For 1920s Film, there are so many creators reporting on this topic. Here are 25 of the top ones.
From Dziga Vertov, starring Mikhail Kaufman, Elizaveta Svilova
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Man with a Movie Camera is a silent documentary film from 1929 directed by Dziga Vertov. The film is a visual exploration of life in the Soviet Union as it was in the 1920s. It follows the activities of an unnamed cameraman as he records everyday life in the cities, towns, and villages of the Soviet Union. The film features a variety of urban and rural scenes, including the activities of people at the workplace and at leisure, as well as images of Soviet monuments, churches, and bridges. The film is highly acclaimed for its innovative editing techniques, which include jump cuts, slow motion, and split screens. The film is also praised for its creative use of music, which Vertov incorporates in order to create a sense of rhythm and emotion. Man with a Movie Camera is considered a landmark in documentary filmmaking and is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time.
From Fritz Lang, starring Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge
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Metropolis is a 1927 dystopian science-fiction silent film directed by German expressionist Fritz Lang. Set in a futuristic urban environment, the film follows a wealthy elite who live a life of luxury above a subterranean working class. When a messenger of the working class, Maria, attempts to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the working class, chaos ensues. Through a series of events, the head of the working class, Joh Fredersen, learns the importance of cooperation between the wealthy elite and the workers. In the end, they make peace and the city of Metropolis is transformed.
From Charles Chaplin, starring Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Jackie Coogan, Carl Miller
The Kid is a 1921 silent comedy-drama film directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. The film follows the story of a tramp (Chaplin) who discovers an abandoned baby and takes him in as his own. The tramp and the child, whom he names "John" (Jackie Coogan), become like father and son, living in an abandoned house and doing whatever they can to survive. Eventually, John is taken away by the authorities, and the tramp sets out to get him back, leading to an emotional encounter between the two. The Kid was Chaplin's first feature-length film and is widely considered one of the greatest films of the silent era. It showcases Chaplin's unique blend of comedy and drama, as well as his innovative directorial techniques. The film was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $3 million at the box office and earning four Academy Award nominations. The Kid is remembered today as a classic of the silent era and one of Chaplin's best works.
From Carl Theodor Dreyer, starring Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley, Maurice Schutz
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a silent French film directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer in 1928. The film tells the story of Joan of Arc, a young French girl who hears voices that tell her to save her country and lead the French army against the English. After leading a successful campaign against the English forces, Joan is eventually captured and put on trial for heresy. The film chronicles the inquisition and trial, as Joan refuses to deny her faith and is ultimately condemned and burned at the stake. The film is renowned for its use of close-ups, exquisite lighting, and powerful performances, creating a deeply emotional and ultimately tragic experience.
From Abel Gance, starring Albert Dieudonné, Vladimir Roudenko, Edmond Van Daële, Alexandre Koubitzky
Napoleon (1927) is a silent French biographical epic film written, produced, and directed by Abel Gance that chronicles the early life of Napoleon Bonaparte, from his childhood in Corsica to his rise to power as Emperor of France. The film follows Napoleon's journey from a young, ambitious man to an influential military leader and politician. It emphasizes his relationships and clashes with his family, his friends, his enemies, and several of the historical figures who influenced his life, including Josephine de Beauharnais, Paul Barras, and the Directory. The film also follows his military and political successes, his exile to Elba, and his return to power for a short period of time. Napoleon is considered a cinematic masterpiece and a pioneering work in the genre of the historical epic. Gance's innovative techniques, such as his use of multiple cameras, long takes, and sweeping camera movements, helped create a unique visual experience that captures the grandeur of Napoleon's story. The film ends with a massive climactic battle sequence which was groundbreaking for its time.
From Buster Keaton, starring Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton, Erwin Connelly
Sherlock Jr. is a 1924 silent comedy film starring Buster Keaton. The film follows the story of a young projectionist (Keaton) who dreams of becoming a great detective. He is in love with a beautiful woman, but her affections are for another. When the other man frames him for a crime he didn't commit, Keaton dreams of becoming a great detective and clears his name. With the help of his dreams, he is able to take on the roles of different characters and solve the mystery in the end. Along the way, he deals with various slapstick comedy sequences, as well as clever visual effects.
