While this is a sad reality, it is not particularly shocking. It sometimes feel as if silent movie is meant to be admired rather than experienced these days, a key steppingstone in the evolution of cinema that now primarily interests film historians and theorists. There is, without a doubt, a barrier to entrance, but those willing to venture outside their customary comfort zones will discover a plethora of cinematic classics that can still compete with whatever Hollywood creates today, and the films listed below are the best examples.
Table of Contents
1. A Trip To The Moon (1902)
Director- George Melies
The original and bold filmmaker Georges Méliès presents an imaginative turn-of-the-century fantasy extravaganza, composed of 30 stunning tableaux and 18 fabulously complex decors. The distinguished members of the famous Institute of Incoherent Astronomy agree that it is high time they delved into the wide unknown by organising an exploration voyage to the Moon under the brave Professor Barbenfouillis’ presidency. Soon after, the brave explorers land their bullet-shaped spaceship on the moon’s supposedly lonely plains, discovering firsthand the wonders of outer space. They are, however, completely unaware that the dry hills have eyes, and that the Moon Emperor’s awful Selenites are on the lookout for invaders.
2. Intolerance (1916)
Director- D.W. Griffith
There are four parallel episodes of intolerance told throughout history, including ancient Babylon, the time of Christ’s uprising, the French Renaissance under Charles IX and his mother Catherine de Medici, and the present day. That intolerance stems primarily from societal groups, not from people as individuals. Each narrative depicts a powerful group using its authority to suppress a public movement – generally through violence – and the impact this has on a young couple who simply wish to live in peace. The film jumps from one story to the next, cutting between them at points where the two storylines are identical. But the Eternal Mother, who is pictured cradling the cradle of humanity, is in charge of the whole thing.
3. Nosferatu (1922)
Director- F.W. Murnau
Thomas Hutter, an estate agent, is dispatched to Transylvania by his boss to meet with a new client, Count Orlok, who is planning to purchase a home. He sets out on his quest after surrendering his wife Ellen to a close friend. He stops at an inn for dinner while travelling through the hilly regions. Locals advise Hutter not to travel to the Count’s castle, but he does so by coach. The coachman declines to take him further than the bridge due to the approaching darkness. Hutter continues on his way alone, and after crossing the bridge, a mystery coach comes, motioning Hutter to join. The coach departs after dropping Hutter down in front of the Count’s castle.
4. Sherlock Jr. (1924)
Director- Buster Keaton
A quiet projectionist who also cleans up after movies aspires to be a private investigator. He marries a lovely lady, but the Sheik competes for her devotion. He gets rid of the projectionist by snatching the girl’s father’s pocket watch, which he swaps for an expensive candy box. The pawn ticket is then slipped into the projectionist’s pocket, where it is discovered by the police. He doesn’t have much luck, but in his dreams, he is the dashing and renowned detective Sherlock Jr., who confronts danger and solves the case. In real life, the girl is a sharp thinker who solves problems.
5. The Gold Rush (1925)
Director- Charlie Chaplin
In the Klondike, The Little Tramp goes gold prospecting. There is little in the way of comfort or food, and even less in the way of gold, it appears. A boiling boot is the centrepiece of his Thanksgiving meal for himself and Big Jim Mckay. At the Monte Carlo dance venue, Harry meets the lovely Georgia. He’s up against the ladies’ guy, who’s also smitten with Georgia. Meanwhile, police-wanted Black Larsen tries to take Big Jim McKay’s claim. Big Jim tries to stop him, but he is knocked out and loses consciousness. Back in town, Georgia is impressed by the little tramp. Big Jim regains his memories when he arrives, and he and the Little Tramp set out to create their fortune. The Little Tramp gets one more chance to reunite with Georgia after sailing home as wealthy men.
6. Metropolis (1927)
Director- Fritz Lang
The society of Metropolis in the future is divided into two social divisions: labourers who dwell under the machines and dominating classes who reside on the surface. Maria, the workers’ leader, wants to locate a middleman between the upper class lords and the workers because she believes that a heart is needed between the brains and muscles. In a conference of the workers, Maria meets Freder Fredersen, the son of Lord of Metropolis Johhan Fredersen, and they fall in love. Meanwhile, Johhan determines that employees are no longer required for Metropolis, and employs a robot posing as Maria to incite a working-class revolution and exterminate the working class.
7. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Director- F.W. Murnau
After initiating an affair with a city vacationing woman, a farmer with a lovely wife and a small child begins a downhill spiral. When he mentions his wife, she proposes drowning her. The farmer is hesitant at first, but eventually accepts, and he and his wife leave in his boat that evening for the city. When the moment comes, he is unable to do the task, but his wife is terrified. When they get in town, he sees a young couple being married and begs his wife to forgive him. She does, and they spend a fantastic day together, including a photo shoot, a trip to the funfair, and dancing. When they return on their boat late at night, they run into a massive storm, putting both of their lives in jeopardy.