The highest honor given for a career in film, the AFI Life Achievement Award was established by the AFI Board of Trustees in 1973. It is presented to a single honoree each year based on the following criteria as mandated through a resolution passed by the AFI Board of Trustees:
"The recipient should be one whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art; whose accomplishment has been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public; and whose work has stood the test of time."
In 2016, the 44th AFI Life Achievement Award Tribute brought together the entire entertainment industry to honor John Williams and his storied career as the composer behind many of the greatest films and television series of all time. AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Steven Spielberg (1995) presented the award, while J.J. Abrams, Drew Barrymore, Will Farrell, Kobe Bryant, Idina Menzel, Gustavo Dudamel, Bryce Dallas Howard, Peter Fonda, Deon Cole and many others, including past honorees Harrison Ford (2000), Tom Hanks (2002) and George Lucas (2005), paid tribute to Williams in an evening filled with laughter, memorable anecdotes and, most importantly, music.