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“Iron Man,” Marvel, Rocket Into the 2022 National Film Registry

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Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was excited, explaining why he and his filmmaking team were thrilled that their cornerstone feature, 2008’s “Iron Man,” was being inducted into cinematic Valhalla, the Library’s National Film Registry, in the class of 2022.

“All of our favorite movies are the ones that we watch over and over again, and that we grow up with,” he said in an interview with the Library. “Almost 15 years after the release of ‘Iron Man’… to have it join the film registry tells us it has stood the test of time and it is still meaningful to audiences around the world.”

The Library’s annual list of 25 designated for preservation for their cultural, historic or aesthetic value to the nation always brings a list of studio hits, independently made features, powerful documentaries and even home movies into the canon. This year’s inductees cover 124 years, from 1898 to 2011. It include hits such as “When Harry Met Sally,” “Carrie” and “House Party”;  documentaries such as “Mingus” and “Union Maids”; shot-on-a-shoestring features such as “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” and “Pariah”; and even the home movies of mid-century entertainer Cab Calloway.

“Films have become absolutely central to American culture by helping tell our national story for more than 125 years,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “We’re grateful to the entire film community for collaborating with the Library of Congress to ensure these films are preserved for the future.”

The 2022 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, many of which are among the 1.7 million films in the Library’s collections.

Color photo a couple standing, facing one another in a park in autumn, with colorful leaves on the ground and in the trees
One of the iconic scenes in “When Harry Met Sally,” a film including in this year’s National Film Registry. Photo: Castle Rock Entertainment.

Other highlights: The original “Hairspray” from 1988, featuring Ricki Lake and directed by John Waters; “The Ballard of Gregorio Cortez,” featuring a young Edward James Olmos; and the 1950 version of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” which made José Ferrer the first Hispanic actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor.  One of the first Native American films on the registry is this year’s “Itam Hakim, Hopiit” (“We/someone, the Hopi”) from Victor Masayesva Jr., Hopi director and cinematographer.

Documentary filmmaking legend Julia Reichert, who died of cancer earlier this month, learned a few weeks earlier that “Union Maids,” a 1976 documentary she co-directed, was being inducted.

“Even though ‘Union Maids’ was a black & white, super low-budget film, with interviews shot on open reel videotape to save money, the film has shown remarkable staying power,” Reichert emailed, in response to questions, days before she passed away. She co-directed the film with Jim Klein and Miles Mogulescu.

Turner Classic Movies will host a television special Tuesday, Dec. 27, starting at 8 p.m. ET to screen a selection of motion pictures named to the registry this year. Hayden will join TCM host, film historian and Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Director and President Jacqueline Stewart, chair of the National Film Preservation Board, to discuss the films.

“I am especially proud of the way the Registry has amplified its recognition of diverse filmmakers, experiences, and a wide range of filmmaking traditions in recent years,” Stewart said. “I am grateful to the entire National Film Preservation Board, the members of the public who nominated films, and of course to Dr. Hayden for advocating so strongly for the preservation of our many film histories.”

A blood-covered prom queen stand in front of a blazing fire
Actress Sissy Spacek said she was unaware she was holding her arms out from her side with palms upraised in this “Carrie” scene, giving her a witch-like appearance.:”I was in the moment of being the prom queen.” Photo: Red Bank Films

Sissy Spacek, the star of “Carrie,” makes her third appearance on the registry, joining her earlier films “Badlands” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Her role as Carrie White, the telekinetic teen misfit who is abused by her mother and taunted by her classmates, drew an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and a lasting image in pop culture as a vengeful, blood-soaked prom queen.

She credits Stephen King’s novel, the basis for the film, as striking a nerve with teenagers in each generation who are desperate to fit in with their peers for the film’s lasting resonance. The other factor, she said, was a superb cast that included Piper Laurie (also nominated for an Oscar), John Travolta and Amy Irving.

“Brian De Palma was just such a wonder to work with,” she said in a recent interview, crediting the film’s director. “He would tell us exactly what he needed and then he’d say, ‘Within those parameters, you can do anything you want. That was just so wonderful.”

Several selections were defining works in their genres. Among romantic comedies, “When Harry Met Sally” from 1989 is a classic — Vanity Fair named it this year as the best American rom-com ever made — that brought together several major talents. Screenwriter Nora Ephron, director Rob Reiner, actor Billy Crystal and actress Meg Ryan all cemented their status in pop culture fame with the film.

