A while back, I asked my readers to recommend films that they considered “essential” viewing for silent movie fans. I tallied up the data and… kind of forgot about it. Whoopsy. Well, here I am to fix that with the top 15 titles.
Obviously, this list makes no pretenses of being objective or definitive so please take it for what it is: a selection of movies that enthusiastic fans think you should see. More people recommending the picture = a higher place on the list. If something isn’t on this list, it means that not enough people voted for it. Sorry to be harsh but them’s the breaks.
Where applicable, I will link to my review of the picture and home video releases.
If you’re looking for something a little more obscure, my own top ten list has some quirky choices and I also posted a list of underrated silents that I think are worth seeing, as well as a follow up list.
15. Battleship Potemkin
Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece of editing.
14. The Thief of Bagdad
Douglas Fairbanks went big with this fantasy epic and scored an equally big hit.
Fritz Lang’s sci-fi picture is considered an iconic groundbreaker.
12. The Man with the Movie Camera
Dziga Vertov’s famous showcase of cutting edge cinematic technique.
11. The Crowd
King Vidor’s look at the everyman. Not legally available on home media past VHS and Laserdisc.
10. The Wind
A dark, mad, brilliant western from Victor Seastrom. Not legally available on home video in any format past VHS and Laserdisc.
9. The Gold Rush
Charlie Chaplin finds humor in freezing and starvation, creating one of his most beloved films.
8. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
German Expressionism in spades and basically the reason Tim Burton exists.
Abel Gance’s famously long, famously innovation biopic.
6. The Passion of Joan of Arc
Carl Theodore Dreyer’s moody examination of the trial of Saint Joan.
5. Pandora’s Box
G.W. Pabst’s showcase for a little actress named Louise Brooks.
4. City Lights
Charlie Chaplin proved that silent film was not dead in this beautiful picture.
3. Safety Last!
The one with the clock. Harold Lloyd’s most famous comedy feature.
2. The General
The one with the train. Buster Keaton’s famous Civil War comedy.
German innovation and American star power join forces in this award-winning picture.
I hope you enjoyed this list and that it has inspired you to do a bit of silent film watching!