He was accused of trying to bomb a US-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009.
Abdulmutallab, 25, pleaded guilty to attempting to blow up a commercial plane as a would-be suicide mission for al-Qaeda.
His family quickly called on the US government to review the sentence.
“This was an act of terrorism that cannot be quibbled with,” Judge Edmunds said, as she imposed the maximum sentence.
Abdulmutallab was the son of a Nigerian banker and a former engineering student at University College London, he faced eight counts against him, including terrorism and attempted murder.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a militant group based in Yemen, said it was behind the attempted attack.