My Favorite Films through 1929

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1.
Sunrise (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
An allegorical tale about a man fighting the good and evil within him. Both sides are made flesh - one a sophisticated woman he is attracted to and the other his wife. (94 mins.)
Director: F.W. Murnau
“ It should be hard to get involved in such an off-kilter love story (the husband is worryingly violent), but it's just so gorgeous. Little happens, and yet it's really easy to get swept up in the city scenes. ” - rfischer9100
 
2.
Metropolis (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences. (153 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ Metropolis has detailed models that create one of the most amazing cityscapes this side of Blade Runner, and Lang’s expressionist style leads to some stunning visuals: the cooridinated movements of the workers, a vision of machinery turning into a temple that literally consumers laborers as sacrifices, and the iconic transformation of the “machine man.” All of these can still arrest a viewer in 2013 just as they did in 1927. ” - rfischer9100
 
3.
Faust (1926)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
The demon Mephisto wagers with God that he can corrupt a mortal man's soul. (85 mins.)
Director: F.W. Murnau
“ Murnau uses detailed models to create scenes with the devil looming over the landscape. One of these moments inspired the gorgeous “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence in Disney’s Fantasia. And, the opening shot of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding is beautifully composed. Jannings is also great, hamming it up and enjoying his deviltry. ” - rfischer9100
 
4.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A chronicle of the trial of Jeanne d'Arc on charges of heresy, and the efforts of her ecclesiastical jurists to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions. (110 mins.)
Director: Carl Th. Dreyer
“ Maria Falconetti's tortured, anguished Joan of Arc is powerful. Carl Dreyer shoots her performance simply yet brilliantly with lots of close-ups. ” - rfischer9100
 
5.
A Trip to the Moon (1902 Short Film)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A group of astronomers go on an expedition to the Moon. (13 mins.)
“ An inventive, beautiful short film ” - rfischer9100
 
6.
Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Arch-criminal Dr. Mabuse sets out to make a fortune and run Berlin. Detective Wenk sets out to stop him. (242 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ Dr. Mabuse: psychologist, gambler, speculator, manipulator, master hypnotist, criminal mastermind! The evil doctor uses his mental powers to control everyone around him and enrich himself.

It's pulpy, but it looks fantastic – Lang’s use of light and shadow is incredible, and scenes depicting mind-control and haunting are masterfully executed. Rudolf Klein-Rogge is great as the demented Mabuse, and his gang all have distinctive looks and personalities. It’s dark and creepy in all the best ways. It's only flaw is the four-hour runtime. ” - rfischer9100
 
7.
Girl Shy (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A shy, young man, who is completely incapable of talking to women, decides to write a book that details to other bachelors how to find a girlfriend. (87 mins.)
“ A very endearing movie that I liked quite a bit better than Safety Last! Lloyd’s not hanging off a building, but he is jumping from moving vehicle to moving vehicle. More development of the love interest adds something as well.

And yes, I have a Harold Lloyd film before any Chaplin or Keaton films. Their genius might outstrip Lloyd, but I don't think either of them would make a film more entertaining than this one until City Lights. ” - rfischer9100
 
8.
Arsenal (1929)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Set in the bleak aftermath and devastation of the World War I, a recently demobbed soldier, Timosh, returns to his hometown Kiev... (90 mins.)
“ I like Dovzhenko better than Eisenstein and Pudovkin - there are elements of montage (and Soviet propaganda), but they don't prevent him from using ideas from expressionism or experimenting in other ways (in this film, for instance, there are beautiful sequences in which he has the actors freeze in their positions). Narrative and character aren't priorities here, but the images are amazing. ” - rfischer9100
 
9.
Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A frail waif, abused by her brutal boxer father in London's seedy Limehouse District, is befriended by a sensitive Chinese immigrant with tragic consequences. (90 mins.)
Director: D.W. Griffith
“ This is really an actor’s showcase rather than the epic spectacle of Griffith's other movies. Lillian Gish as Lucy and Donald Crisp as her father both give fantastic performances. There are plenty of silent-film histrionics, but they feel more appropriate here, and there’s also some subtlety (Gish has a fantastically ambiguous moment when Cheng seems to move to kiss her). Gish is fantastic at looking scared – she likes to do this lip pinching move that reads a bit neurotic today, but it works since Griffith usually had her playing a tortured and battered ingenue.

Richard Barthelmess plays Cheng in yellow face - it is an unfortunate convention of the time (though Barthelmess could have been a bit subtler!), and so I think I have to set that aside to some extent. Otherwise, it’s a beautifully filmed, dark, and moving story. ” - rfischer9100
 
10.
The Last Laugh (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
An aging doorman, after being fired from his prestigious job at a luxurious Hotel is forced to face the scorn of his friends, neighbours and society. (77 mins.)
Director: F.W. Murnau
“ More German expressionism, and I really can’t get enough of this stuff. Murnau adds a couple of new flourishes in this film – there are no intertitles, except for the one near the end where the director intrudes to prevent the film’s very unhappy ending. More importantly, this film is credited with the first use of tracking shots; the camera follows Jannings around – putting us in the film and creating a dynamic mise en scene.

