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Added by Harmonica on 4 Oct 2008 05:57
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Visually Exceptional Films, B&W 4:3

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People who added this item 1133 Average listal rating (652 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 8.2
The most famous film of Georges Melies, the pioneer of visual effects on film. This is not Melies' first narrative film, for example Barbe-bleue from a year earlier is a very well told story. This films, however, is propably the best example of Melies' style.

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People who added this item 84 Average listal rating (53 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.8
Early stop-motion animation with insects. Creepy and great, and very well made.
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People who added this item 130 Average listal rating (53 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7
L'Inferno (1911)
Being a very early feature lenght film, L'Inferno has very little moving camera, actually just a few pans and that's all. But what makes this such a visually striking work are the amazing sets and visions of hell. Now I just can't imagine hell as anything different than a place with wide open spaces, rivers and lakes and rocky terrain. And of course purgatory with grassy fields and trees. Oh, and nearly everyone is naked.

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People who added this item 47 Average listal rating (25 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.4
Suspense (1913)
An early suspense short that reminds me of later filmmaking styles of Mario Bava, Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock. Early use of split-screen for example is fantastic.

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People who added this item 96 Average listal rating (44 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 6.7
Cabiria (1914)
Two things stand out in this one: the impressive large sets and the before its time camerawork. The sets actually remind me a lot of H.R. Giger's later work. This must also be one of the earliest films with moving camera that doesn't follow any action. The camera just moves to add visual interest.

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People who added this item 9 Average listal rating (4 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.1
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People who added this item 43 Average listal rating (21 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 6.9
After Death (1915)
Bauer really was hugely ahead of his time. In this mid 1910s film he already had deep focus photography and fantastic use of lighting, and not only those, but a long tracking shot with camera moving backwards through a room with party guests. Impressive.

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People who added this item 346 Average listal rating (170 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 8
Intolerance (1916)
Birth of a Nation is of course the more famous movie in terms of camerawork from Griffith, and while the tracking shots are indeed impressive I still hold Intolerance in far greater value as it's far more impressive movie in every way. There's one especially impressive visual moment with a crane shot in a huge set.

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People who added this item 39 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 7
Another impressive film by Bauer, and actually my favourite of the three I've seen from him this far. There may not be a single moment as impressive as in After Death, but the photography is otherwise perhaps even more stylish.

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People who added this item 47 Average listal rating (21 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 6.9
The Blue Bird (1918)
Very nice photography and lighting and imaginative visual effects in this 1910s fantasy film. This is also propably the earliest film I've seen in which the actors at one point face the camera to address the audience.

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People who added this item 37 Average listal rating (17 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 7.3
J'accuse! (1919)
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People who added this item 1105 Average listal rating (623 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 8.1
Ah, the most famous work of german expressinism on film. No moving camera on this one but the strange sets really are fantastic. And best of all, it all supports the story as well.

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People who added this item 37 Average listal rating (11 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7
A film without a single intertitle. Warning shadows is the english title of this film which may sound an odd name before seeing the film. And indeed, there are a lot of shadows in this film which makes a very unique visual style. One of the most impressive achievements of german expressionism on film for sure.

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People who added this item 279 Average listal rating (135 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 8.1
Impressive Murnau film with early use of hand-held camera for one thing. Extremely beautiful film visually.

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People who added this item 107 Average listal rating (50 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 8.1
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People who added this item 43 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 7.9
Visuals may not be the main interest in this film, but the beautiful scenery really does make this a nice looking film.

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People who added this item 202 Average listal rating (112 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.7
Strike (1925)
Eisenstein's debut film is a hugely innovative and energetic. The most striking aspect are of course the super fast cuts and the so called montage that many Russian directors used from this point forward. In addition to the fast cuts, the photography is very unique as well. If I had to select a film that most brings the feeling of energy and innovativeness of its director to the audience, it might well be this one.

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People who added this item 800 Average listal rating (484 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 8
Worthy of inclusion for this list for the famous Odessa stairs sequence alone, Battleship Potemkin is another propaganda masterpiece from Eisenstein. Editing is exceptional but so is the use of closeups and camera angles.

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People who added this item 30 Average listal rating (16 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 7.8
By the Law (1926)
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People who added this item 366 Average listal rating (156 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 8.1
Faust (1926)
Majestic gothic imagery and amazing visual effects in this Murnau film. I especially love the flying carpet scene in which we see the camera flying through a very large miniature landscape set.

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People who added this item 97 Average listal rating (40 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 8.1
Of all the Garbo silent films available on DVD this is the greatest work visually. Story is pure melodrama and the director is not an auteur, but nonetheless this is visually extremely competent work. Great use of moving camera.

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People who added this item 132 Average listal rating (53 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 7.6
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People who added this item 83 Average listal rating (40 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 8.1
Ménilmontant (1926)
This is one of the greatest masterpieces of editing. There's all kinds of cuts starting from the brutal ax murder that starts the film to a peaceful and emotional scene later in the movie at a park. The story itself isn't all that special melodrama but the way it is told makes it an absolute masterpiece.

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People who added this item 187 Average listal rating (80 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.9
Not really a B&W film as the beautiful tinting is essential to viewing experience. Called the first feature lenght animating, this film is amazingly original in its style of animation. The film is made with silhuet characters with very artistic silhuette backgrounds. The animation itself also features some clever effects. For example in one scene flying monsters in the backround are blurred.

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People who added this item 48 Average listal rating (15 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 7.6
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People who added this item 26 Average listal rating (9 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.6
Pabst's most impressive film at least when it comes to camerawork. Lots of moving and use of hand-held camera. However, the most impressive moment in the film is a scene in which a character anticipating to get payed for his work a large sum of money, imagines the moment and panthomimes the act of counting them. All this is done with very fast cuts between his hands and the frantic expression on his face.

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People who added this item 1826 Average listal rating (913 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 8.3
Metropolis (1927)
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People who added this item 582 Average listal rating (319 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 8.3
Sunrise (1927)
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People who added this item 62 Average listal rating (31 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.4
Arsenal (1929)
Dovzhenko's cinema is very strange and somewhat similar to what Tarkovsky would do later, only much more energetic in style. Many memorable scenes and shots in this film which is my favourite from the director.

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People who added this item 59 Average listal rating (31 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 8
Lonesome (1928)
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People who added this item 14 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 8.7 IMDB Rating 7
Maldone (1928)
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People who added this item 201 Average listal rating (80 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 7.8
Paul Leni really was one of the masters of moving camera in silent era. This film is his greatest achievement visually and otherwise too. Beautiful dark lighting, tracking shots and great compositions make this visually unforgettable.

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People who added this item 30 Average listal rating (7 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.9
L'argent (1928)
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This is one of the greatest films that uses images to create mood. There is for example one scene in which a person plays a guitar and between the shots of guitar we see shots of nature. These images are used to create a dark and mysterious mood. There's also some great use of hand-held camera.

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People who added this item 669 Average listal rating (350 ratings) 8.7 IMDB Rating 8.3
One of the most visually unique films ever made, Dreyer's film uses almost only closeups of faces to tell the story and famously didn't even show all of the very expensive set.

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People who added this item 95 Average listal rating (37 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.4
This is propably Pudovkin's most amazingly edited film. The super fast cuts, symbolism and hand-held camera are used in one scene to portray power and rage.

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People who added this item 51 Average listal rating (24 ratings) 8.3 IMDB Rating 7.5
Street Angel (1928)
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People who added this item 25 Average listal rating (12 ratings) 8.4 IMDB Rating 7.1
Four Sons (1928)
John Ford has many a nice looking films and this is of those I've seen my favourite visually. The entire film is filled with shots of lyrical beauty.

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One of the finest examples of the early surrealist movement on film. I like this more than Un Chien Andalou actually because I think this has a darker and tenser mood.

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People who added this item 55 Average listal rating (33 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.3
Rain (1929)
I doubt there exists a more beatiful film solely about rain. The images are beautiful and the city symphony struckture works well.

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People who added this item 1148 Average listal rating (663 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.8
The famous debut film from Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali. It may not make much sense (which is exactly the point) but it has plenty of memorable images and original visual tricks.

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People who added this item 36 Average listal rating (18 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.6
Asphalt (1929)
Beautiful dark visuals and use of mobile camera in this film from a poorly known director Joe May.

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People who added this item 514 Average listal rating (269 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 8.4
A celebration of innovative cinema, Vertov's film has pretty much every kind of trick shot and editing technique used at the time: there's slow motion, split screen, rapid editing, reversed film and even stop-motion animation.

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People who added this item 35 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7.7
Another Russian production with stylish use of closeups and editing. Kozintsev would later direct great looking Shakespeare adaptations he's more well known of.

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People who added this item 36 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.3
Applause (1929)
In early sound films camerawork was very often downright forgotten, but not in Rouben Mamoulian's films. Applause is his debut as a director and an impressive one at that. Unusual camera angles and a lot of moving camera in this one.

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People who added this item 23 Average listal rating (15 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 7.3
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People who added this item 567 Average listal rating (301 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8.1
One of the greatest war films ever made, this early sound film is stylish, violent and story-wise great.

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People who added this item 165 Average listal rating (75 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.5
Earth (1930)
I've always loved Dovzhenko's use of the picture frame. He often, such as in this shot, leaves much of the frame completely empty to a great effect.

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People who added this item 81 Average listal rating (39 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.4
Limite (1931)
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In chronological order. Recommendations and comments, whether positive or negative, are higly appreciated. Note that I will only add films that I've seen and agree on their value to this list, but I will write down the recommended films and watch them if possible.

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Comments

Posted: 8 years, 8 months ago at Oct 10 10:44
Sweet list
Posted: 8 years, 6 months ago at Dec 8 6:04
Great list! I only miss three movies here:

Nosferatu (1921)
Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (1924)
Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Rache (1924)


Posted: 8 years, 6 months ago at Dec 8 8:10
Thanks! Nosferatu is indeed visually great work, although I've never found it quite as good as some of Murnau's others. But you're right that I should propably add it. Nibelungen I haven't seen yet, but I have very high expectations for it and own the DVD.

By the way, looks like listal has changed how large pictures show on this page and now the screenshots don't show like they used to. I shoul make them smaller but don't have time for that now.
Posted: 8 years, 6 months ago at Dec 13 0:46
Very very impressive list !
Posted: 8 years, 6 months ago at Dec 13 13:17
Great list! One of the best I've seen here.

Do you know any films by Brazilian director Glauber Rocha? He did some visually impressive films too. Try to catch two of them: Black God and White Devil (Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol) and Earth Entranced (Terra em Transe).
Posted: 8 years, 6 months ago at Dec 13 13:32
Thanks for the vote and recommendations! I've heard of Rocha, but haven't managed to see any of his films yet. I found some screenshots of the films and they indeed look fantastic. I'll surely try to see some of them now.
Posted: 7 years, 2 months ago at Apr 13 13:44
Great list. Mile stones in cinema is recorded!
Posted: 6 years, 11 months ago at Jul 29 22:12
Outstanding list!
Posted: 6 years, 8 months ago at Oct 3 14:57
Great list. I'm definitely gonna add some items to my want to watch list.
Posted: 6 years ago at Jun 26 17:42
Amazing list. I can't wait until Music Room comes out on Blu ray. Certainly, many of these are among my favorite movies and "want to see" movies. I wish I had the patience to watch all those silent films you listed. I'm surprised you haven't seen Birth of a Nation. Don't you like Italian films? Visconti, Fellini, De Sica or Anotonioni?
Posted: 6 years ago at Jun 26 20:36
Ah, never mind, I see these are B/W only.
Posted: 5 years, 7 months ago at Nov 25 19:10
Wow, nice list. Something to keep me busy for many rainy aternoons.
Posted: 5 years, 3 months ago at Mar 8 23:42
A Trip to the Moon, Metropolis, and Applause are stunning films. Busby Berkley or Cecil B. DeMille were incredible directors! Great list! Hoping to watch more of these!
Posted: 3 years, 8 months ago at Oct 15 20:15
Come on people, check the aspect ratio of the films you suggest for this list ;) This is only for films with the aspect ratio of 4:3, and lots of widescreen films are suggested.
Posted: 2 years, 8 months ago at Oct 26 10:44
Great list! And you even have Stolen Death. I'm glad you include the greatest film Sansho the Bailiff. Mizoguchi's style wasn't merely traditional; it was groundbreaking, e.g in the 30s, films like Osaka Elegy and Story of the Late Chrysanthemums. He was using deep staging with prominent foregrounds before Welles but then his mise-en-scene reached an unsurpassed level of refinement.

As well as Sansho, Ugetsu Monogatari, The Life of Oharu, Miss Oyu and Portrait of Madame Yuki are strikingly beautiful.

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