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National Film Registry Year by Year


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The Thin Blue Line (1988)

Thin Blue Line

In his third feature documentary, director Errol Morris uses abstract re-creations to reconstruct the investigation of the 1976 murder of a Dallas policeman. Morris spent more than two years tracking down the various players in the case and convincing them to appear in the film, eventually uncovering a miscarriage of justice in the conviction of Randall Adams. The film was instrumental in overturning the verdict and Adams' release from prison in March 1989. The score was one of the first by minimalist composer Philip Glass, known for his music style of "repetitive structures," who would become one of the most influential musicians in the late 20th century.

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Tin Toy (1988)

This innovative short cartoon and precursor to the blockbuster feature "Toy Story" won an Oscar and helped Pixar Studios revolutionize American animation. Written and directed by John Lasseter, the film depicts a destructive baby's playtime from a frightened tin toy's point of view. Despite a clunky foray into human characters, this is one of Pixar's best short subjects.

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Field of Dreams (1989)

Iowa farmer Kevin Costner one day hears a voice telling him to turn a small corner of his land into a baseball diamond: "If you build it, he will come." "He" appears to be legendary baseball great Shoeless Joe Jackson and his 1919 Black Sox team. Although ostensibly about the great American pastime, baseball here serves as a metaphor for more profound issues. Leonard Maltin lauded "Field of Dreams" as "a story of redemption and faith, in the tradition of the best Hollywood fantasies with moments of pure magic."

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Do the Right Thing (1989)

Do the Right Thing

Spike Lee's provocative story of one long, hot day in the Bedford-Stuyevesant neighborhood of Brooklyn sparked controversy even before it opened in theaters. A study of race relations that for some in the community seems black and white -- literally -- but more often it's a gray area of mutual tolerance. Writer-director Lee also stars in the film whose cast includes Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, John Turturo and at least half a dozen other actors who would go on to bigger and better roles.

The expanded essay is below this description.

https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/do_right_thing2.pdf

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The Lunch Date (1989)

Adam Davidson's 10-minute Columbia University student film examines the partial erosion of haughty self-confidence when stranded outside one's personal comfort zone. A woman has a slice-of-life, train-station chance encounter with a homeless man, and stumbles through several off-key reactions when they share a salad she believes is hers. Winner of a 1990 Student Academy Award, "The Lunch Date" stands out as a simple, yet effective, parable on the vicissitudes and pervasiveness of perception, race and stereotypes.

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Roger & Me (1989)

Roger & Me

After decades of product ascendancy, American automakers began facing stiff commercial and design challenges in the late 1970s and 1980s from foreign automakers, especially the Japanese. Michael Moore's controversial documentary chronicles the human toll and hemorrhaging of jobs caused by these upheavals, in this case the firing of 30,000 autoworkers by General Motors in Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan. As a narrative structure, Moore uses a comic device sometimes found in political campaign commercials, weaving a message around trying to find the person responsible for a wrong, in this case General Motors Chairman Roger Smith. "Roger & Me" is take-no-prisoners, advocacy documentary filmmaking, and Moore makes no apologies for his brazen, in-your-face style—he would argue the situation demands it. The themes of unfairness, inequality and the unrealized attainment of the American Dream resonate to this day, while the consequences of ferocious auto-sector competition continue, playing a key long-term role in the city of Detroit's recent filing for bankruptcy protection.

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sex, lies and videotape (1989)

sex, lies and videotape

Writer-director Steven Soderbergh explores the messy personal relationships and sexual mores of four friends (Peter Gallagher, Andy MacDowell, Laura San Giacomo, James Spader,) with a low-key style that creates a highly focused psychoanalysis of human impulses and inhibitions. This landmark film launched an independent film renaissance.

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Water and Power (1989)

Winner of a Sundance Grand Jury prize, Pat O'Neill's influential experimental work is in his own words "a landscape film that became animated by the beginnings of human stories." In this "city symphony," O'Neill juxtaposes images of downtown Los Angeles with scenes from the Owens Valley, Los Angeles' source of water. This was a brilliant examination of water in all its forms and the one-sided sharing of energy between the two places, representing nature and civilization.

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To Sleep with Anger (1990)

Beginning with his UCLA student film, the austere neo-realistic "Killer of Sheep," director Charles Burnett has carved out a distinctive and exalted niche in American independent cinema. Burnett often sets his films on a small scale but deftly explores universal themes, including the power to endure and the rewards and burdens of family. Critic Leonard Maltin called "To Sleep with Anger" an "evocative domestic drama about the effect storyteller/trickster (Danny) Glover has on the various members of a black family. More than just a portrait of contemporary black society, it's a story of cultural differences between parents and children of how individuals learn (or don't learn) from experience, and of how there should be no place for those who cause violence and strife."

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Paris Is Burning (1990)

In a 2015 article in The Guardian, Ashley Clark noted, "Few documentaries can claim to have sparked as much discussion and controversy as Jennie Livingston's debut ‘Paris is Burning,' the vibrant time capsule of New York's ballroom subculture in the 80s." The film explores the complex subculture of fashion shows and vogue dance competitions among black and Hispanic gay men, drag queens and transgender women in Manhattan. It shifts among ballroom contests and shows and interviews with contestants, who belong to different "houses" that are like families to them, sharing their views on wealth, notions of beauty, racism and gender orientation. This film has greatly influenced popular culture.