Buster Keaton, starring Buster Keaton, Marion Mack, Glen Cavender, Jim Farley
The General is a classic silent comedy from 1926, directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton. The film follows the adventures of Johnnie Gray, a Southern railroad engineer who is prevented from enlisting in the Confederate army due to his job. After his beloved engine, the General, is stolen by Union spies, he embarks on a daring mission to reclaim it and protect his hometown. Along the way, he must battle obstacles such as an exploding bridge, a daring rescue, and a runaway train. Along the way, he learns the importance of true courage and self-sacrifice.
From Fritz Lang, starring Paul Richter, Margarete Schön, Theodor Loos, Gertrud Arnold
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Die Nibelungen: Siegfried is a 1924 German silent epic fantasy film directed by Fritz Lang. It is the second part of Lang's two-part adaptation of the Nibelungenlied saga; the first part, titled Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge, was released in 1924 as well. The film follows the hero Siegfried, who must battle dragons and monsters to save a kingdom and win the love of the beautiful Kriemhild. After slaying a dragon, Siegfried is given a ring of invisibility and a powerful sword. With these possessions, he is able to defeat the menacing dragon Fafnir and rescue Kriemhild from her captors. Ultimately, Siegfried is betrayed by the Nibelungs, a race of dwarves, and is killed in battle. Despite his death, he lives on as a symbol of courage and heroism. The film's grand scale and sweeping visuals have earned it a place as one of the most significant works of German cinema.
From F.W. Murnau, starring Gösta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Frida Richard
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Faust is an expressionistic silent film adaptation of the classic German legend of Faust, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Directed by F. W. Murnau and starring Gösta Ekman as Faust, Emil Jannings as Mephisto and Camilla Horn as Gretchen, the film tells the story of a dissatisfied scholar, Faust, who is tempted by the devil, Mephisto, to make a pact with him for knowledge and power in exchange for his soul. Along the way, Faust meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman named Gretchen, who is being oppressed by her family and the church. Faust helps her and ultimately sacrifices his life to save her. The film has been noted for its stunning visual effects and powerful allegorical symbolism. Its innovative use of lighting, its expressionistic set designs, and its innovative use of special effects make it a milestone in the history of cinema.
From Erich von Stroheim, starring Gibson Gowland, Zasu Pitts, Jean Hersholt, Dale Fuller
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Greed is a 1924 silent film epic directed by Erich von Stroheim and based on the 1899 novel McTeague by Frank Norris. The film stars Gibson Gowland as John McTeague, ZaSu Pitts as Trina Sieppe, and Jean Hersholt as Marcus Schouler. The film follows McTeague, a poor San Francisco dentist, and Trina, his wife, who win a large amount of money in a lottery. Their newfound wealth causes them to succumb to greed, and the film follows their struggles to keep the money and their marriage intact. Marcus Schouler, a former suitor of Trina's, is determined to break up the marriage and reclaim his money. The film culminates in a dramatic confrontation between McTeague and Marcus in Death Valley. Greed is considered to be one of the greatest films of the silent era and is renowned for its ambitious narrative, intricate visual style, and epic scale. It was a commercial failure upon its initial release, but has since been reevaluated and has been hailed by critics and film historians.
Edward F. Cline,
Buster Keaton, starring Buster Keaton, Sybil Seely, Joe Roberts
One Week is a 1920 silent film directed by Edward F. Cline and Buster Keaton. It tells the story of two newlyweds, Sylvester and his bride, who receive a build-it-yourself house as a wedding present. When they attempt to assemble the house, they discover that the instructions are missing and must build the house in one week. As the couple struggles to complete the task, they face numerous misadventures, including an escaped circus lion, a flood, and a broken axle. Throughout their struggles, Sylvester and his bride maintain a strong sense of humor and ultimately manage to complete the house.
From Charles Chaplin, starring Charles Chaplin, Merna Kennedy, Al Ernest Garcia, Harry Crocker
The Circus is a 1928 silent comedy-drama film directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. Set in a circus, the film stars Chaplin as an accidental clown who is loved by a young circus performer and a beautiful tightrope walker. He also must escape from an angry circus owner. The film follows Chaplin's character as he arrives at a circus and accidentally becomes a clown. He is quickly accepted by the audience and becomes a hit, while he also forms a love triangle between himself, the tightrope walker, and the young circus performer. Meanwhile, the circus owner plots to have Chaplin's character arrested for an old debt he owes. In the end, the young circus performers helps Chaplin escape, and the two of them reunite with the tightrope walker.
