Watching movies is one of America’s favorite pastimes, but this distinctive medium is more than entertainment. It also chronicles our history and culture and mirrors our hopes and dreams. While we’ve enjoyed the technological advances that have enhanced our theater-going experience, the nation has also lost nearly 70 percent of feature-length silent films made in America to time and neglect.

More than 30 years ago, Congress took the first steps to safeguard America’s film heritage by passing the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 and reauthorized the legislation in 2016. The act created the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) of the Library of Congress to help ensure the survival, conservation and increased public availability of America’s films.


The law also established the National Film Registry, a list of “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant motion pictures. As Librarian of Congress, I have the honor each year of selecting 25 films to add to this prestigious list of some of the country’s most influential motion pictures.

Representing the rich creative and cultural diversity of the American cinematic experience, the registry has grown to 750 films. This year also marks the registry’s 30th birthday. For three decades, we have been recognizing, celebrating and preserving the legacy of American filmmaking.

The National Film Registry has become an important record of American cultural creativity. Films selected to the registry must be at least 10 years old. Covering the period 1891 through 2005, they include blockbusters, Hollywood classics, documentaries, silent movies, animation, home movies, shorts, experimental, avant-garde and independent films.

This year’s registry spans 107 years of filmmaking from 1898 to 2005. A forbidden love affair, the ravages of alcoholism, an animated classic, a kiss that broke the color barrier and dinosaurs returned from extinction represent the range of this year’s registry. Where else could you find in the same class Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” (1940), the film noir “The Lady From Shanghai” (1947), the animated “Cinderella” (1950), the musical festival “Monterey Pop” (1968), the Vietnam documentary “Hearts and Minds” (1974), indie hit “Eve’s Bayou” (1997) and “Jurassic Park” (1993), the biggest public vote-getter on this year’s registry.

The Library’s NFBP board is made up of industry organizations, artist guilds, film historians and archives. I work closely with the board on national preservation policy and on deciding what should be inducted into the registry after reviewing thousands of public nominations. We will be accepting public nominations for 2019 until next fall. More information can be found at

Since the inaugural registry announcement, December has become the de factor month to recognize film preservation and celebrate our cinematic heritage. This year marks another December to remember in film preservation.

The films on the National Film Registry are worthy of binge-watching. It’s like going to a film festival featuring the cinematic treasures of the last 130 years—a virtual Olympiad of motion pictures. Unlike many other honors, the registry is not restricted to a time, place or genre. It encompasses the full American cinematic experience showing us in all of our glory.

As part of our celebration of the registry’s 30th anniversary, we have been posting blogs for the last month, highlighting a title for each year of the registry. These feature scholarly and fun essays, written by film experts. For example, one of the recent blogs spotlighted the 1956 visually stunning sci-fi film, “Forbidden Planet,” added to the registry in 2013. Being named to the registry raises the profile of many of these earlier films and reintroduces, or in some cases introduces them, to new generations. You can see the blogs and essays at

As the nation’s repository of American creativity, the Library of Congress, with the support of Congress, the studios and other archives, must ensure the preservation of America’s film patrimony. As families flock to the theater or sit in the comfort of their home watching the magic of movies unfold, let’s give thanks to the guardians of this important expression of our history, culture and creativity.

Happy birthday National Film Registry and I salute the filmmakers of the class of 2018!

Carla Hayden is Librarian of Congress.