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National Film Registry Year by Year


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Ghostbusters (1984)

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One of the most popular, quotable films from the past three decades and a touchstone of cultural reference, "Ghostbusters" can also easily be seen as a loving homage to those earlier wacky horror comedies from Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope and others. Three lapsed science academics (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis) set up shop to handle the underappreciated (and never-ending) task of ferreting out ghosts, and will not rest until the paranormal becomes New York normal once more. These days, the trio would find a home in reality TV, but, given the era, they must prove their bona fides through clever publicity and satisfied customer word-of-mouth. Leading this Gotham firm in the fight against ever-present slime, is sleazy, yet charming, Bill Murray who brings a breezy air of can-do insouciance to the job of dealing with a rogues gallery of malevolence, including puffed-up existential threats such as the Marshmallow Man. Murray takes regular time outs from spirit-chasing to romance brainy cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who becomes a channeler of the demon Zuul. The infectious insanity of "Ghostbusters" makes it a favorite film of the ‘80s.

The expanded essay is below this description.

https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/ghostbusters.pdf

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Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Jim Jarmusch has emerged as a leading figure in independent cinema, and this, his first major film, reflects his non-traditional style. From an earlier version of a script written with his punk rock musician friend, John Lurie, Jarmusch fashioned the piece into a three-part black comedy set in New York, Cleveland and Florida. His main characters, three disillusioned young people played by Lurie, Eszter Balint and Richard Edson, do little more than watch TV, go to movies and play cards. Citing inspiration from the works of Andy Warhol, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, Jarmusch has adopted a minimalist approach to his work that often straddles several languages and cultures.

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The Terminator (1984)

Terminator

In 1984, few expected much from the upcoming film "The Terminator." Director James Cameron, a protégé of legendary independent filmmaker Roger Corman, had made only two films previously: the modest sci-fi short "Xenogenesis" in 1978 and "Piranha Part Two: The Spawning" in 1981. However, "The Terminator" became one of the sleeper hits of 1984, blending an ingenious, thoughtful script — clearly influenced by the works of sci-fi legend Harlan Ellison — and relentless, non-stop action moved along by an outstanding synthesizer and early techno soundtrack. Most notable was Arnold Schwarzenegger's star-making performance as the mass-killing cyborg with a laconic sense of humor ("I'll be back"). Low-budget, but made with heart, verve, imagination, and superb Stan Winston special effects, "The Terminator" remains among the finest science-fiction films in many decades.

The expanded essay is below this description.

https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/terminator.pdf

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This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

This Is Spinal Tap

When "This is Spinal Tap" debuted in 1984 it inspired a new film genre: the "mockumentary." Its stars-writers Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer – all of them musicians – first appeared as the band on a 1979 TV pilot, and director Rob Reiner and "the band" produced a 20-minute demo reel to sell their improv idea to studio execs. Many of these ad-libbed scenes appear in the final movie -- its cinematic style approximating rock documentaries like "The Last Waltz" and "Gimme Shelter." Critic Roger Ebert observed that the film's satire "has a deft, wicked touch" which audiences embraced only modestly upon its theatrical release, but has since grown a cult following and greater success on home video.

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The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

Told largely with revealing news clips and archival footage interspersed with personal reminiscences, "The Times of Harvey Milk," directed by Rob Epstein, vividly recounts the life of San Francisco's first openly gay elected city official. The film, which received an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, traces Harvey Milk's ascent from Bay Area businessman to political prominence as city supervisor and his 1978 assassination, which also claimed the life of San Francisco mayor George Moscone. While illuminating the effect that Milk had on those who knew him, the film also documents the nascent gay rights movement of the 1970s. The film, with its moving and incisive portrait of a city, a culture and a struggle—as well as Harvey Milk's indomitable spirit—resonates profoundly as a historical document of a grassroots movement gaining political power through democratic means.

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The Goonies (1985)

The fingerprints of executive producer Steven Spielberg visibly mark every second of "The Goonies," with the plot sporting a narrative structure and many themes characteristic of his work. Spielberg penned the original story, hand-selected director Richard Donner and hired Chris Columbus (who had written the 1983 "Gremlins") to do the offbeat screenplay. With its keen focus on kids of agency and adventure, "The Goonies" protagonists are Tom Sawyeresque outsiders on a magical treasure hunt, and the story lands in the continuum between where "Our Gang" quests leave off and the darker spaces of Netflix's recent "Stranger Things" pick up.

