Hello GHS! It is I, Brandon the film critic. I have been debating returning to film criticism (I do enjoy it, but life keeps getting in the way), but I decided to return for another year. So, here’s the article to mark my return. However, I had no plans of what to review. So, I thought about it for a long, long, LONG time, before deciding on a topic. That topic? Silent films. They’re some of the most influential, iconic, and even greatest films ever made. Most people, however, ignore them simply because they’re silent. I say that belief is dumb: and since many of these are in (or will be entering) the public domain, I decided to make this list to encourage people to see these classics. This is not in any order, and not even every single great film of this era. Even I have some to catch up on, so let me know what I should’ve included in the comments!
Phantom of the Opera (1925)
This is one of the most epic films of the horror genre. The people involved clearly put their all into this film: every frame is dripping with gothic beauty, thanks in major part to the opera house (which, sadly, was mostly destroyed to make way for Universal Studios). The acting is top notch; especially Lon Chaney as the Phantom. This man gives the iconic villain a presence I have rarely seen in any film; you always know where he is, and you just beg to see more of him. The cinematography is gorgeous (especially the shot with the lantern in the dark), and the direction is quite frankly the stuff of legends. It is in the public domain, so by all means, check it out here:
City Lights (1931)
Charlie Chaplin (despite not being the nicest guy in real life) was the original king of comedy. His films are regarded as classics by anyone who has seen them: from the best picture nominated The Great Dictator, to his underrated works like Modern Times and The Gold Rush, but the one almost everyone calls his best is the irreplaceable City Lights. It is a romantic comedy, but almost everyone would call it the greatest one of all time, and for a good reason too! It can be gut-bustingly funny in one moment, but then earn some genuine emotion in the next without ever being forced. Not to mention, this had some of the absolute funniest scenes in a film I ever witnessed: especially the boxing scenes. You know what? Just watch it already! Grab some friends, your date, whoever and whenever: just watch it, and I guarantee you’ll have a good time.
Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. Without a doubt. It’s everything a film of its nature should be: philosophical, epic, emotional, iconic, and I’m running out of things to say. How many ways can I just say “WATCH IT ALREADY?!”
The Artist (2011)
This is the most recent film on this list, and I know it’s not even old enough to quite be considered a classic. I say that while those arguments are true, it still is a modern masterpiece that must be seen. The film is a perfect mix of both new and old; it uses newer techniques in filmmaking to make a film that feels right at home with the films it was inspired by. It’s got perfect acting, direction, and a ton of passion to back it all up.
Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
This movie is…. strange. Despite being a documentary, it has no form of plot, subject, focus, anything you’d find in a traditional film. One moment we’re seeing a normal city, the next we’re watching a man standing on a giant movie camera. What’s happening? I have no clue. It’s 100% incomprehensible, but in a strange way, manages to be a masterpiece. It’s an achievement in filmmaking, studied to this day for showing how to make a truly unique (albeit very confusing) piece of art.
The Passion Of Joan of Arc (1928)
This film is not the easiest one on here to watch. It’s literally about the final moments of the legendary Joan of Arc, and shows each one as painful in almost every sense. So, why watch it? Because it’s one of the best acted, written, and directed films of all time. And for a long time, it was considered lost! For decades, nobody knew where to find this, and thought it had been lost to time until it showed up in the strangest of places: a mental institution. And every second spent searching is worth it: it’s a perfect 11/10 in every way.
The General (1926)
Buster Keaton was a pure comedic genius, and was dedicated to his craft to the point of having half his hand blown off during the filming of a film. But his favorite film to have ever worked on was his Civil War comedy epic The General. Despite initially being a box office failure (most likely due to the main character being a Southern soldier), the film has since been regarded as one of, if not, the greatest silent comedy of all time, even making it’s way into the legendary Roger Ebert’s top 10 favorite films of all time. And for good reason: it’s absolutely hysterical, along with heartfelt and epic. And it’s in the public domain too!
The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Many would argue that this was created to be a propaganda film for Communist Russia, but it turns out that this film was so powerful that it was banned from it’s own native country! Battleship Potemkin works as a war epic, a social commentary, an action film, and is one of the most entertaining films of all time. By all means, see it. It’s even public domain.