The Best Films of 1927, According to Critics of the Time (And Most of Them Survive)

We’re back with another list of top 10 films as published in the Film Daily. This lists were created by asking top critics to vote on the best films of the year, though strange release dates sometimes mean that years don’t always match. First, we took a look at 1922 and then on to 1923then 1924and 1925, and 1926.

The 1927 list is stranger than usual with a full four titles out of ten (Beau Geste, Ben-Hur, The Big Parade, What Price Glory) appearing on the list for the previous year. So, our top ten will actually be a top six as I already covered those films in my 1926 post.

The films were listed in most votes to fewest and I will follow the magazine’s original order.

The Way of All Flesh

Emil Jannings was considered one of the best actors in the world, a distinction that culminated in his winning the very first Oscar for his lead performances in The Way of All Flesh and The Last Command.

We can’t judge for ourselves as only fragments of this picture survive.

Seventh Heaven

Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor became one of the top romantic pairings in the movies and Gaynor won the first best actress Oscar for this film, plus Sunrise and Street Angel.

Fox has never been the best about releasing its silents and its acquisition by Disney has made a home media re-release highly unlikely. You can look for it in the overpriced and out-of-print Murnau, Borzage and Fox box.

Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness

Before they made King Kong, Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack made an ethnographic film about farming in Southeast Asia.

Released on DVD by Milestone.

Underworld

Josef von Sternberg launched his string of successes with this drama of the criminal underworld. Moody cinematography and a plot that played into the gangster film craze, plus a very appealing Evelyn Brent, assured this picture’s popularity.

Recently re-released on Bluray by the Criterion Collection.

Resurrection

Rod La Rocque and Dolores Del Rio went Russian with this adaptation of the work by Tolstoy. It’s a lost film, so we will never know how successful they were, but given Hollywood’s track record with Tolstoy, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. However, I still hope that this picture lives up to its title and emerges intact somewhere.

Flesh and the Devil

Another romantic teaming made the list, this time John Gilbert and Greta Garbo with bonus Lars Hanson. It’s a melodrama of the first water with seductions, duels and what-have-you.

Released on DVD.

I am not really feeling this list at all but I am also not a huge fan of romantic melodramas, so it may be just a me thing. I’d love to have seen The Beloved Rogue, Chicago and The Cat and the Canary somewhere. Maybe in those four slots wasted on already-honored films. Significant omission: The Jazz Singer. Not a good film, really, but…

What do you think? Was the list full of your favorites or did it miss the mark for you as well?

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12 Comments

  1. R Michael Pyle

    In my opinion, they were asleep at the wheel when they composed this list. Actually, though you say that “Ben Hur” is actually from ’26, it was first released in 1925 on the 30 December in New York City at an American premiere. It showed the next year in August in LA. It’s general US release was not until 8 October of 1927, but…wow…sloppy research! And what about “Beloved Rogue” or “The Cat and the Canary” or “The Unknown” or “Chicago” or “Barbed Wire” or “The Crowd” or “Hindle Wakes” or especially – “It”! But not to even mention “King of Kings” or “Metropolis” or, yes, “Napoleon” (!). It should also be remembered that F. W. Murnau made “Sunrise” that year, a film that is now considered in many top 20 influential films of all time. And why did they forget about the Academy Award “Best Film” of 1927: “Wings”? Seems like a list made by moronic film people, if you ask me; and, no, nobody asked.

  2. Overseas Visitor

    I agree, this is a strange list, especially considering that 1927 is one of the best, maybe even the best year in the history of cinema.

  3. Shari Polikoff

    I do enjoy melodramas (I’m reading ‘East Lynne’ now!), but from the synopsis and the fragment I’ve seen of ‘The Way of All Flesh,’ I think that one might be a little too much of a heart-breaker for my taste. Of course I’m glad the list includes the very deserving ‘Flesh and the Devil’ and ‘Seventh Heaven.’

      1. Overseas Visitor

        I find romantic melodramas much more tolerable in silents than in talkies. A “singie” like Umbrellas of Cherbourg can also work.

        Noticing this actually helped me to better understand the fans of opera. I like classical music, but opera isn’t my cup of tea.

    1. R Michael Pyle

      “Flesh and the Devil” could be listed nearly for the spectacular cinematography alone, but it’s equally a very well told, well acted film!

  4. Daniel

    Looking on the web, i see that 1927 was the year of Metropolis and Napoleon (the Abel Gance movie). This said, difficult to considere seriously the list.
    But probably these two movies didn’t cross the ocean in 1927.
    Staying in Usa, Tod Browning made 3 movies in 1927, including The Unknown and The show. The first one is a milestone in silent movies for me. Lubitsch 1927´s The student prince is a nice movie but not sure it deserves to be in the top ten.
    Both Underworld and Seven hours are masterworks.

    1. Movies Silently

      That’s the thing: I can’t blame the American critics entirely because a great many films were never imported or were only imported years later in very limited engagements. It’s really the Top Ten Movies Americans Could See.

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