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The Breakfast Club (1985)

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John Hughes, who had previously given gravitas to the angst of adolescence in his 1984 film, "Sixteen Candles," further explored the social politics of high school in this comedy/character study produced one year later. Set in a day-long Saturday detention hall, the film offers an assortment of American teen-age archetypes such as the "nerd," "jock," and "weirdo." Over the course of the day, labels and default personas slip away as members of this motley group actually talk to each other and learn about each other and themselves. "The Breakfast Club" is a comedy that delivers a message with laughs. Thirty years later, the movie's message is still vivid. Written and directed by Hughes, the film's cast includes Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy.

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Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future

Writer/director Robert Zemeckis explored the possibilities of special effects with the 1985 box-office smash "Back to the Future." With his writing partner Bob Gale, Zemeckis tells the tale of accidental time-tourist Marty McFly. Stranded in the year 1955, Marty (Michael J. Fox)—with the help of his friend eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett Brown (played masterfully over-the-top by Christopher Lloyd)—must not only find a way home, but also teach his father (Crispin Glover) how to become a man, repair the space/time continuum and save his family from being erased from existence. All this, while fighting off the advances of his then-teenaged mother (Lea Thompson). The film generated a popular soundtrack and two enjoyable sequels.

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Platoon (1986)

Eschewing the rah-rah fiction of many Hollywood war movies, always-fearless director Oliver Stone created "Platoon" based upon his own experiences in Vietnam. Stone intended the film to show the malignancy of war and to serve as an important counterpoint to earlier heroic depictions of the Vietnam conflict, most notably John Wayne's "The Green Berets." Actor Charlie Sheen stands in for the real-life Stone, ably assisted by a cast including Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe. The memorable soundtrack features visceral, haunting use of Samuel Barber's elegiac "Adagio for Strings."

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She's Gotta Have it (1986)

The distinct voice and cinematic talent of Spike Lee first became evident thanks to this indie classic. "She's Gotta Have It" tells the story of a confident, single black woman (in itself something of a breakthrough) pursued by three different African-American men — and who isn't sure she wants any of them. More than 30 years later, this landmark work remains as vital, vibrant, charming and streetwise as it was at first release, a harbinger of Lee's enduring and visionary career as filmmaker. Lee also appears in the film as the memorable Mars.

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Fake Fruit Factory (1986)

An expressive, sympathetic look at the everyday lives of young Mexican women who create ornamental papier măché fruits and vegetables, "Fake Fruit Factory" exemplifies filmmaker Chick Strand's unique style that deftly blends documentary, avant-garde and ethnographic techniques. After studying anthropology and ethnographic film at the University of California, Strand, who helped noted independent filmmaker Bruce Baillie create the independent film distribution cooperative Canyon Cinema, taught filmmaking for 24 years at Occidental College. She developed a collagist process to create her films, shooting footage of people she encountered over several decades of annual summer stays in Mexico and then editing together individual films. In "Fake Fruit Factory," Strand employs a moving camera at close range to create colorfully vivid images often verging on abstraction, while her soundtrack picks up snatches of conversation to evoke, in her words, "the spirit of the people." "I want to know," Strand wrote, "really what it is like to be a breathing, talking, moving, emotional, relating individual in the society."

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Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

John Hughes, the king of both 1980s family comedy ("Home Alone") and teen angst ("Sixteen Candles"), achieved a career highpoint with this funny, heartfelt tale of a teenage wiseacre (Matthew Broderick) whose day playing hooky leads not only to a host of comic misadventures but also, ultimately, to self-realization for both him and his friends. Hughes' manner of depicting late-20th-century youth—their outward and inward lives—finds a successful vehicle in the "everyman" appeal of lead Broderick, whose conning of his parents is really an honest and earnest attempt to help his best friend. With the city of Chicago serving as backdrop and a now-iconic street performance of "Twist and Shout" serving as the film's centerpiece, Ferris Bueller emerged as one of film's greatest and most fully realized teen heroes. Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey and Jeffrey Jones co-starred in the film. This is Hughes' first film on the registry.

