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Program National Film Preservation Board

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about the National Film Registry.

  • What is the National Film Registry?

    It is a list of films deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" that are earmarked for preservation by the Library of Congress. These films are not selected as the 'best' American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring importance to American culture. They reflect who we are as a people and as a nation.

  • How many films are on the National Film Registry?

    As of Dec. 14, 2016, there are 700 film titles included on the National Film Registry. Each December, another 25 films are added to the Registry.

  • What's the oldest movie on the Registry?

    A film fragment called "The Newark Athlete" made in 1891 is the oldest title on the Registry. It runs just a few seconds in length.

  • What's the newest?

    An avant-garde film titled "13 Lakes," directed by James Benning in 2004, is the newest film on the Registry.

  • Who set up the National Film Registry and why?

    Congress passed a bill that "prohibits any person from knowingly distributing or exhibiting to the public a film that has been materially altered, or a black and white film that has been colorized and is included in the Registry, unless such films are labeled disclosing specified information."

  • Who selects the films on the Registry?

    The Librarian of Congress makes the annual selections to the Registry after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public and conferring with Library film curators and the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB).

  • When are films selected for the Registry?

    Each year, usually in December, the Librarian of Congress selects 25 films to be added to the Registry.

  • Can the public participate?

    Absolutely! In fact you're encouraged to submit your nominations each year. You may nominate up to 50 films for consideration in 2017. The deadline for nominations will be in early fall. Submit your recommendations through our online nomination form.

  • What’s on the Registry?

    The National Film Registry historically has included only those films that were produced or co-produced by an American film company, typically for theatrical release or recognized as a film through film festivals or film awards. If in doubt, check the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for country of origin. Registry criteria does not specifically prohibit television programs, commercials, music videos or foreign productions, however, the original intent of the legislation that established the Registry was to safeguard U.S. films. Consequently the National Film Preservation Board and the Librarian of Congress give first consideration to American motion pictures.

    Here’s a complete list of the titles currently included on the National Film Registry.

  • How many films by women directors are on the Registry?

    Forty films directed or co-directed by women have been added to the Registry since its inception. Here's a list (PDF, 75KB) of those titles and their directors.

  • Do many people nominate films to the Registry?

    We receive around 2,000 public nominations each year, representing about 3,800 discrete titles.

  • How do I know if a film is on the Registry?

    Our website features several thousand titles not yet named to the Registry. There are doubtless hundreds, maybe even thousands more. Email additions to [email protected].

  • Have all of the Registry films been preserved?

    The National Film Registry of the Library of Congress works with motion picture studios, independent filmmakers, archives, museums and historical societies to secure the best available film elements for each Registry title. These elements are conserved under the best possible physical conditions i.e. low temperature and low humidity at the Library. In some cases, the films have already been preserved by a studio, filmmaker or archive, and the Library simply maintains a “reserve” print or a copy of the master materials which are not distributed or projected and is considered the Registry master element(s).

  • Does the Library of Congress own the films on the Registry?

    No, the Library does not own the films on the Registry. The films are generally owned by individual, studio or company that produced and/or distributed the film. According to U.S. copyright law, films made prior to 1923 are generally considered public domain and may be reproduced and distributed freely.  Sometimes, a film enters the public domain because its copyright has not been renewed and is no longer owned by any individual or organization.

    More information about public domain films
    Additional copyright resources

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