The villainous Darth Vader revealing that he is the father of heroic Luke Skywalker, Jason Miller casting out the devil from young Linda Blair and a documentary on psychological trauma amongst World War Two combat vets are all celluloid moments that will be preserved by the Library of Congress on the National Film Registry. This morning Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced that The Empire Strikes Back, The Exorcist and the documentary Let There Be Light are just three of the 25 titles named to the National Film registry this year.
This year’s list covers over a century of cinema from Newark Athlete, an experimental 1891 short film of a New Jersey teenager swinging Indian clubs shot at Edison Laboratory in East Orange, NJ to Study Of A River, a 1996 experimental film about the Hudson River from director Peter B. Hutton. Newark Athlete is also the Registry’s earliest film.
The complete list of films named to the Registry can be found below.
The list of 25 films has been released annually since 1989 and is composed of 25 films selected by Billington from nominations received by the general public. The aim of the registry is to preserve American films of artistic, cultural or historic significance. This year over 2,100 films were nominated.
“The most interesting thing for me is not seeing something I like make the list, but getting educated by the list that comes out of this process,” Billington stated in a press release.
Copies of each film named to the Registry will be stored at the Library of Congress’ cold-storage vaults at the Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center near Culpeper, Va.
This year, the cinema of the 1970s seemed to dominate the list with five films – Robert Altman’s revisionist western McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), William Friedkin’s horror classic The Exorcist (1973), Alan Pakula’s docudrama adaptation of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s book All The President’s Men (1976), the documentary Grey Gardens (1976) and the smash hit disco musical Saturday Night Fever (1977).
The Empire Strikes Back (1980), directed by Irvin Kershner, joins its predecessor Star Wars, which was named to the list during its inaugural year. Empire Strikes Back is also only the third sequel to be named to the Registry joining The Bride Of Frankenstein and The Godfather Part II. Empire also marks the fourth film from George Lucas to make the list, who also landed on the Registry this year with his student short Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB. Previously his features American Graffiti and Star Wars have been placed on the Registry.
Houston’s documentary Let There Be Light was suppressed by the Pentagon for 35 years due to concerns over its unflinching depiction of the mental trauma many World War two combat veterans experienced after returning home.
In a sad irony, three of the films named this year had links to prominent cast and crew who have died in recent months. The Empire Strikes Back director Kershner passed away on November 29th, while Leslie Nielson, whose career was reinvented by his role in the comedy Airplane!, died on November 28. The Pink Panther helmer Blake Edwards passed on December 15.
The 25 films named to the National Film Registry are-
All the President’s Men (1976)
The Bargain (1914)
Cry of Jazz (1959)
Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB (1967)
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Exorcist (1973)
The Front Page (1931)
Grey Gardens (1976)
I Am Joaquin (1969)
It’s a Gift (1934)
Let There Be Light (1946)
Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
Malcolm X (1992)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
Newark Athlete (1891)
Our Lady of the Sphere (1969)
The Pink Panther (1964)
Preservation of the Sign Language (1913)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Study of a River (1996)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
A Trip Down Market Street (1906)