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Dances With Wolves (1990)

Directed by its star Kevin Costner, "Dances with Wolves" disproved the contemporary reputation of Westerns as box office poison, and garnered critical success as well as financial, including nabbing the Best Picture Oscar. The story of the developing relationship between a cavalry soldier and a nearby Sioux tribe is told in epic fashion, with sweeping cinematography and a majestic John Barry score. The film achieved one of the more sympathetic cinema portraits of Native American life by celebrating the richness of Lakota Sioux folklore, traditions and language.

The expanded essay is below this description.

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

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Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas

Early on, Martin Scorsese`s drama shows mob life as upbeat, sometimes even humorous, but it quickly turns dark and ugly in its anti-glorification of organized crime and the anything-but-sympathetic thugs who inhabit it. The central character and narrator (played by Ray Liotta), a true life mob informant chronicled in the book by the film's co-screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, enters the syndicate as a teenage gofer and ends up a full-fledged wiseguy. Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, whose character Tommy DeVito frequently explodes in fits of violence, give standout performances. The soundtrack weaves a cohesive thread of pop tunes that define each of the three decades the film spans.

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Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia (1990)

International relief worker Ellen Bruno's master's thesis at Stanford University, "Samsara," documents the struggle of the Cambodian people to rebuild a shattered society in the aftermath of Pol Pot's killing fields. "Samsara" is a Sanskrit term that literally means "circle" or "wheel," and is commonly translated as "cycle of existence." Bruno fleshes out this concept by using ancient Buddhist teachings and folklore to provide a context for Cambodia's struggle. Described as poetic, heartbreaking and evocative, the film brings a humanistic perspective to the political chaos of Southeast Asia with a deliberate, reflective and sometimes dreamlike pace as it intertwines the mundane realities of daily life with the spiritual beliefs of the Khmer people. One reviewer reflected, "The meditative pacing, the rhythm of bells and chimes, the luxuriant green landscape, the otherworldly response to horrific recent history—I was transported not just to a faraway place but to an altered consciousness."

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Sink or Swim (1990)

In this autobiographical tale told in voice-over by a teenage girl (Jessica Lynn), Su Friedrich relates a series of 26 short vignettes that reveal a subtext of a father preoccupied by his career and of a daughter emotionally scarred by his behavior. Black-and-white film clips of ordinary daily activities illustrate Friedrich's poetically powerful text to create a complex and intense film. Of this work, which garnered numerous festival awards, Friedrich wrote, "The issue for me is to be more direct, or honest, about my experiences, but also to be analytical. ‘Sink or Swim' is personal, but it's also very analytical, or rigorously formal." Friedrich's films and videos have been featured in retrospectives at major museums and festivals, and she has received both Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships. Michael Zryd wrote in Senses of Cinema: "The textures, cinematic and emotional, of Friedrich's work are both private and highly mediated, embodying an aesthetic style and range of concerns that make her one of the most innovative and accessible artists currently working in the dynamic tradition of the modernist American Avant-Garde."

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Thelma & Louise (1991)

Screenwriter Callie Khouri began her script for "Thelma & Louise" with a single sentence premise: "Two women go on a crime spree." What emerged, from her word processor and eventually from the screen, became a feminist manifesto and a cultural flashpoint that eventually landed the film's stars, in character, onto the cover of "Time" magazine. Anchored by two career-defining performances from Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis (and a breakout early appearance by Brad Pitt), "Thelma & Louise" skillfully contrasts action-movie themes with a social commentary before building to an unforgettable climax. Directed by Ridley Scott, "Thelma & Louise" has become both a symbol of feminism.

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Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Beauty and the Beast

Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" is an animated, musical retelling of the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince du Beaumont. The film follows Belle (voiced by Paige O'Hara), an intelligent and rebellious young French woman, who is forced to live with a hideous monster, the Beast (voiced by Robby Benson), after offering to take her father's place as the Beast's prisoner. Unaware that the Beast is actually an enchanted prince, Belle falls in love with him. "Beauty and the Beast" was the first animated film nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category. Alan Menken won an Oscar for his original score, and he and lyricist Howard Ashman (posthumously) earned Oscars for the film's theme song "Beauty and the Beast."

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Boyz N the Hood (1991)

In his film debut, John Singleton wrote and directed this thought-provoking look at South Central L.A.'s black community. A divorced father (Larry Fishburne) struggles to raise his son, Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) in a world where violence is a fact of life. Tre is torn by his desire to live up to his father's expectations and pressure from friends pushing him toward the gang culture. Roger Ebert praised the film for its "maturity and emotional depth," calling it "an American film of enormous importance." The lead players are backed by strong supporting performances from Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Tyre Ferrell, Angela Bassett and Nia Long.

