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National Film Registry Criterion Titles

by Eric Levy

Created 07/14/12

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These Criterion titles are on the Library of Congress National Film Registry, which began in 1989.

Films are sorted by year of entry in the Registry, which is listed in the notes, followed by the year of release.

In three cases, shorts from collections are included.

The Registry featured 575 films when I created this list, 45 of which were Criterion titles. There are now 625 films in the Registry, 66 of which are Criterion titles. I will continue to update as necessary.

PS. 8/1/14: I have recently read both volumes of AMERICA'S FILM LEGACY by Daniel Eagan. I highly recommend Mr. Eagan's books to my fellow Film Registry enthusiasts.

Directors with multiple films: Chaplin 4, Cassavetes 3, Ford 3, Lubitsch 2, Malick 2, Newmeyer and Taylor 2, Sternberg 2, Sturges 2

Cross-references to my other lists are included in the notes.

Personal statistics: S=Seen, D=Own on DVD, B=Own on Blu-ray Disc, *=non-Criterion edition. Totals: Films: 66, Seen 66, Own 46, DVDs 28, BDs 23. (And of the 625 films currently in the Registry, I've seen 611.)

UPDATES:
8/16/14: Added IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, TOOTSIE, and GARLIC IS AS GOOD AS TEN MOTHERS (three new additions in one month!), bringing the total to 66 titles.
7/16/14: Added MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, bringing the total to 63 titles.
6/17/14: Added ERASERHEAD, bringing the total to 62 titles.
5/16/14: Added ALL THAT JAZZ, bringing the total to 61 titles.
2/18/14: Added RED RIVER, bringing the total to 60 titles.
12/23/13: I've looked at the Martha Graham disc. The Film Registry added four films of Graham's work this year, including APPALACHIAN SPRING. The film added to the Registry is a silent version from 1944, not the 1958 sound version included on Criterion's MARTHA GRAHAM-DANCE ON FILM set. As it happens, there are excerpts from the 1944 version included on the Criterion disc as a bonus, but as it is not the entire film, it is not eligible for this list. So, alas, we are back to a total of 59 titles.
12/18/13: The 2013 additions were announced today. Just one Criterion title was added: the Martha Graham short APPALACHIAN SPRING (I'm researching whether this is the same film). There are now 60 Criterion titles on the Registry.
12/17/13: Added THE FRESHMAN, bringing the total to 59 titles.
9/16/13: Added NASHVILLE, bringing the total to 58 titles.
8/15/13: Added CITY LIGHTS, bringing the total to 57 titles.
5/15/13: Added TO BE OR NOT TO BE, bringing the total to 56 titles.
3/19/13: Added SAFETY LAST!, bringing the total to 55 titles.
2/15/13: Added MEDIUM COOL and 3:10 TO YUMA (two new additions in one month!), bringing the total to 54 titles.
12/19/12: The 2012 additions were announced today. Four Criterion titles were added: ANATOMY OF A MURDER, SLACKER, THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK, and TWO-LANE BLACKTOP. There are now 52 Criterion titles on the Registry.
12/16/12: Added BADLANDS, bringing the total to 48 titles.
11/15/12: Added ON THE WATERFRONT, bringing the total to 47 titles.
10/31/12: Added THE NAKED CITY (thanks briclegg!), bringing the total to 46 titles.
9/18/12: Added KOYAANISQATSI, bringing the total to 45 titles.

28 comments

  • By John Espinoza
    July 18, 2012
    11:41 PM

    This is a great list to have. Too bad you can only update once a year...if we be so lucky!
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      July 20, 2012
      10:55 AM

      Thanks John! Theoretically, I could update the list once per month, if Criterion happens to announce any new titles that are already on the Registry, as happened recently with LONESOME. And a recent illustration hint suggests that ON THE WATERFRONT will be an upcoming title. I'll update as necessary. Glad you like my list.
  • By Donna Ross
    July 20, 2012
    10:33 AM

    Thanks for creating this list, Eric. I plan to link to the National Film Registry website. Donna Ross Boards Assistant Library of Congress National Film Registry
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      July 20, 2012
      10:56 AM

      What a nice surprise to get a post from you Donna! I'll look for that link.
  • By briclegg
    October 13, 2012
    08:31 PM

    I'm a fan of the registry as well but noticed my count was one higher than yours. After some list comparison, I've found that you've neglected Dassin's "The Naked City", selected in 2007.
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      October 31, 2012
      04:40 AM

      Wow! Can't believe I missed that one. I thought I was so thorough. It has been added. Thank you so much!
  • By Moviefan777
    December 25, 2012
    10:41 PM

    Have you seen the documentary These Amazing Shadows? It's an amazing documentary on the National Film Registry. Check it out and let's hope Criterion releases it. What a great list.
    Reply
  • By Eric Levy
    December 27, 2012
    06:59 AM

    Thanks Moviefan! I have not yet seen THESE AMAZING SHADOWS, but I do know about it, and it is available on DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Home Video. I'm waiting to watch it until I see more Film Registry titles. I've seen over 400 of them, but there are still plenty--even some Criterion titles--that I haven't seen yet, so I'm holding off on the documentary until I see more of them.
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      March 12, 2014
      12:51 PM

      Well, it's been more than a year, but I finally saw THESE AMAZING SHADOWS, which was wonderful. It was great to see so many others talking about my beloved Film Registry with similar enthusiasm. Bragging rights: I have now seem 609 of the 625 titles. I still haven't seen WHY WE FIGHT, and DAUGHTER OF THE DAWN is being released later this year on the Milestone label. The remaining 14 are hopelessly obscure. Hopefully they'll see some sort of release at some point.
  • By Matthew G
    February 16, 2013
    07:50 PM

    Great list, thanks for putting it together. I assume you've read this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0826429777?ref_=sr_1_1&qid=1361062041&sr=8-1&keywords=national%20film%20registry It's an interesting read and a nice resource, even if I find my tastes don't match up with his all the time.
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      February 16, 2013
      08:04 PM

      Thanks Matthew. I do know of that book, and I'm dying to get it but haven't yet. I've been so busy watching the Registry films, I haven't had much time to read about them ;-) But the NFR is such a rich list--much more eclectic and interesting than most best-of lists. It's been a thrilling education watching so many. Paying close attention to the Registry over the years, I noticed the large percentage of Criterion titles and came up with the idea for this list.
    • By Matthew G
      February 17, 2013
      09:45 AM

      I'm a Criterion completist, so I know the pleasure of chasing a massive list like this. I think what sets the National Registry apart is the historical slant and a focus on any relevance regardless of taste. It makes for a really interesting group of movies - not to mention an invaluable set of preserved pieces of American history.
    • By jeanarama
      December 05, 2013
      12:23 PM

      Interesting point that the focus doesn't pay much regard to taste... I'll have to keep that in mind when I start this list after somehow getting through the millions of other lists out there. Anyway, I'd also like to add my thanks for putting together this list!
    • By Eric Levy
      December 06, 2013
      10:08 AM

      Thanks for the comments jeanarama. I love--and favorited--the list you made. Enjoy your journey, and let us know what you watch!
    • By Eric Levy
      July 27, 2014
      10:29 PM

      17 months later, and I have finally read both of Daniel Eagan's Film Registry books. Fantastic reads and very thoroughly researched.
  • By BillyBreton
    March 13, 2013
    07:30 PM

    Since one of the requirements for a film to be placed in the registry is for it to be at least ten years old, what movie from 2003 would you like or expect to see in there?
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      March 14, 2013
      01:55 PM

      Great question Billy. Only five Registry films have been added the first year they were eligible: RAGING BULL, DO THE RIGHT THING, GOODFELLAS, TOY STORY, and FARGO. THE MATRIX (1999) was added last year making it the most recent film on the Registry. So it's a safe bet there will be something from the 2000s announced this year. But to answer your specific question: Allan King's DYING AT GRACE is the only Criterion title from 2003. Pretty unlikely that will be added (and I've never seen it anyway). Following is a list of the eligible (read: American) films I own from that year: AMERICAN SPLENDOR, BAD SANTA, COFFEE AND CIGARETTES, FINDING NEMO, THE LORD OF THE RINGS-THE RETURN OF THE KING, LOST IN TRANSLATION, THE PIANIST, and PIECES OF APRIL. I'd be happy if any of these made the cut this year (though some would surprise me). Two of the films (AMERICAN SPLENDOR and LOST IN TRANSLATION) are directed or co-directed by women, and the Registry has historically included several women directors, so those are possible contenders. So far TOY STORY is the only Pixar feature included; FINDING NEMO is the obvious second choice, though whether it will be picked its first year eligible is hard to say. And I can't predict what they'll do about the LORD OF THE RINGS movies. I could see them adding all three as a single entry, though again, will that happen this year? We'll just have to wait and see. If it was totally up to me, I'd pick FINDING NEMO. Probably a longer answer than you had in mind, but as I'm sure you can tell, this is a topic I love to discuss. Thanks.
    • By Eric Levy
      December 20, 2013
      05:39 AM

      Well, so much for my predictions. There was finally a film from the aughts added. Bill Morrison's DECASIA from 2002, which I have not yet seen, though it looks amazing. Happily it's available on Blu-ray Disc from the Icarus label.
  • By David MacDonald
    March 19, 2013
    01:56 PM

    You've gotta watch Hoop Dreams, dude. One of the greatest documentaries ever made.
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      March 19, 2013
      02:48 PM

      I know. I suspected that if I added my personal stats, people would comment on the ones I haven't seen yet. Believe me, I'm dying to see all of them (and the other NFR films I haven't seen). It's just a question of finding time, and I want to set aside three solid hours to give HOOP DREAMS its proper due, and that's tricky. Soon as I can I will.
    • By David MacDonald
      March 19, 2013
      03:55 PM

      Understandable, I can't imagine when I'm gonna find the time for Shoah.
    • By Eric Levy
      April 28, 2013
      11:36 PM

      Finally watched HOOP DREAMS--amazing! Also saw the exquisite LONESOME. Got to catch the von Sternberg silents next. And should I finally catch Lubitsch's TO BE OR NOT TO BE???
  • By BillyBreton
    December 19, 2013
    09:00 PM

    Not a big crop with this years selection unfortunately. I was crossing my fingers for Tanner '88. I'm just curious, do you try and watch every film in the registry? If so, what are hidden gems would you recommend?
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      December 20, 2013
      05:35 AM

      Hidden gems... Let's see, FORREST GUMP is pretty good. Just kidding. Yes, I was really hoping to beef up this list again like happened last year. And it looks like the Martha Graham short might not be even be the same film. I'm checking on that. But still no NAKED KISS, ACE IN THE HOLE, BIGGER THAN LIFE, ROSEMARY'S BABY? O well, can't complain about the rate of NFR titles Criterion continues to release: The last New Year's cartoon suggested ERASERHEAD was coming, and a recent illustration hint is probably MIDNIGHT COWBOY, so they keep coming, and I will keep updating. To answer your question: Yes, I am making my way through as much of the Film Registry as I can. Several titles are completely unavailable, but most can be seen either commercially or online. As of yesterday, I've seen 586 of the 625 titles. It's been quite a film education. An occasional letdown here and there, but most have been amazing--it is definitely a list worth exploring. YouTube and Google Video both have several of the rarer short films (and a few features). Of this year's inductees, I've watched THE LUNCH DATE, CICERO MARCH, and THE HOLE on YouTube in the last two days. All are exquisite, and things I doubt I would have ever seen if it hadn't been for their inclusion on the list. Others off the top of my head: Definitely check out the shorts GLIMPSE OF THE GARDEN and DISNEYLAND DREAM. And if there are any Criterion titles you haven't seen, be sure to check out Hollis Frampton's (nostalgia). As for features, since I know you're a music fan, you should definitely see THE T.A.M.I. SHOW if you haven't yet. Thanks so much for asking Billy. It means a lot to me that you made a point to check my list when the new announcement was made. And I just commented on your wonderful Beatles list. I love this community. P.S. So far no television shows have been added to the Registry, so TANNER '88 is a long shot. More Altman would certainly be welcome though.
  • By Andrew a.
    January 17, 2014
    04:52 PM

    Marty is in Criterion.
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      January 20, 2014
      05:03 AM

      True, but that's the 1953 made-for-tv original version with Rod Steiger, included on Criterion's THE GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION collection. The 1955 theatrical remake with Ernest Borgnine is the one on the Registry. Both are fantastic by the way. (And that's a young Nancy Marchand, aka Tony Soprano's mother, in the original MARTY.)
  • By prtkahn
    February 28, 2014
    09:28 PM

    Just looking at your list here, Eric, it appears that the gatekeepers at the NFR sure do love Cassavetes--but who doesn't?
    Reply
    • By Eric Levy
      March 01, 2014
      05:41 AM

      You know it's interesting--if you look at the number of *Criterion* directors on the Registry, you're right, Cassavetes is second only to Chaplin, and that is certainly something to celebrate. But if you expand the picture to look at the entire Registry, things get a bit more complex. I've kept careful track of directors with multiple entries in the Registry. John Ford leads the pack with ten--unsurprising and certainly well deserved. The uneven William Wyler is second with nine, followed by Howard Hawks and George Stevens with seven each. I won't go through the entire list here, but to my mind there are some frustrating statistics: Steven Spielberg for instance has five films on the Registry. Again, understandable, and though I'm not a huge fan, I can see how they deserve their place on the list. But Spielberg gets five when John Cassavetes, Orson Welles, and Stanley Kubrick only have three each??? Other Criterion directors who I feel are underrepresented on the Registry: Josef von Sternberg (3), Fritz Lang (2), Samuel Fuller (1). O well, it wouldn't be a film list if geeks like us didn't complain about it ;-) PS. I just commented on your Flashbacks list.