This Tuesday, the National Film Registry announced their annual list of twenty-five films that have been selected for preservation, and fans of Star Wars will be happy to learn that Return of the Jedi was among the movies selected this year. The National Film Registry is a collection of films that have been deemed culturally, historically or aesthetically significant, and worthy of preservation.
The National Film Registry was established by the National Film Preservation act of 1988, which set up the registry, as well as the criteria needed to select the films for preservation. Ever since 1989, twenty-five films have been choses every year to be preserved by the National Film registry. Along with Return of the Jedi, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, Wall-E, and A Nightmare on Elm Street were selected to be among this year’s twenty-five inductees. You can view the, complete list here.
This isn’t the first time that a Star Wars film has been selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry. The original 1977 film was among the twenty-five films originally picked in the first group of inductees in 1989. The Empire Strikes Back was selected as well in 2010. With Return of the Jedi being added to the registry this year, that means that the entire original trilogy is now being preserved in the National Film Registry.
It’s worth noting that the origin of the National Film Registry came from a desire to preserve film and avoid any modifications that might have been made to the films. At the time this was likely referencing edits to movies for television or “updating” classic movies by colorizing black and white films, but it means that the Library of Congress should be preserving the original 1983 version of Return of the Jedi complete with the Ewoks singing Yub Nub at the end of the movie.
(Fans wondering about which version of the original Star Wars was preserved don’t need to worry as Star Wars was added to the registry in 1989, almost a decade before the special editions when there was only one option as to who shot first.)
Does this mean that other Star Wars films will be added to the National Film Registry in the future? It’s possible. One of the criteria for a film being added is that it must be at least ten years old, which means that none of the episodes from the sequel trilogy or anything from the Disney era is eligible yet. Also, even though ten years is the required length of time before a movie is eligible, it’s usually a lot longer than that before a movie is added.
After all, Return of the Jedi turns thirty-eight this year, and isn’t even the oldest movie on the list of those being inducted. “Ringling Bros. Parade Film” was among the movies included this year and is from 1902, making it almost a hundred and twenty years old, before it was added to the registry, so even if other Star Wars movies haven’t been added yet, there’s still plenty of time.