"Forrest Gump" (1994), in which Tom Hanks' character takes a picaresque journey through recent American history, is among the most recent additions to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, a repository of motion pictures judged to be culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.
By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
Fragile FilmUnder the National Film Preservation Act that created the National Film Registry, the Library of Congress works with studios and archives to make sure copies of movies named to the Registry are protected and preserved for future generations.
This is crucial because more than half of motion pictures produced before 1950, including as much as 90 percent of films from the silent era, are lost - their negatives discarded, destroyed by fire, or deteriorated into dust.
Left: Deborah Stoiber brushes off a reel of decomposing film at the George Eastman House Louis B. Mayer Conservation Center in Chili, N.Y., in this April 2008 file photo.
"Norman Rae" (1979)Each year the Library selects 25 films to add to the Registry. Among this year's additions: "Norman Rae," for which Sally Field won her first Academy Award, playing a textile worker fighting to improve working conditions.
"A Computer Animated Hand" (1972)Using digital points on a model hand digitized into a computer to produced polygons, University of Utah graduate students Ed Catmull and Fred Parke produced what is believed to be the first computer-generated 3D-rendered animation of a human hand.
The footage wound up in the 1976 sci-fi flick "Futureworld," while Catmull went on to found the animation company Pixar. He is currently the president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios.
"The Silence of the Lambs" (1991)Anthony Hopkins wasn't the first first actor to appear on-screen as murderous psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter - Brian Cox portrayed him in 1986's "Manhunter" - but his gripping performance made the character his own. In "Silence of the Lambs" Lecter begrudgingly teams up with green FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) to locate a serial killer.
This masterfully acted and directed (and gory) thriller became only the second film to win Oscars in the five top categories - Best Picture, Director (Jonathan Demme), Actor (Hopkins), Actress (Foster) and screenplay (Ted Tally, adapting Thomas Harris' novel). But it was also a rarity in being a horror movie that won an Oscar for Best Picture. A horror movie!
"The Kid" (1921)Charlie Chaplin's first full-length feature mixes slapstick comedy with social commentary and pathos, as the Little Tramp takes in a foundling (played by Jackie Coogan).
"Twentieth Century" (1934)Howard Hawks' screwball comedy, adapted by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur from their play, starred John Barrymore and introduced Carole Lombard in this satire of a theatrical impresario and his young star.
"Bambi" (1942)Producer Walt Disney and director David Hand sought greater realism in their 1942 animated feature "Bambi," compared to the more buoyant and lighthearted animation in "Pinocchio" and "Dumbo." Based on a novel by Felix Salten, "Bambi" beautifully captures the lushness of Nature as it follows a young deer's life in the forest, including the very real threats of fire and of human hunters. The shooting death of Bambi's mother affected more than one generation.
"Allures" (1961)Artist and filmmaker Jordan Belson, who passed away last September at age 85, was called the master of "cosmic cinema" for his abstract patterned images, such as in the elaborate light and sound shows he created for the San Francisco Morrison Planetarium - forerunners of the laser light shows that became popular in the 1970s. The five-and-a-half-minute "Allures" was, according to its creator, the "space-iest" of his works: "It creates a feeling of moving into the void."
"The Iron Horse" (1924)With a realism and sweep far ahead of other westerns at the time, John Ford's epic helped establish his reputation as one of the medium's greatest directors - certainly as the owner of the genre that became inseparable from his name. Filmed in Nevada, this tale of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad contains iconic images that helped define a new Hollywood mythology - the western frontier as a backdrop of American exceptionalism.
"Stand and Deliver" (1988)Based on the true story of Los Angeles math teacher Jaime Escalante, Edward James Olmos delivered an Oscar-nominated performance as a teacher who inspires his underprivileged students to excel at calculus.
"War of the Worlds" (1953)A fondly-remembered example of 1950s science fiction, George Pal's colorful adventure updated H.G. Wells' 1898 novel of an alien attack to the Cold War, mixing in religious metaphors with its clash of civilizations and an invading force brought down not by atomic weapons but by microbes. Gene Barry starred, but the real stars were Gordon Jennings Oscar-winning special effects.
As vivid as the film's visual effects were - hovering Martian space craft decimating Los Angeles, an alien with a tri-colored eyeball - the most memorable were the audio effects of the Martians' death rays, still chilling to this day.
"The Lost Weekend" (1945)Winner of Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder) and Best Actor (Ray Milland), "The Last Weekend" tackled the horrific effects of alcoholism with a documentary-like clarity as well as a disturbingly impressionistic take of Milland's haunted point of view.
