When the historians of tomorrow delve into the archive for the crown jewelsof 20th Century cinema, they will encounter Darth Vader announcing that he'sLuke Skywalker's father, John Travolta throwing shapes in a white suit and adeadpan Leslie Nielsen answering the question: "Surely you can't be serious?"with the words: "I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."
The Empire Strikes Back, Saturday Night Fever and Airplane! are among 25new additions to America's National Film Registry which were announced yesterdayby the Library of Congress in Washington.
Original copies of each will now be kept safe for viewing by futuregenerations in an archive of titles deemed "culturally, historically, oraesthetically significant".
As ever, the annual list of inductees includes an eclectic mixture ofmovies from different genres and eras of Hollywood. The oldest title, datingback to 1891, is Newark Athlete, a silent clip of a teenager swinging Indianclubs, a contemporary exercise aid. The most recent is 1996's Study of a River,an artistic portrayal of the Hudson River by experimental film-maker PeterHutton.
Horror films are represented by The Exorcist, comedy by The Pink Pantherand historical dramas by Spike Lee's biopic Malcolm X and Robert Redford andDustin Hoffman's Oscar-winning take on Watergate, All the President's Men.
In its annual announcement of new additions, the Library of Congress isanxious to stress that inclusion in the National Film Registry does notnecessarily mean a work is being heralded as one of the best movies ever made.Instead, the archive is intended to preserve films which are deemed to have"artistic, historical, or cultural significance". A committee which includesdirector Martin Scorsese, film critic Leonard Maltin and actress Alfre Woodard,along with a selection of leading film industry figures and the Librarian ofCongress James Billington, met in November to select 25 titles from more than2,100 movies nominated by members of the public.
To merit consideration, a film must have been made more than a decade agoand given a theatrical release.
Aside from that, anything goes. "Somebody has to be the institutionalmemory of the country," Mr Billington said yesterday. "And that's pretty muchwhat Congress has empowered its library to do and to be."
The Film Registry was established in 1989 and now contains 550 titles. Aportion of each year's new crop of inductees inevitably tends to reflect newsdevelopments during the previous 12 months. For example, Leslie Neilsen, thestar of Airplane! and Blake Edwards, the writer and director of The PinkPanther, are fresh in the public's memory after having both died recently.
Fans of The Empire Strikes Back are meanwhile loudly celebrating the film's30th birthday and have long lobbied for the film to join Star Wars in thearchive. The Exorcist, perhaps more vulgarly, benefited from a major PR pushearlier this year when an extended version was released on Blu Ray.
But it is the forgotten gems which perhaps give the registry its realmerit. John Huston's documentary Let There Be Light, filmed in 1946, finallygets the prominence it deserves, after initially being banned by the Pentagonfor 35 years because of its unswerving depiction of traumatised war veterans. ATrip Down Market Street contains rare footage of San Francisco just before the1906 earthquake which virtually destroyed the city.
"It's the ones that I didn't know about that thrill me the most," added MrBillington. "That's where I really have a feeling of satisfaction that, bygolly, this really is a creative country.