Film buffs around the world pay close attention to the yearly release of the National Film Preservation Board. Films selected are preserved in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. In order for a movie to be selected, it must be deemed to be culturally or historically significant. Some of the following films, those selected in 2016, are no longer household names, but at one point each was a major influence on mainstream pop culture.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
The Oscar-winning Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a film that revolutionized what could be done in cinema. The film is also the only instance where characters from both Disney and Warner Brothers appeared together on screen. While considered a classic today, the film was seen as risky at the time of its 1988 release.
The estimated production of $70 million made it the most expensive film produced in the 1980s, and it surprisingly did not test well during initial screenings of the film. Bob Hoskins, who starred in the film, passed away in 2014. His role in Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of his most remembered performances.
The Lion King
The Lion King is one of the most successful animated films in box office history. While known as a classic today, Disney used what they considered to be their “B team” to work on the film, while their top staff worked on Pocahontas. The movie would go on to become the highest-grossing film worldwide in 1994.
It took animators three years to complete the infamous stampede scene, using an entirely new computer program to bring the visual to life. In another interesting tidbit, Elton John had to lobby for the Oscar-winning, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” to make it into the final cut of the movie.
The Princess Bride
Who in 1987 would have made the prediction that The Princess Bride would become a cult classic? The movie now has a permanent place in the annals of American film history. Star Mandy Patinkin knows this more than anyone as he constantly has the famous, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” line quoted to him on a daily basis.
Andre the Giant is more popular for his role in the movie than his long professional wrestling career among mainstream audiences. The popularity of The Princess Bride makes it well deserving of a place in the National Film Registry.
Jason Schwartzman and the immensely talented Bill Murray star in Rushmore, a movie that takes a number of twists and turns while touching on several important topics. Murray is said to have been so impressed by the original screenplay, that he initially wanted to take part in the movie for free. While on set, he would find the actors playing his sons to be naturally annoying, therefore making it possible to naturally improvise during several scenes.
Murray has gone on to act in a number of critical and financially successful films, Schwartzman remains active, but has not been able to match the critical success he found in Rushmore.
A Walk in the Sun
A movie that remains heralded for its realistic depiction of World War 2, A Walk In The Sun, takes a gritty look at the 1943 invasion of Italy. The film is often praised as a masterpiece and as one of the best war movies of its time.
The relationships between characters are gripping and show the lives of soldiers in a unique manner. It’s definitely easy to understand why A Walk In The Sun was added to the National Film Registry. While the movie has several plaudits, it has an important role in telling the history of the progression of American war cinema.
20,000 Leagues under the Sea
Why did it take so long for 20,0000 Leagues Under The Sea to find its way to the National Film Registry? The 1916 film was groundbreaking for its use of underwater photography. With the technology available in 1916, just the thought of filming underwater seemed nearly impossible.
The Williamson brothers made it possible by using tubes and mirrors, clear water, and sunlight in order to capture the necessary footage. The film would be remade by Walt Disney during the 1950s, making use of the same areas for undersea footage. The ambition, bravery, and creativity used in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is a marvel within cinema.
Thelma & Louise
Thelma & Louise is a cult hit that details the lives of two women who long for something more in life. Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis brought the roles of Louise Sawyer and Thelma Dickinson to life. The two actresses were close to not receiving their iconic roles; the studio initially offered them to Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn who wanted to do a film together, yet decided to pass on the film.
The two stars remain active in Hollywood to this day. Susan Sarandon is also an outspoken political advocate who does not hesitate to speak her mind, no matter the criticism she may receive
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
A classic film from a film age long past, Steamboat Bill, Jr. tells the story of a young man who joins his father on a riverboat. While not the most popular film on the list, Steamboat Bill, Jr. deserves a place on the National Film Registry.
The film is considered to be one of the last great performances of Buster Keaton, who later would suffer through a bad MGM contract and then battled chronic alcoholism. Keaton was said to be in his prime film while working on the film, making Steamboat Bill, Jr. historically significant. The premise of the film was also used for Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon with sound.
Putney Swope is a comedy that pokes fun at tense race relations in 1960s America. Putney is put in charge of an advertising firm and uses his new influence to help his militant brothers acquire new jobs. The movie is directed by Robert Downey, Sr. (father of Robert Downey, Jr.) and is a low budget film which has only recently received recognition.
The passion and message of the film investigated parts of American culture which made many at the time feel uncomfortable. For this precise reason, Putney Swope is a film that should be admired if not for the plot, but for the message the movie is able to deliver.
When a double-cross goes wrong and revenge ensues, the plot of Point Blank comes to mind. This story is not only interesting and action packed, the 1963 film was the first major motion picture to film at Alcatraz Island after the prison was shut down in 1963. This backstabbing story of crime, gangs, and money deserves National Film Registry recognition.
While not Lee Marvin’s most famous role, it’s among his list of notable roles after he began maturing as an actor. Point Blank is definitely worth seeing and is an exciting thriller that many have enjoyed throughout the years.
