Silent Era in Review

The Silent Era

For Twitter length reviews click here

80. Judex
Feuillade gets respectable and boring.
Favorite Moment: Licorice Kid’s entrance.
79. Pleasure Garden
Quite enjoyable for what it is.
Favorite Moment: Dog saves the day.
78. Nerves
A nice little forerunner to Dr. Caligari.
Favorite Moment: The opening sequence of constant NERVES title cards.
77. Cabiria
Pure spectacle of the best kind, although storywise it’s a nonsensical mess. Just let the atmosphere wash over you?
Favorite Moment: That faraway shot of the camels.
76. Destiny
One of the originators of this kind of structure, and definitely the sort of film that absolutely would inspire the likes of Hitchcock.
Favorite Moment: The burning house.
75. The Eagle
Flimsy but an enjoyable enough romp. Brief runtime makes it go down easier.
Favorite Moment: The bear.
74. Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler
The runtime is merciless, but the story is a fun knot to untangle and there’s always something fun going on visually.
Favorite Moment: The circle of hands shot.
73. Way Down East
Another well crafted Griffith epic that’s too long for my liking, but the most epic sequences stun.
Favorite Moment: The ending.
72. The Thief of Bagdad
Silly, if lightweight fun that still looks visually great today.
Favorite Moment: The summoning of soldiers.
71. The Sheik
Fucking bizarre in a lot of ways, although I’m not opposed to it. Ending deranged, action sequences fascinate.
Favorite Moment: The camel ride.
70. Orphans of the Storm
You pretty much know what you’re getting into with a DW Griffith film of this title, for better and for worse.
Favorite Moment: The foot drinking.
69. For Heaven’s Sake
Interestingly, this is more of an action movie than a comedy? That makes it the most Harold Lloyd of all Lloyd films.
Favorite Moment: “I was kidnapped and I may be a little late…”
68. The Ring
Hitchcock’s gotten the idea of cinema down pat but expressing it is tricky.
Favorite Moment: The big fight.
67. The Freshman
The football jokes are hilarious and hit a little too close to home for anyone with parents who wanted a jock. The rest, not so much.
Favorite Moment: The practice.
66. After Death
Zips on by with some interesting moments, although it feels lightweight.
Favorite Moment: The ballroom.
65. A Woman of Paris
Like a counterpoint to the accusations that Chaplin was a narcissist. Wonderfully emphathetic.
Favorite Moment: Saxophone ashtray.
64. The Unknown
Heads straight to the creepiness and is all the better for it.
Favorite Moment: Horse on a treadmill.
63. True Heart Susie
Brevity is DW Griffith’s friend. It always results in something much better. Lillian Gish is also a huge boon.
Favorite Moment: The cow selling.
62. Michael
Fascinatingly revolutionary but I do wish this had been a talkie.
Favorite Moment: The ending.
61. Outlaw and His Wife
The second half is significantly better than the first due to its willingness to embrace just how creepy the wilderness is, although it’s still rather sleepy.
Favorite Moment: The ending.
60. The Mysterious X
Pretty much everyone agrees that this is a great looking movie that has a nonsensical plot, but it’s a silent, and thus the former is what matters way more to me.
Favorite Moment: The prayer at the window.
59. The Golem
Fascinating once the titular creature shows up. Deeply layered if uneven in pursuing its threads.
Favorite Moment: The golem is brought to life.
58. Flesh and the Devil
Backstory’s more fascinating than the film but the chemistry holds up.
Favorite Moment: Felicitas collapses.
57. The Big Parade
Spectacle overwhelms but it was done better very quickly.
Favorite Moment: The first battle.
56. Birth of a Nation
Exceptionally well made, exceptionally loathsome. A bit more boring than you’d think, too.
Favorite Moment: The dissolve that leads to the Congress showing up.
55. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Too dependent on the title cards but when the visuals are utilized, they’re pretty fascinating.
Favorite Moment: The transformation.
54. Stella Maris
While I’m unsure as to whether Pickford’s performances are great ones and if she’s the one who deserves credit for making her two characters so astoundingly different, it’s still an interesting work even with the insane gender dynamics.
Favorite Moment: The two meet.
53. La Roue
This is a whole lot of movie, ranging from the brilliant (the difference between cheerful and happy) and the banal (second hour has a lot of filler). Still, 4 hours and not bad at all? Impressive.
Favorite Moment: The opening train sequence.
52. Tillie’s Punctured Romance
Chaplin is not at his best in this movie exactly, but seeing him play a complete shit is a lot of fun. Marie Dressler’s part is pretty thankless but she still milks the laughs anyway.
Favorite Moment: Marie Dressler’s dance.
51. L’Inferno
Mostly just an excuse to print the legend, but I’m fine with that. Still looks gorgeous all these years later. Far more sympathetic to Satan than South Park.
Favorite Moment: The devil’s mouth.
50. Ingeborg Holm
Gets much better as it goes along. Most emotional moments in the script also get the most care in the shooting.
Favorite Moment: The asylum.
49. Regeneration
Movies are still stealing from the original gangster film’s bag of tricks whether they know it or not. Delightfully grim, dated in fun ways.
Favorite Moment: The alcohol/ice cream cone.
48. He Who Gets Slapped
Discussed here.
Favorite Moment: Clowns in a circle.
47. J’Accuse
While the characters are mostly paper-thin, the story holds up great due to how gorgeous it is, down to the title cards and the astounding war scenes.
Favorite Moment: The baby reveal.
46. The Dying Swan
At heart this is kind of a short film, but it works very well as a slight little fairytale.
Favorite Moment: The dance.
45. Tartuffe
Discussed here.
Favorite Moment: The film intro.
44. Joyless Street
Garbo…Suffers? Hm. Doesn’t try and hide how manipulative it is, and thank goodness for that.
Favorite Moment: The shot of Garbo looking in the mirror.
43. Son of the Sheik
The original was drowsy but the sequel, while politically awful, is a far more fascinating film, almost a chamber piece and with a nicely toned down lead.
Favorite Moment: The dance.
42. The Kid Brother
The first Lloyd film that I got even if I wasn’t totally in love. It’s basically just a parade of fun.
Favorite Moment: The sunflower joke.
41. Phantom of the Opera
Never even approaches horror but it never stops giving the audience something to admire in staging or makeup or theatricality.
Favorite Moment: The makeup reveal.
40. The Navigator
A minor Keaton, but the jokes involving the hat and the coffee land so well that I can discount the mildly stupid natives jokes.
Favorite Moment: The coffee joke.
39. Our Hospitality
Not Keaton’s best but holds a lot of fun gags in the second half. First half is pretty lacking, though.
Favorite Moment: The horse in a dress.
38. The Cheat
Yellow panic, but great use of shadows and light.
Favorite Moment: The branding.
37. Peter Pan
Fun and enjoyable, the right kind of hammy on all sides.
Favorite Moment: Pan entrance.
36. Sparrows
More than a bit dusty but Pickford is fun and I appreciate the willingness to embrace the darkness.
Favorite Moment: The fight for the child.

