Library of Congress: 25 Eclectic Films Chosen for National Film Registry; 2022 Entries Include Iron Man, Hairspray, When Harry Met Sally, The Little Mermaid, and Carrie
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced today the annual selection of 25 influential motion pictures to be inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Selected for their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance to preserve the nation’s film heritage, the newest selections include a vibrant diversity of American filmmakers, as well as landmark works in key genres and numerous documentaries.
The 2022 selections date back 124 years in filmmaking to an 1898 film of the “Mardi Gras Carnival” parade in New Orleans. The film was long thought to be lost but recently discovered in a museum in the Netherlands. The most recent film now added to the registry is 2011’s “Pariah,” directed by Dee Rees. This year’s selections include at least 15 films directed or co-directed by filmmakers of color, women or LGBTQ+ filmmakers. The selections bring the number of films in the registry to 850, many of which are among the 1.7 million films in the Library’s collections.
Hollywood releases selected this year include Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man,” Disney’s beloved “The Little Mermaid,” John Waters’ “Hairspray,” the unforgettable romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally,” Brian De Palma’s adaptation of “Carrie,” and the 1950 film version of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which made José Ferrer the first Hispanic actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor. The full listing of selected films is included below.
“Films have become absolutely central to American culture by helping tell our national story for more than 125 years. We are proud to add 25 more films by a group of vibrant and diverse filmmakers to the National Film Registry as we preserve our cinematic heritage,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “We’re grateful to the entire film community for collaborating with the Library of Congress to ensure these films are preserved for the future.”
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will host a television special Tuesday, Dec. 27, starting at 8 p.m. ET to screen a selection of motion pictures named to the registry this year. Hayden will join TCM host, film historian and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Director and President Jacqueline Stewart, who is chair of the National Film Preservation Board, to discuss the films.
“I am especially proud of the way the Registry has amplified its recognition of diverse filmmakers, experiences, and a wide range of filmmaking traditions in recent years,” Stewart said. “I am grateful to the entire National Film Preservation Board, the members of the public who nominated films, and of course to Dr. Hayden for advocating so strongly for the preservation of our many film histories.”
Select titles from 30 years of the National Film Registry are also freely available online in theNational Screening Room. Follow the conversation about the 2022 National Film Registry on Twitter and Instagram at @librarycongress and #NatFilmRegistry.
Public Nominations for the National Film Registry
The public submitted 6,865 titles for consideration this year. Several selected titles drew significant public support through online nominations. They include “Betty Tells Her Story, “Carrie,” “Iron Man,” “The Little Mermaid” and “When Harry Met Sally.”
The public can submit nominations throughout the year on the Library’s web site Nominations for next year will be accepted until Aug. 15, 2023. Cast your vote at loc.gov/film.
“The Little Mermaid,” the 1989 film that kicked off Disney’s renaissance of animated musical films, has been an iconic part of the nation’s culture ever since. Jodi Benson was a young Broadway actress when Howard Ashman, the lyricist and musical visionary behind many Disney films of that period, convinced her to audition for the lead role of Ariel after a Broadway play the two had worked on fizzled.
Some 33 years later in an illustrious career, Benson said she still performs Ariel’s big song, “Part of Your World,” every week.
“I’m thrilled and honored on behalf of my character and the Walt Disney Company for the Library selecting our very special film,” Benson said in an interview. The film “was the last hand-painted, hand-drawn, full-length feature film for the Walt Disney Studios. So that is really amazing and such an honor.”
Sissy Spacek, the star of “Carrie,” makes her third appearance on the registry, joining her earlier films “Badlands” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Her role as Carrie White, the telekinetic teen misfit who is abused by her mother and taunted by her classmates, drew an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and a lasting image in pop culture as a vengeful, blood-soaked prom queen.
She credits Stephen King’s novel, the basis for the film, as striking a nerve with teenagers in each generation who are desperate to fit in with their peers for the film’s lasting resonance. The other factor, she said, was a superb cast that included Piper Laurie (also nominated for an Oscar), John Travolta and Amy Irving.
“Brian De Palma was just such a wonder to work with,” Spacek said in a recent interview, crediting the film’s director. “He would tell us exactly what he needed and then he’d say, ‘Within those parameters, you can do anything you want. That was just so wonderful.”
Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios president, was delighted that “Iron Man,” the film that launched Marvel Studios as a daily presence in American popular culture, made the list. The film was directed by Jon Favreau.
