When the first talkie, "The Jazz Singer," hit theaters in 1927, it signaled the end of silent film as we knew it. The rise of the spoken word ushered in a new era of filmmaking that would transform the industry forever. And while it was a bittersweet moment for those who had grown to love silent movies, they’ve since become an appreciated relic of film history with their unique style, conventions, and techniques. Silent films are now often referred to as “silent films” or “early films” to avoid confusion with today’s standards. We’ll take a look at some famous silent films, which you can still find them on Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services online.
The Artist - A silent film with dialogue
The Artist is often cited as the last silent film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. However, it hardly resembles the “silent films” most of us think of. This is because the majority of it is comprised of dialogue. The Artist is a nostalgic film that pays homage to the silent era. It was even produced in the same way as silent films were back then, using vintage camera lenses and shooting with a single reel of film at a time. It’s a dazzling homage and a fitting swan song to a once-popular film genre. This film is unique in that it was chosen as the last film to be screened at the renowned Cinema Paradiso in Italy. The theater had been in operation since the ‘50s, screening films 24/7. The Artist was the last film shown in this historic cinema.
One of Buster Keaton’s most memorable films is Sherlock Jr. Released in 1924, this film is often cited as one of the best examples of early film comedy. The plot follows the story of a movie projectionist who dreams of becoming a detective, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend. It’s an imaginative, visual film that puts the viewer right in the action. Like most Keaton films, Sherlock Jr. is a visual spectacle. Keaton is often cited as one of the best stuntmen of the early film days, and many of his films reflect this fact. Sherlock Jr. is no different. In one famous scene, Keaton tries to catch a falling safe. This film is truly a classic that belongs in every film buff’s collection.
Charlie Chaplin’s iconic “Little Tramp” character first appeared in The Tramp, one of Chaplin’s earliest films. The Tramp is often cited as one of Chaplin’s best films, but The Circus is often regarded as his best silent film. Released in 1928, this film follows the story of a circus clown who falls in love with a lady tightrope walker. Chaplin is often referred to as the “greatest film comedian of all time.” Many of Chaplin’s films have been preserved and are still screened in theaters today. The Circus is a timeless film. Its themes are just as relevant now as they were when they were first released more than 90 years ago.
This film is often cited as one of the best examples of the “classic noir” genre. Released in the ‘40s, Double Indemnity is an adaptation of the James M. Cain novel “Double Indemnity.” It follows the story of two insurance agents who hatch a plot to kill a woman’s husband. This film is often praised for its intricate story and noir visuals. It marked the first-ever foray into film for director Billy Wilder and screenwriter Raymond Chandler. This film is famous for being one of the first-ever Oscar-nominated films to feature a “voice-over.” A voice-over is a narration that plays over the film. This particular narration was provided by the film’s main character, Hawkeye.
The Gold Rush
This film is often cited as one of the best examples of the “comedic western” subgenre. Its plot follows the story of a man who travels to the Yukon to mine for gold. Charlie Chaplin is perhaps the most famous silent film star. His iconic “Little Tramp” character is instantly recognizable. Chaplin’s films have been preserved and are still screened in theaters today. His best-known silent film is The Gold Rush. This film is the only one to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. It has also been screened at the White House and is considered to be one of Chaplin’s best films.
Silent films are a unique part of film history. They were a necessary evolution for the film industry, paving the way for modern film conventions, techniques, and technology. They’ve since become an appreciated relic of film history that’s worth discovering for yourself. Now, you know a bit more about what these films are, where you can find them on streaming services, and why they’re worth taking a look at. For more silent film fun, be sure to check out these articles.