Harvard University's Suggested Film Viewing List: Narrative Films (2011)

by mymovieslists | created - 17 Nov 2011 | updated - 26 Jun 2012 | Public

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This list is "an educational resource that offers guidance and encouragement as students seek to find points of orientation within the vast history of film and video." It is not a list of the best films of all time. Rather, it reflects a variety of criteria.

The list is divided into 6 sections: I. Narrative Films Hollywood Genres (with an emphasis on the classical studio era) II. Non-Fiction Films III. Animated Films IV. Experimental/Avant-garde/Underground Films V. Videos VI. Video Installations (this section can't be added to IMDb because IMDb doesn't list video installations)

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1. The Arrival of a Train (1896)

Not Rated | 1 min | Documentary, Short

A train arrives at La Ciotat station.

Directors: Auguste Lumière, Louis Lumière | Stars: Madeleine Koehler, Marcel Koehler, Mrs. Auguste Lumiere, Jeanne-Joséphine Lumière

Votes: 8,236

2. Employees Leaving the Lumière Factory (1895)

Not Rated | 1 min | Documentary, Short

A man opens the big gates to the Lumière factory. Through the gateway and a smaller doorway beside it, workers are streaming out, turning either left or right. Most of them are women in ... See full summary »

Director: Louis Lumière

Votes: 4,947

3. Tables Turned on the Gardener (1895)

Not Rated | 1 min | Comedy, Short

A gardener is watering his flowers, when a mischievous boy sneaks up behind his back, and puts a foot on the water hose. The gardener is surprised, and looks into the nozzle to find out why... See full summary »

Director: Louis Lumière | Stars: François Clerc, Benoît Duval

Votes: 3,591

4. Baby's Dinner (1895)

1 min | Documentary, Short

As part of a maiden public film screening at the Salon Indien, on December 28, in Paris, Auguste Lumière pivots the centre of attention around his baby daughter, as he tries to feed her from a spoon.

Director: Louis Lumière | Stars: Auguste Lumière, Mrs. Auguste Lumiere, Andrée Lumière

Votes: 2,361

5. The Conjuring of a Woman at the House of Robert Houdin (1896)

1 min | Short, Horror

As an elegant maestro of mirage and delusion drapes his beautiful female assistant with a gauzy textile, much to our amazement, the lady vanishes into thin air.

Director: Georges Méliès | Stars: Jehanne d'Alcy, Georges Méliès

Votes: 1,149

6. A Trip to the Moon (1902)

TV-G | 13 min | Short, Adventure, Fantasy

A group of astronomers go on an expedition to the Moon.

Director: Georges Méliès | Stars: Georges Méliès, Victor André, Bleuette Bernon, Brunnet

Votes: 35,606

7. Fairyland: A Kingdom of Fairies (1903)

Not Rated | 16 min | Short, Adventure, Fantasy

In this spectacular free adaptation of the popular theatre play "La Biche au Bois", the valiant Prince Bel-Azor pursues a baleful old witch to her impregnable castle, to save the beautiful young Princess Azurine.

Director: Georges Méliès | Stars: Georges Méliès, Marguerite Thévenard, Bleuette Bernon, Durafour

Votes: 865

8. The Magic Lantern (1903)

Not Rated | 3 min | Short, Comedy, Fantasy

In this brief "trick film" two clowns assemble an enormous magic lantern which first projects moving images, then emits dancing girls.

Director: Georges Méliès

Votes: 515

9. Le voyage à travers l'impossible (1904)

Not Rated | 24 min | Short, Adventure, Fantasy

Using every known means of transportation, several savants from the Geographic Society undertake a journey through the Alps to the Sun which finishes under the sea.

Director: Georges Méliès | Stars: Georges Méliès, Fernande Albany, Jehanne d'Alcy, May de Lavergne

Votes: 2,616

10. Annabelle Serpentine Dance (1895)

Not Rated | 1 min | Documentary, Short

Annabelle (Whitford) Moore performs one of her popular dance routines. She uses her dance steps and her long, flowing skirts to create a variety of visual patterns.

