Return of the Jedi Among 25 Films Added to National Film Registry

Sf and fantasy films Star Wars Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, WALLE, and horror movies A Nightmare on Elm Street, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? are on the list of 25 movies inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress this year. Also, Hellbound Train, which includes some fantastic elements. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the selections today.

Films Selected for the 2021 National Film Registry
(chronological order)

  1. Ringling Brothers Parade Film (1902)
  2. Jubilo (1919)
  3. The Flying Ace (1926)
  4. Hellbound Train (1930)
  5. Flowers and Trees (1932)
  6. Strangers on a Train (1951)
  7. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  8. Evergreen (1965)
  9. Requiem-29 (1970)
  10. The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)
  11. Pink Flamingos (1972)
  12. Sounder (1972)
  13. The Long Goodbye (1973)
  14. Cooley High (1975)
  15. Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979)
  16. Chicana (1979)
  17. The Wobblies (1979)
  18. Star Wars Episode VI — Return of the Jedi (1983)
  19. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  20. Stop Making Sense (1984)
  21. Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987)
  22. The Watermelon Woman (1996)
  23. Selena (1997)
  24. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  25. WALLE (2008)

Selected for their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance to preserve the nation’s film heritage, the newest selections include epic trilogies, major roles for Jennifer Lopez and Cicely Tyson, extraordinary animated features, comedy and music, and films that took on racially-motivated violence against people of color decades ago. The selections bring the number of films in the registry to 825, representing a portion of the 1.7 million films in the Library’s collections.

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will host a television special Friday, December 17, starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern to screen a selection of motion pictures named to the registry this year. Hayden will join TCM host and film historian Jacqueline Stewart, who is chair of the National Film Preservation Board, to discuss the films. Also, select titles from 30 years of the National Film Registry are freely available online in the National Screening Room.

A few films selected for the registry drew significant public support this year through online nominations. The original Star Wars trilogy’s third release from “a galaxy far, far away” in 1983 drew the most public votes for Star Wars Episode VI — Return of the Jedi.

“Little did I know when I started writing a tale about good, evil, friendship and the Force, it would become a lifelong journey of creativity, imagination and innovation for so many,” said filmmaker George Lucas. “A great honor of learning ‘Return of the Jedi’ has been included in the National Film Registry is knowing the original trilogy of the Star Wars Saga will be preserved in full as nominated by the public, safeguarded as part of our shared American Cinema heritage by our nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, the Library of Congress, and the National Film Preservation Board.”

The kickoff to another epic trilogy of films, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring from 2001, based on the beloved stories of J.R.R. Tolkien, also earned strong public support.

“In 1951, Professor Tolkien expressed the wish that ‘… other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama…’ might one day come to the world of middle-earth. And they did — actors and artists, composers and musicians, linguists and digital wizards — a myriad of talent came together to bring his vast work of imagination to life on the screen,” said the filmmaking team of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. “It is a great honor to have ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ selected this year by the National Film Registry. We are proud to be part of an archive that celebrates and preserves the art of visual storytelling, for generations to come.” 

Two innovative animated features from different eras also join the registry this year. Disney’s Flowers and Trees, which was released in the dark days of the Great Depression in 1932, showcased the magic of cinema with birds singing and trees in full color. It was the first three-strip Technicolor film shown to the public and set a new standard.

Some 76 years later, Pixar Animation Studios would release a unique masterpiece with 2008’s WALLE, combining animation, science fiction, an ecological cautionary tale and a charming robot love story. The film would go on to win the Oscar for Outstanding Animated Feature.

“Hellbound Train, a silent film from 1930, is a staunchly Christian film, made by the evangelical couple of James and Eloyce Gist. Until recently, it was an overlooked milestone in Black cinema and now joins the registry. Its obvious plot — the Gists were amateur filmmakers, using untrained actors — was to scare sinners straight. It was played in churches and fairgrounds to accompany the Gists’ sermons.

It depicts a train with each car dedicated to particular sins — dancing, drinking, adultery — being conducted by Satan himself. The print was painstakingly reassembled from more than 100 reels of 16mm at the Library by filmmaker S. Torriano Berry, preserving this early example of guerilla filmmaking carried out with a missionary zeal.

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. 

Each year the Librarian of Congress names to the National Film Registry 25 motion pictures that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. The films must be at least 10 years old. More information about the National Film Registry can be found at

The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after conferring with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board and a cadre of Library specialists. Also considered were more than 6,100 titles nominated by the public. Nominations for next year will be accepted through Aug. 15, 2022, at

The press release’s commentary on the six films named in the lede follows the jump.

Flowers and Trees (1932)  
In the darkest days of the Great Depression, audiences welcomed a diversion when they went to theaters. Studios responded with Busby Berkeley musicals, risqué pre-Code films and trippy animations such as the Fleischer Studios’ Betty Boop cartoons. Those attending the 1932 premiere of Disney’s “Flowers and Trees” watched birds singing and trees awakening, all in spectacular hues: “Flowers and Trees” was the first three-strip Technicolor film shown to the public, and the dawning of a new era. The overwhelming response convinced Walt Disney to make all future Silly Symphony shorts in color and a few years later came features like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Even today, the hand-drawn animation and vibrant Technicolor continues to charm and dazzle, showing new audiences the magic cinema can bring.

