What do Batman, a groundbreaking story of Chinese heritage, Sidney Poitier’s breaking of the Best Actor color barrier, and a donkey that seduces a dragon have in common? They’ve all been added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as part of its 2020 batch. That means The Dark Knight, The Joy Luck Club, Lilies of the Field, and—yes—Shrek have been selected for preservation “because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage.” Smash Mouth’s musical opening is now linked forever with the history of the medium.
But this is just a small sample of the Registry’s 25 additions in 2020, which had a greater focus on female filmmakers and filmmakers of color than in years past. “The National Film Registry is an important record of American history, culture and creativity, captured through one of the great American artforms, our cinematic experience,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “With the inclusion of diverse filmmakers, we are not trying to set records but rather to set the record straight by spotlighting the astonishing contributions women and people of color have made to American cinema, despite facing often-overwhelming hurdles.”
There are significant steps in the subgenres of superhero and Blaxploitation cinema, slapstick and heartwrenching silent films, musical hits like Grease...and Shrek, a film that ends with various animated characters doing the Macarena. This might be a good time to remind everyone that Shrek and its sequel both competed for the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Aside from Batman and Shrek, other notable industry figures highlighted by this year’s selections include Kathryn Bigelow, Wim Wenders, Julie Dash, Ida Lupino—even Laurel and Hardy got a short on the list. It’s wonderful that pop hits like Christopher Nolan’s best Batman film and The Blues Brothers are getting additional recognition, but the real treat here is discovering films like 1918’s Bread (an early female-directed film about sexual exploitation from Ida May Park) or 1973’s Wattstax (a doc about “Black Woodstock”).
Turner Classic Movies will help with that latter effort by screening six of the selections on December 15 with introductions from Hayden and TCM’s Jacqueline Stewart. Starting at 8 PM ET, the films screened will be The Battle of the Century, Lilies of the Field, Illusions, The Joy Luck Club, Cabin in the Sky and The Man with the Golden Arm.
The full list of films selected in 2020 for the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress are as follows:
Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)
The Battle of the Century (1927)
With Car and Camera Around the World (1929)
Cabin in the Sky (1943)
The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)
Lilies of the Field (1963)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Losing Ground (1982)
The Joy Luck Club (1993)
The Devil Never Sleeps (1994)
Buena Vista Social Club (1999)
The Ground (1993-2001)
Mauna Kea: Temple Under Siege (2006)
The Hurt Locker (2008)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Freedom Riders (2010)