"Faces" (1968)John Cassavetes' blistering drama portrays a crumbling marriage in cinema-verite black-and-white, with exceptional performances by Gena Rowlands, John Marley, Seymour Cassel and Lynn Carlin. Also working on the film as an uncredited production assistant was a young Steven Spielberg.
"Porgy and Bess" (1959)Produced in Todd-AO widescreen and stereo sound, with an all-star cast that featured Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr., Pearl Bailey, and Diahann Carroll, "Porgy and Bess" has been screened rarely in recent years owing to rights issues. However, Otto Preminger's film adaptation of the Gershwins' folk opera was troubled from the start - Preminger replaced original director Rouben Mamoulian, prompting legal actions; a fire destroyed sets and costumes; and the film's tepid reception led to its being withheld from theaters for decades. It's that rare Academy Award-winning film that has never been released on home video or DVD.
"Growing Up Female" (1971)Ohio college students Julia Reichert and Jim Klein interviewed a wide cross-section of women ages 4 to 34 to examine the changing landscape for women in America, showing the effects of society, media, home life and business on women's self-image.
"The Big Heat" (1953)One of the great film noirs of the post-WWII years, Fritz Lang's "The Big Heat" stars Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame in a tale of a policeman taking on a local crime syndicate.
"I, an Actress" (1977)Beginning a youthful preoccupation filming 8mm shorts while growing up in the Bronx, underground filmmaker George Kuchar went on to become an inspiration for, among others, director John Waters. Kuchar's absurdist, camp films played with Hollywood conventions and reveal a style similar to that of David Lynch and Guy Maddin.
In the comical "I, an Actress," Kuchar - a San Francisco Art Institute professor - directs an acting student (played by Barbara Lapsley) to perform an ever-more melodramatic monologue.
"Hester Street" (1975)Joan Micklin Silver's evocative story of Russian Jewish immigrants in turn of the century New York, navigating the tricky shoals of assimilation in the New World, stars Oscar nominee Carol Kane, Steven Keats and Paul Freedman.
"The Cry of the Children" (1912)This two-reel melodrama, partially shot at a working textile factory, captured the terrible working and living conditions of child workers, and was one of a wave of films created in support of the anti-child labor movement in the United States. This film, directed by George Nichols, was heralded at the time as "The boldest, most timely and most effective appeal for the stamping out of the cruelest of all social abuses."
"A Cure for Pokeritis" (1912)Stage actor John Bunny starred in more than 150 films for Vitagraph in the five years before his death in 1915. Largely forgotten today - most of his films have not survived - Bunny appeared in comedies, often playing the henpecked husband. An example of his prolific output is this 1912 comedy in which Flora Finch, playing Bunny's wife, plots to break up her husband's weekly poker game.
The New York Times noted at Bunny's death that "His loss will be felt all over the country, and the films which preserve his humorous personality in action may in time have a new value. It is a subject worthy of reflection, the value of a perfect record of a departed singer's voice, of the photographic films perpetuating the drolleries of a comedian who developed such extraordinary capacity for acting before the camera."
"Fake Fruit Factory" (1986)Chick Strand's documentary enters the world of Mexican women who produce colorful papier mache reproductions of fruit.
Nicholas Brothers Family Home Movies (1930s-40s)To watch Fayard and Harold Nicholas dance was to witness an exuberant denial of gravity. The dance team performed in vaudeville, on Broadway and at Harlem's Cotton Club, before becoming fixtures of Hollywood musicals with their extraordinary dance routines, as seen in such films as "Stormy Weather," "Down Argentine Way," "Tin Pan Alley" and "Sun Valley Serenade."
The Nicholas Brothers' 16mm home movies show not only their artistic prowess but also a bygone entertainment era - including the only footage shot inside the Cotton Club. The reels also capture their routines in Broadway shows (such as "Babes in Arms"), as well as street life in Harlem, footage of an all-African-American regiment during World War II, and the family's 1934 cross-country tour.
It's an invaluable collection of images preserving middle class Black America during and after the Great Depression, but one desperately in need of preservation - film programmer Bruce Goldstein, who knew the duo, said the footage had been transferred to tape but the films themselves are missing.
"The Negro Soldier" (1944)This World War II-era documentary, produced by Frank Capra's U.S. Army film unit, told of the contributions to the war effort by Black Americans, and followed soldiers from basic training through officer candidate school to combat. The film also emphasized the role of the Church in the black community.
It has been hailed as a "watershed in the use of film to promote racial tolerance," and in that cause it was required viewing for Army soldiers from early 1944 to the end of the war.