Directors: William K.L. Dickson, William Heise | Star: Annabelle Moore

Votes: 1,617

11. The Kiss (1896)

Not Rated | 1 min | Short, Romance

In a medium close-up shot of the first kiss ever recorded on screen, two fervent lovers cuddle and talk passionately at hair's breadth, just before the love-smitten gentleman decides to give his chosen one an innocent peck.

Director: William Heise | Stars: May Irwin, John C. Rice

Votes: 2,468

12. Mr. Edison at Work in His Chemical Laboratory (1897)

Not Rated | 1 min | Documentary, Short

"This film is remarkable in several respects. In the first place, it is full life-size. Secondly, it is the only accurate recent portrait of the great inventor. The scene is an actual one, ... See full summary »

Director: James H. White | Star: Thomas A. Edison

Votes: 519

13. Electrocuting an Elephant (1903)

Not Rated | 1 min | Documentary, Short, Horror

The execution of Topsy, a female elephant, in a publicity stunt advertising the opening of Luna Park on Coney Island. Topsy was originally owned by Forepaugh Circus where she killed a ... See full summary »

Stars: Carl Goliath, Topsy

Votes: 1,240

14. The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914)

81 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy

Ojo and Unc Nunkie are out of food, so they decide to journey to the Emerald City where they will never starve. Along the way, they meet Mewel, a waif and stray (mule) who leads them to Dr.... See full summary »

Director: J. Farrell MacDonald | Stars: Violet MacMillan, Frank Moore, Raymond Russell, Leontine Dranet

Votes: 310

15. Terrible Teddy, the Grizzly King (1901)

1 min | Short, Comedy

Theodore Roosevelt merrily kills a mountain lion in Colorado while his press agent and photographer record the event for posterity.

Director: Edwin S. Porter

Votes: 344

16. Circular Panorama of Electric Tower (1901)

1 min | Documentary, Short

A most interesting picture at the Pan-American Exposition. The picture was taken from the north side of the Electric Tower. It presents the most perfect and diversified views of the ... See full summary »

Director: Edwin S. Porter

Votes: 337

17. Pan-American Exposition by Night (1901)

Not Rated | 1 min | Documentary, Short

A great feature of the Pan-American Exposition, as unanimously conceded by all visitors, was the electric illumination of the Exposition grounds at night. After a great deal of ... See full summary »

Director: Edwin S. Porter

Votes: 425

18. Life of an American Fireman (1903)

Not Rated | 6 min | Short, Action

Porter's sequential continuity editing links several shots to form a narrative of firemen responding to a house fire. They leave the station with their horse drawn pumper, arrive on the ... See full summary »

Directors: George S. Fleming, Edwin S. Porter | Stars: Vivian Vaughan, Arthur White, James H. White

Votes: 1,644

19. Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show (1902)

Not Rated | 2 min | Comedy, Short

Country rube thinks what he sees on the movie screen is real. He jumps out of his seat to try to stop a kissing scene.

Director: Edwin S. Porter | Star: Charles Manley

Votes: 559

20. Uncle Tom's Cabin (I) (1903)

Not Rated | 13 min | Short, Drama

Based on the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe: Eliza, a slave who has a young child, pleads with Tom, another slave, to escape with her. Tom does not leave, but Eliza flees with her child. ... See full summary »

Director: Edwin S. Porter

Votes: 331

21. The Gay Shoe Clerk (1903)

Unrated | 1 min | Comedy, Short

A woman being fitted for shoes exposes her ankle to the shoe clerk, who is intrigued. He kisses her, but her chaperone hits him with her umbrella.

Director: Edwin S. Porter | Star: Edward Boulden

Votes: 868

22. A Romance of the Rail (1903)

4 min | Short, Comedy, Romance

An engaged couple, dressed in white, meet each other at a train station. When the train arrives, they get on board, and they enjoy the sights from the platform on the last car. The workers ... See full summary »

Director: Edwin S. Porter | Star: Marie Murray

Votes: 275

23. The Great Train Robbery (1903)

TV-G | 11 min | Short, Action, Western

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

Director: Edwin S. Porter | Stars: Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson, A.C. Abadie, George Barnes, Justus D. Barnes

Votes: 13,994

24. The 'Teddy' Bears (1907)

Not Rated | 13 min | Short, Comedy, Family

Seven toy teddy bears of varying sizes suddenly come to life, getting in all sorts of merry misadventures.

