Classic franchise movies and films that examine issues of race make up just a few of the twenty-five films being named to the National Film Registry this morning. Additionally, films from directors like Alfred Hitchcock (Strangers On A Train), Robert Altman (The Long Goodbye), Robert Aldrich (Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?) and Jonathan Demme (Stop Making Sense) were also added to the Registry.
Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Rings share space in the new class of inductees alonside films like Cooley High and The Watermelon Woman as they are entered into the Registry of “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant American cinema.
The oldest film to be named this year is the 1902 actuality Ringling Brothers Parade Film. This three minute short was shot in Indianapolis and provides a rare, seldom filmed look at a prosperous northern Black community at the turn of the century.
But Ringling Brothers Parade Film is just one of a number of films that look at aspects of the African-American experience being named to the Registry this year. The Flying Ace (1926) is an example of the early genre of “race films,” movies made predominantly for Black audiences and featuring all-Black casts. Traveling evangelists James and Eloyce Gist’s 1930 film Hellbound Train was used to preach about the sinfulness of man and featured Satan as the conductor of the titular perdition-bound locomotive. Directors Howard Alk and Mike Gray’s 1971 documentary The Murder of Fred Hampton started off as a profile on the young Civil Rights leader, but following his murder in a police raid in the midst of the production, became a hard-hitting look at corruption in the Chicago police and city government. Already considered a classic, direction Michael Schultz’s Cooley High is a well observed coming-of-age story about a group of high school friends. Cheryl Dunye was inspired by Spike Lee’s She’s Got To Have It to create her debut feature The Watermelon Woman, an exploration of her own identity as a Black lesbian.
Return of the Jedi‘s inclusion seems almost a fait accompli considering that the original Star Wars was added to the National Film Registry in its inaugural year of 1989 and The Empire Strikes Back, the middle film of the iconic trilogy, being added in 2010.
The Library of Congress names 25 films annually to the National Film Registry as per the dictates of the National Film preservation Act. Films added to the Registry are preserved in accordance with the terms of the National Film Preservation Act. 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, Virginia.
Previous films named to the Registry range from Star Wars to the 8mm color motion picture footage shot by Abraham Zapruder of the assassination of President John F Kennedy. All nominated films must be at least ten years old.
This year’s inductees brings the total number of films on the registry to 825.
The films named to the List, in chronological order, are –
- Ringling Brothers Parade Film (1902)
- Jubilo (1919)
- The Flying Ace (1926)
- Hellbound Train (1930)
- Flowers and Trees (1932)
- Strangers on a Train (1951)
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
- Evergreen (1965)
- Requiem-29 (1970)
- The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)
- Pink Flamingos (1972)
- Sounder (1972)
- The Long Goodbye (1973)
- Cooley High (1975)
- Chicana (1979)
- Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979)
- The Wobblies (1979)
- Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
- Stop Making Sense (1984)
- Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987)
- The Watermelon Woman (1996)
- Selena (1997)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
- WALL-E (2008)