Jannings is a fantastic, larger-than-life presence. I liked the director’s intervention. ” - rfischer9100
 
11.
The Gold Rush (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A prospector goes to the Klondike in search of gold and finds it and more. (95 mins.)
Director: Charles Chaplin
“ if you think of a famous Chaplin bit, chances are that it’s from this movie. There’s shoe-eating, breadroll-dancing, walking against the wind, balancing a cabin on the side of a cliff, Big Jim imagining the Tramp as a giant chicken, and the Tramp trying to dance with his pants falling down. Also, the film just looks really good. Chaplin was as masterful a director as he was a performer. ” - rfischer9100
 
12.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist, Cesare, to commit murders. (76 mins.)
Director: Robert Wiene
“ Twisted and demented in a very good way. Wiene’s film is surrealistic – the sets are two-dimensional and they twist and tilt in strange directions. Floating words appear to taunt characters. This film has the earliest unreliable narrator and twist ending I’ve seen, and the final shot is ambiguous and unsettling. ” - rfischer9100
 
13.
The Wheel (1923)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Sisif, a railwayman, and his son Elie fall in love with the beautiful Norma (who Sisif rescued from... (273 mins.)
Director: Abel Gance
“ The plot involves tons of melodrama (and a fairly creepy love story), but this is a brilliantly made film that uses a whole host of cinematic techniques that I did not expect to see yet. There are extended flashbacks and rapid-cut flashbacks. Gance uses effects like the German expressionists – floating words and superimposed images underline psychological moments. There’s the use of montage – juxtaposing images to convey symbolism. At one point, the camera spins around a stationary Sisif. The intertitles are actually poetic; by far the best I’ve seen so far. Severin-Mars is fantastic as Sisif; the character goes through the ringer, but the actor makes everything work from his dead stare early on to his anguished suicide attempts. ” - rfischer9100
 
14.
Man with a Movie Camera (1929 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention. (68 mins.)
Director: Dziga Vertov
“ Very beautiful and innovative documentary. Vertov perhaps tries to do too much. Narrative-free montage - interesting and pulled off beautifully; the meta-touches of showing the camera crews filming and the editors splicing film - I'll go with it; stop-motion camera-dancing - pretty cool; all of this in one film? - maybe overkill? ” - rfischer9100
 
15.
Nosferatu (1922)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new residence and real estate agent Hutter's wife. (94 mins.)
Director: F.W. Murnau
“ Murnau makes wonderful use of the inventive Nosferatu make-up, especially the shadows it casts. There are also some rudimentary film effects (varying the speed, using a negative exposure) that he uses to very creepy effect, and the film is edited quite well, with lots of crosscutting between the perils of Hutter and his young bride. There’s a lecture about real scientific monsters in the middle of the film that sheds an exciting new perspective on the film’s mythology. ” - rfischer9100
 
16.
Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
The story of a poor young woman, separated by prejudice from her husband and baby, is interwoven with tales of intolerance from throughout history. (163 mins.)
Director: D.W. Griffith
“ At it’s best, Intolerance shows how few established rules existed yet in cinema: the crazy Babylonian segment might be, in isolation, the best thing on this list, and the Huguenot segments are so dark and violent that I have to respect them. But, the modern and Judean segments are so melodramatic and heavy-handed that they drag the film down again. It is pretty amazing though.

This is supposed to be Griffith’s response to the controversy over The Birth of a Nation, in which Griffith shows that intolerance is always wrong. It’s not particularly satisfying in that regard though – there’s no mention of race; the stories are largely about religious and class issues, and Griffith spends much of the film attacking Reform movements. He particular focuses on the temperance movement, which he associates with brutal industrialists while taking cheap shots (women Reformers muck about in our business because they can’t find good husbands). These Progressives reformers would have often aligned with the sort of people most offended by The Birth of a Nation, so Griffith seems to be doubling-down more than he seems to be apologizing. ” - rfischer9100
 
17.
Hallelujah (1929)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
In a juke joint, sharecropper Zeke falls for a beautiful dancer, Chick, but she's only setting him up for a rigged craps game... (109 mins.)
Director: King Vidor
“ On the one hand, this is a rich film about the power and limits of faith among a poor black family with a very flawed man named Zeke at its center. On the other, considering that whites served as the director, writers, and producer were behind this film, it's easy to see this as a film that trades on stereotypes and tells a very sordid story about black life. Both aspects are important to note, but, overall, the great performances, wonderful music, and excellent look of the film (attributable to director King Vidor) override such concerns. This is, in my opinion, the first great talkie. ” - rfischer9100
 
18.
The Phantom Carriage (1921)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
On New Year's Eve, the driver of a ghostly carriage forces a drunken man to reflect on his selfish, wasted life. (93 mins.)
“ If you’re the last person to die on New Year’s Eve, you will spend one year driving Death’s chariot. It’s not a great gig: the pay is low, the hours are long, and it’s generally very depressing work. David Holm (Sjostrom) heard this from a friend who promptly died at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Now, one year later, Holm is killed in a drunken brawl, and his friend drives up as Death. He takes Holm on a tour of his awful life (it’s anti-Capra) including the saintly Salvation Army worker that he blew off and infected with “galloping consumption” (yikes!), and his abused family.

