Library of Congress adds ‘Iron Man,’ ‘The Little Mermaid’ to National Film Registry

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes the National Film Registry (Part 1)

The Library of Congress has revealed 25 new selections for the National Film Registry.

Each year, the library identifies 25 motion pictures that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” for preservation in the nation’s official library collection.

“We just try to pick a film that has ongoing significance, be it for its aesthetics or historic importance, or a director or a personality,” National Film Preservation Board Programming Coordinator Steve Leggett told WTOP. “The congressional language is very broad, so we just look for stuff and try to have a diverse group of films that also remains significant.”

This year’s list includes the animated classic “The Little Mermaid” (1989), as “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” kicked off the Disney Renaissance of musicals with “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), “Aladdin” (1992) and “The Lion King” (1994).

“This was after Disney had a lapse in popularity, so it’s a kind of rebirth,” Leggett said. “They also started introducing Broadway-type songs, so it really launched a new genre.”

The registry is also adding Marvel’s “Iron Man” (2008), which kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe starring Robert Downey Jr. as the sarcastic Tony Stark.

“We were just trying to recognize the beginning of the MCU, and Marvel has had a big impact starting with this one, the first feature,” Leggett said.

An overdue addition is Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “Carrie” (1976).

“We picked it for a couple of reasons,” Leggett said. “I think it’s a key touchstone film in the horror genre and also we also didn’t have any Brian De Palma films.”

Rom-com fans will be glad to see the registry welcome “When Harry Met Sally” (1989), written by Nora Ephron (“Sleepless in Seattle”) and directed by Rob Reiner (“The Princess Bride”), whose mother delivered the iconic line, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

“We’ve had some Rob Reiner films before and he was in such a great streak here of hit after hit,” Leggett said. “This one is just a great romantic comedy, the script is just magnificent, it just really works with the chemistry between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.”

The list also includes “Cyrano de Bergerac” (1950), which made José Ferrer the first Hispanic to win a Best Actor Oscar; John Waters’ dance film “Hairspray” (1988), which became a hit Broadway musical; Frederick Wiseman’s searing mental-home documentary “Titicut Follies” (1967); and the most recent film, “Pariah “(2011), 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, though there are 1.7 million total films in the Library’s collections.

Turner Classic Movies will host a TV special on Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 8 p.m. to screen several of this year’s registry films. Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden will discuss the film with TCM host, film historian and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Director and President Jacqueline Stewart, who is also chair of the National Film Preservation Board.

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes the National Film Registry (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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