Paris Is Burning
Documentaries are powerful tools for shining a light on important subjects. Paris Is Burning investigates the 1980s drag scene in New York. While many Americans held stereotypes of the drag, minority, and LGBT community close to their hearts during the 1980s, this film shows the humanity of those who took part in drag shows during the era.
Preserving Paris Is Burning is a step towards recognizing the humanity within us all no matter how we choose to express ourselves. The independent documentary was released to the public in 1990 during a time of reflection in the country. Films like Paris Is Burning helped moved the culture away from harsh judgments based on stereotypes.
In what could have been Director Frank Capra’s best work, Lost Horizon is a sterling example of what was possible during the golden age of cinema. This film is remembered when countless others have been forgotten. To this day, Lost Horizon remains a huge critical success.
Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton, and John Howard all deliver outstanding performances. Luckily, copies of the film have been restored over the years, making it possible for future generations to enjoy this classic film. It’s shocking that the National Film Registry took this long to recognize the true masterpiece that is Lost Horizon.
Life of an American Fireman
The fact footage remains of the 1903 Life Of An American Fireman is remarkable. Film from this era of cinema is extremely rare, making this thrilling depiction of a fireman attempting to save a life all the more incredible. Critics praise the film for building upon established themes in cinema while also attempting to break new ground.
The full-length cut is only six minutes, making it a quick view for anyone that has the opportunity to watch. This classic represents all films from its era on the National Film Registry and there are very few examples of better filmmaking from the early 20th century.
Funny Girl is a movie that endured quite a bit of drama during production. Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif indulged in an affair during shooting for the film, which ended up costing Streisand her marriage to Elliott Gould. Director William Wyler and Streisand would also receive public critique from several on-screen talents from the film who felt their scenes were cut to solely focus on Streisand.
Wyler would later also publicly critique Streisand as being difficult to work with, feeling she attempted to do his job as director. Despite all of these behind the scene issues, Funny Girl was the highest grossing film of 1968.
East of Eden
This is one the “big three” James Dean films, where Dean’s incredible method acting skills were on full display. East of Eden is also the only one of those films (Rebel Without a Cause and Giant being the others) Dean was able to see in its entirety. Coincidentally, Dean refused to attend the premiere party of the film, which nearly cost him the lead in Rebel Without a Cause.
This classic film was also Dean’s “big break” in the film industry before his tragic death. Dean was said to remain in character during the duration of production staying true to his method acting roots.
The Decline of Western Civilization
The Decline of Western Civilization takes a look at the punk music scene of Los Angeles during the 1980s. This documentary looks at the height of punk rock, covering a number of bands including Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Fear, X, and others.
The first screening of the film caused so much passion from music fans that a number of fights broke out in LA. They were so troublesome that police asked the filmmakers to not conduct another screening. This incredible documentary may not have happened if not for two businessmen financing the project instead of the pornographic film they originally wanted to back.
The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club is a film from the 1980s that follows a familiar formula. This film became a cult classic due to the excellent execution from the cast. Director John Hughes allowed the actors to ad-lib scenes while managing volatile relationships and keeping the cast from completely falling apart.
Originally several sequels were planned, but they never came about due to John Hughes vowing to never work with Judd Nelson again. Despite the onset problems, the cast of Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Paul Gleeson, and Allison Reynolds showed remarkable chemistry. Today The Breakfast Club stands as one of the most loved movies of the 1980s.
The film that launched the rock ‘n’ roll era in American cinema. Blackboard Jungle takes up issues of race, rebellious youth, and a country in the midst of change. The Oscar-winning Sidney Poitier plays a role in the controversial film that became popular for its willingness to tackle subjects most films of the time wouldn’t.
The Richard Brooks film would receive 4 Oscar nominations, including best screenplay. Blackboard Jungle deserves its place on the National Film Registry and is definitely a true work of art. While not Richard Brooks’ most famous film, Blackboard Jungle is arguably his most important work.
To understand Alfred Hitchcock and his approach to directing begins with seeing The Birds. This 1963 classic has been terrifying fans of the horror genre for over 50 years. After the United Kingdom premiere of the film, guests were greeted by the sound of screeching birds from loudspeakers that the studio hid in the trees to scare the audience further.
This film saw the debut of Tippi Hedren, who was dubbed as “Hitchcock’s new Grace Kelly.” Tippi would donate her script from the film to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2008. Tippi is still active in Hollywood today.
The Atomic Cafe
The Atomic Cafe is an extremely important film in the history of the United States. Directors Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, and Pierce Rafferty carefully constructed a combination of government released propaganda films from the 1940s and 1950s which led Americans to believe an atomic bomb was not a threat to their safety.
The 1982 film was released during the Cold War when the threat of nuclear warfare was present in both the United States and the Soviet Union. It took the directors five years to make the film. While the film received criticism for attempting cause panic, everything presented in the documentary is accurate.