10 Silent Films Worth Watching If You've Never Seen a Silent Film Before (2022)

Approaching silent films can be difficult. They're old, often slow-paced by today's standards, usually have some over-the-top acting, and they, of course, require more attention, given that none of the film's information gets delivered through dialogue. These are all obstacles that can turn potential newcomers off silent cinema, but the good news is that not all cinema made before the advent of "talkies" is impenetrable by newcomers.

Thankfully, many are approachable and easy to enjoy, even if you've never seen a silent film before. By no means are these the only great silent films, and they may not even be the best, but they are the easiest to get into. Any newcomer to this style of cinema could do a lot worse than giving one of the films on this list a shot.

'Metropolis' (1927)

10 Silent Films Worth Watching If You've Never Seen a Silent Film Before (1)

Metropolis is perhaps the most well-known film from German director Fritz Lang, who had a long career in both Germany and the USA, proving himself equally skilled at making silent films and then talkies at a later stage of his career. Metropolis was one of the first big science-fiction epics, telling a story about a futuristic city thrown into chaos when the working-class majority revolts against the rich minority.

It was influential on many science-fiction films that came after it and even had a semi-remake/re-imagining in the form of a 2001 anime that shares its name. It's an engaging story bolstered by tons of creative special effects that hold up for the most part. Also, many of its values and themes regarding class inequality and the human cost of technological advancement remain strikingly relevant today.

'Häxan' (1922)

10 Silent Films Worth Watching If You've Never Seen a Silent Film Before (2)
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Benjamin Christensen's Häxan is a movie that turns 100 this year yet remains unique within the world of cinema, seeing as no film made in the century has been comparable. It's part historical documentary and part surreal horror film, as it takes a unique approach to visually showing a history of witchcraft, focusing on the Middle Ages.

It still holds up as suitably eerie all these years later, and even if it's unlikely to be 100% historically accurate, the historical elements are at least interesting. And the fact that Häxan itself is now a part of film history as an innovative, unique movie while also looking back into history makes for an engaging, novel viewing experience.

'Die Nibelungen: Siegfried' (1924) & 'Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge' (1924)

Die Nibelungen: Siegfried & Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge form a two-part fantasy epic, both directed by Fritz Lang. Based on the German epic poem of the same name, they tell a continuous story filled with fantasy tropes, exciting action scenes, and plenty of intrigue and betrayal, but feel distinct from each other due to each focusing on a different main character.

It's also handy that Die Nibelungen is split into two parts for potential newcomers to silent cinema, as otherwise, the 4.5-hour runtime could be too much to handle. Even seasoned silent film watchers will be relieved by the story being told in two halves. Still, it remains watching because of how influential it's been on the fantasy film genre as a whole, much in the same way Lang's influence on the science-fiction genre with Metropolis can still be felt today.

'Faust' (1926)

10 Silent Films Worth Watching If You've Never Seen a Silent Film Before (4)
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Faust tells the classic, almost mythological tale about a man who sells his soul to the devil for a better life without realizing the downsides of making a literal deal with the devil. It's a somewhat stock story across all mediums and cultures, but this adaptation tackles it better than any other.

It was directed by F. W. Murnau, who was perhaps the most well-known German filmmaker after Fritz Lang (though many silent film fans will likely say they're neck and neck in terms of quality). Faust is arguably one of the best horror films of all time, not just one of the best silent horror films. It has incredible imagery and an undoubtedly chilling atmosphere that can still unnerve viewers almost 100 years from its release.

'The General' (1926)

10 Silent Films Worth Watching If You've Never Seen a Silent Film Before (5)

The General is arguably Buster Keaton's best film and one of the original action movies, too. It's about a man who has to rescue both the love of his life and his beloved train from a group of spies who steal both from him during the middle of the American Civil War.

As such, much of the film is one long chase scene - both retrieving the train and girl and then getting them back safely. It's a structure that can be found in a film as recent as George Miller's 2015 masterpiece, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Keaton's death-defying stunts and creative action scenes have indeed influenced daredevil action stars like Jackie Chan and Tom Cruise. It's a quick, fast-paced, funny, and exciting film and can easily be enjoyed by silent film newbies.

