The Great Train Robbery (1903)

TV-G  |   |  Short, Western  |  1 December 1903 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 10,349 users  
Reviews: 78 user | 34 critic

A group of bandits stage a brazen train hold-up, only to find a determined posse hot on their heels.


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Among the earliest existing films in American cinema - notable as the first film that presented a narrative story to tell - it depicts a group of cowboy outlaws who hold up a train and rob the passengers. They are then pursued by a Sheriff's posse. Several scenes have color included - all hand tinted. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Short | Western



Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1 December 1903 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le vol du grand rapide  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$150 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(TCM print)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film uses simple editing techniques (each scene is a single shot) and the story is mostly linear (with only a few "meanwhile" moments) but it represents a significant step in movie making, being one of the first "narrative" movies. See more »


When the bandits rob the train and drive away with the engine it is on the right rail-track. When they stop to proceed on horseback the train is on the left. See more »


Featured in L'odore della notte (1998) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Film Editing Is Born
3 January 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's hard to assign "The Great Train Robbery" a rating, as it shouldn't really be watched as a film the way we watch films now. But from a historical perspective, it's fascinating, and is an excellent example of the use of film editing, an art form then in its infancy and now an award category recognized every year at the Oscars.

Before this movie, it wasn't customary to tell multiple story lines simultaneously, but here, various activities going on in different locations are intercut to create suspense. D.W. Griffith would use this technique much more ambitiously (and combine it with many other developing film techniques) in "The Birth of a Nation" over ten years later, but credit must be given to "Train Robbery" for blazing a trail.

Also, this is the movie famous for the shot of an outlaw shooting a gun directly at the camera. I can't imagine what effect this had on audiences at the time, who were probably diving behind their chairs for cover.

Grade: A

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