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National Film Registry Year by Year


BLACHEFAN
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Groundhog Day (1993)

"Groundhog Day" is a clever comedy with a philosophical edge to boot. Bill Murray plays a smug, arrogant weatherman caught in a personal time-warp, who is continuously forced to relive the Punxsutawney, Penn., annual Groundhog Day event. At first Murray revels at being able to act dishonorably without consequences, but he soon grows weary of having to wake up every morning to Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" and facing the same day again and again. The deft, innovative script creatively keeps rearranging and building on each day's events, while at the same time moving Murray's character into self-growth, redemption and personal rebirth. Andie MacDowell's character tells him, "I like to see a man of advancing years throwing caution to the wind. It's inspiring in a way." Murray's character knowingly replies, "My years are not advancing as fast as you might think."

The expanded essay is below this description.

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

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Schindler's List (1993)

Schindler's List

Based on a true story, Steven Spielberg's film stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, a German businessman in Poland hoping to benefit financially from the Nazis' rise to power. Schindler staffs his manufacturing plant with unpaid Jewish workers, including Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) who Schindler brings in to help run the factory. As conditions under the Nazis worsen for the workers, Schindler's humanity eventually shines through and he bribes the Nazis to keep his workers out of the death camps. By the time Germany falls, Schindler has saved 1,100 people from likely death. The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture and Best Director for Spielberg.

The expanded essay is below this description.

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

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Clerks (1994)

A hilarious, in-your-face, bawdy-yet-provocative look at two sardonic young slackers (Dante and Randal). One toils as a New Jersey convenience store clerk while his alter-ego video store friend works when the mood strikes him. At 23 years old, Kevin Smith made his debut film for $27,000, reportedly financed by selling his comic book collection and using proceeds from when his car was lost in a flood. This sleeper hit helped define an era, grossed over $3 million, achieved prominent cult status among Generations X to Z, and easily garnered the most public votes in this year's National Film Registry balloting. Critic Roger Ebert described "Clerks" as "utterly authentic" with "the attitude of a gas station attendant who tells you to check your own oil. It's grungy and unkempt, and Dante and Randal look like they have been nourished from birth on beef jerky and Cheetos. They are tired and bored, underpaid and unlucky in love, and their encounters with customers feel like a series of psychological tests."

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The Lion King (1994)

lion_king.jpg

Disney Studios further solidified its position as the producer of modern-day animated masterpieces with this lyrical 1994 offering. The story of a young lion cub destined to become King of the Jungle, but first exiled by his evil uncle, "The Lion King" was a triumph from the moment of its release and has charmed new generations of viewers. Like Disney's beloved "Bambi," "The Lion King" seamlessly blends innovative animation with excellent voice-actors (Jonathan Taylor Thomas, James Earl Jones, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick and Whoopi Goldberg) and catchy, now-classic songs by Sir Elton John and Tim Rice. It is the film's storytelling that resonates—funny, innovative, suspenseful—for both children and adults. Since its release, the film has spawned an animated TV series, two made-for-video sequels and a highly imaginative Broadway show.

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Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) recalls his mother's adage about life being like a box of chocolates. Library of Congress Collection.

As "Forrest Gump," Tom Hanks portrays an earnest, guileless "everyman" whose open-heartedness and sense of the unexpected unwittingly draws him into some of the most iconic events of the 1960s and 1970s. A smash hit, it has been honored for its technological innovations (the digital insertion of Gump seamlessly into vintage archival footage), its resonance within the culture that has elevated Gump (and what he represents in terms of American innocence) to the status of folk hero, and its attempt to engage both playfully and seriously with contentious aspects of the era's traumatic history. The film received six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

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Hoop Dreams (1994)

Hoop Dreams

This groundbreaking, multiyear account of two inner-city Chicago kids (William Gates and Arthur Agee) struggling to earn college basketball scholarships provides an intimate and comprehensive account of the life and limited options of lower-class black families in America. One of the most critically acclaimed American documentaries, director Steve James's film is a complex and ultimately rewarding picture that uses high school hoops as a jumping-off point to explore issues of race, class, and education in modern America.

