What was the first silent movie you ever watched?

Some of us will have to dig back to our childhoods, others will have to go back a few weeks but let’s share our earliest silent film memories.

When I was a kid, I had a VHS tape of the silent Mutt and Jeff cartoons, which were redrawn in the 1960s or 1970s and had a groovy soundtrack added. For some reason, it never really occurred to me that these were silent films.

My first official silent film was Sparrows (1926) and… I hated it. The tape was faded and the organ score was warped and droning. (Don’t worry, I like it now. You can read my review here.) It taught me very early that who releases a silent film is almost as important as the movie itself.

Fortunately, I followed up with Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights and the rest is history.

So, what about you? Do you remember your first silent? Please share!


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  1. richardsd3

    I recall watching endless Koko the Clown cartoons on TV when I was a kid. Also Popeye, but they all had sound, in a manner of “speaking”. First feature film on a big screen? It may well have been “Birth of a Nation”. I don’t recall what I made of the cartoonish racism of the second half, only a more recent viewing made me think no verbal description could capture the jaw-dropping experience of a viewing.

  2. Steve Hill

    My great-uncles had worked in silent Hollywood (one was a cameraman for Tom Mix, the other for Max Sennet) so my mom would borrow super 8 prints of silent films from the local library to show us kids–I think the first one was SON OF THE SHEIK, followed closely by HUNCHBACK and others. My first “theatre” silent was THE GOLD RUSH in film class–and as you might guess, those screenings still resonate with me to this day.

  3. Scott Lueck

    My first exposure to silent films was watching Harold Lloyd features on the local PBS station out of Madison in junior high in the mid seventies. Even though it may not have been the first one I saw, the one that sticks in my memory most was Girl Shy, and that one put the hook in me. I branched out after that, trying to catch as many as I could (not an easy task for a kid in a small town in the pre-cable, pre-VCR days) I did manage to see most of Harold Lloyd’s work; Valentino’s Blood and Sand and the Sheik; The Jazz Singer (whichis, for all practical purposes, a silent film); and a few others through high school. I remember taking a Mass Media class in my senior year, and the teacher screened Caligari. Not only was I the only one who had seen it before, but I was the only one in the class that had even seen a silent film.

  4. maddylovesherclassicfilms

    Metropolis was my first. While it will never be a film that I will call a favourite, it will always hold a special place in my heart for making me a fan of the Silent era. Its visuals never fail to leave me open mouthed in awe either.

    Before seeing this, I had no interest at all in watching films with no dialogue. We were shown the film in a film class when I was in College and I was just blown away. What I thought would be a boring film transfixed me completely. I was really impressed by the visuals (I think they remain some of the greatest ever made in film history). I slowly started to check out other Silent films after this and they are now one of my favourite types of film.

    I am 29 and I just wish that more people my age and younger would give Silent films a go, if they don’t they are missing out on moving art, impressive visuals (done long before CGI) and a different form of acting (one that is all about emotion and letting you share the characters emotional state.)

  5. floodmouse

    I accidentally lied to you in my previous comment. I only remembered seeing the German Expressionists in college, then after reading other people’s comments, I remember seeing clips of comedy silents on TV in the 1970s, especially that Harold Lloyd clip where he is hanging off the clock. Think the TV exposure was the “gateway drug” that predisposed me to lie silents as an adult!

  6. Clate

    Back when A & E ran silents on Saturdays and/or Sundays, it would have been either The Phantom of the Opera or Chaplin’s The Vagabond–I was ten. Looking back, I can’t believe that in that limited cable age (36 channels from the local company, thank you!) silent films would have been part of the daytime programming. 1987 for the win!!

    I “taped” The Phantom of The Opera and watched the ending over and over again (when Erik is holding the “bomb”). Just the look on Chaney’s face combined with William Perry’s score as he revealed that he wasn’t holding anything captivated me. It was masterful (not that I knew that word meant back then).

    More awkwardly, I didn’t understand what the abbreviation “Mlle” meant at the time. So, when a title card or two commenced “In Mlle…” I believe that I thought “Mlle” was some suburban location in France–not too far from Paris, of course. Such an odd child.

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