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'Un Chien Andalou' (1929)

Directed by Luis Buñuel, Un Chien Andalou is one of the most famous short films of all time, and at just 21 minutes, it doesn't have much interest in telling a definitive plot. Instead, it replicates the feeling of experiencing a series of nightmares, with its numerous violent and unnerving scenes playing out in quick succession, with a lack of definable logic and plenty of surrealism.

It's perhaps best known for the stomach-churning scene where an eyeball appears to get sliced with a razor, which is an image that still manages to be provocative and shocking. But there's a lot more in it that has the potential to cause genuine nightmares, so it's a must-watch for anyone interested in the history of horror movies, and the fact it's a short film makes it more accessible.

'The Adventures of Prince Achmed' (1926)

10 Silent Films Worth Watching If You've Never Seen a Silent Film Before (7)

An early animated film told with a series of silhouetted figures against various colored backgrounds, The Adventures of Prince Achmed is just that: a series of adventures that are loosely based on Middle Eastern folk tales told throughout history.

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The scenes do sometimes feel a bit loosely thrown together, but the simple animation is still charming and captivating to look at, and the film overall runs just over an hour. Historically, it's not the first animated feature film, but it's the oldest surviving one, as many silent films have been lost to time. As such, its historical importance as a revolutionary animated film, the hypnotic visuals, and brisk pace/short length make it a no-brainer when it comes to recommending easily approachable silent films.

'City Lights' (1931) & 'Modern Times' (1936)

10 Silent Films Worth Watching If You've Never Seen a Silent Film Before (8)

There are numerous great Charlie Chaplin films - short and feature-length — but City Lights and Modern Times are his two best. They were the last two silent films he made before he transitioned to talkies (though there are occasional sound effects and some parts that almost have dialogue in each). As such, you can tell that as a director and actor, he'd essentially perfected his craft, putting out two near-perfect silent dramedies right before bidding the silence "goodbye" and moving on to making films with dialogue.

City Lights is about a romance between Chaplin's The Tramp character and a blind flower girl, while Modern Times deals with The Tramp doing all he can to survive in a heavily industrialized world that's also been impacted by the Great Depression. He masterfully balances comedy with drama, romance, and genuine emotion in each. In doing so, he created two films that are perfect introductions to the world of silent film, even if they ultimately ended up being bittersweet farewells to that style of filmmaking.

KEEP READING: 10 Films That Prove Silence Is Golden

FAQs

What is the quietest movie ever? ›

RankTitleYear
1.The General1926
2.Metropolis1927
3.Sunrise1927
4.City Lights1931
78 more rows

What were some of the most popular first silent films? ›

Top 10 silent movies
  • The Lodger.
  • The Wind. ...
  • The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. ...
  • Metropolis. ...
  • The General. ...
  • Battleship Potemkin. ...
  • Earth. ...
  • City Lights. ...
22 Nov 2013

How many silent films no longer exist? ›

Statistics on lost films

Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation claims that "half of all American films made before 1950 and over 90% of films made before 1929 are lost forever." Deutsche Kinemathek estimates that 80–90% of silent films are gone; the film archive's own list contains over 3,500 lost films.

What was the first silent film? ›

Roundhay Garden Scene, which has a running time of just over two seconds, was filmed in 1888. It is believed to be the world's earliest surviving motion-picture film.

What movie has no talking in it? ›

17 PM. “A Quiet Place” didn't need any dialogue to become a breakout hit at the box office. John Krasinski's near-silent horror film opened to $50 million and is destined to gross over $100 million by the end of its run. Fortunately, it's not the only modern film to take an artistic risk and go the silent route.

Are there any modern silent movies? ›

Contemporary silent films
  • Juha (1999) Not Rated | 78 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance. ...
  • Tuvalu (1999) Not Rated | 101 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance. ...
  • The Unusual Inventions of Henry Cavendish (2005) 16 min | Short, Drama, Romance. ...
  • Brand Upon the Brain! ( 2006) ...
  • The Aerial (2007) ...
  • Dr. ...
  • The Artist (I) (2011) ...
  • Return to Babylon (2013)

What is the only word spoken in silent movie? ›

Marcel Marceau reprises his "walking into the wind" routine while trying to lift a phone. He then shouts his only spoken word of the film: "Non!". When the Studio Chief asks what was his answer, Mel Funn cowardly replies that he doesn't understand French.

