It’s list time! We’ve already covered the eight silent films that I consider to be the worst and least enjoyable. In short, silent films that I wish had been lost. Now we’re going in a slightly different direction. The films on this list are just as bad but they are also entertaining as heck. Whether it’s hilariously inept acting, bizarre title cards, weird stories or some combination, these movies will have you laughing through the groans.
Obviously, these films are not representative of the silent era and most were probably met with a certain amount of giggling upon their initial release. I don’t recommend any of these as someone’s very first silent film but established fans will find much to enjoy. (For good silent films, check out my Top 10 list.)
As always, this list will be limited to films I have already reviewed on this site. Enjoy!
6. Nomads of the North
Lon Chaney remains one of the great legends of the silent screen, noted for his skill with makeup, his acting chops and his brilliant portrayals of tortured monsters. So, naturally, he was cast as Raoul, the romantic lead of this wilderness picture. The villain is named Bucky, which in itself is enough for the film to be included on this list.
5. The Prairie Pirate
Harry Carey stars as a cowpoke trying to track down the man who killed his sister. His only clue? A distinct cigarette butt. His solution? Become a bandit and steal every ash tray he comes across until he finds his man. This is not meant to be funny. Let that sink in for a moment…
4. The Road to Yesterday
Cecil B. DeMille’s kitsch-tastic time travel romance is gloriously off-kilter from beginning to end. What will a modern flapper do when she is thrown back to cavalier days? Confused plotting, bizarre characters and weird situations make this film exceedingly entertaining– just not the way DeMille intended.
3. The Soul of the Beast
A circus waif is forced to eat raw meat and pose as a cavewoman so she escapes into the wilds of Canada on her talking elephant named Oscar. She is mistaken for the antichrist and ends up falling for a disabled musician with a rabbit named Napoleon. Still following? I promise you, there has never been a weirder film to come out of mainstream Hollywood.
2. The Copper Beeches
Silent movie acting has a bad reputation and it’s a shame because it’s undeserved. Usually. This French-British production of Sherlock Holmes has some of the most hilariously inept acting of the silent era. You will be in stitches from beginning to end.
One more GIF for the road:
1. Heart of Wetona
This is the holy grail of silent movie badness. It is a film so inept on every level that it has gone around the other way and become good. Norma Talmadge plays a Native American girl (!) who is chosen to be a “vestal virgin” (!) at the corn festival and is all: “Um, yeah, about that ‘virgin’ part…”
Highlights of the picture include Wetona speaking in cliched movie “Indian” dialect and the whole cast running around in circles trying to solve the mystery of Wetona’s lover. A very embarrassed Thomas Meighan plays the leading man who finds himself the guest of honor at a shotgun wedding.
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Great list; I need to see some of these. I love so bad it’s good movies.
The Soul of the Beast (the title, not the movie) just sounds like it should have been a great Lon Chaney movie.
Could have been 😉
Very entertaining. Thanks.s
Very interesting list, Of course I really have to seek out Nomads of the North now for obvious reasons!
I gave the award for this film to News and Brimstone as they are about the best characters in it. Everyone else, I think, was miscast. Lewis Stone gave some good impressions of a man in a catalogue, Betty Blythe was dumpy and Lon Chaney seemed to have his hair on backwards. My copy had an irrelevant, tacked-on soundtrack of classical music on a loop, which doesn’t help. Living in a country which has no mountains and only mini- forests, I don’t know how I’d react to the wildlife, but I still get excited if I spot a heron on the cut.
The film would have been improved immeasurably if Stone and Chaney had swapped their roles. Chaney is always at his best when his love is unrequited.
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