The 50 films that I’m nominating for the National Film Registry in 2020

Take a moment to make a brief list of some of your all-time favorite films. Now check this alphabetical list to see which of those films are NOT on the National Film Registry. Did you know that YOU can nominate your favorite missing films to be added to the Registry, and that if those films are selected, they’ll be preserved so that they’re available for future generations to watch and enjoy?

As a brief refresher: the main purpose of the National Film Registry is to recognize and preserve films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Every year, 25 films are added to the Registry. There are currently 775 films on the Registry, and the 25 inductees for 2020 will be announced in December. Films must be at least 10 years old to be considered, though most films are quite a bit older than that by the time they are inducted. The Registry contains a wide variety of films, including popular blockbusters (such as Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Back to the Future), Oscar-winners (such as Casablanca, The Godfather, and Schindler’s List), short films, cartoons, experimental films, test footage, newsreel footage, home videos, etc. 

Anyone from the public is allowed to nominate up to 50 films per year. Nominations for 2020 are due by September 15th. If you’d like to nominate some of your favorite films, you may do so here: 

If you need ideas for what to nominate, feel free to refer to the list of films that I’ve nominated below. You can also consult this extensive list of popular films that are not yet on the Registry: 

Here are the 50 films that I nominated:

  1. A Trip to the Moon (1902)
  2. Nosferatu (1922)
  3. Metropolis (1927)
  4. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
  5. Ma and Pa Kettle (1949)
  6. Seven Samurai (1954)
  7. Godzilla (1954)
  8. Them! (1954)
  9. The King and I (1956)
  10. Tom Jones (1963)
  11. Goldfinger (1964)
  12. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
  13. Batman: The Movie (1966)
  14. Fiddler On The Roof (1971)
  15. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  16. Grease (1978)
  17. Ordinary People (1980)
  18. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  19. The Karate Kid (1984)
  20. Never Gonna Give You Up (1987) [Music Video]
  21. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
  22. Dead Poets Society (1989)
  23. Batman (1989)
  24. Home Alone (1990)
  25. Rudy (1993)
  26. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  27. Apollo 13 (1995)
  28. You’ve Got Mail (1998)
  29. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  30. Galaxy Quest (1999)
  31. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  32. Unbreakable (2000)
  33. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) [note: the nomination form didn’t like the range format for years, so I chose to use 2001 for the release year]
  34. Shrek (2001)
  35. Spirited Away (2002)
  36. Minority Report (2002)
  37. Spider-Man (2002)
  38. Signs (2002)
  39. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
  40. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
  41. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  42. V for Vendetta (2006)
  43. The Dark Knight (2008)
  44. Iron Man (2008)
  45. District 9 (2009)
  46. Avatar (2009)
  47. Inception (2010)
  48. The Social Network (2010)
  49. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
  50. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

The nomination form invites you to make justifications for any of your nominees that you feel are less-obvious choices. Here are the justifications that I provided:

Foreign films – The page describing the nomination process for the Registry notes that the “Registry criteria does not specifically prohibit television programs, commercials, music videos, or foreign productions” and that “the Registry is intended to reflect American society.” To my knowledge, there are currently no foreign films on the Registry, though there is at least one commercial (“Let’s All Go to the Lobby”) and one music video (“Michael Jackson’s Thriller”). While I understand that one of the chief purposes of the Registry is to recognize and preserve American-made films, there are numerous foreign films that have had a significant impact on the “culture, history, and aesthetics” of American cinema. Without some of these foreign films, American cinema would not be what it is today. Consider, for example, the influence that Kurosawa’s films had on films like Star Wars, or how films like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly completely redefined the Western genre, to the point that Morricone’s score from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has now become THE score that is played and parodied in many “showdown” scenes in American films. For this reason, I have included several foreign films among my nominees. Please consider giving some overdue attention to these influential foreign films in the future. Perhaps doing something like inducting only one or two foreign films per year would allow you to continue primarily focusing on American-made films, while also giving some recognition to the foreign films that have shaped American cinema. 

The Lord of the Rings trilogy – I’m assuming that it’s only a matter of time before one of the Lord of the Rings films is inducted to the Registry, but deciding to induct one introduces a problem: which one should you induct? The Fellowship of the Ring is the first in the series, and the Registry seems to have a history of preferring the first film in a successful series, even if later entries were more commercially or critically successful (for example, the choice to induct The Terminator, instead of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, or to initially induct The Godfather several years before its sequel, or Star Wars several years before The Empire Strikes Back). However, the final film in the trilogy, The Return of the King, is the one that got the most acclaim, including 11 Academy Awards, which allowed it to tie with both Ben-Hur and Titanic for the title of “most Oscars ever won by a single movie.” Likewise, The Two Towers, the second entry, is seen by many as the fan favorite of the trilogy. So again the question: which one should be inducted? I’d like to suggest: all of them. HOWEVER, I’m not suggesting that these three films should take up three of this year’s inductee slots. Rather, I’m suggesting that all three films should be inducted together as ONE entry. There is precedent for this: there are several collections of films that have been inducted together as one large whole (for example: “Early Abstractions”, “Why We Fight”, “Navajo Film Themselves”, “Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection”, “Nicholas Brothers’ home movies”, “Reverend Solomon Sir Jones films”, “Dog Star Man”, “Martha Graham dance films”, “Hours for Jerome: Parts 1 and 2”, “Westinghouse Works, 1904”, and “The Kidnappers Foil.”) Given, none of these examples are a blockbuster franchise, but I see no reason why franchises such as The Lord of the Rings should be broken up into distinct parts when the Registry regularly inducts other groups of films that function better as a whole. 

Never Gonna Give You Up – As I noted above, there is currently one music video on the Registry (“Michael Jackson’s Thriller”). I’d like to suggest that it’s time to add a second one. While “Never Gonna Give You Up” was popular in its day, it has seen a resurgence in modern internet culture due to its use in the prank of “Rickrolling.” Internet meme culture has become a huge part of American culture (especially among Millennials and Generation Z), and “Rickrolling” is one of the most popular memes. Indeed, while most meme formats only remain popular for weeks or months, “Rickrolling” has been consistently popular since its origin in 2006. “Rickrolling” has allowed Never Gonna Give You Up to become one of the most easily recognizable music videos—many “victims” of “Rickrolling” recognize the video (and the prank) almost instantaneously once the video starts. For these reasons, I feel that Never Gonna Give You Up easily fits the requirement of being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”

Those are my submissions for this year. Let me know which films you’ll be nominating this year, either in the comments below, or in the comment section of the social media post that brought you here!

To see one-minute videos about each film on the National Film Registry, and to get previews of upcoming posts, be sure to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

2 thoughts on “The 50 films that I’m nominating for the National Film Registry in 2020

  1. Pingback: How to Watch All 800 Films on the National Film Registry (2020 update) – The NFR Completist

  2. Pingback: The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Film #0573 – The NFR Completist

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