The Dark Knight and Shrek among films added to National Film Registry

Dark Knight. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment, HBO Max
Dark Knight. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment, HBO Max /

The National Film Registry looks to preserve America’s film heritage to make sure certain significant films are easily available. Twenty-five new films join this prestigious list this year.

Film has become one of the most important mediums of storytelling throughout the years. Movies have been around for over a century. Whether you see them at home on a streaming service, at a drive-in theater, or, pre-COVID, with a bag of popcorn and a soda surrounded by the booming acoustics and massive screen of a movie theater, films have gone well beyond just a form of entertainment. While movies entertain us with exciting moments and thrilling adventures, they also teach us. They connect with us on an emotional level. We may see ourselves in the characters. A film can make us laugh, cry, or both.

As society has changed, films have also served as a reflection on how the world has changed and how it looked at a certain time. Comparing a film from the beginning of the 20th century to a film in the midst of the counter-culture movement of the 1960s, to a 21st-century film, you can see changes in diversity, changes in stigmas, and more acceptance of all. You can see changes in technology, such as the transition from 2D animation to CGI. As with other subjects, understanding the history of something allows people to learn from it, understand its origins, and see how it evolved over the years.

Movies serve as a visual reflection of the changes made in society and give the next generation of audiences a first-hand understanding of what life was like in the past, such as the 1930s to more contemporary decades like the 1980s and the 1990s.

As time passes by, films can get damaged or lost, and that’s where the National Film Registry comes in. Since 1989 under the Library of Congress, the National Film Preservation Board “selects 25 films each year showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation,” to be added to the National Film Registry.  A film must be deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant to qualify.

In order to be eligible, like various Hall of Fames, time has to have passed since a film was released. Here, it’s10 years, which would make a 2011 film the newest film eligible for next year’s Registry selection. The public votes out of 5,500 films and then the Registry has the final say.

The hundreds of films inducted over the years include many that are considered among the best, like Star Wars, The Godfather, and Casablanca.  From Academy Award-winning films to animated films, documentaries, and independent movies, the list showcases America’s diversity and range over the years when it comes to movies.

This year welcomed 25 more films to The Registry. These movies have been deemed as movies that need to be preserved over time and the general population should be able to have easy access to them.

Among them include some popular films in recent years. The Dark Knight (2008) is considered one of the best superhero movies of all time, breaking box office records and helping to ignite the popularity of the comic book genre in the past decade. Shrek (2001) broke boundaries by being an animated film with humor that appealed to older audiences.

Lilies of the Field (1963) featured a performance by legendary actor Sidney Poitier that allowed him to become the first African American man to win an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. The Joy Luck Club (1993) showcased diversity as it connected generations between Chinese-American women and their Chinese immigrant mothers, and The Hurt Locker (2008) was the film that gave the first-ever Oscar for Best Director to a woman.

There’s The Blues Brothers (1980), which is considered a comedy classic and was able to successfully combine humor with elaborate dance numbers and chase scenes, as well as Grease (1978) which crossed the worlds of music and film. We see music connect with film again in Wattstax  (1973), a documentary film following a concert of prominent Stax Records artists on the seventh anniversary of the 1965 Los Angeles Watts Riots. There’s also A Clockwork Orange (1971), a dystopian film from the mind of legendary director Stanley Kubrick. Freedom Riders (2010) is the newest film on the Registry and followed the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

These films, along with the others on the Registry, have survived for years and are still just as magnificent now as they were when they first came out.

Here’s the list of all 25 films added to the National Film Registry for 2020:

  • Suspense (1913)
  • Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)
  • Bread (1918)
  • The Battle of the Century (1927)
  • With Cara and Camera Around the World (1929)
  • Cabin in the Sky (1943)
  • Outrage (1950)
  • The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
  • Lilies of the Field (1963)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)
  • Wattstax (1973)
  • Grease (1978)
  • The Blues Brothers (1980)
  • Losing Ground (1982)
  • Illusions (1982)
  • The Joy Luck Club (1993)
  • The Devil Never Sleeps (1994)
  • Buena Vista Social Club (1999)
  • The Ground (1993-2001)
  • Shrek (2001)
  • Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege (2006)
  • The Hurt Locker (2008)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • Freedom Riders (2010)

While thousands and thousands of films have been made over the years, there are many films that have not achieved National Film Registry status but are still considered classics nonetheless, as they are also “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”

There are only so many spots a year. The list of important films not in the Registry yet can be seen on the National Film Registry’s website. It will be interesting to see which one of these other deserving films may someday be added to the prestigious Registry list.

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What do you think of the 25 new movies added to the National Film Registry? Are they deserving of the praise? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!