In mid-December every year, the Library of Congress releases a list of 25 films that will be added to the National Film Registry; each work receives a substantial amount of money to be used for preservation and restoration. This list is the cinematic heritage of the United States and my second favorite film event of the year behind the Oscars.
The National Film Preservation Board invites the general public to submit entries. I thought it would be fun to publish my submitted recommendations for 2014. Here they are:
1. …Baby One More Time (1998) – This music video represents the start of the late 90s pop phenomenon that would go on to influence artists like Christina Aguilera, N*SYNC, Mandy Moore, and Jessica Simpson. It featured rising star Britney Spears in her most memorable performance. With its high school venue and suggestive lyrics, it also started a national conversation about appropriate displays of sexuality, especially in the teenage years.
2. 9/11 Home Footage – September 11th has to define American history in the early 21st century. On that terrible day, countless news organizations and private citizens captured the moment. Although it would be difficult to track down every piece of home media, there should be some effort to collect and preserve these images from large media groups like CNN and to cell phone cameras of what it was like on the ground.
3. Armageddon (1998) – Although its artistic quality is certainly debatable, Armageddon represents the last legs of the late 90s special effects action film. With director Michael Bay’s signature features of explosions, fast editing, and cheesy dialogue in full form, it perfectly encapsulates a style and era that would fortunately give way to more intelligent fantasy films in the next decade.
4. Dancing Baby (1996) – This short digital clip was one of the first major viral videos and internet memes shared widely across the web, launching millions more.
5. Field of Dreams (1989) – A classic American sports film that is treasured by fathers and sons across the country. An absolutely beautiful story that is both real and magical.
6. Hell House (2001) – This documentary follows an evangelical Church as it prepares its annual “Hell House,” a visual Christian tract and alternative to the haunted house tradition. Spectators are taken on a maze tour of the sins of modern society including abortion, homosexuality, secularism, and atheism before given a chance to give their lives to Christ. Following the Direct Cinema style, the camera simply watches these passionate churchgoers, mostly teens and young adults, as they engage and debate with believers and non-believers alike, a perfect example of the modern culture wars.
7. The Incredibles (2004) – A magnificent film that highlighted the importance of the family with an extremely well written script. While still using innovative techniques, it harkened back to more traditional animated styles and stories while challenging the entitlement culture and family dynamics of the current age.
8. Independence Day (1996) – There isn’t a millennial male alive that doesn’t point to this film as the pinnacle of 90s action movies. It sees American optimism at its finest to save the world with some of the best pacing of any film in history.
9. The King of Kings (1927) – De Mille certainly wasn’t the first filmmaker to tackle the greatest story ever told, but he made it a Hollywood staple. This was one of the biggest films of the silent era with an amazing performance by H. B. Warner in the title role and writing that preserves the glory of the King James translation while being intelligible to a contemporary audience. It also one of the first epics to use color.
10. The Land Before Time (1988) – This is a classic of late 20th century animation that got every kid interested in dinosaurs. It also introduced loss and recovery in a way not seen since Bambi and Old Yeller.
11. The Line and the Dot (1965) – Chuck Jones creates an experimental animated romance out of geometric shapes, demonstrating the universal nature of gender archetypes.
12. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – This film, the first in an epic trilogy, saw the arrival of the “smart fantasy” that took universal themes serious while still retaining amazing special effects.
13. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966) – Thanks to a late night TV showing featuring wise-cracking robots, this has rightly earned the reputation as possibly the worse film ever made but endless watched and discussed with glee by a generation of future film critics. It also shows an early example of independent filmmaking, shot on a shoestring budget by an insurance salesman.
14. Me at the Zoo (2005) – This nineteen second short film created by friend Yakov Lapitsky was the first film uploaded to YouTube by co-founder Jawed Karim, launching the 3rd most visited website in the world and fundamentally changing the medium of film forever.
15. Mean Girls (2004) – In a subtle way, Mean Girls dealt with the rise of bullying in high schools as well as the experience of being a teenage girl. It is a cornerstone of high school movies for Millennials in the same way John Hughes was for Generation X.
16. Mothlight (1963) – This short experimental film by Stan Brakhage was created without a movie camera by gluing twigs and moth wings onto the film negative, creating the feeling of a moth flying through the woods.
17. NASA Apollo 11 Footage (1969) – On July 20th, 1969, Apollo 11 became the first mission to send people to another celestial body outside the Earth. The astronauts recorded hours of footage, including the famous descent of Neil Armstrong. Most Americans saw these images through hazy television screens, but it would be wonderful to restore and preserve the original negatives.
18. The Passion of the Christ (2004) – This cultural landmark covers the last day of Jesus of Nazareth, filmed in Latin and Aramaic. While immediately controversial for its violence and accusations of anti-Semitism, it continues to be seen by many for its religious convictions. As of 2015, it is still the highest grossing R-rated film and non-English film made.
19. The Patterson–Gimlin Film (1967) – This film, which runs only a few seconds, claims to show a real Bigfoot walking through a Northern California forest. Whether true or a hoax, it set off a firestorm of paranormal interest in the United States that continues to the present.
20. Powwow Highway (1989) – An early independent comedy made by a group of Native Americans about their experiences living on a reservation. Many of the actors went on to other Native American projects like Smoke Signals. Funny and bittersweet, it’s a wonderful movie by a community finding its way in this new America while holding to the traditions of the past.
21. The Princess Bride (1988) – A kind and gentle fairy tale that plays wonderfully with the genre.
22. Shrek (2001) – Currently, there are no feature length animate films from any company but Disney. This film spawned a major franchise, challenging Disney’s reign under the leadership of a scorned ex-Disney executive. It also won the first Oscar for animated feature.
23. Spaceballs (1987) – A great spoof that inspired many other fan films by Mel Brooks. It continues to be enormously popular with young males.
24. The Truman Show (1998) – This movie put the sharply criticized the modern obsession with reality programming while being a great philosophical tale as well.
This my list. Feel free to let me know yours!
You can submit your own suggestions to Congress here. In order to qualify, the film must be primarily produced by Americans for the American market and be at least ten years old. You may submit up to 50 recommendations a year.