work of the recipient must have withstood the test of time.
|AFI Life Achievement Award|
|Awarded for||Honoring an individual whose career in motion pictures or television has greatly contributed to the enrichment of American culture.|
|Presented by||American Film Institute|
Director John Ford was the unanimous choice of the Board of Trustees for the first award as he "clearly stands preeminent in the history of motion pictures." President Richard M. Nixon attended the gala dinner at which Ford was presented the award on March 31, 1973.
The Board of Trustees later amended the "test of time" requirement to enable the AFI Life Achievement Award to be presented to individuals with active careers, such as Tom Hanks, who, at age 45, was the youngest recipient ever, and Steven Spielberg, who received the award at age 48. Silent film star Lillian Gish was the oldest recipient of the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, at the age of 90.
All Life Achievement Award ceremonies have been televised on major TV networks and cable channels: CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, USA, TV Land, TNT and TBS. Agreeing to appear at the televised ceremony apparently is part of the AFI's criteria for selecting the award. The televised ceremony generates income for the AFI, which is no longer funded by the US government. Nine of the first 45 honorees have been women: Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton.
Notable omissions were Robert Altman, Charles Chaplin, Claudette Colbert, Alec Guinness, Audrey Hepburn, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Elia Kazan, Paul Newman, Laurence Olivier, (all of whom are recipients of a Lincoln Center Gala Tribute), Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Marlon Brando, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Irene Dunne, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Greer Garson, Cary Grant, Howard Hawks, Katharine Hepburn, William Holden, Deborah Kerr, Stanley Kramer, Stanley Kubrick, Burt Lancaster, Jerry Lewis, Myrna Loy, Sidney Lumet, Robert Mitchum, Peter O'Toole, Mary Pickford, Anthony Quinn, Debbie Reynolds, Ginger Rogers, Mickey Rooney, Norma Shearer, Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Robin Williams and Jane Wyman.
Living people who appeared in or directed films in the top 10 of the AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies list that have yet to receive the award include Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Donen, Olivia de Havilland and Kim Novak. One living actress who was listed on AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars has not received the award: Sophia Loren.
The American Film Institute has awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award to one person each year since 1973. The 46th Award was presented to George Clooney on June 7, 2018, in Los Angeles. The event will be broadcast on June 21, 2018, on TNT. It will also be broadcast in September 2018 on TCM as a lineup dedicated to George Clooney.
|#||Year||Honoree||Age||Date of Ceremony||Network||Award Presenter/Host|
|1||1973||John Ford||79||March 31, 1973||CBS||Danny Kaye (host)|
|2||1974||James Cagney||74||March 31, 1974||CBS||Frank Sinatra (host)|
|3||1975||Orson Welles||59||February 9, 1975||CBS||Frank Sinatra (host)|
|4||1976||William Wyler||73||March 9, 1976||CBS||Gregory Peck (host)|
|5||1977||Bette Davis||68||March 1, 1977||CBS||Jane Fonda (host)|
|6||1978||Henry Fonda||72||March 15, 1978||CBS||N/A|
|7||1979||Alfred Hitchcock||79||March 7, 1979||CBS||Ingrid Bergman (host)|
|8||1980||James Stewart||71||March 16, 1980||CBS||Henry Fonda (host)|
|9||1981||Fred Astaire||81||April 10, 1981||CBS||David Niven (host)|
|10||1982||Frank Capra||84||March 4, 1982||CBS||James Stewart (host)|
|11||1983||John Huston||76||March 3, 1983||CBS||Lauren Bacall (host)|
|12||1984||Lillian Gish||90||March 1, 1984||CBS||Douglas Fairbanks Jr (host)|
|13||1985||Gene Kelly||72||March 7, 1985||CBS||Shirley MacLaine (host)|
|14||1986||Billy Wilder||79||March 6, 1986||NBC||Jack Lemmon (host)|
|15||1987||Barbara Stanwyck||79||April 9, 1987||ABC||Jane Fonda (host)|
|16||1988||Jack Lemmon||63||March 10, 1988||CBS||Julie Andrews (host)|
|17||1989||Gregory Peck||72||March 9, 1989||NBC||Audrey Hepburn (host)|
|18||1990||David Lean||82||March 8, 1990||ABC||Gregory Peck (host)|
|19||1991||Kirk Douglas||74||March 7, 1991||CBS||Michael Douglas (host)|
|20||1992||Sidney Poitier||65||March 12, 1992||NBC||Harry Belafonte (host)|
|21||1993||Elizabeth Taylor||61||March 11, 1993||ABC||Carol Burnett (host)|
|22||1994||Jack Nicholson||56||March 3, 1994||CBS||Mike Nichols|
|23||1995||Steven Spielberg||48||March 2, 1995||NBC||Sidney Sheinberg|
|24||1996||Clint Eastwood||65||February 29, 1996||ABC||Steven Spielberg|
|25||1997||Martin Scorsese||54||February 20, 1997||CBS||Gregory Peck|
|26||1998||Robert Wise||83||February 19, 1998||NBC||Jack Lemmon|
|27||1999||Dustin Hoffman||61||February 18, 1999||ABC||Jack Nicholson|
|28||2000||Harrison Ford||57||February 17, 2000||CBS||George Lucas and Steven Spielberg|
|29||2001||Barbra Streisand||58||February 22, 2001||Fox||Sidney Poitier|
|30||2002||Tom Hanks||45||June 24, 2002||USA Network||Steven Spielberg|
|31||2003||Robert De Niro||59||June 12, 2003||USA Network||Martin Scorsese|
|32||2004||Meryl Streep||54||June 21, 2004||USA Network||Mike Nichols|
|33||2005||George Lucas||61||June 9, 2005||USA Network||Steven Spielberg|
|34||2006||Sean Connery||75||June 8, 2006||USA Network||Harrison Ford|
|35||2007||Al Pacino||67||June 7, 2007||USA Network||Sean Penn|
|36||2008||Warren Beatty||71||June 12, 2008||USA Network||Al Pacino|
|37||2009||Michael Douglas||64||June 11, 2009||TV Land||Jack Nicholson|
|38||2010||Mike Nichols||78||June 10, 2010||TV Land||Meryl Streep|
|39||2011||Morgan Freeman||74||June 9, 2011||TV Land||Clint Eastwood|
|40||2012||Shirley MacLaine||78||June 7, 2012||TV Land||Meryl Streep|
|41||2013||Mel Brooks||86||June 15, 2013||TNT||Martin Short|
|42||2014||Jane Fonda||76||June 13, 2014||TNT||Michael Douglas|
|43||2015||Steve Martin||69||June 4, 2015||TBS||Mel Brooks|
|44||2016||John Williams||84||June 9, 2016||TNT||Steven Spielberg|
|45||2017||Diane Keaton||71||June 8, 2017||TNT||Woody Allen|
|46||2018||George Clooney||57||June 7, 2018||TNT||Shirley MacLaine|