Why were early silent films actually not silent? ›

Though these early films are now called “silent films”, they were not silent at all. In fact, these first films were typically accompanied by some type of live or recorded music. Pianists, musicians, and sometimes whole orchestras would play sheet music or improvise for movie audiences.

Why did Universal destroy silent films? ›

Once the talkie era arrived silents were viewed as taking up valuable studio vault space and many were thrown out. Because of all this, only a small percentage of silent films have survived to be preserved and subsequently copied onto our DVDs and Internet sites.

Why are so many silent films lost? ›

The largest cause of silent film loss was intentional destruction. Before the era of television (and home video), films were viewed as having little future value when their theatrical runs ended. Similarly, silent films were perceived as worthless after the end of the silent era.

Did actors talk in silent films? ›

Most silent film actors had stage experience and were comfortable delivering dialogue, but were accustomed to directors shouting instructions during filming, and using exaggerated facial expressions and movement to project emotion.

Who was the first silent film star? ›

Fifty-three years passed before actor and film-history buff Roddy McDowall sprang for a headstone that marked the departed's singular place in cinematic history: “The First Movie Star.” Her name was Florence Lawrence.

What was the first non silent movie? ›

The Jazz Singer, American musical film, released in 1927, that was the first feature-length movie with synchronized dialogue. It marked the ascendancy of “talkies” and the end of the silent-film era.

What is the oldest film? ›

Roundhay Garden Scene is a short silent motion picture filmed by French inventor Louis Le Prince at Oakwood Grange in Roundhay, Leeds in the north of England on 14 October 1888. It is believed to be the oldest surviving film in existence. The camera used was patented in the United Kingdom on 16 November 1888.

Which Disney movie has no words? ›

Dumbo is the first and only protagonist in a Disney animated feature film to have no spoken dialogue. This was Walt Disney's favorite film made by his studio. In addition to the American setting, this is the first Disney animated feature film to be set in the present time of its release: 1941.

What Disney movie has no dialogue? ›

3 Fantasia (1940) Considered a landmark release in cinematic history, Fantasia is still unparalleled in its execution for being a film without dialogue and yet a feast for the ears.

Why are silent films important? ›

Silent films have always had a huge impact on cinema. The themes and stories portrayed in some of the best silent films have influenced filmmakers for decades to come. Even without any special effects or CGI, silent films have always been memorable.

Are there any silent film stars alive? ›

The last surviving film star of the silent era, Diana Serra Cary, has died aged 101 according to the Niles Film Museum. Known by her stage name Baby Peggy, Cary starred in over 100 short films and was one of the highest paid Hollywood stars of the 1920s, earning upwards of $1.5 million a year.

What silent movie actor was known as the man with a thousand faces? ›

"The Man of a Thousand Faces" was silent film star Lon Chaney's moniker. Born in Colorado Springs to deaf parents, Chaney learned early how to communicate through facial expressions and hand gestures.

Why do silent movies move so fast? ›

Silent films were mostly shot on hand-cranked cameras, which meant they were intended to run at variable speeds through the cinema projector, rather than today's standard 24 frames per second. Run a silent movie at the modern speed and more often than not it will look ridiculous – jerky and comically fast.

What are old movies called? ›

Classics are renowned films of first rank, reference points in film mythology, or films that have become a part of American cultural folklore.

Why did silent films have music? ›

With skillful scoring, musical accompaniments to silent films become as important as dialogue, and much more expressive. They add to the image a physical immediacy that counteracts the flat screen.

When was the last silent movie made? ›

In 1922, when Hollywood was young and anarchic, an actor known as Baby Peggy made a silent film called The Darling Of New York.

When were the first silent movies made? ›

The oldest surviving silent film is known as the Roundhay Garden Scene. It was recorded on October 14, 1888, by inventor Louis Le Prince in Roundhay, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.

When did silent film start? ›

A silent film is a film with no accompanying, synchronized recorded spoken dialogue. The technology for silent films was invented around 1860, but remained a novelty until around 1880 - 1900, when films on a single reel became easily produced.

What ended the silent film era? ›

In 1927, the "silent movie era" ended with the production of The Jazz Singer, a 'talkie' movie.

