National Film Registry Adds ‘Return Of The Jedi’, ‘Fellowship Of The Ring’, ‘Strangers On A Train’, ’Sounder’, ‘WALL-E’ & More

The Library of Congress has unveiled its annual list of 25 movies to make the cut for the National Film Registry. The selection, considered among America’s most influential motion pictures, features titles spanning from 1902-2008. Among them are Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 Strangers On A Train; 1962’s Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford; 1972 tearjerker Sounder, which brought Cicely Tyson a Best Actress Oscar nomination; John Waters’ Pink Flamingos (1972); and Michael Schultz’s 1975 Cooley High.

More recent classics such as 1983’s Star Wars: Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi, 1984’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, 2001’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and 2008’s WALL-E are also honored (scroll down for the full list).

Gary P. Biller

The roster further includes music and comedy performances: 1984’s Talking Heads pic Stop Making Sense from director Jonathan Demme and 1979’s Richard Pryor: Live In Concert, recorded at the Terrace Theatre in Long Beach, California.

The movies have been selected for their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance to preserve the nation’s film heritage. Several explore stories from diverse communities that often carry universal themes. Selena, the 1997 biographical film of Tejana star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez starred Jennifer Lopez in her first major movie role. Co-star Edward James Olmos told the Library of Congress that Selena “will stand the test of time… (It’s) a masterpiece because it allows people to learn about themselves by watching other peoples’ culture.”

Among other highlights are Michael Schultz’s 1975 Cooley High, a comedy about a group of Black friends enjoying their last year of high school in the Cabrini Green neighborhood of Chicago. Schultz said, “The one thing I knew about Cooley High was that it was unique, it was exciting, it would open up people to a new world.”

Three films on this year’s list directly addressed one of the most pressing issues of the day: racially-motivated violence against people of color. The Murder Of Fred Hampton (1971), Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987) and Requiem-29 (1970) told stories of violence against Black, Asian and Hispanic Americans, respectively.

The Library of Congress also noted that two blockbuster films selected for the registry drew significant public support this year through online nominations: Return Of The Jedi and Fellowship Of The Ring.

Warner Bros

Of the latter, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens commented, “In 1951, Professor (J.R.R.) Tolkien expressed the wish that ‘…other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama…’ might one day come to the world of middle-earth. And they did — actors and artists, composers and musicians, linguists and digital wizards — a myriad of talent came together to bring his vast work of imagination to life on the screen. It is a great honor to have The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring selected this year by the National Film Registry. We are proud to be part of an archive that celebrates and preserves the art of visual storytelling, for generations to come.”

The 2021 roster of titles brings the total number in the registry to 825.

Said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, “Films help reflect our cultural history and creativity — and show us new ways of looking at ourselves — though movies haven’t always been deemed worthy of preservation. The National Film Registry will preserve our cinematic heritage, and we are proud to add 25 more films this year. The Library of Congress will work with our partners in the film community to ensure these films are preserved for generations to come.”

Turner Classic Movies will host a special on Friday, December 17 to screen a selection of motion pictures named to the registry this year. Also, select titles from 30 years of the National Film Registry are freely available online in the National Screening Room.

Films Selected for the 2021 National Film Registry (chronological order)

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)

Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979)

Chicana (1979)

The Wobblies (1979)

Star Wars Episode VI — 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)

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