Directors: Wallace McCutcheon, Edwin S. Porter

Votes: 449

25. The Lonely Villa (1909)

8 min | Short, Crime, Drama

A gang of thieves lure a man out of his home so that they can rob it and threaten his wife and children. The family barricade themselves in an interior room, but the criminals are ... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: David Miles, Marion Leonard, Mary Pickford, Gladys Egan

Votes: 621

26. A Corner in Wheat (1909)

G | 14 min | Short, Drama

An unscrupulous and greedy capitalist speculator decides to corner the wheat market for his own profit, establishing complete control over the markets.

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: Frank Powell, Grace Henderson, James Kirkwood, Linda Arvidson

Votes: 1,768

27. His Trust: The Faithful Devotion and Self-Sacrifice of an Old Negro Servant (1911)

Not Rated | 14 min | Short, Drama, War

A Confederate officer is called off to war. He leaves his wife and daughter in the care of George, his faithful Negro servant. After the officer is killed in an exciting battle sequence, ... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: Wilfred Lucas, Dell Henderson, Claire McDowell, Edith Haldeman

Votes: 435

28. The Lonedale Operator (1911)

Unrated | 17 min | Short, Drama, Romance

When her father becomes ill, a young woman takes over the telegraph at a lonely western railroad station. She soon gets word that the next train will deliver the payroll for a mining ... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: Blanche Sweet, Francis J. Grandon, Wilfred Lucas, Edward Dillon

Votes: 853

29. The New York Hat (1912)

Not Rated | 16 min | Short, Drama

The young village minister was not quite as discreet as he might have been in fulfilling the strange trust left by the dying mother, but it certainly worked for the common good. By the ... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: Mary Pickford, Charles Hill Mailes, Kate Bruce, Lionel Barrymore

Votes: 622

30. The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912)

Not Rated | 17 min | Short, Crime, Drama

A young wife and her musician husband live in poverty in a New York City tenement. The husband's job requires him to go away for for a number of days. On his return, he is robbed by the ... See full summary »

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: Elmer Booth, Lillian Gish, Clara T. Bracy, Walter Miller

Votes: 1,653

31. The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (1913)

Not Rated | 29 min | Short, Action, Western

The fact that an Indian tribe is eating puppies starts an action packed battle in a western town.

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: Mae Marsh, Leslie Loveridge, Alfred Paget, Robert Harron

Votes: 626

32. La fée aux choux (1896)

1 min | Short, Family, Fantasy

The first film directed by a female director, "The Cabbage Fairy" presents a brief fantasy tale involving a strange fairy who can produce and deliver babies coming out of cabbages. Gently ... See full summary »

Director: Alice Guy | Stars: Alice Guy, Germaine Serand, Yvonne Serand

Votes: 737

33. A House Divided (I) (1913)

Unrated | 13 min | Comedy, Short

A married couple decide to "live separately together."

Director: Alice Guy | Stars: Fraunie Fraunholz, Marian Swayne

Votes: 224

34. Cabiria (1914)

Not Rated | 148 min | Adventure, Drama, History

Three centuries before Christus. Young Cabiria is kidnapped by some pirates during one eruption of the Etna. She is sold as a slave in Carthage, and as she is just going to be sacrificed to... See full summary »

Director: Giovanni Pastrone | Stars: Italia Almirante-Manzini, Lidia Quaranta, Bartolomeo Pagano, Carolina Catena

Votes: 2,570

35. Fantômas: In the Shadow of the Guillotine (1913)

Not Rated | 54 min | Crime, Drama

Inspector Juve is tasked to investigate and capture an infamous criminal Fantomas.

