The 2017 edition of the National Film Registry’s annual list of films to be saved first should American culture catch on fire—a joke we make every year, and which feels a little more prescient every time—was released earlier today. And, as usual, it stands astride the worlds of populist entertainment and rarefied cinephilia like a Colossus of Rhodes with an MLS degree. Chief among this year’s picks is everybody’s favorite movie to cite as their favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard (1988), a distinction the NFR notes in its writeup of the film, which also calls it a “slam-bang thriller.” No argument here.
Some of the other more populist entries this year include James Cameron’s late-’90s blockbuster juggernaut Titanic (1997), Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough sophomore feature Memento (2000), ‘80s kid-culture milestone The Goonies (1985), Richard Donner’s original Superman (1978), and the Ritchie Valens biopic La Bamba (1987). That last film is one of several nods to Mexican-American culture in this year’s registry; others include the 1979 East L.A. lowrider docudrama Boulevard Nights as well as one of the NFR’s signature pieces of fascinating ephemera, a collection of home movies shot by the Fuentes family in the 1920s and 1930s that captures the Mexican community in Corpus Christi, Texas, at that time.
This year’s class of NFR inductees also includes a number of socially relevant and politically-charged classics, like Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? (1967)—starring the great Sidney Poitier in one of his signature roles—Elia Kazan’s anti-Semitism drama Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), Kirk Douglas as an opportunistic journalist in the cynical journalism-themed noir Ace In The Hole (1951), and Spike Lee’s documentary 4 Little Girls (1997), about the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four young Black girls. It also includes the silent film He Who Gets Slapped (1924), which the NFR describes as “one of the earliest ‘creepy clown’ movies,” so it’s not all political.
An alphabetical list of this year’s National Film Registry inductees is below.
- Ace In The Hole (aka Big Carnival) (1951)
- Boulevard Nights (1979)
- Die Hard (1988)
- Dumbo (1941)
- Field Of Dreams (1989)
- 4 Little Girls (1997)
- Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection (1920s and 1930s)
- Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
- The Goonies (1985)
- Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
- He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
- Interior New York Subway, 14th Street To 42nd Street (1905)
- La Bamba (1987)
- Lives Of Performers (1972)
- Memento (2000)
- Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
- The Sinking Of The Lusitania (1918)
- Spartacus (1960)
- Superman (1978)
- Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)
- Time And Dreams (1976)
- Titanic (1997)
- To Sleep with Anger (1990)
- Wanda (1971)
- With The Abraham Lincoln Brigade In Spain (1937-1938)