The cinematography is great, Sjostrom’s performance really works, and the film is willing to go to some dark places. You can tell they worked hard on the transparency effect (achieved through multiple film exposures) for the titular carriage and the dead characters. ” - rfischer9100
 
19.
My Best Girl (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Joe Merrill, son of the millionaire owner of a chain of 5 and 10 cent stores, poses as Joe Grant, and... (80 mins.)
Director: Sam Taylor
“ The film is genuinely funny and Mary Pickford is incredibly charming. She usually played children; here, as an adult, her carriage is more confident, her comedy timing is perfect, and there are more subtleties to her performance. There are several great sequences set in traffic, including a wonderfully choreographed shot in which Joe and Maggie are so lost in each other that they just miss being run over several times while crossing a crowded street. Maggie’s family have great quirks (foreshadowing Screwball); her mother likes to attend random funerals and her sister is a self-obsessed flapper. Overall, the film’s gags are up there with the best of Chaplin.

It’s a pretty generic romantic comedy with obvious echoes of It (with Clara Bow), but it has an endearing quirkiness that puts it on a different level. I really loved this movie. A pleasant surprise. ” - rfischer9100
 
20.
Wings (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Two young men, one rich, one middle class, who are in love with the same woman, become fighter pilots in World War I. (144 mins.)
“ A big budget spectacle that broke all sorts of ground in filming aviation and basically created the fighter pilot genre (“Highway to the Danger Zone” was playing in my head at a couple of points).

Wellman’s direction is great. There’s a great shot tracking across tabletops in a Paris café, and another on a swing. And then there are all the flying scenes. The film looks damned impressive. It’s clear at times that in order to accomplish shots of planes crashing, they actually…crashed real planes. That’s verisimilitude!

The characters are more or less swallowed up by the spectacle. Bow is a powerful presence (as is Gary Cooper in a brief, early appearance), but the rest of the actors are non-factors, and when their melodrama was occupying the screen, I wanted the aerial stunts back. The final sequence, in which lead character Jack gets really mad and pretty much single-handedly wins the war manages to be both silly and great. ” - rfischer9100
 
21.
Mother (1926)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
The Film Version Of Gorki's Great Story Of The 1905 Revolution (89 mins.)
“ There are some great visuals here, especially of the mother who is often presented as a glowing white symbol on a black background. There is some good use of montage following Pudovkin’s countryman Eisenstein (ice-breaking as the mother gives in to revolutionary fervor and a final shot that juxtaposes mother and motherland), but I saw a lot of Murnau here, especially with the dramatic lighting of the lone figure of the mother. The trial sequence is pretty brilliant and has a great shot of a judge sketching a horse during the defense’s presentation – that sums things up nicely. ” - rfischer9100
 
22.
Cabiria (1914)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Three centuries before Christus. Young Cabiria is kidnapped by some pirates during one eruption of the Etna... (148 mins.)
“ It's interesting to see how much film has been about spectacle from the beginning. Here we get huge sets and giant battles with hundreds of extras. And a volcanic eruption. It’s all well-executed at that. If you can set aside some racism and colonialism, Cabiria is a gorgeous, engaging film. ” - rfischer9100
 
23.
Strike (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A group of oppressed factory workers go on strike in pre-revolutionary Russia. (82 mins.)
“ It probably makes me a philistine to put my first Eisenstein film this low (and to have it not be Potemkin!)

Here, in his first film, Eisenstein shows great natural talent; he does things here that would seem revolutionary today. Pictures in a dossier come alive, for instance.

However, Eisenstein introduces a lot of characters, and he even uses montage to help make them memorable by connecting them to animals or obvious traits. I still couldn’t keep track of them. It’s probably my fault for having a bourgeois attachment to the individual. Off to the Gulag! A lot of the montage elements connect the Workers to animals. Early on, they’re happy, innocent farm animals, but the strike’s suppression is intercut with footage of a cow being slaughtered. It’s a little…on the nose?

