Once a year, the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress chooses 25 films that are least 10 years old and are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” These are American films that are considered revolutionary and important to filmmaking, American cinema, and American culture at large. In 2013, two of the 25 lucky films chosen for preservation are the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet and the space exploration film The Right Stuff.
According to the National Film Registry, Fred M. Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet revitalized and empowered science fiction after World War II. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the film examines America’s newly created post-nuclear age. “Forbidden Planet is both sci-fi saga and allegory, a timely parable about the dangers of unlimited power and unrestrained technology,” that inspired the future of the genre and its visionaries including Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. “Along with its literary influence, highly influential special effects and visual style, the film also pushed the boundaries of cinematic science fiction.”
The National Film Registry also selected Philip Kaufman’s 1983 film The Right Stuff. The film recounts the heyday of the American space race in the style of Golden Age of Hollywood. A genre hybrid, Kaufman combines the traditional Western with sophisticated satire and subversive jokes. The Library of Congress says, “At its heart, Right Stuff is a tribute to the space program’s role in generating national pride and an indictment of media-fed hero worship.”
The other notable films selected for film preservation are Disney’s Mary Poppins, Michael Moore’s seminal documentary Roger & Me, and Quentin Tarantino’s iconic Pulp Fiction. While Mary Poppins seems to be receiving a renaissance with Saving Mr. Banks, Michael Moore is grateful that his film debut received the attention, but bemoans the state of the American economy and the ever-shrinking middle class.
Roger & Me explores how corporate greed effects the middle class and the working poor in the United States, and considering the current State of the Union, not much has changed in the 24 years since the film was released. “Last year I learned that there were no usable prints left of Roger & Me,” Moore said in a statement supplied by the Library of Congress. “What there was had seriously deteriorated. This is why I am so grateful for the National Film Registry. … The true regret I have is that the cities of Flint and Detroit, which are at the center of my film, are now in much worse shape—as is the American middle class in general.”
Of course, Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is wildly original and a creative work that continues to influence a new generation of filmmakers and cinephiles. Tarantino received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay with co-screenwriter Roger Avery. Some claim that Tarantino has since topped Pulp Fiction with the likes of Jackie Brown, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained, but his sophomore effort will always be considered his best, in terms of influence and stature.
Here is the full list of films selected by the National Film Registry in 2013:
- Bless Their Little Hearts (1984)
- Brandy in the Wilderness (1969)
- Cicero March (1966)
- Daughter of Dawn (1920)
- Decasia (2002)
- Ella Cinders (1926)
- Forbidden Planet (1956)
- Gilda (1946)
- The Hole (1962)
- Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
- King of Jazz (1930)
- The Lunch Date (1989)
- The Magnificent Seven (1960)
- Martha Graham Early Dance film (1931-44)
- Mary Poppins (1964)
- Men & Dust (1940)
- Midnight (1939)
- Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951)
- Pulp Fiction (1994)
- The Quiet Man (1952)
- The Right Stuff (1983)
- Roger & Me (1989)
- A Virtuous Vamp (1919)
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
- Wild Boys of the Road (1933)
Last year, Andy and Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix was selected for preservation. If you’re reading GFR, then you know how much The Matrix influenced modern sci-fi and action over the last decade. The Matrix also proved that high concept sci-fi can find a mass audience and influence pop culture. In 2011, The War of the Worlds (1953) was also on the list.
What American science fiction movies that are at least 10 years old do you think should be selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2014?