Why do people watch silent movies? ›

My reasons for liking silent films have to do with obscurity, rooting for the underdog and the fact that a good silent movie is an entirely unique experience. Because we as viewers are required to supply so much of our imagination, a good silent movie will root itself in our brains far deeper than a sound film.

How long did the silent era last? ›

This led to the silent movie era which ranged from 1894 to 1929. During this time period, a number of moving pictures were created and shown in theaters on big screens.

Is London After Midnight still lost? ›

If you hadn't seen the movie, you'd be forgiven; "London After Midnight" is considered a long-lost film, its last print destroyed in the MGM vault fire of 1965. The movie is both the victim of heat damage and of a time when film preservation was a low priority, leaving films to waste away in studio vaults.

Why are so many old movies lost? ›

Nearly all sound films from the nitrate era of the 1930s and 1940s survive because they had commercial value for television in the 1950s, and new copies were made while the negatives were still intact. Unfortunately, silent films had no such widespread commercial value — then or now.

How many movies exist today? ›

Though the number isnt known, it has been estimated that there are approximately 500,000 movies (or, narrative fiction feature-length, theatrical-cinema films) currently in existence. Many early films were lost and forgotten.

Is the movie The Lost a true story? ›

The Lost is a 2006 American psychological horror film that was written and directed by Chris Sivertson based on the Jack Ketchum novel of the same name, which in turn was inspired by the true story of serial killer Charles Schmid.

Which Hitchcock film is most popular for taking on censorship in the film industry? ›

A film that broke Hollywood's old habits

On the set of Psycho in 1959, Hitchcock was asked if he was worried he might face censorship over what was rumoured at the time to be an "intimate homicide" in his new film.

When did movies start talking? ›

On July 6, 1928, the first all-talking feature, Lights of New York, premiered. The film cost Warner Bros. only $23,000 to produce, but grossed $1,252,000, a record rate of return surpassing 5,000%.

What are the dialogue images in silent films called? ›

In this era intertitles were mostly called "subtitles" and often had Art Deco motifs. They were a mainstay of silent films once the films became of sufficient length and detail to necessitate dialogue or narration to make sense of the enacted or documented events.

Who were the other prominent figures during the silent era? ›

The Silent Film era was characterized by significant power struggles, as individuals and corporations fought to capitalize on the burgeoning industry.. Additionally, the era was shaped by innovative actors and directors, including D.W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and others.

Who is the richest actor in the world? ›

In 2022, Jerry Seinfeld is the richest actor in the world with a net worth of $950 million. Who is the 2nd richest actor in the world? Tyler Perry with a net worth of $800 million.

Who is the best actor in the world? ›

While Leonardo tops the Best Actor in the world list for Google, coming a close second to him on the list is Tom Hanks. The 66-year-old actor has had a splendid Hollywood career with films such as Forrest Gump, Cast Away and several other notable works to his name.

Who was the first actress ever? ›

Margaret Hughes (29 May 1630 – 1 October 1719), also Peg Hughes or Margaret Hewes, is often credited as the first professional actress on the English stage, as a result of her appearance on 8 December 1660.

What was the first color movie? ›

FIRST MOVIE EVER MADE IN COLOR

The first commercially produced film in natural color was A Visit to the Seaside (1908). The eight-minute British short film used the Kinemacolor process to capture a series of shots of the Brighton Southern England seafront.

Who invented silent films? ›

The first film was created by Louis Le Prince in 1888. It was a two seconds film of people walking around in Oakwood Grange garden, titled Roundhay Garden Scene. The art of motion pictures grew into full maturity in the "silent era" before silent films were replaced by "talking pictures" in the late 1920s.

What is the master shot? ›

A master shot is the principal camera shot that a director and cinematographer use when filming a particular scene. It covers all of the important action in a scene, including the major characters and scenic points of interest. For this reason, master shots are almost always wide shots.

What is the oldest movie on Disney+? ›

1 Swiss Family Robinson (1940)

The oldest live-action film on Disney Plus is the original RKO Pictures version of Swiss Family Robinson. While Disney made their own version in 1960, they also own the rights to the original.

