The 425 films in the National Film Registry represent a stunning range of American filmmaking -- Hollywood features, documentaries, avant-garde and amateur productions, films of regional interest, ethnic, animated and short film subjects -- all deserving recognition, preservation and access by future generations.
This key component of American cultural history, however, remains a legacy with much already lost or in peril. "In spite of the heroic efforts of archives, the motion picture industry and others, America's film heritage, by any measure, is an endangered species," Billington explained. "Fifty percent of the films produced before 1950 and 80 to 90 percent made before 1920 have disappeared forever. Sadly, our enthusiasm for watching films has proved far greater than our commitment to preserving them. And, ominously, more films are lost each year -- through the ravages of nitrate deterioration, color-fading and 'vinegar syndrome,' which threatens the acetate-based [safety] film stock on which the vast majority of motion pictures, past and present, have been reproduced."
A. Cover of the soundtrack album from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," 1975. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction.
B. George Kennedy and Paul Newman in a scene from "Cool Hand Luke," 1967. Reproduction information: Not available for reproduction