Fred C. Newmeyer,
Sam Taylor, starring Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother, Noah Young
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Safety Last! is a classic silent comedy film released in 1923, directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor. The film stars Harold Lloyd as an ambitious small-town man who moves to the big city in search of a better life. To prove his worth to his sweetheart, he attempts a wild and daring stunt by scaling the outside of a tall building. The film is noted for its iconic climax, in which Lloyd hangs from the hands of a tall clock. With the help of his friends, he successfully completes his stunt and is reunited with his sweetheart. The film is considered to be one of the first and most influential action-comedy films of all time.
From Victor Sjöström, starring Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg, Astrid Holm
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The Phantom Carriage (1921) is considered to be one of the most influential films of the silent era. Directed by Victor Sjöström and based on the novel by Selma Lagerlöf, this darkly beautiful film follows the story of a drunken and bitter cab driver, David Holm (played by Sjöström himself), who is visited by death in the form of a phantom carriage. The film follows David on his journey to redemption, as he is made to understand the consequences of his actions, and the importance of living a moral life. Along the way, the film explores themes such as death, guilt, and redemption. It is considered to be a landmark film in Swedish cinema, and is often credited as being one of the first films to use flashbacks and special effects.
From Robert Wiene, starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher, Lil Dagover
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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a 1920 German Expressionist horror film directed by Robert Wiene. It tells the story of an insane hypnotist (Dr. Caligari) who uses a somnambulist (Cesare) to commit murders. The film is set in Holstenwall, an imaginary village in Germany, and follows the story of Francis and his friend Alan who visit a local carnival where they encounter Caligari and the somnambulist Cesare. Cesare predicts Alan's death and then the next day Alan is found dead. Francis investigates and discovers a secret plot by Caligari and Cesare to take over the town. He eventually exposes Caligari's plan and the townspeople overthrow him. The film is known for its unique visual and thematic elements, including its highly stylized sets and use of shadows, distorted lines and angles, and dream-like narrative structure.
Buster Keaton, starring Buster Keaton, Marceline Day, Harold Goodwin, Sidney Bracey
The Cameraman is a 1928 silent comedy film directed by Edward Sedgwick and Buster Keaton. It tells the story of a sidewalk tintype photographer, played by Keaton, who tries to become a newsreel cameraman for the fictional Ming Studio. He falls in love with the company's secretary, Sally (Marceline Day), and rescues her from a kidnapping. As his career takes off, they struggle to stay together while he pursues his dream. Along the way, Keaton's character gets into a series of humorous predicaments, including a chaotic chase around Chinatown. In the end, he achieves his goal and reunites with Sally. The Cameraman is often cited as one of Keaton's best films, showcasing his trademark physical comedy and highly inventive gags.
From Josef von Sternberg, starring Emil Jannings, Evelyn Brent, William Powell, Jack Raymond
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The Last Command is a 1928 silent drama film directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Emil Jannings. It is based on the 1927 novel of the same name by Lajos Bíró. The film tells the story of an Imperial Russian general (Jannings) who is reduced to working as an extra in Hollywood after the Russian Revolution of 1917. The general is then hired to play the role of a czarist general in an American Civil War film, and through flashbacks, the audience is shown the general's rise to power and eventual downfall. Through his portrayal of the doomed general, Jannings' character reflects on his past and reconsider his choices in life. The film features an impressive cinematography and was highly praised for its sophisticated visual style. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1928 and was selected for the National Film Registry in 1993.
From Fritz Lang, starring Margarete Schön, Gertrud Arnold, Theodor Loos, Hans Carl Mueller
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Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge is a 1924 German silent fantasy drama directed by Fritz Lang. It is part two of the two-part Die Nibelungen series and follows the story of Kriemhild, an ambitious and vengeful woman who seeks to avenge her husband's death by any means necessary. The film follows her on her journey as she gathers allies, amasses an army, and plots her revenge. Along the way, she encounters a wide range of characters - from kings to dragons - as she attempts to reclaim what was taken from her. The film culminates in a spectacular battle as Kriemhild clashes with her foes in an epic confrontation. With its breathtaking visuals, gripping story, and thrilling action sequences, Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge is an unforgettable classic of German cinema.
George W. Hill, starring John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Hobart Bosworth, Claire McDowell
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The Big Parade is a 1925 American silent drama film directed by King Vidor and George W. Hill. It stars John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, and Hobart Bosworth, and tells the story of an idle rich boy who, despite his family's protests, joins the US Army during World War I. The film follows his experiences in the trenches and the impact of the war on his life, as well as his relationship with a French peasant woman. The film is widely seen as an important example of early American war films, and is credited with helping to popularize the genre. The Big Parade was a major financial success, becoming the highest-grossing film of the silent era until it was surpassed by The Jazz Singer in 1927. It also won the Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) in 1926.