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Hoosiers (1986)

Hoosiers

Directed by David Anspaugh, Gene Hackman stars as a high school basketball coach who takes his team to the state championship finals. Based on the true story of a 1954 small-town Indiana team and its coach, the film is at times bleak and at others inspiring. The drab palette of this straight-from-the-heartland tale foreshadows an America on the verge of change. Dennis Hopper as the town's basketball-loving drunk was nominated for an Oscar. With Barbara Hershey and Sheb Wooley.

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Luxo Jr. (1986)

The iconic living, moving desk lamp that now begins every Pixar motion picture (from "Finding Nemo" to "Monsters, Inc." to "Up") has its genesis in this charming, computer-animated short subject, directed by John Lasseter and produced by Lasseter and fellow Pixar visionary Bill Reeves. In the two-minute, 30-second film, two gray balance-arm lamps—one parentally large and one childishly small (the "Junior" of the title)—interact with a brightly colored ball. In strikingly vivid animation, Lasseter and Reeves manage to bring to joyous life these two inanimate objects and to infuse them both with personality and charm—qualities that would become the norm in such soon-to-be Pixar productions as "Toy Story," "Cars" and "WALL-E." Nominated for an Oscar in 1986 for best-animated short, "Luxo Jr." was the first three-dimensional computer-animated film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award.

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Precious Images (1986)

Produced by Chuck Workman to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Directors Guild of America, this dizzying compilation celebrates the first eight decades of American cinema to dazzling effect. Workman, best known for his Academy Awards broadcast montages, rolls out nearly 500 clips from films dating back to1903 in the space of seven short minutes to create one of the most influential and widely shown short films in history.

The expanded essay is below this description.

https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/precious_images.pdf

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Sherman's March (1986)

Sherman's March

Director Ross McElwee's first feature-length documentary ostensibly focuses on the modern day impact of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman's famous March to the Sea on Southerners. While at MIT working on a master's degree in filmmaking, McElwee studied under documentarians Richard Leacock and Ed Pincus, both pioneers of the cinéma vérité movement, and refined his first person narrative approach. In the film, General Sherman's story intersects McElwee's own self-deprecating tale of life, love, and religion. It straddles fiction and nonfiction, comedy and drama, primarily through a series of impromptu interviews. "Sherman's March" won the Grand Jury prize in the field of documentary at the 1987 Sundance Film Festival.

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Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun

Though a wag might be tempted to call this Tony Scott film "The Testosterone Chronicles," the Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer production actually comprises a deft portrait of mid-1980s America, when politicians promised "Morning in America Again," and singers crooned "God Bless the U.S.A." The U.S. Navy, for one, did not complain: applications to naval aviation schools soared in part as a result of this relentless, pulsating film famed for its vertiginous fighter-plane sequences. Scott, always most at home when crafting slick, visually arresting action-set pieces with distinctive flair, delivers on all fronts. Among others, director Christopher Nolan has highlighted "Top Gun" for the clear influence of the film's celebrated visual style on future filmmakers. Tom Cruise here graduated to the top echelon of in-demand actors, aided by his good looks, cocky attitude, omnipresent smile, and brazen attempts to woo and secure steamy personal time with (at first amused and later swooning) civilian instructor Kelly McGillis.

 

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Broadcast News (1987)

broadcast_news.jpg Courtesy of 20th Century-Fox

James L. Brooks wrote, produced and directed this comedy set in the fast-paced, tumultuous world of television news. Shot mostly in dozens of locations around the Washington, D.C. area, the film stars Holly Hunter, William Hurt and Albert Brooks. Brooks makes the most of his everyman persona serving as Holly Hunter's romantic back-up plan while she pursues the handsome but vacuous Hurt. Against the backdrop of broadcast journalism (and various debates about journalist ethics), a grown-up romantic comedy plays out in a smart, savvy and fluff-free story whose humor is matched only by its honesty.

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La Bamba (1987)

"La Bamba" is a biopic of the life of rock star Ritchie Valens, rock's first Mexican-American superstar. Directed by Luis Valdez, "La Bamba" (the film draws its name from Valens' signature song) charts Valens' meteoric rise as a musician and his tragic death at age 17 in a 1959 plane crash, along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Lou Diamond Phillips stars as the late Valens. The film's success not only reinvigorated interest in Valens' brief but notable musical legacy, it also brought the title tune back to the charts (in a cover version by Los Lobos) 28 years after its first appearance.

