10 From 20: My Favorite Films From The Silent Era
259 7.4 7.610. Steamboat Willie (1928)
I know that this really isn't a movie,
it's a short. And an animated one, ta boot.
But it's still a significant step in the evolution of moving pictures. And it helps to keep this list at an even number of ten.
Plus, it is Micky Mouse's first appearance & the beginnings of what would eventually lead to the world dominating power of entertainment that is the all-powerful Disney.
82 7.1 7.29. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
And speaking of the all-powerful Disney, it's because of them that certain classical stories have become more well-known for their animated versions that are continually churned out by Uncle Walt's Mickey Mouse movie machine. Notre Dame's Hunchback is a classic example of this.
But way before that 1996 cartoon adaptation, outside of the literary circle, ol' Quasimodo's claim to fame back in the early days of cinema was primarily due to the thespian efforts of silent film megastar Lon Chaney. Back then, it was the make-up master's portrayal of the lopsided bell ringer that brung Quasi to life for the first time ever on the silver screen,
& thus, the Hunchback became more of a household name.
That is, of course, if the household had like a bell tower or somethin'.
286 8.2 7.98. Pandora's Box (1929)
Here's a film that I watched mostly because I was curious about what was it that made the flapper girl the embodiment of the female liberation movement of the roaring twenties.
Alongside "It" girl, Clara Bow, this was the look and style that made it's star, Louise Brooks not only the biggest female movie actress of the silent era, bit also, the definition of what it meant to be a free-spiriting flapper.
370 8.6 8.27. Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
During these early days of film, it's not all that hard to figure out who were the ruling kings of the cinema back then.
When it comes to the 20's, Buster Keaton is without a doubt one the first names to come up.
After viewing the combination of fantasy dream sequences with the elaborate stunts of physical comedy in Sherlock, Jr., is becomes clear why these theatric traits will always be cemented as the stylistic signature of Buster Keaton.
It's also easy to see why this film is regarded by many as the best the of 1924.
848 8.2 86. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Special effects, even in a rudimentary form, started almost as quickly as when the idea of actually making pictures move began. And soon after, follows that when an early film encounters a limited budget, then comes creativity in the form of cinematic expressionism.
And in the beginning of the twenties, that creativity came nicely boxed in the form of a cabinet (or, to keep in tune more with this story, an insane asylum. Cabinet, insane asylum, in the realm of artistic expression, they're all the same).
One of the first movies to start using film to the level of potential that the medium allows.
Surreal, distorted, disturbing, and in my opinion, particularly for it's time, it's was pretty cool as hell.
502 8.3 8.35. The General (1926)
One of the first movies that helps to start the lonnng trend in Hollywood of portraying the U.S. Civil War with the Confederates as heroes & the Union as villains.
Which begs the question:
Just what the hell exactly is it that all those flakey movie makers from La-La Land have against those damn Yankees, anyways?
328 7.4 7.74. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Later on as a kid, since I lived in the Chicagoland area, that meant that an important part of my young viewing habits was the midwestern version of a localized TV horror show called Creature Features. One of the things I remember most about this program was how the beginning credits ran with a montage of scenes of some of the most famous black & white horror flicks, including the most famous scene of this one. And for me, out of the bunch, the scariest was the image of the Phantom revealing himself for the first time. Even now, whenever I watch this film, I still get a shiver of adrenaline whenever this scene comes on.
IMO, the only thing that could be scarier than seeing the face of the Phantom in real life, would be being forced to actually attend an opera.
677 8.3 8.33. The Kid (1921)
I don't remember what age I was when I first saw The Kid, but I do know that I was incredibly young at the time, probably before my kindergatern years.
So to the best of my memory, this is the first silent film that I can recall watching. Now, in the house that I was raised in, I was exposed to alot the Three Stooges episodes. And because of this, when I saw the black & white images of Chaplin's character with his square mustache, trampy clothes & worn curled shoes, engaging in either a cane twirling penguin waddle or in some of his patented crazy cartoon-like stunts, I probably expected this movie to be as empty of any real emotional progress as were the zany tales of the Stooges. But as the movie went on, I was quite surprised not only of the emotional relationship that was developing as the center of this story, but also that the "silence" of the film allowed my young mind to actually understand & appreciate what was going on the screen.
Therefore, this was probably the first time that I got to experience a film that was, as one of the opening titles claims, a "picture with a smile, and perhaps a tear...".
1266 8 82. Nosferatu (1922)
1441 8.3 8.41. Metropolis (1927)
As I get on in years, I've tried to keep my mind open to as many styles of film as possible by not limiting myself to liking any specific kind of genre. But the truth is, if I looked at all the films that I've enjoyed the most, the category that would occupy the largest amount on my list would definitely go the science fiction genre. And when it comes to the idea of high production value for the purposes of a high scale sci-fi flick,
this is the aptly titled one that started it all.
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