What was the shortest movie ever made? ›

Fresh Guacamole is a 2012 animated short film written and directed by PES. With a running time of 100 seconds it is the shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar when the film was nominated in 2013 for 'Best Animated Short Film'.

What is the very first horror movie? ›

The First Horror Movie Ever Made— "The House of the Devil" 1896— Georges Méliès— Le Manoir du Diable - YouTube.

Why are silent films creepy? ›

Why Are Silent Films Creepy? | Darkology #0 - YouTube

Are there any modern silent movies? ›

Contemporary silent films
  • Juha (1999) Not Rated | 78 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance. ...
  • Tuvalu (1999) Not Rated | 101 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance. ...
  • The Unusual Inventions of Henry Cavendish (2005) 16 min | Short, Drama, Romance. ...
  • Brand Upon the Brain! ( 2006) ...
  • The Aerial (2007) ...
  • Dr. ...
  • The Artist (I) (2011) ...
  • Return to Babylon (2013)

When was the first non silent film? ›

The Jazz Singer, American musical film, released in 1927, that was the first feature-length movie with synchronized dialogue. It marked the ascendancy of “talkies” and the end of the silent-film era.

What is the only word spoken in silent movie? ›

Marcel Marceau reprises his "walking into the wind" routine while trying to lift a phone. He then shouts his only spoken word of the film: "Non!". When the Studio Chief asks what was his answer, Mel Funn cowardly replies that he doesn't understand French.

What is silent horror? ›

Silent Horror is a webcomic anthology created by veteran Malaysian comic artist – KS. The episodes are in various genres, including suspense, horror, and psychological thriller. Although it often concludes with a macabre or unexpected twist, it is usually not with a moral.

Why do silent movies move so fast? ›

Silent films were mostly shot on hand-cranked cameras, which meant they were intended to run at variable speeds through the cinema projector, rather than today's standard 24 frames per second. Run a silent movie at the modern speed and more often than not it will look ridiculous – jerky and comically fast.

What are old movies called? ›

Classics are renowned films of first rank, reference points in film mythology, or films that have become a part of American cultural folklore.

Why are silent movies important? ›

Silent films were responsible for the birth of continuity editing which is essential to storytelling and narrative economy. It evolves a set of principles such as the use of ellipsis, the use of diegetic or extradiegetic sound, flashback, match on action, 30-degree rule, 180-degree rule and so forth.

What was the first silent film in 1903? ›

Produced by Thomas Edison but directed and filmed by Edison Company employee Edwin S. Porter, the 12-minute-long silent film, The Great Train Robbery (1903), was the first narrative movie—one that told a story.

Why were early silent films actually not silent? ›

Though these early films are now called “silent films”, they were not silent at all. In fact, these first films were typically accompanied by some type of live or recorded music. Pianists, musicians, and sometimes whole orchestras would play sheet music or improvise for movie audiences.

Where was the first silent movie made? ›

The First Film

The oldest surviving silent film is known as the Roundhay Garden Scene. It was recorded on October 14, 1888, by inventor Louis Le Prince in Roundhay, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.

When was the last silent movie made? ›

In 1922, when Hollywood was young and anarchic, an actor known as Baby Peggy made a silent film called The Darling Of New York.

When did silent film start? ›

A silent film is a film with no accompanying, synchronized recorded spoken dialogue. The technology for silent films was invented around 1860, but remained a novelty until around 1880 - 1900, when films on a single reel became easily produced.

Who speaks in silent movie? ›

With only one word of dialogue -- spoken, ironically, by Marcel Marceau -- the film relies heavily on the forgotten arts of vaudeville and slapstick. Brooks is not foreign to these tricks; in fact, they have always been the primary source of laughter in all his movies.

Videos

1. Watch the full, on-camera shouting match between Trump, Pelosi and Schumer | The Washington Post
(Washington Post)
2. Pentatonix - The Sound of Silence (Official Video)
(Pentatonix)
3. The Social Dilemma | Official Trailer | Netflix
(Netflix)
4. Pocahontas | Colors of the Wind | Disney Sing-Along
(Disney)
5. Charlie Chaplin - Final Speech from The Great Dictator
(Charlie Chaplin)
6. LOST IN THE ECHO [Official Music Video] - Linkin Park
(Linkin Park)

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