Silent movies. The words leave a fresh echo in my ear and a lasting image in my head. They were the first real ‘movies’ and when they evolved into sound, we were no doubt excited, but there was a tinge of sadness. That great feel of watching a silent movie would never be felt again. Here’s a list of the top ten silent films (in my opinion) ever made during that glorious era.
10: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
One of the most original, provocative, thought-provoking thrillers of its era, Wiene’s famous film, it’s spooky characters and excellent twist are almost impossible to forget, and amazing to watch. And by the way, what happened to that word… somnambulist… bring it back, I say!
9: The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Yeah, I know, I know, it’s racist, blah-blah-blah. I’m not denying it, it is definitely oriented toward a viewpoint of hatred toward African Americans, and that’s wrong, but just think about it, if Griffith had never made this film, we wouldn’t have half of the moviemaking techniques we have today. Awful to watch, astonishingly beautiful to look at.
8: The General (1926)
Keaton scoffs in the face of those “talkies,” sticking to his same, hilarious, risky slapstick even as the age of his art was crippling and slowly dying. The man deserves respect for this and countless other reasons. He is a true genius, and The General proves it.
7: Napoleon (1927)
The life-lasting tale of the famous leader that Stanley Kubrick was desperate to remake but never got the chance to, Abel Gance’s fantastic ‘epic’ is entertaining, gripping and long-lasting, everything a decent silent should be.
6: Nosferatu (1922)
Murnau’s unageing horror movie, perhaps the first vampire movie of all time (considering Les Vampires is apparently not about vampires), is one of the only horror movies that has deeply scared me. Watching it at age seven, I had nightmares for a week, and although it is never said in a real voice, “Your wife has a pretty neck” is a hauntingly recognizable line.
5: Un Chien Andalou (1929)
A collaboration of the artistic mind of Salvador Dali and the visionary film view of Luis Buñuel, this surreal 16-minute drama (thriller, comedy?) which seems to tell a strange, can-you-say-Lynchian story that is almost indecipherable. But who’d want to decode it? It’s there for us to enjoy, and what a treasure it is.
4: Metropolis (1927)
Fritz Lang’s futuristic thriller laid the path for a legion of movies, from terrific to terrible, and was tragically snubbed for Best Picture in the first ever year of the Oscars! An entertaining thrillride with an effect on its audience to this day, it’s a memorable movie that sadly marked the end of an era.
3: Intolerance (1916)
D.W. Griffith’s apology for the intolerably racist yet still powerfully affecting on the film industry The Birth of a Nation is a fantastic movie which definitely wins him back into our hearts. Presenting the fragile Lillian Gish as a symbol of innocence, he weaves a magnificent tale spanning all time.
2: Greed (1924)
With several different length versions in existence, you could come across any number of copies of Greed if you search hard enough. I’ve only seen the normal version, the easiest to find, but it blew my mind. I’ve never had so much fun watching a film sans sound.
1: The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Perhaps the greatest silent film of all time is Sergei Eisenstein’s fantastic true tale of a famous riot. Fantastic imagery and tons of memorable moments make this a revolutionary, EVOLUTIONARY step forward for film, and not only the best silent film, but one of the best movies altogether.
So that’s my Top Ten? What are silent films you love, or consider to be influential? Your feedback is what I crave, so leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading.