My List of Favorite Silent Films

Yesterday I talked about the Library of Congress’ sad study about silent film preservation. Also, it’s that time of year where everyone submits their best of lists. So I’m going to list my favorite feature-length silent films I’ve seen so far.

Sherlock Jr. (1924), a comedy starring Buster Keaton, a film projectionist who aspires to be a detective and has to clear his name when his rival tries to frame him. One of the stunts in the film may have broken his back, but he kept on.

The General (1926), a comedy starring Buster Keaton, where he plays a Confederate engineer who saves the day when the Union spies take over his train. There are no special effects in this; they are playing with actual trains.

Our Hospitality (1923), a comedy with Buster Keaton, where he is a member of a family feud between the Canfields and the McKays. There is an incredible sequence where he’s climbing mountains, doing stunts in a river and over a waterfall. If it’s like his other films, there is no stunt double or safety nets. It’s the real deal.

Safety Last (1923), a comedy starring Harold Lloyd, a man who goes to the city to make his fortune for his girl and ends up having to climb up a building in a marketing stunt.

To be fair, you really can’t go wrong with Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd.

Modern Times (1936), a comedy starring Charlie Chaplin where an industrial worker tries to live in the industrial age.

Metropolis (1927), directed by Fritz Lang, a German sci-fi dystopia where the classes live in completely different worlds: The rich live well and the poor are merely drones. It’s amazing to see how forward thinking they were about technology and the sheer beauty of it. Also, there is a wondrously evil robot who wrecks havoc on everyone.

Battleship Potemkin (1925), a Russian drama about a naval mutiny and a street massacre. The famous scene from Untouchables actually comes from this movie. It’s heart-wrenching.

Blancanieves (2012) is a retelling of the Snow White story with bullfighting culture in Spain. Snow White’s dad is a famous bullfighter who gets injured and ends up marrying his nurse. It’s a beautiful film and probably one of my top five new films of the year.

And of course, there is the Artist (2011) which won several Oscars. For those of you who haven’t seen it,  it is about an actor dealing with the transition from silent films to talkies.  It’s lovely and is wonderful for reviving/ popularizing the medium.

That’s it for now.




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