So, I wasn’t completely engrossed in the film’s story, but I was entranced by some of the visuals. ” - rfischer9100
 
24.
The Navigator (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Two spoiled rich people find themselves trapped on an empty passenger ship. (59 mins.)
“ Putting Keaton below Chaplin and Lloyd is probably similar to my sin of putting Eisenstein below Pudovkin and Dovzhenko. Keaton movies seem to be the ones that always have me asking “how’d they do that?” At the same time, he just never manages to connect with me and get me emotionally involved the way Chaplin's Tramp and Lloyd's Everynerd do.

The underwater sequence looks great, and I really liked the comedy that came from the characters’ simple inability to function. ” - rfischer9100
 
25.
Napoleon (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A film about the French Field Marshal's youth and early military career. (240 mins.)
Director: Abel Gance
“ Big epic with lots of avant-garde flourishes. It does drag during some of its very long runtime, especially in the second half, but boy does it look great and impress with its scope. ” - rfischer9100
 
26.
Safety Last! (1923)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
When a store clerk organizes a publicity stunt, in which a friend climbs the outside of a tall building, circumstances force him to make the perilous climb himself. (70 mins.)
“ Pretty slow until we get to the climbing sequence, but that sequence is one of the best in silent comedy. Harold Lloyd was clearly heavily influenced by Chaplin, but there’s a manic quality to this film that Chaplin never matches. The gags and stunts are all out and non-stop. This is one of many ‘20s films to portray the hustle, bustle, and rampant consumerism of cities at the time. ” - rfischer9100
 
27.
Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Siegfried, son of King Sigmund, hears of the beautiful sister of Gunter, King of Worms, Kriemhild. On his way to Worms... (97 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ I feel like I’m repeating myself, but the visuals in these silent films really can be impressive. The dragon, a large puppet, clearly required a lot of work. And the iconic appearance of a skull out of the landscape exemplify the kind of bold statements that the German expressionists made in the ‘20s. ” - rfischer9100
 
28.
Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
After Siegfried's dead, Kriemhild marries Etzel, the King of the Huns. She gives birth to a child, and invites her brothers for a party... (129 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ I don’t think anyone would near this level of epic fantasy until a certain New Zealander at the beginning of the twenty-first century ” - rfischer9100
 
29.
The General (1926)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
When Union spies steal an engineer's beloved locomotive, he pursues it single-handedly and straight through enemy lines. (67 mins.)
“ This film has some absolutely amazing slapstick sequences, especially the initial train chase in which Keaton has to be at the exact right place at the right time to crash a handcar, remove logs blocking his path, send train cars out of his way, and fire a cannon at himself (!).

This would be number one on many people's lists, rather than the high 20s, but I think the film goes on to overstay its welcome with a chase in the other direction. And, as I've said on this list, I think I agree more with ‘20s audiences than recent critics in putting Lloyd and Chaplin above Keaton. They play broader, simpler characters, but I think that can be an asset in these sorts of comedies. ” - rfischer9100
 
30.
Our Hospitality (1923)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A man returns to his Appalachian homestead. On the trip, he falls for a young woman. The only problem is her family has vowed to kill every member of his family. (65 mins.)
“ A fantastic concept - Keaton gets caught up in a Hatfield-McCoy-like feud, but exploits southern hospitality to keep alive by squatting in his would-be killers' house - they can't shoot a guest! ” - rfischer9100
 
31.
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
The effete son of a cantankerous riverboat captain comes to join his father's crew. (70 mins.)
“ It takes some time to get going, but the storm sequence at the end is fantastic. ” - rfischer9100
 
32.
The Docks of New York (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A blue-collar worker on New York's depressed waterfront finds his life changed after he saves a woman attempting suicide. (76 mins.)
“ Well-shot with amazing sets, this film has an incredible look. It manages to create characters that are sweet and endearing even as they do horrible, disastrous things. ” - rfischer9100
 
33.
The Crowd (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
The life of a man and woman together in a large, impersonal metropolis through their hopes, struggles and downfalls. (98 mins.)
Director: King Vidor
“ Some fantastic shots and relatable drama make this a classic. Takes a very dark turn near the end. ” - rfischer9100
 
34.
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
In the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1905, the crew of the battleship Potemkin mutiny against the brutal, tyrannical regime of the vessel's officers. The resulting street demonstration in Odessa brings on a police massacre. (75 mins.)
Director: S.M. Eisenstein
“ Still working on his theory of montage (eliciting the maximum emotional response mainly through editing techniques), Eisenstein doesn’t use the same flashy techniques as in Strike! There are no living photographs or comparisons to animals. There is, however, an incredibly famous sequence in which Tsarist troops gun down several citizens from Odessa on a stairway. The sequence is a masterclass on editing, as Eisenstein quickly cuts between guns, carnage, and reactions for maximum emotional effect.

I don’t think Eisenstein’s skills as director and editor are really up for debate. I assumed this film would be a big step up from Strike!, as it is by far more famous. I liked Strike! more however. There’s not much story or character, just scenes of proletarian sailors and citizens being trod upon by Tsarist soldiers and officers. ” - rfischer9100
 
35.
Zvenigora (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
(109 mins.)
“ Another Dovzhenko film with great visuals. Again, Dovzhenko doesn't seem as committed to the power of montage as his comrades. Instead, we get spooky entities and shadowy images that feel like they're out of Faust or Nosferatu.