From Sergei Eisenstein, starring Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barskiy, Grigoriy Aleksandrov, Ivan Bobrov
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Battleship Potemkin is a 1925 silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein, depicting events during the 1905 Russian Revolution. The film follows the mutiny aboard the titular battleship led by sailor Grigory Vakulinchuk, which sparks a wider revolt by the citizens of Odessa against the Tsarist regime. After the mutiny is successful, the Potemkin is pursued by the Imperial Russian Navy throughout the Black Sea, ending with a climactic battle in the port of Odessa. The film is renowned for its montage sequences and its influential use of editing and cinematography, and has been widely praised as one of the greatest films of all time.
From Georg Wilhelm Pabst, starring Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz
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Pandora’s Box is a 1929 German silent drama film directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst. The film is based on two plays by Frank Wedekind, Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (1904). The story follows the young and beautiful prostitute Lulu, who captivates all men she encounters. Her story is one of seduction and danger, as the men that desire her are often ruined by their own lust. Lulu’s downfall begins with her relationship with a wealthy newspaper editor, which leads to her being accused of murder. She is ultimately sentenced to death for her sins. Throughout the film, Lulu’s story serves as a warning to the audience about the dangers of unchecked passion.
From Fritz Lang, starring Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Aud Egede-Nissen, Gertrude Welcker, Alfred Abel
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Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler is a 1922 German silent drama film directed by Fritz Lang. It tells the story of a criminal genius and master of disguise who manipulates people in order to gain wealth and power. Dr. Mabuse is in charge of a vast criminal organization, and he uses his hypnotic powers to control the minds of his victims. He also uses his wealth to corrupt and manipulate the public, as well as the police. The film follows the police's pursuit of Dr. Mabuse, and their attempts to thwart his sinister schemes. Ultimately, Dr. Mabuse is arrested and sentenced to a mental asylum, where he is left to rot.
From Buster Keaton, starring Buster Keaton, Ruth Dwyer, T. Roy Barnes, Snitz Edwards
Seven Chances is a classic silent film starring Buster Keaton. The movie follows the story of a young man, Jimmie Shannon, who learns that he will inherit a fortune from a relative if he is married by 7:00 p.m. on his 27th birthday. Jimmie embarks on a frantic search for a wife, aided by his loyal friend, Annabelle. In desperation, he even goes so far as to publish an advertisement in the newspaper offering a reward to any woman who agrees to marry him before the deadline. However, his plans go awry when a large number of women show up at his door and follow him wherever he goes. In the end, Jimmie is able to win the heart of the one woman he truly loves, and they are able to wed before the fateful seven o’clock hour.
From Tod Browning, starring Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry, Joan Crawford, Nick De Ruiz
The Unknown is a 1927 silent horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford. The film tells the story of Alonzo, a carnival sideshow performer who is in love with a beautiful girl named Gertie. Alonzo suffers from a rare condition that prevents him from having his arms seen in public, and so he disguises himself as a woman in order to hide his affliction and be close to Gertie. Problems arise when Gertie falls for a handsome bullfighter, resulting in a dangerous love triangle. Alonzo is determined to win Gertie’s heart, even if it means risking his own life. The Unknown is an atmospheric, eerie horror film that is considered to be one of Chaney’s greatest performances and a classic of the silent era.
John G. Blystone,
Buster Keaton, starring Buster Keaton, Natalie Talmadge, Joe Keaton, Joe Roberts
Our Hospitality is a 1923 American silent comedy film directed by John G. Blystone and Buster Keaton. The film stars Keaton as Willie McKay, a young man from New York who inherited a large estate in the southern United States. When he visits the estate, he finds himself at the center of a long-standing family feud between the McKays and the Canfields. To add to his troubles, Willie is quickly taken in by a beautiful young woman, Virginia Canfield (Natalie Talmadge), who is unaware of the feud and quickly falls in love with him. The film follows Willie as he navigates his way through the hostile environment of his new home, and he discovers the true meaning of hospitality and friendship. Along the way, he must outwit the scheming members of both families and survive numerous close calls. The film is a timeless classic and the signature of Buster Keaton's genius as a physical comic.