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Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Daughters of the Dust

This is the first feature-length film by an African-American woman to receive a wide theatrical release. Director Julie Dash eschews traditional forms of film narrative for a poetic, impressionistic collage of gorgeous colors, music and imagery, in telling the story of three generations of African-Americans on the Gullah South Carolina Sea Island in 1902. The mystical matriarch Nana (Cora Lee Day) holds true to the beliefs of their ancestors, while Haagar (Kaycee Moore) can't wait to move away. Yellow Mary (Barbara O) returns from a life as a prostitute in Cuba with her girlfriend, and is confronted by a righteous zealot, the reformed Christian Viola (Cheryl Lynn Bruce). Meanwhile, indifferent Eula (Alva Rogers) is pregnant with a baby that may or may not be the result of a rape. The story's narrator is a spirit called the Unborn Child, who appears sometimes as a rambunctious little girl. A photographer accompanies the group to capture the events on film.

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The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs

Jodie Foster, Sir Anthony Hopkins and director Jonathan Demme won accolades for this chilling thriller based upon a book by Thomas Harris. Foster plays rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling who must tap into the disturbed mind of imprisoned cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter in order to aid her search for a murderer and torturer still at large. A film whose violence is as much psychological as graphic, "Silence of the Lambs"—winner of Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Adapted Screenplay—has been celebrated for its superb lead performances, its blending of crime and horror genres, and its taut direction that brought to the screen one of film's greatest villains and some of its most memorable imagery.

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Slacker (1991)

Slacker

Along with "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" (1989), "Slacker" is widely regarded as a touchstone in the blossoming of American independent cinema during the 1990s. A free-floating narrative, the film follows a colorful and engaging assortment of characters in Austin, Texas, throughout the course of a single day as they ruminate on UFOs, Scooby Doo, Leon Czolgosz and many other things. Shot on 16mm film with a budget of $23,000, director Richard Linklater dispensed with a structured plot in favor of interconnected vignettes. This resulted in a film of considerable quirky charm that has influenced a whole generation of independent filmmakers. "Slacker" was eventually picked up by a major distributor and earned more than $1 million at the box office.

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El Mariachi (1992)

Directed, edited, co-produced, and written in two weeks by Robert Rodriguez for $7,000 while a film student at the University of Texas, "El Mariachi" proved a favorite on the film festival circuit. After Columbia Pictures picked it up for distribution, the film helped usher in the independent movie boom of the early 1990s. "El Mariachi" is an energetic, highly entertaining tale of an itinerant musician, portrayed by co-producer and Rodriguez crony Carlos Gallardo, who arrives at a Mexican border town during a drug war and is mistaken for a hit man who recently escaped from prison. The story, as film historian Charles Ramirez Berg has suggested, plays with expectations common to two popular exploitation genres—the narcotraficante film, a Mexican police genre, and the transnational warrior-action film, itself rooted in Hollywood Westerns. Rodriguez's success derived from invigorating these genres with creative variants despite the constraints of a shoestring budget. Rodriguez has gone on to direct films for major studios, becoming, in Berg's estimation, "arguably the most successful Latino director ever to work in Hollywood."

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A League of Their Own (1992)

A League of Their Own

Director Penny Marshall used the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1954) as a backdrop for this heartfelt comedy-drama. "A League of Their Own," featuring an ensemble cast that includes Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell, not only illuminates this fascinating, under-reported aspect of American sports history, but also effectively examines women's changing roles during wartime. Rich with period detail and equally complex performances—especially Davis as a team ringer and Hanks as the down-on-his-luck coach—Marshall and her company delivered an enjoyably nostalgic film about women's choices and solidarity during World War II that was both funny and feminist.

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Malcolm X (1992)

Malcolm X

Director Spike Lee's willingness to present all sides of his subject's character makes this film a persuasive film biography, though some have seen it as too centrist and lacking in the raw power of its original source, the slain leader's autobiography written with "Roots" author Alex Haley. Lee keeps the film moving at a clip; although it sometimes feels long, it's never boring. The passion in Denzel Washington's superlative performance as Malcolm X, transcends impersonation and reflects Malcolm's gift as an orator, at times fiery and at others calm yet forceful. The cast also includes Al Freeman, Jr., as Elijah Muhammad, Angela Bassett as Malcolm's wife Betty, and Lee himself as Shorty, a youthful Malcom's fellow small-time hood.

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Unforgiven (1992)

Clint Eastwood directed and stars as a reformed alcoholic killer, now a widower, father, and failing hog farmer who's lured into a bounty hunt by a brash kid (Jaimz Woolvett) and persuades an old partner (Morgan Freeman) to join them. With Frances Fisher, Anna Thomson, Gene Hackman, Richard Harris.

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Jurassic Park (1993)

jurassic_park.jpg Courtesy of Amblin / Universal

The concept of people somehow existing in the age of dinosaurs (or dinosaurs somehow existing in the age of people) has been explored in film and on television numerous times. No treatment, however, has ever been done with more skill, flair or popcorn-chomping excitement than this 1993 blockbuster. Set on a remote island where a man's toying with evolution has run amok, this Steven Spielberg classic ranks as the epitome of the summer blockbuster. "Jurassic Park" was the top public vote-getter this year.

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