For my Top 30 of The Silent Era click here.

BEST ACTING (Finalists in bold)


Lon Chaney, He Who Gets Slapped
Charlie Chaplin, The Gold Rush
Charlie Chaplin, The Kid
Gosta Ekman, Faust
Vladimir Fogel, By the Law
Gibson Gowland, Greed
Emil Jannings, The Last Laugh
Buster Keaton, Sherlock Jr
Werner Krauss, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Max Linder, Seven Years Bad Luck
Paul Richter, Die Nibelungen: Siegfried
Victor Sjostrom, A Man There Was
Rudolph Valentino, Son of the Sheik
Erich von Stroheim, Foolish Wives

Hilda Borgstrom, Ingeborg Holm
Betty Bronson, Peter Pan
Ivy Close, La Roue
Lil Dagover, Destiny
Lillian Gish, Broken Blossoms
Mary Johnson, Sir Arne’s Treasure
Vera Karalli, Dying Swan
Aleksandra Khokhlova, By the Law
Ossi Oswalda, The Doll
Mary Pickford, Sparrows
Mary Pickford, Stella Maris
Evelyn Preer, Within Our Gates
Margarete Schon, Die Nibelungen: Siegfried/Die Nibelungen: Kriemhelds Rache

Jackie Coogan, The Kid
Donald Crisp, Broken Blossoms
Emil Jannings, Faust
Marcel Levesque, Les Vampires
Ralph McCullough, Seven Years Bad Luck
Mack Swain, The Gold Rush
Ernest Torrence, Peter Pan
Conrad Veidt, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Alta Allen, Seven Years Bad Luck
Lil Dagover, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Camilla Horn, Faust
Mae Marsh, Intolerance
Eiko Minami, Page of Madness
Musidora, Les Vampires
Anna Q. Nilsson, Regeneration
Zasu Pitts, Greed
Hanna Ralph, Die Nibelungen: Siegfried



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