The storyline, covering hundreds of years of Ukrainian history, is a bit too convoluted. The reveal of the treasure of Ukraine being the power of its proletariat is kind of clever...though it's really just a bunch of the "mobilizing masses" images that get really tiresome if you watch a few of these Soviet silent films. ” - rfischer9100
 
36.
The Kid (1921)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
The Tramp cares for an abandoned child, but events put that relationship in jeopardy. (68 mins.)
Director: Charlie Chaplin
“ Very good, but not my favorite Chaplin film. The kid is cute, but almost sickeningly so, and the slapstick is great, but not Chaplin’s best. And the plot doesn’t really have room to develop.

The great Glen David Gold novel Sunnyside puts a different spin on this movie. ” - rfischer9100
 
37.
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A recalcitrant thief vies with a duplicitous Mongol ruler for the hand of a beautiful princess. (155 mins.)
Director: Raoul Walsh
“ An enjoyable film with imaginative effects. That said, there’s not much here beyond the effects and sets, and the filmmakers seems to lose the plot at times.

A great showcase for Fairbanks' arms-akimbo acting, which is cheesy as Hell, but also awesome. ” - rfischer9100
 
38.
Un Chien Andalou (1929 Short Film)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí present seventeen minutes of bizarre, surreal imagery. (16 mins.)
Director: Louis Bunuel
“ um...something something bodies....something something time.... I don't know, but it's interesting. ” - rfischer9100
 
39.
The Love Parade (1929)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The queen of mythical Sylvania marries a courtier, who finds his new life unsatisfying. (107 mins.)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
“ The plot is incredibly slight and the gender politics are dumb. But, it's very well-made and incredibly charming - the "Lubitsch Touch." Great early musical. ” - rfischer9100
 
40.
The Wind (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A frail young woman from the east moves in with her cousin in the west, where she causes tension within the family and is slowly driven mad. (95 mins.)
Director: Victor Seastrom
“ Another great Lillian Gish performance and some striking visuals, as the wind on the Texas Plains drives her character mad. Marred by a silly happy ending and some over-the-top melodramatic antagonists. ” - rfischer9100
 
41.
The Cheat (1915)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A venal, spoiled stockbroker's wife impulsively embezzles $10,000 from the charity she chairs and desperately turns to a Burmese ivory trader to replace the stolen money. (59 mins.)
“ This film could have been an awful, simplistic scenario of a disobedient wife learning her lesson with some timely sexual assault by a bestial racial other, who then duly pays his own price. Demille’s direction (which does a lot of effective work with shadows for such an early feature), coupled with great performances from Ward and Hayakawa, who bring subtle complexities to their one-dimensional characters, save it from being so simple. It’s actually quite good. ” - rfischer9100
 
42.
Shoulder Arms (1918)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Charlie is a boot camp private who has a dream of being a hero who goes on a daring mission behind enemy lines. (45 mins.)
Director: Charles Chaplin
“ As with any Chaplin film, there are a number of perfectly designed and timed gags that are still hilarious today. The historical context also gives the proceedings an edgier feeling, while the circumstances of the love interest (her house barely has two standing walls) give it a dose of sincerity. It doesn’t have the emotional depth of Chaplin’s post-1920 features, but it’s very funny, especially the tree sequences. ” - rfischer9100
 
43.
Greed (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The sudden fortune won from a lottery fans such destructive greed that it ruins the lives of the three people involved. (140 mins.)
“ Von Storheim’s visual style is quite striking, and his films have the innovative and dramatic look of German expressionism. All of the gold in the film is tinted so that it jumps out from the black and white surroundings. The performances are quite good, though everyone has to do some fairly ridiculous things (Trina’s Scrooge McDuck style money-baths).

But, yeah, I'm probably against the critical consensus again putting this as low as I have. Von Stroheim complained that his ten hour version was much superior, and it is much lamented as a lost film (the janitor threw out the cut footage), but I’ve got to say I’m with the studio. I don’t see why they should abandon their whole system of film distribution for an uneconomical monstrosity. Frankly, the two hour version of the film drags at times; the ten hour version would have been mind-numbing. ” - rfischer9100
 
44.
Sherlock Jr. (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A film projectionist longs to be a detective, and puts his meagre skills to work when he is framed by a rival for stealing his girlfriend's father's pocketwatch. (45 mins.)
Director: Buster Keaton
“ Brilliantly weird, much of the film follows Keaton’s character after he walks into a film and travels to several different exotic environments before fantasizing about being brilliant detective Sherlock Jr.