“Iron Man was the very first film Marvel Studios independently produced,” Feige said in an interview. “It was the first film that we had all of the creative control and oversight on and it was really make or break for the studio.
“All of our favorite movies are the ones that we watch over and over again and that we grow up with,” he said. “The notion that here we are, almost 15 years after the release of ‘Iron Man,’ and to have it join the Film Registry tells us it has stood the test of time and that it is still meaningful to audiences around the world.”
Landmark Works in Key Genres
Several selections were defining works in their genres. Among romantic comedies, “When Harry Met Sally” from 1989 is a classic — Vanity Fair named it this year as the best American rom-com ever made — that brought together several major talents. Screenwriter Nora Ephron, director Rob Reiner, actor Billy Crystal and actress Meg Ryan all cemented their status in pop culture fame with the film. And the film remains one of the most quoted films of the 1980s with lines like “I’ll have what she’s having.”
“I just felt so plugged into the process of making the movie,” Crystal said in an interview. “…not that anything is ever easy, but it was just such a joy to see it come to life.”
But what makes the movie such an enduring romance?
“The movie is beautiful and simple and appropriate and every shot is just right,” Crystal said. “The timing, which is in the hands of Rob, who is, for this movie, a modern-day Billy Wilder … and it’s New York, it’s the fall, it’s the music.”
“Hairspray,” the quirky story of a plus-sized Baltimore teen and her friends integrating a local television dance show in the early 1960s, wasn’t a huge success at first but has gone on to have a life of its own. It was remade as a Tony Award-winning musical on Broadway, a megahit musical film in 2007 and a live TV version in 2016. But in John Waters’ 1988 original, it was an 18-year-old Ricki Lake who was first tapped to play the lead role of Tracy Turnblad.
“I didn’t even really process that I was the star of the movie,” Lake said in a recent interview from her home in Malibu, “until the movie was made and we were seeing right before it came out. I was like, ‘Oh, WOW.”
Audiences did the same. As the “pleasantly plump” teen misfit, her charming performance gave the nation a cultural marker about acceptance for plus-sized women that reverberates to this day: The heavyset girl couldwin the dance contest andland the good-looking guy.
Among Latino films, “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” from 1982 is one of the key feature films from the 1980s Chicano film movement. Edward James Olmos was a working actor but not yet a star when he and several friends, meeting at what would become the Sundance Film Festival, decided to make a film about a true story of injustice from the Texas frontier days.
Shot on a tiny budget for PBS, “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” accurately tells the story of a Mexican-American farmer who in 1901 was falsely accused of stealing a horse. Cortez killed the sheriff who tried to arrest him, outran a huge posse for more than a week, barely escaped lynching and was eventually sentenced to more than a decade in prison. The incident became a famous corrido, or story-song, that is still sung in Mexico and Texas.
“This film is being seen more today than it was the day we finished it,” Olmos said in an interview. “‘The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez’ is truly the best film I’ve ever been a part of in my lifetime.”
As a classic of the “Blaxploitation” genre, “Super Fly” was also a searing commentary on the American dream in 1972. Directed by Gordon Parks Jr., son of the renowned photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks, the film revolves around a Harlem drug pusher with style who aims to make one final score and then leave the business; criminals and corrupt police have other ideas. Some criticized the film as glorifying drug dealers or for reinforcing stereotypes. Curtis Mayfield’s score, however, received universal acclaim.
“House Party” joins the registry as a 1990 comedy landmark, as it put Black teenagers, hip-hop music and New Jack swing culture directly into the American cultural mainstream. It spawned the pop-culture careers of stars Kid ‘n Play, sequels and imitations — and the career of Reginald Hudlin, its writer and director. Hudlin is now a major player in Hollywood — but “House Party” was his first film.
“The day we shot the big dance number in ‘House Party’ is easily one of the best days of my life,” he said in a recent interview, still gushing about how much fun it all was. “We had all the enthusiasm in the world, all the commitment in the world.”
In avant-garde/experimental cinema, Kenneth Anger’s “Scorpio Rising” from 1963 is a mesmerizing collage of songs from early 1960s pop artists and a fast-paced exploration of symbolism and ideas about religion, Nazism, biker subculture, gay life and more.
LGBTQ+ Films Break New Ground
Several important films on the list broke ground in visually representing the LGBTQ+ community that had long been kept out of sight — or at least off screen. Similar to films depicting other groups struggling to gain acceptance, LGBTQ+ creators used films to confront tough issues, make gay people more visible, urge greater empathy and show commonalities in society.
Before Stonewall, the 1967 student short film “Behind Every Good Man” by Nikolai Ursin offered a stunning early portrait of Black gender fluidity in Los Angeles and the quest for love and acceptance.
By the late 1970s, a collective of six queer filmmakers known as the Mariposa Film Group would create “Word is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives.” The film would become a landmark in the emerging gay rights movement. Composed of a mosaic of interviews, a diverse group of interviewees discuss their lives as gay men and lesbians at a time when depictions of gay men and lesbians as “everyday people” were extremely rare.
Other films selected for preservation also raised the visibility of LGBTQ+ stories, including 1989’s “Tongues Untied,” a video essay by Marlon Riggs about Black men loving Black men.
Writer/Director Dee Rees was wrapping up her graduate film degree at New York University while she was developing an idea about a teenage Black girl in Brooklyn coming to terms with her identity. She scrounged together grants to make the film as a short and as a feature, all for less than $500,000, called it “Pariah” and saw it get picked up for national distribution at Sundance.
The 2011 film struck a nerve, winning numerous awards and gaining national distribution. It remains a key film in modern queer cinema. This year, it’s an inductee into the registry, one of the few films made by a Black lesbian to join this group so far. Still, Rees said in an interview, the point of the film was the personal narrative of Alika, the main character, not just an archetype of a demographic.
“Here’s, you know, an idea of a life,” Rees said of the film, “an idea of a character, who can outlive us all, hopefully.”
Documentaries Stand Out in 2022
Broadly defined, documentaries are well represented with an impressive nine selections in 2022. Documentaries selected for preservation cover a wide range of topics, including a prison riot, Native American heritage, musical greats, female union workers, mental health treatment, LGBTQ+ history, a Japanese-American internment camp, and 19th century New Orleans.
First among those films documenting part of American history was the “Mardi Gras Carnival” film from New Orleans in 1898, which represents the earliest known surviving footage of the festival. Long thought to be lost, a copy of the film was recently discovered at the Eye Filmmuseum in the Netherlands. In 2013, the Library released a report that determined 70 percent of the nation’s silent feature films have been lost forever and only 14 percent exist in their original format.
Other documentary films stand out for leading to social change. With the landmark 1967 film “Titicut Follies,” Frederick Wiseman takes audiences inside the Bridgewater State Prison for the Criminally Insane in Massachusetts to expose the abuse of patients. The film was banned from general release until 1991 when a judge ruled the film could be shown to the general public. The film is a seminal work of American documentary and an illustration of the impact of cinema to bring change to institutions.
“Union Maids,” an Oscar-nominated documentary film from 1976, was directed by Julia Reichert, James Klein and Miles Mogulescu. It told the story of three female Union workers in the 1930s and their days of conflict and confrontation with American corporations. The three women — Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, Sylvia Woods — emerge as unique, compelling voices.
Reichert, a legendary figure in the documentary world, won the Academy Award, along with Steven Bognar and Jeff Reichert, in 2019 for “American Factory.” Terminally ill with cancer and in hospice when notified in November that “Union Maids” was being added to the registry, she responded to questions by email. She died less than a week later, on Dec. 1.
“For the longest time, women’s voices, especially working-class women’s voices, were not respected let alone heard,” Reichert wrote. “Documentaries presented men as the experts, the historians, the authorities. We hoped this film would just show you how vital, wise, funny and essential these women’s voices were and are, to the struggles of working people to get a better deal.”
List of 25 NFR Selections (2022)
Films Selected for the 2022 National Film Registry
- Mardi Gras Carnival (1898)
- Cab Calloway Home Movies (1948-1951)
- Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)
- Charade (1963)
- Scorpio Rising (1963)
- Behind Every Good Man (1967)
- Titicut Follies (1967)
- Mingus (1968)
- Manzanar (1971)
- Betty Tells Her Story (1972)
- Super Fly (1972)
- Attica (1974)
- Carrie (1976)
- Union Maids (1976)
- Word is Out: Stories of Our Lives (1977)
- Bush Mama (1979)
- The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982)
- Itam Hakim, Hopiit (1984)
- Hairspray (1988)
- The Little Mermaid (1989)
- Tongues Untied (1989)
- When Harry Met Sally (1989)
- House Party (1990)
- Iron Man (2008)
- Pariah (2011)
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.