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What to Watch: Library of Congress has films for your holiday free time

Still from the movie Wall-E (robot in space with large inquisitve eyes)

With the holiday season in full swing, many of us may have extra time on our hands. In between shopping excursions, family gatherings, cooking, or simply resting during some much-deserved time off from work, there’s no better way to spend one’s free time than with a movie. But what to watch? The Library of Congress (LC) has a plethora of recommendations.

This week, LC announced the films being added to the National Film Registry this year. The registry selects 25 films annually that showcase the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation. Described as "eclectic" by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, the 2021 selections span the entirety of cinema history, from Ringing Brothers Parade Film, a recently restored silent short from 1902 that provides a rare glimpse of a prosperous northern Black community at a time when African Americans rarely appeared on film, to modern PIXAR favorite WALL-E (2008). Other notable selections include Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Strangers on a Train (1959); The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971), an essential documentary on the killing of the Black Panther leader; John Waters’ independent groundbreaker Pink Flamingos (1972); the final installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi; and Selena (1997), a biopic on the late Tejano singer, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.

Here’s the full list of films inducted into the National Film Registry this year, in chronological order. Happy viewing.

  1. Ringling Brothers Parade Film (1902)
  2. Jubilo (1919)
  3. The Flying Ace (1926)
  4. Hellbound Train (1930)
  5. Flowers and Trees (1932)
  6. Strangers on a Train (1951)
  7. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  8. Evergreen (1965)
  9. Requiem-29 (1970)
  10. The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)
  11. Pink Flamingos (1972)
  12. Sounder (1972)
  13. The Long Goodbye (1973)
  14. Cooley High (1975)
  15. Richard Pryor: Live in Concert (1979)
  16. Chicana (1979)
  17. The Wobblies (1979)
  18. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  19. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  20. Stop Making Sense (1984)
  21. Who Killed Vincent Chin? (1987)
  22. The Watermelon Woman (1996)
  23. Selena (1997)
  24. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  25. WALL-E (2008)

Your local library is the first place to check for the availability of films on this list. We found quite a few of the later releases and some of the classics at our library in both DVD format and via the library's connected video streaming service.

The Ringling Brothers Parade Film is available on YouTube with an introduction from David Kiehn detailing how he identified the film when it was brought to the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum by an elderly couple. The 1971 documentary, The Murder of Fred Hampton is available online at the Chicago Film Archives. And the Library of Congress also has selections from the National Film Registry available online.

Do you know a film that should be included? Nominations for next year's additions to the National Film Registry will be accepted through Aug. 15, 2022.

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