The plot does seem to zig-zag around, and putting the climax in a fantasy sequence is an interesting decision. ” - rfischer9100
 
45.
Pandora's Box (1929)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
The rise and inevitable fall of an amoral but naive young woman whose insouciant eroticism inspires lust and violence in those around her. (109 mins.)
“ The storyline is both moralizing and prurient, not to mention misanthropic and misogynistic. Everyone self-destructs around a beautiful woman, so she is responsible for bringing some evil into the world?

That said, Louise Brooks is fantastic, and she raises the material up significantly. ” - rfischer9100
 
46.
The Mark of Zorro (1920)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A seemingly idiotic fop is really the courageous vigilante Zorro, who seeks to protect the oppressed. (107 mins.)
Director: Fred Niblo
“ A fun, light film launches a new company (United Artists) and a new genre (the swashbuckler!).

I love Douglas Fairbanks: For instance, I love the sword fights in this movie. They’re not intricately choreographed or anything like that, but it does look like Fairbanks is genuinely trying to kill his enemy, and the result is fast and furious. He runs, jumps, and just generally looks out of control, but in a good way. ” - rfischer9100
 
47.
Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
This is called the first Soviet science fiction film because of its "futuristic" sets on Mars, although most of it takes place in Moscow... (111 mins.)
“ There’s a lot to like here. The designs are interesting, and they influence a lot of the pulp serials to come (international films were easy to market in the silent era, so there was a direct impact in the US). The Soviet aspects aren’t as propagandistic as some of the other silent Soviet films I’ve seen. There are two distinct stories here – a domestic murder story set in a new Communist society and a planetary romance that clearly borrows from Burroughs. On the one hand, it’s an awkward fit…on the other, the two stories comment on each other is fascinating ways.

That said, I don’t want to oversell the movie. It’s not a glorious Hollywood production, and it doesn’t have the dramatic flair of Fritz Lang or Sergei Eisenstein. It’s a low budget, 90 year old silent film…Some of the costumes are pretty damn awful.

Aelita is more interesting than it is good, but it’s a fascinating piece of science fiction and Soviet history. ” - rfischer9100
 
48.
Spies (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
The mastermind behind a ubiquitous spy operation learns of a dangerous romance between a Russian lady in his employ and a dashing agent from the government's secret service. (178 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ Lang prefigures a lot of the tropes of the action/espionage movie, and this film looks great. Some of the tropes are on the sillier side though, with a lot of contrivances and a villainous mastermind who is ridiculously over-the-top. ” - rfischer9100
 
49.
Nanook of the North (1922 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
In this silent predecessor to the modern documentary, film-maker Robert J. Flaherty spends one year following the lives of Nanook and his family, Inuits living in the Arctic Circle. (78 mins.)
“ Flaherty gets some great shots of Arctic landscapes, and Nanook’s skills are pretty interesting. News at the film’s introduction that Nanook had died since the filming puts it all in a different, more meaningful perspective.

There are some distortions (Nanook had to put away his western clothing and guns for the film, and that is not his family), but I’m not sure Flaherty can be blamed, since the ethics of documentary film hadn’t really been established. ” - rfischer9100
 
50.
Häxan (1922 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Fictionalized documentary showing the evolution of witchcraft, from its pagan roots to its confusion with hysteria in modern Europe. (91 mins.)
“ The film manages to show some fairly disturbing images without ever actually being upsetting. You get the feeling that Christensen is having a fantastic time playing Satan and torturing witches, and the film manages to somehow remain amusing throughout. I can’t say I loved it, but it’s yet another nice eye-opener that silent films aren’t all quaint slapstick comedies or bloated epics. ” - rfischer9100
 
51.
The Sheik (1921)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A charming Arabian sheik becomes infatuated with an adventurous, modern-thinking Englishwoman and abducts her to his home in the Saharan desert. (86 mins.)
Director: George Melford
“ I could write pages about what's wrong with this film's presentation of race and gender, but I have to admit it's quite fun. Agnes Ayres is great as Lady Diana. ” - rfischer9100
 
52.
October (Ten Days that Shook the World) (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
In documentary style, events in Petrograd are re-enacted from the end of the monarchy in February of... (142 mins.)
“ October is even heavier on the propaganda than most Soviet films of the era (and that's saying quite a lot). I'm not sure a modern audience has much reason to care about the extensive montages satirizing Kerensky, for instance. That said, there are some fascinating Eisenstein sequences that show off his ideas of montage really well - nothing to match the Odessa Steps, but this film might be more consistent than Potemkin. ” - rfischer9100
 
53.
Souls for Sale (1923)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A young woman hits Hollywood, determined to become a star. (90 mins.)
Director: Rupert Hughes
“ Good early meta-Hollywood stuff, including a wonderful shot of a woman lost in the California desert wandering upon a camel (part of a movie shoot). There's a very melodramatic subplot, but it at least moves along breezily. I wish the discussions of Hollywood morality weren't so defensive and self-serving. ” - rfischer9100
 
54.
The Big Parade (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A young American soldier witnesses the horrors of the Great War. (151 mins.)
Director: King Vidor
“ This is the highest grossing film of the silent era, though its reputation doesn’t seem to match its success.

