Best Films of the 1910's & 1920's

  2. Metropolis - Lang (1927) ["The Complete Metropolis", 147 minutes]
  3. The Passion of Joan of Arc - Dreyer (1927)

  4. 7.5/10
  5. Greed - Erich von Stroheim (1924) [Studio Cut, 140 minutes]
  6. Battleship Potemkin - Sergei Eisenstein (1925)
  7. Sunrise - F.W. Murnau (1927)
  8. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - Robert Wiene (1920)
  9. Faust - F.W. Murnau (1926)
  10. The Man With A Movie Camera - Dziga Vertov (1928)
  11. The Phantom Carriage - Victor Sjostrom (1921)
  12. The Last Laugh - F.W. Murnau (1924)
  13. The General - Buster Keaton (1926)
  14. The Crowd - King Vidor (1928)
  15. The Circus - Charlie Chaplin (1928)
  16. Nosferatu - F.W. Murnau (1922)
  17. The Gold Rush - Charlie Chaplin (1925)
  18. The Outlaw and His Wife - Victor Sjostrom (1917)

Biggest suggestion: Buster Keaton. One of the best actors of the silent era and did so much in a weird combination of formalism and improvisation-- The General is a masterpiece.
It's probably weird to suggest, but-- Louis Lumiere's Grand-Cafe-Program from 1895 is legitimately a great little documentary. There's something unpretentiously beautiful in its simplicity and naturalism. It may not have a really high concept or technical virtuosity but the things they chose to show and the way it was all shot is all done in a strangely beautiful way (even the editing/arrangement gives a certain sense of time, place, and feeling, as well as personal point of view). Even if Lumiere didn't see cinema as something that could become art, he unwittingly made a pretty great little art film.

yeah, definately check out Buster Keaton, largely considered Chaplin's equal but vastly overshadowed. tho I recommend Sherlock Jr. some really amazing stunts in there and just top-notch film making. let's hope Scaruffi places it highly.

Last I saw The General, and it's been about a decade so this could change, I think of it as 7-ish. Very enjoyable, certainly Chaplin's equal in many ways. It's great to see them share the spotlight towards the end of Limelight (imo Chaplin's masterwork, and one of the all time masterpieces of cinema).

"Limelight (imo Chaplin's masterwork, and one of the all time masterpieces of cinema)."

I completely agree with your above statement...thoroughly an enjoyable and emotional film, deservedly his best!

Thanks, I'd highly recommend Modern Times and Great Dictator as well, and I've heard great things about City Lights and The Gold Rush too but haven't seen those myself.

I just finished Birth of a Nation, and am wondering why it is not rated higher? Not that I absolutely loved it, but it was extremely innovative, even compared to Battleship Potemkin.

Guess its because I don't rate films on innovation. I rate them on how emotionally affecting/impactful they were for me on a personal level--my ratings/rankings are not "objective". Factors such as originality are only taken into consideration to the degree they make the film emotionally affecting/impactful. Sometimes this is difficult to believe after one's initial viewing(s) of such films as Mirror or Inland Empire or even Citizen Kane, etc. But when (or if) one of them opens up for you and floors you beyond all comprehension, sitting there awestruck in stunned silence well starts to get the difference between a very emotional film (like Schindler's List) and a 9/10 such as Mirror which can be a life-changing, shattering, profound experience on many levels simultaneously. The difference between a film such as Passion of Joan of Arc (7.5/10 or 8/10) and say Persona (9/10 and one of the greatest films ever) is mainly a large gap in depth. It's easy to see that each exhibits a comparably high amount of emotional conviction. But Passion of Joan of Arc, great as it is, doesn't have nearly the visual, structural/editing, conceptual depth and multi-faceted genius that Persona does. For me, if one were to scale my "viewing history" of each one would find that I loved both of them at a similar level throughout each ones first 3-4 viewings (or some such) and that shortly after that Persona grew increasingly and successively into a far more powerful and multi-faceted and profound experience for me while Passion of Joan of Arc didn't become anything more than the straightforwardly emotionally intense experience it was when I first viewed it (that's not a bad thing at all; to explain what I mean, I am forced to show supposed "faults" only when relative to an all-time masterpiece like Persona. Compared to 99% of all films, Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the towering achievements in cinema). Anyway, due to the above factors, a 9/10 such as Persona becomes a much more emotional experience than it might at first seem, and considerably more affecting/impactful than Passion of Joan of Arc (or almost any other film) could ever be. You see, it has so many awe-inspiring facets going for it at once that it becomes something of an emotionally "reverberating" experience.

That said, Birth of a Nation, due to the fact that it has originality in spades as well as a high amount of conviction, has a higher chance than most any other film of rising on my list(s) in the future. But it first has to display this for me and so affect me personally before I raise its rating/ranking--even if "objectively" I can see its potential beforehand (I often use such observations of "potential" to pick and choose which films I come back to for further viewings).

Are there any pre-1910 films you have particular affection for? I ask because I feel like I haven't done the period justice, but what I've seen rarely moves me in any particular way. Some early Griffith and especially Méliès has caught my eye, but nothing I can say I love without reservations.

Yeah I think Trip to the Moon is about the earliest I've gone and remained impressed with the cinematic language (so far).

EDIT: I meant "Trip to the Moon" is the only pre-1910 film I've seen that I was particularly impressed by". It might be the only film I've seen from that period, actually -- now that I think about it... I've hardly scratched the surface of that period. I suppose I might some day, though I wouldn't consider it a priority. From what I gather, virtually none of the best cinema is from that period, as you've alluded to. Of course, if you come up with one or a few, send it my way, by all means.

I'm going to venture an unpopular position: I'm not certain the "complete" version of Metropolis is better.

I haven't seen it since the restored version premiered, but I don't recall the additional material adding to the experience. It does make the plot more coherent, but also it makes the film drag a bit towards the back-half when everything is accelerating towards the cataclysmic finale.

Imperfect and incomplete as it is, the pre-2008 version works like gangbusters and needs no improvement.

I probably agree with you actually -- as "blasphemous" as the position may be. Or, at least I'd probably meet you halfway on it. I dont feel it particularly improves or detracts from the film, while also admitting that the lowered quality of the "new" content may contribute to the lack of improvement, whereas if it were the same quality as the rest of it, it might be better (hard to be sure though). In any case, I didn't change my rating once I saw it. Just thought: "still one of the greatest films ever!" The "story" was certainly not the catch anyway! (Though the cinematic language certainly was!)

Though, I dont personally recall it ever dragging but it probably did slow it down somewhat, for short bursts here and there.

The Lang I'm really interested in his duology Die Nibelungen, the film he made just before Metropolis. It's a 288 minute adaptation of the epic Nibelungenlied (also a source for the Ring Cycle), looks fascinating!

Me too, got to see that. Lang was sooooooo ambitious with the talent to back it up.