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The Major Accolade Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi Was Just Awarded

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Almost 40 years ago, the original Star Wars trilogy wrapped up with Return of the Jedi, which saw the Rebellion destroy the second Death Star and Luke Skywalker become a Jedi Knight, among other notable events. For many Star Wars fans, Return of the Jedi ranks high in their hierarchy of movies set in a galaxy far, far away, and now Episode VI has been bestowed a major honor: being added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

It was announced today that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was one of 25 movies deemed worthy to be included in the National Film Registry for 2021 because of their “cultural, historic or aesthetic importance to preserve the nation’s film heritage.” As such, all of the original Star Wars trilogy is now preserved at this institution, with A New Hope (once simply known as Star Wars) being added in 1989 and The Empire Strikes Back following in 2010. Here’s what the Library of Congress had to say about Return of the Jedi’s importance to the American film landscape:

The original Star Wars trilogy reached its first apex with this film, the third release in the “a galaxy far, far away” trifecta. Directed by Richard Marquand, from a story by, of course, George Lucas, Jedi launches Lucas’ original, legendary characters — Luke, Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO, R2-D2 and others — on a series of new adventures, which takes fans from the planet of Tatooine to the deep forests of Endor. Populated by intriguing new characters — including Ewoks and the gluttonous Jabba the Hutt — and filled with the series’ trademark humor, heart, thrills and chills, Jedi, though perhaps not quite up to the lofty standards of its two predecessors, still ranks as an unquestioned masterpiece of fantasy, adventure and wonder.

Other well-known movies that have been added to the Library of Congress this year include 1951’s Strangers on a Train, 1962’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, 1973’s The Long Goodbye, 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1997’s Selena, 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and 2008’s WALL-E. In the case of Return of the Jedi and Fellowship of the Ring, their additions came as a result of “significant public support” from online nominations. The third Star Wars movie specifically earned the most public votes. 

While it’s not like anyone is lacking for ways to watch Return of the Jedi (whether it’s owning a physical copy of the movie, catching it on cable or streaming it on Disney+), it’s still good to hear that it has been preserved at the Library of Congress for future generations. Can you imagine a scenario where centuries from now, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back were still around, but there wasn’t any way to watch Return of the Jedi? As slim as a possibility as that might have been, it’s safe to say those future moviegoers would have been pretty mad about not getting to see how the original Star Wars trilogy concluded.

Of course, the Star Wars franchise has come a long way since Return of the Jedi’s release. Not only have numerous Star Wars movies and TV shows been released in the decades since, but the mythology has also been expanded upon through various novels, comic book series, video games and more. So it’s not like Star Wars’ impact on pop culture will diminish anytime soon, and with the Original Trilogy taken care of, I’m curious about if the Prequel Trilogy will be thrown into the Library of Congress someday.

You can get your fix of this space opera franchise by heading over to Disney+, and keep checking back with CinemaBlend for more news about upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows. The next project on the docket is The Book of Boba Fett, which will premiere on the Mouse House’s streaming service December 29.

Adam Holmes

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.