Director: Louis Feuillade | Stars: René Navarre, Edmund Breon, Georges Melchior, Renée Carl

Votes: 1,719

36. Fantômas: Juve versus Fantômas (1913)

Not Rated | 61 min | Crime, Drama

In Part Two of Louis Feuillade's 5 1/2-hour epic follows FantÃ'mas, the criminal lord of Paris, master of disguise, the creeping assassin in black, as he is pursued by the equally resourceful Inspector Juve.

Director: Louis Feuillade | Stars: René Navarre, Edmund Breon, Georges Melchior, Renée Carl

Votes: 1,185

37. Fantômas: The Dead Man Who Killed (1913)

Not Rated | 90 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

After a body disappears from inside the prison, a series of crimes take place, all seemingly by the dead man. With Juve presumed dead, Fandor must investigate alone. Will Fantomas finally be brought to justice?

Director: Louis Feuillade | Stars: René Navarre, Edmund Breon, Georges Melchior, André Luguet

Votes: 911

38. Fantomas: The Mysterious Finger Print (1914)

Not Rated | 59 min | Crime, Drama

The mystery of the drama is the appearance of the finger-print of a dead artist upon the neck of Princess Sonia Danidoff, whom Fantomas, as Nanteuil, relieves of her pearl necklace, and ... See full summary »

Director: Louis Feuillade | Stars: René Navarre, Georges Melchior, Laurent Morléas, Renée Carl

Votes: 1,023

39. Fantômas: The False Magistrate (1914)

Not Rated | 70 min | Crime, Drama

Fantômas has been arrested and is jailed in Brussels, but inspector Juve wants him arrested and sentenced for all his crimes in France. Thus Juve settles Fantômas' escape so he can be ... See full summary »

Director: Louis Feuillade | Stars: René Navarre, Edmund Breon, Georges Melchior, Mesnery

Votes: 809

40. The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Not Rated | 195 min | Drama, History, War

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.

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall, Miriam Cooper

Votes: 19,220 | Gross: $10.00M

41. Intolerance: Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916)

Not Rated | 197 min | Drama, History

The story of a poor young woman, separated by prejudice from her husband and baby, is interwoven with tales of intolerance from throughout history.

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: Lillian Gish, Robert Harron, Mae Marsh, F.A. Turner

Votes: 12,048 | Gross: $2.18M

42. The Cheat (1915)

Not Rated | 59 min | Drama

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.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille | Stars: Fannie Ward, Sessue Hayakawa, Jack Dean, James Neill

Votes: 2,028

43. Les vampires (1915)

Not Rated | 421 min | Action, Adventure, Crime

An intrepid reporter and his loyal friend battle a bizarre secret society of criminals known as The Vampires.

Director: Louis Feuillade | Stars: Musidora, Édouard Mathé, Marcel Lévesque, Jean Aymé

Votes: 3,589

44. The Immigrant (1917)

Unrated | 30 min | Short, Comedy, Drama

Charlie is an immigrant who endures a challenging voyage and gets into trouble as soon as he arrives in America.

Director: Charles Chaplin | Stars: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell, Albert Austin

Votes: 6,104

45. The Outlaw and His Wife (1918)

72 min | Drama

A stranger comes to work at widow Halla's farm. Halla and the stranger fall in love, but when he is revealed as Eyvind, an escaped thief forced into crime by his family's starvation, they ... See full summary »

Director: Victor Sjöström | Stars: Victor Sjöström, Edith Erastoff, John Ekman, Jenny Tschernichin-Larsson

Votes: 1,253

46. Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl (1919)

Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Romance

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.

Director: D.W. Griffith | Stars: Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp, Arthur Howard

Votes: 8,033

47. Sunnyside (1919)

41 min | Comedy, Short

Charlie works on a farm from 4am to late at night. He gets his food on the run (milking a cow into his coffee, holding an chicken over the frying pan to get fried eggs). He loves the ... See full summary »

Director: Charles Chaplin | Stars: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Olive Ann Alcorn, Albert Austin

Votes: 2,154

48. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Not Rated | 67 min | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

Hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist, Cesare, to commit murders.

Director: Robert Wiene | Stars: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover

Votes: 46,337

49. The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Not Rated | 100 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror