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The Top 100 Silent Era Films

  Buster Keaton in The General (1926).
Photograph: Silent Era image collection.
What are the 100 best silent era films? We couldn’t help asking that question, because we love silent films and because we are insatiable list makers. However, an effort to produce a definitive list is hampered considerably by the fact that most of the films made in the silent era have been lost to decomposition and willing destruction. It is our opinion, however, that most of the truly great films have survived due to their timeless popularity and enduring value.

While all lists that intend to empirically state the ranked value of motion pictures are ultimately indefensible flummery, we nonetheles recklessly offer the following list as a guide to whose who are discovering the pleasures of the silent film era.

The list is not limited to features exclusively. There are several short silent film masterpieces, and they are considered equally with feature films. And while our definition of the silent cinema timeline usually spans from about 1891 to 1929, we accept votes for later true silents like City Lights (1931) or Japanese and Chinese silent films from the early 1930s, for example. (We firmly judge Modern Times [1936] to be a mute sound film.) Films receiving votes must still exist somewhere and in some viewable form. Without surviving prints there is no way to validate the true value of a film, and no lost film can fairly be included on the list based solely on its reputation. We limit the list to films that were produced to be silent films exclusively (synchronized music tracks are acceptible, but part-talkies and talkies that have only survived as silents are out).

Very few of the films on this list are unavailable to be viewed on home video. Because of home video, more people have an opportunity to enjoy these silent masterpieces and can make informed judgments on each film’s historic and aesthetic value.

We would like to thank the people who took a few moments to vote for their favorite silent era films over the past years, you are the ones who make this project work through your involvement.

Rank Title Year Director Country of Production
1. The General 1926 Buster Keaton and
Clyde Bruckman
2. Metropolis 1927 Fritz Lang Germany
3. Sunrise 1927 F.W. Murnau USA
4. City Lights 1931 Charles Chaplin USA
5. Nosferatu 1922 F.W. Murnau Germany
6. The Gold Rush 1925 Charles Chaplin USA
7. La Passion et la mort
de Jeanne d’Arc

