Decade of 1920s or before Top Ten


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1
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans 1927,  Unrated)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
This is perhaps the most advanced silent film ever made. The effects that were used here were overshadowed when sound was introduced shortly after, and the mobility of the ever improving silent cameras demonstrated in Sunrise, quickly disappeared with the introduction of gigantic sound cameras.

This is a rare example of the silent era at it's absolute peek!
2
The Crowd 1928,  Unrated)
The Crowd
Absolutely amazing. This was made just as the art of silent movies had been perfected and just before the movie industry reboot caused by the sound era. Many films have portrayed the tragedy of the "everyman" in modern America, but none have done it better than "The Crowd".
3
Battleship Potemkin 1925,  Unrated)
Battleship Potemkin
The propaganda jibber-jabber has little meaning to a modern viewer. However the techniques that made this film famous are interesting enough to justify sitting through it, despite the plot. Let's face it, you have to give the Mona Lisa 100% rating even if it's just a portrait of some unknown chick.

It's not the work itself, it's the groundbreaking influence it had on it's artform!
4
Nanook of the North 1922,  Unrated)
Nanook of the North
This is a series of remarkable reenactments of what a typical Inuit ("Eskimo" in this film) goes through in his daily life. Of course, the phony part of this film is that Nanook had to dismiss his modern guns and amenities to hunt with a harpoon like his ancestors used to do. Since Nanook plays along with the filmmaker in this regard, he treats the viewers to skills that practically transport us back to the time before the white man's influence. I can't argue with Flaherty's decision to stage this film rather than to just show the real Inuit lifestyle, because the effect is still authentic enough to make it informative, while it's also infinitely more entertaining to see a man struggle hand to hand with a gigantic Walrus rather than pumping a few rifle rounds into it's brain. Nanook was truly a great hunter, and it's fascinating to watch this master at work, which is why he became a superstar long after his death as this film spread around the world.

Your interest in this film will basically reflect your interest in seeing a completely exotic society's way of life.
5
Strike (Stachka) 1925,  Unrated)
6
Die Niebelungen 1923,  Unrated)
7
J'Accuse! (I Accuse) 1919,  R)
8
Destiny (Der mude Tod) (The Weary Death) (Between Two Worlds) 1921,  Unrated)
9
Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) 1929,  Unrated)
10
The Birth of a Nation 1915,  G)
The Birth of a Nation
What a paradox! The film that inspired ALL films is also a blatantly racist, KKK glorifying epic. You may be able to come to terms with the shock value of the racism, now that we live in the era of the first black president, and view this as a portrait of an ignorant time that is hopefully long gone. If you can handle it, you will be able to witness the actual invention of film.

The earliest filmmakers, Eisenstein, Ford, Lang all were influenced by Griffith's innovations in telling a story on the big screen. There is the reaction shot, the sexy leading lady closeup of Lillian Gish, the cutting back and forth between the damsel in distress and the approaching rescuers, the recreation of Lincoln's assassination. I read that many of these techniques were not actually invented for Birth of a Nation, but Griffith compiled them into a cohesive story, like a musician taking random notes and beats and uniting them to create a whole new style of music.

Griffith was deeply ashamed of the racism himself, so I think even he would hesitate to give this movie 100%.
11
Our Hospitality 1923,  Unrated)

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