Hellbound Train (1930)
This surreal and mesmerizing allegorical film by traveling evangelists James and Eloyce Gist is an important and, until recently, overlooked milestone in Black cinema. Painstakingly reassembled from more than 100 reels of 16mm at the Library of Congress by filmmaker S. Torriano Berry, this early example of independent community filmmaking is a fierce and entertaining condemnation of sinfulness with Satan portrayed as a tempting conductor. The Gists showed this silent film in Black churches accompanied by a sermon and religious music.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Director Peter Jackson kicked off his epic trilogy of films of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved oeuvre with this 2001 film. From its visually stunning depiction of Middle-Earth to his large, expert, all-star casting (Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee and Andy Serkis), Jackson and company created a respectful, literate adaptation of one of the world’s most cherished series of written works. Key to making all this magic work and the story of Hobbits surprisingly human are the heartfelt performances (led by Wood as Frodo and McKellen as Gandalf). The combination of magnificent production values and scenes filmed in spectacular New Zealand locations made this a must-see, particularly on wide screens in a cinema. 

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)   
The great horror maestro Wes Craven, as both writer and director, gave a generation of teens (of all ages) terminal insomnia with this imaginative and intense slasher scare fest. Freddy Krueger (played by soon-to-be legend Robert Englund) is the burn-scarred ghost of a psychopathic child killer, now returned to haunt your dreams and take his revenge! Heather Langenkamp stars as the heroic Nancy, who figures out who Freddy is and must be the one to stop him. Also in the cast: Johnny Depp, John Saxon, Ronee Blakley and Charles Fleischer. Made on a budget under $2 million, “Elm Street” became a box office sensation and has inspired numerous sequels (including a film that pitted Freddy against Jason of the “Friday the 13th” films), a 2010 remake, a TV series, books, comic books and videogames, making it one of the most successful film franchises in the history of any cinematic genre. The film established New Line Cinema as a major force in film production with some calling New Line “The House That Freddy Built.”

Return Of The Jedi (1983) aka Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
The original “Star Wars” trilogy reached its first apex with this film, the third release in the “a galaxy far, far away” trifecta. Directed by Richard Marquand, from a story by, of course, George Lucas, “Jedi” launches Lucas’ original, legendary characters — Luke, Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO, R2-D2 and others — on a series of new adventures, which takes fans from the planet of Tatooine to the deep forests of Endor. Populated by intriguing new characters — including Ewoks and the gluttonous Jabba the Hutt — and filled with the series’ trademark humor, heart, thrills and chills, “Jedi,” though perhaps not quite up to the lofty standards of its two predecessors, still ranks as an unquestioned masterpiece of fantasy, adventure and wonder.

WALLE (2008)
Wowing critics and audiences of all ages alike, Pixar Animation Studios has had an unrivaled run of cinematic masterpieces, including the marvelously unique WALLE (2008). Fresh off the monster hit “Finding Nemo” (2003), director Andrew Stanton created an incredible blend of animation, science fiction, ecological cautionary tale, and a charming robot love story. It is the tale of a lovable, lonely trash-collecting robot, “WALLE” (standing for Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth Class), who, one day, meets, quite literally, his Eve. A triumph even by Pixar standards, the film uses skillful animation, imaginative set design (and remarkably little dialogue) to craft two deeply affecting characters who transcend their “mechanics” to tell a universal story of friendship and love. Comic relief is provided by M-O (Microbe Obliterator), a truly obsessed neat freak cleaning robot ever on the search for “foreign contaminants.” The film won the Oscar in 2009 for Outstanding Animated Feature.

 [Based on a press release. Thanks to N and Bill for the story.]

5 thoughts on “Return of the Jedi Among 25 Films Added to National Film Registry

  1. Leigh Brackett wrote the screenplay for “The Long Goodbye.” And also by herself or in collaboration the following films previously added to the list: “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Rio Bravo”, and “The Big Sleep”. She also is credited for “Hatari!” which is likely to be added in the future.

  2. Hey, there’s LOTS of good stuff being preserved here. But, as a lifelong fan (and critic) of the cinema, I have to take exception with three of these movies:

    !) Return of the Jedi is a good film with several good scenes, but it nowhere near as great as the two films the preceded it. Popcorn is great but makes a rather unsatisfying meal. Just Sayin’…

    2) I can see why Pink Flamingos was deemed worthy due to its subversive and transgressive nature. But its selection STILL leaves a BAD taste in my mouth. So to speak…

    3) WALL-E is one the WORST MOVIESI have ever had the displeasure to see and I HATE WITH THE HEAT OF A THOUSAND SUPER NOVAS!!!! And it GALLS me no end that it won a Long Form BDP Hugo Award in 2009 against the likes of The Dark Knight, the audio version of METAtropolis, Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Marvel’s first installment of their cinematic universe, Iron Man. C’MON, MAN, what the HELL were you all thinking back then? NOT MUCH, apparently…HUMBUG!

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  4. I mean, I’ll acknowledge my bias as someone under 25 here who was a kid when WALL-E came out, but I clock it as an effective family film/romance/ecological warning that represents the height of Pixar’s sheer dominance in the 2000s and has elements that stand out among animated major motion pictures, so I say it belongs. Maybe some parts with the humans are redundant but there’s still plenty of good stuff there too. If I were voting back then at the age I currently am I certainly wouldn’t rank Iron Man above it (I don’t even really consider The Dark Knight to be SF/F).

    (Also, regardless of what I think of WALL-E or any other movie on this list, it’s not the best movies, it’s the most important movies. The Library acknowledged this by itself saying that many consider Return of the Jedi to be a drop in quality compared to the other two films, but it’s a still pretty good film that capped off the story the other two started. I mean, if you have the most infamous cliffhanger in Empire Strikes Back in there, you gotta preserve the ending too. Pink Flamingos also proves that “important” supersedes subjective taste. Me personally I’d have gone with Female Trouble but Pink Flamingos probably did more for film history.)

  5. @Chris M. Barkley

    Return of the Jedi is a good film with several good scenes, but it nowhere near as great as the two films the preceded it.

    . . . both of which are already on the registry, so it’s not like Jedi’s inclusion upends the ranking.

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