WWI offers up some opportunities for great visuals and high drama, but comic relief and a clichéd (though well-sold) love story bog that down. ” - rfischer9100
 
55.
The Last Command (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A former Imperial Russian general and cousin of the Czar ends up in Hollywood as an extra in a movie directed by a former revolutionary. (88 mins.)
“ Another great Emil Jannings performance. I don't think it quite lives up to the satirical potential of its premise. ” - rfischer9100
 
56.
The Freshman (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Nerdy college student will do anything to become popular on campus. (76 mins.)
“ There’s some funny stuff, especially a silly dance that Lloyd does whenever he meets someone. As usual with a Lloyd film, the ending stunt sequence is brilliantly choreographed. I preferred Safety Last and Girl Shy, but this certainly isn’t bad. ” - rfischer9100
 
57.
The Jazz Singer (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
The son of a Jewish Cantor must defy the traditions of his religious father in order to pursue his dream of becoming a jazz singer. (88 mins.)
Director: Alan Crosland
“ Best known for its role in establishing talkie features, there's a very good ethnic family drama at the core of the story. ” - rfischer9100
 
58.
The Racket (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
An honest police captain vows to bring down a powerful bootlegger who is protected by corrupt politicians and judges. (84 mins.)
Director: Lewis Milestone
“ There are some very nice shots here, and I like the overall dark mood in which the criminals, the politicians, and the cops are all sort of dark, driven reflections of each other, all used to getting their own way...that probably makes the film's execution sound a little better than it actually is though.

Boy, does Louis Wolheim have the perfect face to play a tough. ” - rfischer9100
 
59.
Applause (1929)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A burlesque star seeks to keep her convent-raised daughter away from her low-down life and abusive lover/stage manager. (80 mins.)
“ A very dark backstage burlesque that is well-directed with a mobile camera, deep focus, and long takes. The plot is a little too simple and the acting is a little awkward. ” - rfischer9100
 
60.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A mad, disfigured composer seeks love with a lovely young opera singer. (93 mins.)
Director: Rupert Julian
“ The sets, make-up, and costumes are really great. There’s a nice Technicolor masquerade ball with a really gorgeous “Masque of the Red Death” costume. ” - rfischer9100
 
61.
Within Our Gates (1920)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
Abandoned by her fiancé, an educated black woman with a shocking past dedicates herself to helping a near bankrupt school for impoverished black youths. (79 mins.)
Director: Oscar Micheaux
“ This is the oldest surviving film by an African-American, and Oscar Micheaux was an active artist who tackled issues affecting African-Americans.

It’s a well-made film that tackles one of the most important issues facing America at the time – lynching. An issue which never really got much attention in Hollywood. There are a couple of tangents – a sequence with a black preacher who tells his community to remain passive and wait for their reward in heaven and a lengthy flashback near the end that covers the circuitous cause of a lynching and the dark secrets that underpin southern racism. I actually like the fact that the film would digress to fill out little side stories. You see this in novels, but I’d love to see it more in films.

That said, the plot does meander a bit and could use some simplification. ” - rfischer9100
 
62.
Flesh and the Devil (1926)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Childhood friends are torn apart when one of them marries the woman the other once fiercely loved. (112 mins.)
Director: Clarence Brown
“ Best friends battle over Greta Garbo in her first American role. Some good melodrama, and it looks nice, though the sexual politics are pretty bad even for the '20s. ” - rfischer9100
 
63.
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
When a proud noble refuses to kiss the hand of the despotic King James in 1690, he is cruelly executed and his son surgically disfigured. (110 mins.)
Director: Paul Leni
“ Good make-up and expressionist lighting and set-work help what is otherwise a fairly generic historical adventure picture. ” - rfischer9100
 
64.
The Black Pirate (1926)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Seeking revenge, an athletic young man joins the pirate band responsible for his father's death. (88 mins.)
Director: Albert Parker
“ Well, it’s all a bit silly. Fairbanks is unstoppable and awesome. Deal with it. The sets looks wonderful.

It has some very early Technicolor, which is really dull and washed out. I think it looks worse than black and white overall, but it does add a sense of bigness to the proceedings. ” - rfischer9100
 
65.
7th Heaven (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A street cleaner saves a young woman's life, and the pair slowly fall in love until war intervenes. (110 mins.)
Director: Frank Borzage
“ A very sweet film with wonderful sets creating a somewhat cartoonisg version of Paris. ” - rfischer9100
 
66.
The Lost World (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
The first film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic novel about a land where prehistoric creatures still roam. (106 mins.)
Director: Harry O. Hoyt
“ Not much depth, but groundbreaking effects and a fun tone make it imminently watchable. I'm particularly fond of Wallace Beery's portrayal of Professor Challenger. ” - rfischer9100
 
67.
It (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A salesgirl with plenty of "it" (sex appeal) pursues a handsome playboy. (72 mins.)
Director: Clarence Badger
“ Clara Bow really is very good, and this might be the first time that we get a female lead who isn’t passive, tamed, or evil. Instead, she is fun-loving and aggressive. It’s a pretty solid depiction of an independent modern woman – actually a lot of women in modern romantic comedies probably don’t measure up.