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Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction

By turns utterly derivative and audaciously original, Quentin Tarantino's mordantly wicked Möbius strip of a movie influenced a generation of filmmakers and stands as a milestone in the evolution of independent cinema in the United States, making it one of the few films on the National Film Registry as notable for its lasting impact on the film industry as its considerable artistic merits. Directed by Tarantino from his profane and poetic script, "Pulp Fiction" is a beautifully composed tour-de-force, combining narrative elements of hardboiled crime novels and film noir with the bright widescreen visuals of Sergio Leone. The impact is profound and unforgettable.

The expanded essay is below this description.

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

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The Red Book (1994)

Renowned experimental filmmaker and theater/installation artist Janie Geiser's work is known for its ambiguity, explorations of memory and emotional states and exceptional design. She describes "The Red Book" as "an elliptical, pictographic animated film that uses flat, painted figures and collage elements in both two and three dimensional settings to explore the realms of memory, language and identity from the point of view of a woman amnesiac."

The expanded essay is below this description.

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

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

shawshank.jpg Inmates Red (Morgan Freeman) and Andy (Tim Robbins) share a quiet moment in the prison yard at Shawshank. Library of Congress Collection.

From a modest start as a critical success, but something of a commercial bust upon initial release, "The Shawshank Redemption" now often rates as the top film in Internet Movie Database polling. Like many Stephen King novels and stories, it was adapted to film, but, as some critics have noted, the best movies have arguably resulted from the non-horror part of King's literary output (such as the novellas "Stand by Me" and "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption"). Banker Tim Robbins is wrongly convicted of the double murder of his wife and her lover. However, he spends much of his prison sentence beset by guilt over whether he contributed to her infidelity and consumed by the knowledge that he had seriously contemplated murdering her. Eventually, Robbins decides he must "get busy living or get busy dying" and plots a meticulous, long-term plan for escape. Critics have struggled at times to explain the immense public affection for "Shawshank," but perhaps it's due to the poignant Thomas Newman score and most importantly the moving character portrayals and deep friendship between inmates Robbins and Morgan Freeman, highlighting the abiding resilience of the human spirit.

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One Survivor Remembers (1995)

In this Academy Award-winning documentary short film by Kary Antholis, Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein recounts her six-year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty. At age 16, her comfortable life was shattered by the Nazi invasion of Poland. She and her family were sent to concentration and slave labor camps. She alone survived. Mixing footage shot in contemporary Europe at key locations of Klein's story with interviews and personal photographs, "One Survivor Remembers" explores the effects that her experience had on the rest of her life. It is told with a simple yet powerful eloquence that "approaches poetry," the Chicago Tribune observed.

The expanded essay is below this description.

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

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Scratch and Crow (1995)

Helen Hill's student film was made at the California Institute of the Arts. Consistent with the short films she made from age 11 until her death at 36, this animated short work is filled with vivid color and a light sense of humor. It is also a poetic and spiritual homage to animals and the human soul.

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Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story

This film changed animation's face and delivery system as the first full-length animated feature to be created entirely by artists using hi-tech tools known today simply as CGI, for computer-generated imagery. Young Andy's current toys – including his longtime favorite, the loveable cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) – have to learn to live with his new and improved playmate, galactic superhero Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen). Director John Lasseter opens up the magical and hilarious secret world of toys in Pixar Studios' first feature, which would go on to give birth to several theatrical and home video spinoffs.

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Fargo (1996)

Produced, directed, written, and edited by Joel and Ethan Coen, this film is a dark comedy set in snowy Minnesota that follows a quirky cast of characters, including a pregnant police officer (Frances McDormand), a manager of a car dealership (William H. Macy), and two hired criminals, involved in the committing and investigating of a crime. A critical and popular success, the film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. "Fargo" received seven Academy Award nominations, and McDormand took home a statuette for Best Actress and the Coen Brothers earned another for Best Original Screenplay. A television series based on the film debuted in 2014.

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Study of a River (1996)

Experimental filmmaker Peter Hutton is best known for his thoughtful and beautifully photographed ruminations on the co-existence of urban areas and natural waterways. His most renowned films focused on the Hudson River. "Study of a River" is a meditative examination of the winter cycle of the Hudson River over a two-year period, showing its environment, ships plying its waterways, ice floes, and the interaction of nature and civilization. Some critics have described Hutton's work as reminiscent of the 19th century artist Thomas Cole and other painters of the Hudson River School.

