Famous and influential silent films to check out
(I'm still working on it, if you'd like to add send a note)1891
Fred Ott's Sneeze (W. K. L. Dickson) first movie ever copyrighted, first film on record at the library of congrass1902
Le Voyage dans la Lune AKA Voyage to the moon (George Melies) First movie to really showcase special effects and to use a dissolve, influenced Smashing pumpkins Tonight Tonight video, First to really utilize elaborate stage sets1903
The Great Train Robbery (Edwin S. Porter) ground breaking editing, popularized last minute rescue, popular from 1903-19121910
Frankenstein (J. Searle Dawley) First ever filmed version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; was only a 10-minute short; has never been commercially released as it is in a private collection, but the owner makes copies himself for purchase to the public.1912
Keystone Kops AKA Keystone Cops (Mack Sennett) known for popularizing a certain type of comedy, it gave big stars a start such as Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle, popular between 1912 and 1917.1914
The Squaw Man (Cecil B. DeMille) first feature length Hollywood film1915
The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith; Father of film) Remains the most banned film to date, highly racist Civil War saga, grossed $10 mill, used depth of field, split screen, first to use a moving camera, first movie to be scene as an art form
Les Vampires (Louis Feuillade) Vampire horror, influenced Edwin Gory 1916
Intolerance (D.W. Griffith) Silent movie master piece, parallel editing, four inter-woven narratives 1917
Tarzan of the Apes (Scott Sidney) several nude scenes in the first half of the film, making the young Tarzan Gordon Griffith one of the first pre-teens to appear on screen naked.
Shoulder Arms (Charlie Chaplin) made to make money for the war1919
Broken Blossoms (Lillian Gish) melodramatic story, abused girl cared for by a young Chinese man
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene) German expressionism, Noted as the first horror film, Threw the eyes of a madman, Influenced Rob Zombie on his music video (Living Dead Girl)1920
The Golem (Paul Wegener) Third and last of a series of Golem films by the director, this one telling of the monster's origin; the director himself played the creature while his wife played his female victim; one of the few early Expressionist works to become popular in the US.
The Penalty (Wallace Worsley, Lon Chaney) Lon bounds his legs to portray a legless deranged man, intense and frightening especially if you love Lon
The Mark of Zorro (Fred Niblo, Douglas Fairbanks) considered one of the oldest action films, landed Fairbanks the swashbuckler adventure action star.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (John S. Robertson, John Barrymore) First film adaptation which was latter utilized in Wildhorn Frank's Musical of the same name, clearly influenced later versions. 1921
The Kid (Charlie Chaplin) Shows his own childhood
The Sheik (George Melford, Rudolph Valentino) First movie to show a man lusting after and abducting a woman, who inturn falls in love with her captor1922
Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau,Max Schreck)
Has inspired a remake (Nosferatu Phantom of the night) and a fictitious biographical movie called (Shadow of the vampire). The word Nosferatu comes from Slavic "nosufur-atu" which is a derivation of the Greek "nosophoros" or "plague carrier." Ironically Bram stoker's widow was against the movie suing them because she never receive royalties, some speculation why the name was changed to Nosferatu and why he stayed in his creepy form all threw out the movie might have come from the difficulties with Florence Stoker. Nosferatu's portrayal of a vampire has been used many times in such things as a movie called Salem's lot and role playing games such as Vampire the masquerade, used a clan called Nosferatu in which the characters resemble.
Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (Fritz Lang) Monumental, partial docu-film of the decadent Weimar Era in Germany; first film to show "nighttime" scenes while still retaining full picture clarity; main character Mabuse went on to become a myth in Germany, carrying into present times; was the first German film to use a huge paper marketing campaign to advertise.1923
The Thief of Bagdad (Douglas Fairbanks)
Safety Last (Harold Lloyd) most famous, dangling from a clock on the side of a city building
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wallace Worsley, Lon Chaney) First movie version of Hunchback and I think the best
The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. De Mille) epics 1924
Sherlock, Jr (Buster Keaton)
Die Nibelungen (Fritz Lang) First filmed, non-operatic version of Richard Wagner's "The Ring" opera; one of the few Lang films that was redubbed with sound in the talkie era; featured a 70-foot, mechanical dragon puppet.
Aelita AKA Aelita: Queen of Mars, (Yakov Protazanov) early science fiction elements
The Last Laugh ( F.W. Murnau) remembered for no title cards, revolutionary point of view
Das Wachsfigurkabinett (Leo Birinsky and Paul Leni) Early horror film set in a wax museum with three tales about three different villainous figures - Harun al Raschid, Ivan the Terrible, and Jack the Ripper; was not as well known as other German horror works of its day.1925
Ben-Hur (Fred Niblo) epic
The Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein) known for photo montage and time laps photography, Considered one of the greatest films of all time, The famous scene of Odessa steps has been spoofed in such movies as (The Untouchables) and (Naked Gun: 33 1/3)
The Phantom of the Opera (Lon Chaney)
Lon Chaney's Phantom is possibly his most famous film to date. Considered to be so horrific at the time, women were reported to have fainted in the aisle after the unmasking scene. This film has inspired countless remakes none of which ever come close to the original's quality. Andrew Lloyd Webber even barrowed some of the angles and ideas from this film including the graveyard scene which was later cut out of Lon's. The mounting the camera on the organ facing Lon made a more intimate and shocking unmasking scene. Il Fantasma dell'Opera directed by Dario Argento copied this shot.The gondola bed in Christine's room has shown up in the film Sunset Blvd. The Opera House set has been used in numerous films including the 1943 remake.
The Freshmen (Harold Lloyd) most popular in 1920, shows college life 1926
Faust (F.W. Murnau) Filmed at the same time and studio as Metropolis, using many of the same special effects techniques (i.e. rings of light hovering around a central character); was a masterful achievement of light-and-shadow photography; is the definitive version of Faust to date and the most favored among enthusiasts.
The Bells AKA The Mesmerist (James Young, Boris Karloff, Lionel Barrymore) Has very surreal feel to it now because of the awful damage to it, Has a spooky and hunting theme that relates to the holocaust
Don Juan (Alan Crosland , John Barrymore) First film made in Vita phone process AKA synchronized musical score performed by the New York Philharmonic1927
Metropolis (Fritz Lang) Very influential for science fiction, influenced such musicians as Madonna (Express your self) and Queen (Radio GaGa) for their music videos
Wings (William Wellman) First movie to win an oscer
London After Midnight (Tod Browning, Lon Chaney) Missing film, but has be reconstructed, Influenced latter versions of Jekyll and Hyde, the look of vampires, and Gene Simons from Kiss's winged cloak no matter what bull crap he tells people.
The General (Buster Keaton) Most spectacular, famous scene riding on the front of a train
The Unknown (Tod Browning, Lon Chaney) My favorite Lon film where he plays a armless carney who falls in love with a women who is scared of men's arms.
The Jazz singer (Alan Crosland, Al Jolson) Warner Brother's studio was the first to embrace sound, Vitaphone sound, considered the first film with sound is actually inaccurate it is only 25% sound-synchronizedthe the rest is silent, but is widely accepted to be the landmark for the push for talkies 1928
Laugh, Clown, Laugh (Herbert Brenon, Lon Chaney) Claimed to be Lon's favorite movie
The Man Who Laughs (Paul Leni, Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin) Interestingly Lon Chaney was their first choice to play Gwynnplaine, opposite Mary Philbin again, but he was owned by another studio at the time and it made the casting director look for another actor in his stead. (info Michael F. Blake) I actually think their choice of Conrad Veidt was a wise one although I regret not seeing Lon in this masterpiece.
Spies (Fritz Lang) First true 'spy' film in the vein of James Bond and others; invented the cliche' of the femme fatale lounging across the evil master spy's desk; has some on-screen 'easter eggs' alluding to Metropolis and many cameos from earlier Lang actors.1929
Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov) Documenting urban life, The film was way ahead of its time, montage
Woman in the Moon (Fritz Lang) First film in history to show an accurate launching of an earth-to-the-moon rocket, including the Figure-8 orbit and the Two-Stage rocket; scientists who were technical advisers on the film later worked on actual ground-breaking rocket launches; was later banned in Germany by the Nazis because it gave away too much of the country's advances in rocket science; was Lang's last silent film before moving onto talkies.
Un Chien Andalou (Dir. Luis Bunuel/ Salvador Dali) Influential for it's surrealism, famous scene where a ladies eye is sliced in half. Known for groundbreaking editing. 1930
Unholy three (Tod Browning, Lon Chaney) A talkie remake of Lon's silent movie of the same title. This is the only movie you will see Lon talk.
The Blue Angel (Marlene Dietrich) Marlene highest paid actress, influential for Moulin rouge
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1931 Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin) Made for the under appreciated working man
1931 M (Fritz Lang) Presumably first film ever to deal with the delicate subject matter of child murders; title role actor Peter Lorre hated this film and could not walk the streets after its release because people would pursue him like his character from the film; was banned in Nazi Germany because of its disturbing premise; has no soundtrack whatsoever, save for the theme song "Hall of the Mountain King" - its uneasy mood was conveyed solely through the use of imagery.
1932 Freaks (Tod Browning) Originally was suppose to star Lon Chaney, but after his untimely death in 1930 was pushed forward into a talkie. Banned for it's horrific portrayal of real life freaks.
1932 The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang) Had the unusual double roll of being a sequel to both the earlier M and 1922's Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler; was the first sequel Lang ever filmed (he even did a third installment in the '60s); is the only instance EVER where the first film was silent and the second was a talkie; was banned at the same time as M for its anti-Nazi undertones (yet it was re-edited in the US for allegedly having PRO-Nazi undertones - go figure); is simply the most frightening film Lang ever made.
1940 The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin) Ground breaking, made political enemies, One of Chaplin's greatest films