This year's entries range from Hollywood blockbusters, romantic comedies and technological advances, to religious allegories, home movies and sporting events, dating from 1897 to the 1990s - an eclectic and mesmerizing list that celebrates the art of cinema.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
Left: Decomposing nitrate of a film produced by Thomas Edison in 1896, "Clark's Thread Mill."
As films are added to the National Film Registry, the Library of Congress works with production studios and archives to ensure that original versions are safeguarded. This year's additions bring the total number of films on the Registry to 600.
The newest titles on the Registry are ...
"3:10 to Yuma" (1957)Building upon the trailblazing works of John Ford and Howard Hawks, the 1950s saw a slew of tough westerns - psychologically-astute tales featuring white hats and black hats who were never quite all-black or all-white. Based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, "3:10 to Yuma" starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, as a lawman trying to bring a gang leader to justice.
"Anatomy of a Murder" (1959)Director Otto Preminger's searing courtroom drama, controversial for its frankness about rape, is a gripping legal thriller featuring some terrific actors: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, George C. Scott and Arthur O'Connell among them.
The story, adapted from a novel by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker (writing under the pseudonym Robert Traver), was based on a true-life case on which Voekler was defense attorney, and was shot on location in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The script's frankness was matched by the freshness of its innovative musical score by jazz great Duke Ellington. Gracing the film were opening titles created by Saul Bass, who also designed the distinctive movie poster.
"The Augustas" (1930s-1950s)Scott Nixon was a traveling salesman, and an avid member of the Amateur Cinema League. Nixon married these two vocations by documenting his travels on 16mm and 8mm film, recording the streets and storefronts of cities named Augusta - in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Montana . . . (yes, there are a lot of Augustas) - for a picaresque piece of Americana.
You can view this 18-minute compilation online by visiting the University of South Carolina's Moving Image Research Collections.
"Born Yesterday" (1950)Judy Holliday recreated his Broadway role in Garson Kanin's comedy, playing Emma "Billie" Dawn, a gangster's moll who receives an education in politics, influence-peddling, and double negatives from tutor William Holden. The film was directed by George Cukor, and won Holliday an Academy Award for Best Actress.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961)Blake Edwards' somewhat tamed film of Truman Capote's popular novella of a Manhattan call girl might have turned out like any other tale of a young woman navigating the jungles - professional and romantic - of New York City. But then no other such tale had the incandescent Audrey Hepburn, whose Holly Golightly became a cinema icon.
In addition to costars George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Martin Balsam and Buddy Ebsen, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" also features the music of Henry Mancini, whose "Moon River" became an Oscar- and Grammy-winning hit.
"A Christmas Story" (1983)Adapted from Jean Shepherd's 1966 short story compilation "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" (and narrated by the author), "A Christmas Story" tells a tale from Shepard's youth in Indiana in the 1940s, when all he wanted for Christmas was a Red Ryder BB gun. Peter Billingsley played young Ralphie, whose heartfelt wish is customarily rebuked with the cautionary adage, "You'll shoot your eye out."
This gentle comedy from director Bob Clark (previously known for the very-R-rated "Porky's") has become a holiday favorite; the house in Cleveland where it was filmed is now a museum; and the movie has recently spawned a Broadway musical.
"The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight" (1897)In the earliest years of cinema, before the rise of narrative features, nickelodeons and theatres did big business showing "actuarials" - newsreels capturing far-off places and events. Films of boxing matches were a popular staple, and the 1897 match-up between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons, held in Carson City, Nev., was especially staged for the benefit of cameras.
This film is unique for having documented the entirety of the 14-round event, making the 100-minute feature the longest movie produced up to that time. (Sadly, only part of the footage survives).
It was also shot in a new widescreen, 63mm format called Veriscope, which required a special projector to exhibit (thereby eliminating the possibility of bootleg copies).
"Dirty Harry" (1971)"I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. Being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"
After becoming a star in Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, Clint Eastwood launched a new franchise as San Francisco cop "Dirty Harry" Callahan, in director Don Siegel's violent tale of vigilante justice. The gritty urban crime drama of a homicide detective who bends, folds, spindles and mutilates the rules in his pursuit of a serial killer was a box-office hit, and led to several further adventures with Callahan, including "Magnum Force," "Sudden Impact" and 'The Dead Pool."
"Hours for Jerome: Parts 1 and 2" (1980-82)Experimental filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky composed a tone poem devoted to images capturing the change of seasons as well as the stuff of daily life. Shot over four years, the silent two-part film (split between spring-summer and fall-winter) compresses a year's time into 45 minutes, mixing urban and natural environments with a personal record of the filmmaker and his partner's life.
"The Kidnappers Foil" (1930s-1950s)Melton Barker was a clever showman: From the 1930s through the '50s he and his Dallas-based film company traveled the South and Midwest, recruiting local children to act, sing and dance in two-reel melodramas (each titled "The Kidnappers Foil") about a young girl kidnapped from a birthday party and ultimately rescued. Barker then returned with the edited film to show to enthusiastic hometown audiences. Despite the creepy plot line, parents and grandparents were more than eager to buy tickets to see their own tykes on the big screen.
Only a handful of prints produced have survived, but the Texas Archive of the Moving Image has posted several online, so that budding talents from such towns as Childress, Texas (c. 1936, 1948), Grand Island, Neb. (1938), Shawnee, Okla. (1940s), Reidsville, N.C. (c. 1948), or Pine Bluff, Ark. (1952) can relive their youthful performances.
Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests (1922)Shot at Paragon Studios in Fort Lee, N.J., featuring actresses Mae Murray (left), Hope Hampton and Mary Eaton, this film was intended to demonstrate the practicality of this two-color (greenish blue and red) film, produced as an alternative to earlier color film stock processes that were more expensive or laborious to create. Kodachrome's two-color film was used in a number of studio releases until Technicolor's three-strip color process became Hollywood's gold standard.
To view video of the 4.5-minute test visit the Kodak channel on YouTube.
"A League of Their Own" (1992)Inspired by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1954), director Penny Marshall spun this winning comedy-drama about women ball players and their apoplectic coach played by Tom Hanks ("There's no crying in baseball!"). Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna are among the teammates who play out not only America's national pastime but play against the discrimination that - thanks to a WWII-era dearth of male ballplayers - is briefly ignored, somewhat, to open up baseball diamonds to the ladies.
"The Matrix" (1999)A visionary science fiction tale that used startling visual effects to question the validity of human consciousness, "The Matrix" told of a computer hacker who joins a group of insurgents battling alien overlords who have consumed human existence as part of a virtual world. However weird that plot description sounds, it is nowhere near as weird as some of the stunning visuals used to depict the film's action, in which time and gravity have a fluidity that can only exist in cinema.
The Oscar-winning special effects team created a process referred to as "bullet time" in which combatants appear almost frozen within their environment, leaving the camera free to drift within the scene.
Written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving as the mysterious Agent Smith, and featuring a stunning atonal score by Don Davis, "The Matrix" honored the aesthetics of Hong Kong action films at the same time it created its own, unmistakable look and sound - a look and sound that have been repeatedly imitated ever since.
"The Middleton Family at the New York World's Fair" (1939)Westinghouse produced this industrial film for the 1939 World's Fair, depicting a fictional Indiana family as they travel from grandma's Long Island home to the site of the monumental exposition in New York City, taking in the extraordinary visions of the future as seen at the Westinghouse Pavilion. Among the cast: Marjorie Lord (who later played Danny Thomas' wife on "Make Room for Daddy") as a teenage girl who rejects her anti-capitalistic boyfriend in favor of . . . an electrical engineer employed at the fair. Westinghouse saves the day!
"One Survivor Remembers" (1995)Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein recounts her ordeal in Nazi concentration and slave labor camps, in this Academy Award-winning documentary film by Kary Antholis, co-produced by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Research Institute and HBO
"Parable" (1964)Since the birth of movies, small independent outfits have produced films aimed at audiences that were deemed underserved by major Hollywood studios, including religious groups and churches. One such film was "Parable," a half-hour allegory in which a circus clown gathers followers and suffers a fate similar to Jesus Christ; it is said to have inspired the musical "Godspell."
Co-directed by Rolf Forsberg and Tom Rook for the Protestant Council of New York, the dialogue-free film certainly looked inspired by the surrealism of Federico Fellini, and received several honors at international film festivals. But its debut at the 1964 N.Y. World's Fair was met with angry protest, with one minister even threatening to riddle the screen with shotgun holes if the film were shown. In the words of one aggrieved critic, "No one is going to make a clown out of my Jesus."
Forsberg went on to produce other dramas and documentaries, many with religious themes, including "Antkeeper," "Ark," and ''The Late Great Planet Earth." Among the cast of "Parable" were Indian-born actors Saeed Jaffrey and Madhur Jaffrey, whose later film roles include Merchant-Ivory productions, "A Passage to India," and "Gandhi."
"Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia" (1990)Winner of a Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival, Stanford University student Ellen Bruno's documentary depicts the struggle of Cambodians trying to rebuild their community out of the ashes of Pol Pot's killing fields.
You can view the half-hour "Samsara" by visiting the Journeyman Pictures Channel on YouTube.
"Slacker" (1991)In the 1990s Austin, Texas, was growing to become the center of a burgeoning indie cinema movement - from SXSW and film buffs like Ain't It Cool's Harry Knowles to the infamous Alamo Drafthouse (don't text there!). On a miniscule $23,000 budget director Richard Linklater produced this series of vignettes about quirky, colorful characters whose discourse touches on UFOs, Dostoyevsky, the Kennedy assassination and Madonna's pap smear.
"Slacker" epitomized Austin as a haven of unconventional dreamers and strivers (perhaps more dreaming than striving). Linklater later directed "Before Sunrise," "Dazed and Confused," and "Waking Life."
"Sons of the Desert" (1933)Considered by many to be the best feature-length film by the duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the comedy about husbands trying to hide from their spouses a trip to their fraternal order's Chicago convention also stars comedian Charley Chase, and was directed by Hal Roach Studios veteran William A. Seiter. The Laurel & Hardy fan club takes its name from the film.
"The Spook Who Sat by the Door" (1973)Adapted from a bestselling 1969 novel by Sam Greenlee, "Spook" tells of a black man trained by the CIA who launches a black nationalist revolution, leading a group of "Freedom Fighters" in guerilla warfare on the streets of Chicago.
Directed by Ivan Dixon (best known as an actor from "Nothing But a Man" and the TV series "Hogan's Heroes"), the movie starred Lawrence Cook, Paula Kelly, Janet League and J.A. Preston, and featured a score by jazz composer Herbie Hancock. Critics pilloried the film as sanctioning violence, and United Artists withdrew it from theaters after only a few weeks.
"They Call It Pro Football" (1967)The first feature of NFL Films - whose cameramen, editors and narrators captured the game and its participants with an unprecedented drama and intimacy - was an epic blueprint for the filmmakers' subsequent productions, and helped shape the look and sound of sports television ever since. Written and produced by Steve Sabol; directed by John Hentz; narrated by John Facenda; with music by Sam Spence.
"The Times of Harvey Milk" (1984)An Oscar-winner for Best Documentary Feature, Rob Epstein's passionate film mixes archival news footage with interviews to conjure up the undaunted spirit of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected city official in San Francisco, who was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone in 1978. The film also captures the early years of the gay rights movement and the fight by gays and lesbians for a place at the political table.
"Two-Lane Blacktop" (1971)In their only acting roles, singer-songwriter James Taylor and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys play the Driver and Mechanic tearing east from L.A. in their '55 Chevy. Along for the ride is the Girl (Laurie Bird), and together they engage in a cross-country drag race with Warren Oates and his Pontiac GTO.
This existential road movie celebrates Route 66 - and also that peculiar style of '70s filmmaking in which unprofessional actors are handed script pages daily, not knowing in advance where they're headed, just like the characters they play.
Directed by Monte Hellman, "Two-Lane Blacktop" bombed on its original release (Universal Pictures didn't even bother to publish newspaper ads for it), but it has since attained cult status and a Criterion Collection DVD release.
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1914)Harriet Beecher Stowe's immensely popular 1852 novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and its various stage incarnations, were a dramatic blow by abolitionists against slavery and discrimination. Although it had been filmed previously with white actors in blackface, director William Robert Daly's 1914 version was notable for becoming the first U.S. feature film for white audiences to star a black actor in a lead role: Sam Lucas, who had played Uncle Tom on stage.
The Wishing Ring: An Idyll of Old England (1914)Director Maurice Tourneur, whose memorable silent works include "The Last of the Mohicans" and "The Poor Little Rich Girl," brought sophistication and craft to this light comedic tale of a young Englishman seeking to prove his worth to his father and a comely young lass, with the help of a "magic" ring supplied by gypsies. The film has been hailed for its artistic authenticity - no mean feat given that this "Idyll of Old England" was shot on the streets and stages of Fort Lee, N.J.
"The Wishing Ring" was believed to be a "lost" film, until historian Kevin Brownlow uncovered a 16mm print in England.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
2011 National Film Registry additions
2010 National Film Registry additions