You can only keep one: Which year is the greatest in all of silent cinema?

It’s Friday and in order to torture everyone, I decided to ask you which silent movie year you think is the greatest in history and if you could only keep the films of one year, which year it would be.

So, from 1895 to 1929, choose your favorite year and share why you love it! Remember, this is all subjective and we’re probably not all going to pick the same year but I am hoping we will have a fun discussion and maybe even get a few film recommendations out of it.

For me, it’s 1915 all the way. 1926 baaaaaarely loses by a hair but 1915. DeMille was on fire, so was Tourneur, Chaplin was doing pretty well, Fairbanks and Pickford dominated, Bara debuted, ladies were directing and it seemed like anything was possible. There was palpable excitement in filmmaking of the 1910s and you can feel it crackling.

How about you? What is your pick for the greatest year of the silent era? I look forward to your answers!


  1. Kurt

    My choice is 1928, a year that featured The Crowd, Docks of New York, The Last Command, Show People, Speedy, The Wind, Street Angel, and The Wedding March, to name a few.

  2. Shari Polikoff

    For me, it’s 1927 – if only for ‘Seventh Heaven,’ but ‘It,’ ‘The General,’ and a lot of my other favorites are in there too. Silents had become such a truly wondrous art form by the mid-20s, I can’t help wishing that talkies had been delayed a few more years!

  3. Kenneth Henderson

    Like Kurt I was thinking of that year before I saw his post. Except for The Wedding March I have seen and enjoyed the rest. The two stand-outs are The Crowd and The Wind, both MGM at their silent best.

  4. Kerr Lockhart

    I’m with Kurt and Kenneth. Silent film was murdered at its height. 1928. Who knows what would have happened if it had continued, maybe allowed to,live side by side with synch sound?

  5. Kay Lapping

    A very difficult question, and great fun. I’ve decided that 1912 is the year I would pick. Most of these films were some of the first I saw that made me excited to find out more about silent film. My experience of silent films had previously been the films regularly shown on TV in the 1970s/1980s Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton etc. These earlier 1912 films I love. I think I’ve also been swayed to pick 1912 because of my love of the fashion of that period. I’m a bit of a hat lover!
    Falling Leaves
    The New York Hat
    The Land Beyond the Sunset
    The Water Nymph
    Tomboy Jessie
    An Unseen Enemy
    The Painted Lady

  6. Overseas Visitor

    This is a horrible choice between the two greatest years of cinema overall. I hate to vote against Sunrise and Napoleon, but I’ll anyway vote for 1928.

  7. Keith S.

    What a hard question! I guess that I’d also go for 1928, if only for The Docks of New York, which I always recommend to newbies as a good starting-point, but I have a weakness for the years that neighbour it, when it stillness that films could exist, side by side, in both silent and sound form.

  8. Mitch

    What?! You mean silents didn’t come screeching to a halt in 1927 with The Jazz Singer? Studios didn’t switch over to talking pictures overnight? You often hear that repeated on TCM by people who should know better and who take Singin’ in the Rain as their source I guess. I’ll go along with 1928. Although talkies were a fact, I wasn’t clear that silents would disappear completely, and there did seem to be an enormous burst of creativity. I’ll throw White Shadows in the South Seas into the mix, and The Man Who Laughs, and mention a favorite of mine from 1929, The Iron Mask.

  9. R.D. Stock

    I expected to join the apparent majority here & prefer 1928–love all the films cited here by the ’28-ers.

    But I got to thinking & was overwhelmed by the riches of 1929. Here goes, in no order:

    Blackmail–agree the silent version is better but love both!
    A Cottage on Dartmoor–great individual scenes whether film overall holds up.
    The Flying Scotsman–wife & I have been on the train, but stayed inside the coaches!
    The Four Feathers–best version
    The Informer–ditto
    Why Be Good?–great music, great fun
    Pandora’s Box–no explanation needed here
    The Single Standard & The Kiss–Garbo still not speaking
    Man with a Movie Camera
    Diary of a Lost Girl

    And last but certainly not least:

    Big Business

  10. Vidor

    I scrolled down to post “1928” and found that almost everyone is saying 1928.
    “My choice is 1928, a year that featured The Crowd, Docks of New York, The Last Command, Show People, Speedy, The Wind, Street Angel, and The Wedding March, to name a few.”
    Also: The Circus, Steamboat Bill Jr., The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Cameraman, two different weird adaptations of The Fall of the House of Usher, Lonesome, October, The Racket, Sadie Thompson. Really just a staggering year.

  11. Keith S.

    I have created a history of the cinemas of Walsall, in the midlands, here in England, taking local newspapers as my only source, covering the period 1910 to 1931 and almost none of the films mentioned in above posts were shown. It did not go unnoticed at the time that critically acclaimed films were rare; it seemed that “also released” films were good enough for the town.

  12. Antony Gould

    My year would be 1927! The year of Sunrise, Metropolis & Napoleon! Not forgetting Chicago, The Unknown and My Best Girl! And what about those Russian films Bed and Sofa, The Girl with the Hat Box and the Forty-First! Yes,definitely 1927!

  13. R.D. Stock

    As a ’29er in this stimulating debate, I’ll concede that 1928 saw the most top silents, followed closely by 1927. And let me mention a 1928 not yet cited: “The Last Warning,” now FINALLY available in a (hopefully) good restoration by Flicker Alley.

    But what attracts me to 1929 is its very many sophisticated silent features which, tho’ not superior to “Sunrise,” “The Crowd,” “The Wind,” can at least be mentioned in the same sentence with them. As some here have said or implied, it would be great to live in a parallel universe where the talkies didn’t prevail until the mid-30s, where “City Lights” & “Modern Times” would be merely two of many silents produced at the peak of their potential.

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