The expanded essay is below this description.

https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/study_river2.pdf

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Eve's Bayou (1997)

eves_bayou.jpg Courtesy of Lionsgate

Written and directed by Kasi Lemmons and co-produced by co-star Samuel L. Jackson, "Eve's Bayou" proved one of the indie surprises of the 1990s. The film tells a Southern gothic tale about a 10-year-old African-American girl who, during one long, hot Louisiana summer in 1962, discovers some harsh truths beneath her genteel family's fragile façade. The film's standout cast includes Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan, Diahann Carroll, Lisa Nicole Carson, Branford Marsalis and the remarkable Jurnee Smolett, who plays the lead. The tag line of this film was very apropos: "The secrets that hold us together can also tear us apart."

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4 Little Girls (1997)

An important documentary concerning America's civil rights struggle, "4 Little Girls" revisits the horrific story of the young children who died in the 1963 firebombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Director Spike Lee first became interested in the story as a student at NYU when he read a 1983 New York Times Magazine article by Howell Raines. Lee combines his experience in fiction filmmaking with documentary techniques, sensitively rendered interviews, photos and home movies to tell the story. The timing of this production was important due to the ages of the key witnesses and relatives and the need to refresh viewers' memories regarding a dark period in U.S. history.

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Titanic (1997)

James Cameron's epic retold the story of the great maritime disaster and made mega-stars of both its leads, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Their upstairs-downstairs romance transported the audience to another world and time via spectacular sweeping scenes in the bow of the ship and beyond. The film cost $200 million to produce, leading many to predict a historic box office disaster, but "Titanic" became one of the top-grossing films of all-time and a cultural touchstone of the era. Newsweek's David Ansen spoke of how Cameron managed to fulfill expectations for the film: "When Cameron's camera pulls back from a closeup of the exuberant DiCaprio at the bow of the ship and lifts to peer down from the sky at the Titanic passing majestically underneath, you feel the kind of jaw-dropping delight you felt as a child overwhelmed by the sheer size of Hollywood's dreams. ‘Titanic' is big, bold, touchingly uncynical filmmaking."

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L.A. Confidential (1997)

L.A. Confidential

This well-crafted and suspenseful story, directed by Curtis Hanson, teams a trio of incompatible cops who ultimately bring down a corrupt police department and political machine. Hanson and Brian Helgeland adapted the James Ellroy novel and together they successfully interpret film noir's dark and seamy allure for new audiences. Detective Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) an in-it-for-himself type, Officer Bud White (Russell Crowe), who believes in bending the law to enforce it, and Detective Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), a straight arrow whose self-righteousness alienates him from his colleagues, all possess some deep-rooted sense of honor that draws them together to untangle the film's web of corruption that climaxes in its virtuoso choreographed shootout. The cast is rounded out by Danny DeVito as the film's occasional narrator and reporter for "Hush-Hush" magazine, Kim Basinger as a Veronica Lake look-alike call girl, and James Cromwell as the duplicitous chief of police. Cinematographer Dante Spinotti infuses this homage with a Technicolor richness seldom seen in noirs of the 40s and 50s.

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Smoke Signals (1998)

smoke_signals.jpg Courtesy of Miramax/beIn Media Group

Native American directors are a rarity in Hollywood. After the early silent film pioneers James Young Deer and Edwin Carewe, the portrayal of Native Americans in cinema turned dark and stereotypical. These social trends started changing with motion pictures like the groundbreaking "Smoke Signals," generally considered to be the first feature film written, directed and produced by Native Americans. Director Chris Eyre uses the relaxed road-movie concept to create a funny and unpretentious look at Native Americans in the nation's cinema and culture. The mostly Native American cast features Adam Beach and Evan Adams as the two road warriors who find themselves on a hilarious adventure. Beneath the highly entertaining façade, the film acquainted non-Native American audiences with real insights into the indigenous Americans' culture. Sherman Alexie penned the witty, droll script based his book "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven." This Miramax release was a big hit on the independent film circuit and won numerous awards, including a Sundance award.

 

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Rushmore (1998)

rushmore.jpg

Director Wes Anderson's film "Rushmore," a work filled with incisive detail to pop sensitivities, remains a cultural milestone of Gen X and millennials. Geeky misfit Jason Schwartzman tries to escape the stigma of being wildly unpopular at Rushmore Academy by becoming the king of extracurricular activities, nearly flunking out in the process. He makes bizarre, unsuccessful attempts to woo elementary schoolteacher Olivia Williams and has a chaotic, up-and-down relationship with wealthy businessman-mentor Bill Murray. This was Anderson's second film, following the unexpected success of his debut, "Bottle Rocket." In a 1999 interview with the New York Times, Anderson and screenwriter Owen Wilson described their cinematic approach: "We're interested in characters who have enthusiasm," and "We wanted to have ‘Rushmore' become its own slightly heightened reality, like a Roald Dahl children's book."

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The Big Lebowski (1998)

From the unconventional visionaries Joel and Ethan Coen (the filmmakers behind "Fargo" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") came this 1998 tale of kidnapping, mistaken identity and bowling. As they would again in the 2008 "Burn After Reading," the Coens explore themes of alienation, inequality and class structure via a group of hard-luck, off-beat characters suddenly drawn into each other's orbits. Jeff Bridges, in a career-defining role, stars as "The Dude," an LA-based slacker who shares a last name with a rich man whose arm-candy wife is indebted to shady figures. Joining Bridges are John Goodman, Tara Reid, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Steve Buscemi and, in a now-legendary cameo, John Turturro. Stuffed with vignettes—each staged through the Coens' trademark absurdist, innovative visual style—that are alternately funny and disturbing, "Lebowski" was only middling successful at the box office during its initial release. However, television, the Internet, home video and considerable word-of-mouth have made the film a highly quoted cult classic.

The expanded essay is below this description.

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

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Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan

Through the years, Hollywood's take on war, honor and heroism has taken many conflicting forms. "Saving Private Ryan" drops ordinary soldiers into a near-impossible rescue mission set amid the carnage of World War II's Omaha Beach landing. The film's beginning scenes vividly show us "war is hell," as William T. Sherman said. Spielberg conveyed ultra-realism with harrowing intensity. "Omaha Beach was actually an 'X' setting," says Spielberg, "even worse than 'NC-17,' and I just kind of feel that (I had) to tell the truth about this war at the end of the century, 54 years later. I wasn't going to add my film to a long list of pictures that make World War II 'the glamorous war,' 'the romantic war.'"

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Boys Don't Cry (1999)

Director Kimberly Peirce made a stunning debut with this searing docudrama based on the infamous 1993 case of a young Nebraska transgender man who is brutally raped and murdered (along with two other people) in a small Nebraska town. Released a year after the killing of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, the film brought the issue of hate crimes clearly into the American public spotlight. Sometimes compared to Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy," "Boys" raised issues that are still relevant 20 years later: intolerance, prejudice, the lack of opportunity in small towns, conceptions of self, sexual identity, diversity and cultural, sexual and social mores. New York Times' critic Janet Maslin lauded the film for not taking the usual plot routes: "Unlike most films about mind-numbing tragedy, this one manages to be full of hope." Several things helped create that result, particularly the performance of 22-year-old Hilary Swank, who won an Oscar as Brandon.

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The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix

A visionary and complex film, the science-fiction epic "The Matrix" employed state-of-the-art special effects, production design and computer-generated animation to tell a story—steeped in mythological, literary, and philosophical references—about a revolt against a conspiratorial regime. The film's visual style, drawing on the work of Hong Kong action film directors and Japanese anime films, altered science fiction filmmaking practices with its innovative digital techniques designed to enhance action sequences. Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski and visual effects supervisor John Gaeta (who received an Academy Award for his efforts) expertly exploited a digitally enhanced simulation of variable-speed cinematography to gain ultimate control over time and movement within images. The film's myriad special effects, however, do not undermine its fundamentally traditional, if paranoid, story of man against machine.

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Memento (2000)

This innovative detective-murder, psychological puzzle (and director Christopher Nolan's breakthrough film) tells its story in non-linear stops and starts in order to put the audience in a position approximating the hero's short-term amnesia. Guy Pearce tries to avenge his wife's murder but his anterograde amnesia forces him to rely on sticky notes, tattoos and Polaroids. Nolan recounts, "My solution to telling the story subjectively was to deny the audience the same information that the protagonist is denied, and my approach to doing that was to effectively tell the story backwards ... so the story is told as a series of flashbacks which go further and further back in time." According to Nolan, he frequently intercut between the black-and-white "objective" sequences and "subjective" sequences in color. The goal was to show the conflict between how humans see and experience objective versus subjective and the complex relationship between imagination and memory.

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