“I just felt so plugged into the process of making the movie,” Crystal said in an interview. “…not that anything is every easy, but it was just such a joy to see it come to life.”

Color photo of a man and woman in stylish early 70s outfits
Super Fly” stars Sheila Frazier and Ron O’Neal in a famously stylish scene from “Super Fly,” a 2022 NFR inductee. Photo: Warner Bros.

“Hairspray,” the quirky story of a plus-sized Baltimore teen and her friends integrating a local television dance show in the early sixties, wasn’t a huge success at first but has gone on to have a life of its own. It was remade as a Tony Award-wining musical on Broadway, a megahit musical film in 2007 and a live TV version in 2016. But in John Waters’ 1988 original, it was an 18-year-old Ricki Lake who was first tapped to play the lead role of Tracy Turnblad.

“I didn’t even really process that I was the star of the movie,” Lake said in a recent interview from her home in Malibu, “until the movie was made and we were seeing right before it came out. I was like, ‘Oh, WOW.”

Among Latino films, “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” from 1982 is one of the key feature films from the 1980s Chicano film movement. Edward James Olmos was a working actor but not yet a star when he and several friends, meeting at what would become the Sundance Film Festival, decided to make a film about a true story of injustice from the Texas frontier days.

Shot on a tiny budget for PBS, “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez” accurately tells the story of a Mexican-American farmer who in 1901 was falsely accused of stealing a horse. Cortez killed the sheriff who tried to arrest him, outran a huge posse for more than a week, barely escaped lynching and was eventually sentenced to more than a decade in prison. The incident became a famous corrido, or story-song, that is still sung in Mexico and Texas.

“This film is being seen more today than it was the day we finished it,” Olmos said in an interview. “‘The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez’ is truly the best film I’ve ever been a part of in my lifetime.”

“House Party” joins the registry as a 1990 comedy landmark, as it put Black teenagers, hip-hop music and New Jack swing culture directly into the American cultural mainstream. It spawned the pop-culture careers of stars Kid ‘n Play, sequels and imitations — and the career of Reginald Hudlin, its writer and director. Hudlin is now a major player in Hollywood — but “House Party” was his first film.

“The day we shot the big dance number in ‘House Party’ is easily one of the best days of my life,” he said in a recent interview, still gushing about how much fun it all was. “We had all the enthusiasm in the world, all the commitment in the world.”

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Comments (8)

  1. I’m a fan of American history and I love Hollywood from a young age. American movies represent to me. The real human life and the messages of movies are beautiful and useful. I wish the United States of America more progress and offers everything that is beautiful and new to make people really the best in the world with the media.….❤️❤️

  2. [PORTUGUESE BRAZIL]Bom dia. Sou brasileira. Preciso saber como acessar filmes americanos de forma legal e gratuita. Agradeco.

  3. Great to see that the National Film Registry is still going! But like I have always said for the past several years, I want to see major change to their criteria.

    I wish the National Film Registry rules would be AMENDED so that they can add entire TV shows. I’m sorry, but in this day and age, recent events (and you know EXACTLY which ones I am talking about, usually involving celebrities gone bad) can make even the most family-friendly classic show become banished from availability overnight like it has never existed. Viewers and non-involved celebrities must CRINGE when this stuff happens to their favorite shows because there is usually NO or LITTLE warning that these things are happening to their shows. You can have either a hate crime, or a featured celebrity with a “jock itch” and all of a sudden your innocent classic show becomes “extremely dangerous!” I know it, I’ve seen it happen all too many times and I fear this will continue to happen for time to come.

    So NFR, I am begging and pleading you, please amend your rules to include entire TV shows. I was born into watching family sitcoms, kids shows/cartoons, and game shows to name a few; I am just hoping and praying I don’t live out the rest of my life with reality shows… (and I know every single one of you feels the way I do, too!)

  4. So EXCITED that another work by a Native artist is included in the registry, but I believe”Smoke Signals” was the first film written and directed by Native Americans to be included in the NFR. Victor Masvayesva Jr.’s film “Itam Hakim, Hopiit,” is the first Native American made documentary to be accepted into the registry, although it is the first film written, directed and produced, I believe, by a Native American. Could you please clarify your meaning in this post? Thank you!

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for writing, and you are indeed correct about “Smoke Signals.” The blog has now been updated.

      Thanks again for reading so closely,

  5. What am I thinking? What about “Navajos Film Themselves?”

  6. Billy looks very handsome

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