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The Princess Bride (1987)

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The 1980s produced many feel-good movies and "The Princess Bride" is one of the decade's most beloved. Adapting his popular 1973 novel for the screen, William Goldman collaborated with director Rob Reiner to craft a lighthearted parody of classic fairy tales that retains the writer's wit and memorable characters, and adds bravura performances and a barrage of oft-quoted dialog. It is a joyride filled with assorted storybook figures like the beautiful title character (Robin Wright), her dashing true love (Cary Elwes), makers of magic spells (Billy Crystal and Carol Kane) and a rhyming colossus (Andre the Giant). As the devious Vizzini, Wallace Shawn incredulously exclaims "Inconceivable!" at every turn. Swashbuckling Mandy Patinkin dreams of avenging family honor and someday declaring, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" The film continues to delight audiences, drawing new generations of fans.

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Die Hard (1988)

In this now-classic slam-bang thriller, Bruce Willis stars as a New York cop who faces off, alone, against a team of terrorists inside a high-tech, high-rise Los Angeles office tower. Gripping action sequences and well-crafted humor made this film a huge hit and launched Willis as a major box-office star. Alan Rickman, as witty insouciant terrorist and "exceptional thief" Hans Gruber, serves as Willis' memorable foe. Because the film is set during the Christmas season, many people now consider "Die Hard" a necessary part of their annual holiday viewing, a counterpoint to other holiday staples such as "It's a Wonderful Life."

The expanded essay is below this description.

https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/DieHard.pdf

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Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)

Charlotte Zwerin's insightful documentary of the jazz pianist-composer Thelonious Monk blends together excellent interviews with those who knew him best and riveting concert performances, many shot in the 1960s by Christian Blackwood. Reviewing the film in The New York Times, Stephen Holden noted, "Charlotte Zwerin's remarkable documentary ... reminds us again and again that Monk was as important a jazz composer as he was a pianist."

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

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Described by Roger Ebert as "not only great entertainment but a breakthrough in craftsmanship," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" introduced a new sense of realism into the interactions between cartoons and live-action characters on screen. In this film noir comedy, set in a 1940s Hollywood where cartoon characters are real, private investigator Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is hired to prove the innocence of the accused murderer and uncontrollably crazy ‘toon' Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer), with memorable appearances by Roger's voluptuous wife, Jessica Rabbit (voiced by Kathleen Turner) and the chillingly evil Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd). The film evokes a love for the golden age of animation, represented through the construction of Roger Rabbit himself, who embodies Disney's high-quality animation, Warner Bros.' character design and Tex Avery's sense of humor. Executive producer Steven Spielberg worked tirelessly to negotiate the use of over 140 beloved cartoon characters in the film, making this the first time Warner Bros. and Disney characters shared the screen and the last time Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck before his death in 1989.

The expanded essay is below this description.

https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/WhoFramedRogerRabbit.pdf

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Drums of Winter [Uksuum Cauyai] (1988)

Winner of numerous international awards, this beautiful documentary explores the rare dance language and culture of the Yup'ik Eskimo people in Emmonak, Alaska (part of the Yukon River delta on the Bering Sea). At the heart of their culture are complex potlatch gift-giving ceremonies featuring ceremonial story/dances serving as a bridge between the human and unseen spiritual worlds. At the center of the dance was the drum, serving as the cadence of the universe. The fabric of the community is woven together through giving: "Our spirits live by giving, things we give will return in larger amounts, because the wilderness has enough for all."

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Stand and Deliver (1988)

Stand and Deliver

Based on a true story, "Stand and Deliver" stars Edward James Olmos in an Oscar-nominated performance as crusading educator Jaime Escalante. A math teacher in East Los Angeles, Escalante inspired his underprivileged students to undertake an intensive program in calculus, achieve high test scores, and improve their sense of self-worth. Co-produced by Olmos and directed by Cuban-born Ramón Menéndez, "Stand and Deliver" became one of the most popular of a new wave of narrative feature films produced in the 1980s by Latino filmmakers. The film celebrates in a direct, approachable, and impactful way, values of self-betterment through hard work and power through knowledge.

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