The clichéd obstacle stage of the romance is pretty over-the-top here with a strange mistaken-unwed-mother thing. ” - rfischer9100
 
68.
The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
As Alice and Cora Munro attempt to find their father, a British officer in the French and Indian War... (73 mins.)
“ It’s full of great visual moments (incredible uses of silhouettes), but there’s no character development in this version of James Fenimore Cooper's oft-adapted tale. ” - rfischer9100
 
69.
Foolish Wives (1922)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A con artist masquerades a Russian nobility and attempts to seduce the wife of an American diplomat. (117 mins.)
“ Erich Von Stroheim is, as always, a remarkable presence in front of and behind the camera. He's great as a charismatic con-artist and seducer, and he makes his Monte Carlo setting look great as well. This film runs a bit long though (and he fought for a cut about 4 times as long!!!), and the female characters certainly don't come off well. ” - rfischer9100
 
70.
The Cameraman (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Hopelessly in love with a woman working at MGM Studios, a clumsy man attempts to become a motion picture cameraman to be close to the object of his desire. (69 mins.)
Director: Edward Sedgwick
“ It seems like a movie about a cameraman would be a good opportunity for Keaton to play with film as he did in Sherlock Jr, but this is played pretty straight. There's a good action sequence at the end, but it's not as interesting as a lot of his other films.

An early entry in the long movie tradition of scene-stealing monkeys. ” - rfischer9100
 
71.
Alibi (1929)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Chick Williams, a prohibition gangster, rejoins his mob soon after being released from prison. When a policeman is murdered during a robbery... (91 mins.)
“ Early sound film - some interesting uses, but the dialogue is very stilted, and some of the actors seem totally lost as to how to deliver it. Causes some pacing problems as well. If you can put all of that aside, it's a fairly gritty gangster film with some nice expressionist sets. Nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. ” - rfischer9100
 
72.
In Old Arizona (1928)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
A charming, happy-go-lucky bandit in old Arizona plays cat-and-mouse with the sheriff trying to catch him while he romances a local beauty. (95 mins.)
Director: Irving Cummings
“ Focuses on a love triangle as a soldier woos a woman to get to her lover, the Robin Hood-like bandit, The Cisco Kid. There's a focus on dialogue and acting in this early talkie, rather than the type of action that more commonly defined westerns, and the sets and location shooting look nice as well. ” - rfischer9100
 
73.
Underworld (1927)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Boisterous gangster kingpin Bull Weed rehabilitates his former lawyer from his alcoholic haze, but complications arise when he falls for Weed's girlfriend. (80 mins.)
“ A very early gangster film with some very interesting characters - not much in the way of plot though. ” - rfischer9100
 
74.
Hell's Hinges (1916)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
In the wayward western town known as Hell's Hinges, a local tough guy is reformed by the faith of a good woman. (64 mins.)
“ A simplistic and politically conservative morality tale, but William Hart gives a good performance with that long, expressive face of his. Director Ince clearly has some fun with Sodom-like nature of Hell’s Hinges, despite the film’s sermonic tone; the climax, in which the town turns on itself and murder and arson rule the day, is quite spectacular. ” - rfischer9100
 
75.
Go West (1925)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
With little luck at keeping a job in the city a New Yorker tries work in the country and eventually finds his way leading a herd of cattle to the West Coast. (68 mins.)
Director: Buster Keaton
“ The stuff with Brown Eyes is great, but this Keaton entry feels a little short on jokes - even the crazy scene at the climax (which you can reliably expect from Keaton) disappointed a bit. ” - rfischer9100
 
76.
Sunnyside (1919 Short Film)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Charlie works on a farm from 4am to late at night. He gets his food on the run (milking a cow into his coffee... (41 mins.)
Director: Charlie Chaplin
“ Some good bits, but feels unfinished. Problems with the ending. ” - rfischer9100
 
77.
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
The Stoneman family finds its friendship with the Camerons affected by the Civil War, both fighting in opposite armies. The development of the war in their lives plays through to Lincoln's assassination and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. (195 mins.)
Director: D.W. Griffith
“ Sort of a (dis)honorable mention. It's hard to argue with this film's success and influence. At the same time, its racism is awful and overwhelming, and central to that plot. Few films have had a more negative impact on the world (the resurgence of the Klan). ” - rfischer9100