Silent Movie Gift Guide: Ten box sets to buy for the film buff who has everything

Movie buffs are tough to shop for, let’s be honest. They either already own everything or are holding out for a new restoration. Well, I’m here to help. Here is my selection of ten impressive silent film box sets that will win over even the pickiest cineaste.

(As I am based in California, all my picks will likely be region 1/A discs.)

Pioneers of African-American Cinema


This box is a film history buff’s dream. Whether you’re interested in African-American cinema, independent film, silent movies or all of the above, this box shines a light on a neglected chapter of America’s film legacy. (Available on DVD and Bluray.)

Melies: First Wizard of Cinema

melies-first-wizardWe all know Melies from his famous science fiction picture, A Trip to the Moon. But what about his other work? The man made hundreds of films and here are over 170 titles tracked down in archives and private collections. This is one of the biggest treasure troves of early cinema and anyone interested in film history needs to check it out. (Available on DVD. And for more Melies, Flicker Alley released an encore disc with even more material and a DVD/Bluray combo pack containing the restored version of A Trip to the Moon.)

The Lon Chaney Collection

lon-chaney-collectionLon Chaney is famous as Erik the Phantom but this set shows off Chaney’s varied career. He plays an anarchist, a heartbroken clown and a mad armless knife-thrower in these films. I told you his career was varied. We also get a reconstruction of the lost film London After Midnight and the smashing documentary Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces. Good stuff! (Available on DVD.)

Chaplin at Keystone

chaplin-at-keystoneCharlie Chaplin remains the iconic figure of silent film for millions of fans but here is a chapter in his career that has been neglected until now. Chaplin’s early work on  the Sennett lot is sometimes dismissed as coarse and merely a stepping stone on his path to greatness. This box shows that his internship at Keystone is rewarding as both entertainment and as film history. Beautiful restorations of rare films, some of which were only available in battered and fragmented condition previously. (Released on DVD.)

French Masterworks: Russian Emigres in Paris

french-masterwrksA group of Russian filmmakers fleeing the revolution in their country settled in Paris, where they created films that were stunningly creative and phenomenally popular. This collection includes five films from the famous Albatros studio and they demonstrate how the cultural affinity between Russians and French resulted in cinematic magic. One of my very favorites. (Released on DVD.)

Lubitsch in Berlin

lubitsch-in-berlinErnst Lubitsch is known for his sophisticated Hollywood romances but this box shows off the historical epics and saucy comedies that made his so popular in Germany. Most of the films in the box feature either Pola Negri or Ossi Oswalda, two delightful actresses who deserve to be better known. A delight from beginning to end. (Available on DVD.)

Gaumont Treasures

gaumont-1I am just nuts for French silent cinema and I think this set will win over a lot of fellow fans. We get over 75 rare and beautiful films from Alice Guy, Louis Feuillade and Leonce Perret. The dates range from 1897, the dawn of film, to 1913, the rise of features. Wonderful! (Available on DVD.)

gaumont-2Oh, and volume two is even better! We get Emile Cohl, Jacques Feyder and my beloved Jean Durand, whose twisted comedies and mad westerns have won my heart. (Also available on DVD.)

Fritz Lang: The Early Works

fritz-langBefore directing Mabuse, Metropolis or M, Fritz Lang was busy finding his voice as an artist and these pictures are a fascinating glimpse into the foundations of his technique. (Available on DVD.)

Douglas Fairbanks: A Modern Musketeer

douglas-fairbanksBefore his reign as Hollywood’s top swashbuckler, Douglas Fairbanks specialized in mad modern action/comedies. This set includes eleven films, ten breezy modern pictures and a gorgeous transfer of The Mark of Zorro, Fairbanks’ first all-costume film. If you want FUN (all caps!) then this is the box for you. Modern Doug isn’t as famous as costume Doug but is he ever a blast to hang out with! (Available on DVD.)

We’re in the Movies: Palace of Silents & Itinerant Film Making

were-in-the-moviesThis isn’t quite a box but it’s so cool that I had to include it. Itinerant filmmaking was a fascinating Music Man-esque scam that involved persuading an entire town to star in their own movie. This set includes one of these productions, as well as a documentary that discusses how it was made. We also get cinematic magazine items, short films showing life in rural America, and a documentary on the famous silent film theater in Los Angeles. Nerdy goodness! (Available as a DVD/Bluray combo.)


    1. Fritzi Kramer

      I considered Criterion’s 3 Silent Classics by von Sternberg but it is quite out of print and the scalpers are asking an arm, leg & firstborn child. I limited the list to titles that are currently in print and affordable.

      1. David Shepard

        THE VANISHING AMERICAN is about to be reissued with Blu-Rays of THE SILENT ENEMY and THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1920).

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