[The Passion of Joan of Arc]
1928 Carl Theodor Dreyer France
8. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari
[The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari]
1920 Robert Wiene Germany
9. Bronenosets ‘Potyomkin’
[The Battleship Potemkin]
1925 Sergei M. Eisenstein USSR
10. Greed 1924 Erich von Stroheim USA
11. Die Büchse der Pandora
[Pandora’s Box]
1929 G.W. Pabst Germany
12. The Crowd 1928 King Vidor USA
13. The Wind 1928 Victor Sjöström USA
14. Napoléon 1927 Abel Gance France
15. The Birth of a Nation 1915 D.W. Griffith USA
16. Intolerance 1916 D.W. Griffith USA
17. Sherlock, Jr. 1924 Buster Keaton USA
18. The Big Parade 1925 King Vidor USA
19. Safety Last 1923 Fred Newmeyer and
Sam Taylor
20. The Phantom of the Opera 1925 Rupert Julian USA
21. Broken Blossoms 1919 D.W. Griffith USA
22. Der letzte Mann
[The Last Laugh]
1924 F.W. Murnau Germany
23. The Kid 1921 Charles Chaplin USA
24. Steamboat Bill, Jr. 1928 Charles F. Reisner USA
25. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ 1925 Fred Niblo USA
26. The Thief of Bagdad 1924 Raoul Walsh USA
27. Flesh and the Devil 1927 Clarence Brown USA
28. Our Hospitality 1923 Buster Keaton and
John G. Blystone
29. Wings 1927 William A. Wellman USA
30. Chelovek s kinoapparatom
[Man With the Movie Camera]
1929 Dziga Vertov USSR
31. Nanook of the North 1922 Robert J. Flaherty USA
32. Faust 1926 F.W. Murnau Germany
33. Way Down East 1920 D.W. Griffith USA
34. Häxan
[Witchcraft Through the Ages]
1922 Benjamin Christensen Sweden
35. Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen
[The Diary of a Lost Girl]
1929 G.W. Pabst Germany
36. The Unknown 1927 Tod Browning USA
37. The Cameraman 1928 Edward Sedgwick USA
38. The Circus 1928 Charles Chaplin USA
39. Show People 1928 King Vidor USA
40. Un chien Andalou
[The Andalusian Dog]
1928 Luis Buñuel and
Salvador Dali
41. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Wallace Worsley USA
42. Dr. Mabuse: Der Spieler
[Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler]
1922 Fritz Lang Germany
43. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse 1921 Rex Ingram USA
44. The Sheik 1921 George Melford USA
45. Die Nibelungen
(including Siegfried and Kriemhilds Rache
[Kriemhild’s Revenge])
1924 Fritz Lang Germany
46. The Freshman 1925 Sam Taylor and
Fred Newmeyer
47. The Mark of Zorro 1920 Fred Niblo USA
48. Tol’able David 1921 Henry King USA
49. He Who Gets Slapped 1924 Victor Sjöström USA
50. Girl Shy 1924 Fred Newmeyer and
Sam Taylor
51. The Wedding March 1928 Erich von Stroheim USA
52. The Man Who Laughs 1928 Paul Leni USA
53. The Lodger 1926 Alfred Hitchcock England
54. Seven Chances 1925 Buster Keaton USA
55. The Last Command 1928 Josef von Sternberg USA
56. Foolish Wives 1922 Erich von Stroheim USA
57. Orphans of the Storm 1921 D.W. Griffith USA
58. Sparrows 1926 William Beaudine USA
59. The Navigator 1924 Buster Keaton and
Donald Crisp
60. Zemlya
1930 Aleksandr Dovzhenko USSR
61. Tabu 1931 F.W. Murnau and
Robert J. Flaherty
62. Les Vampires 1915-16 Louis Feuillade France
63. The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg 1927 Ernst Lubitsch USA
64. Beggars of Life 1928 William A. Wellman USA
65. My Best Girl 1927 Sam Taylor USA
66. Cops 1922 Buster Keaton and
Eddie Cline
67. Der Golem
[The Golem]
1920 Paul Wegener Germany
68. Le Voyage dans la lune
[A Trip to the Moon]
1902 Georges Méliès France
69. The Son of the Sheik 1926 George Fitzmaurice USA
70. 7th Heaven 1927 Frank Borzage USA
71. It 1927 Clarence Badger USA
72. The Lost World 1925 Harry O. Hoyt USA
73. The Kid Brother 1927 Ted Wilde and J.A. Howe USA
74. The Immigrant 1917 Charles Chaplin USA
75. Queen Kelly 1928 Erich von Stroheim USA
76. Oktiabr
1928 Sergei M. Eisenstein USSR
77. Cabiria 1914 Giovanni Pastrone Italy
78. Robin Hood 1922 Allan Dwan USA
79. The Docks of New York 1928 Josef von Sternberg USA
80. Stachka
1924 Sergei M. Eisenstein USSR
81. The Great Train Robbery 1903 Edwin S. Porter USA
82. Der müde Tod
1921 Fritz Lang Germany
83. Speedy 1928 Ted Wilde USA
84. Sadie Thompson 1928 Raoul Walsh USA
85. Tess of the Storm Country 1922 John S. Robertson USA
86. A Woman of Paris 1923 Charles Chaplin USA
87. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1920 John S. Robertson USA
88. The Last of the Mohicans 1920 Maurice Tourneur and Clarence Brown USA
89. The Unholy Three 1925 Tod Browning USA
90. Mat
1926 Vsevolod I. Pudovkin USSR
91. The Cheat 1915 Cecil B. DeMille USA
92. Variété
1925 E.A. Dupont Germany
93. Die Freudlose Gasse
[The Joyless Street]
1924 G.W. Pabst Germany
94. Big Business 1929 James W. Horne USA
95. The Iron Mask 1929 Allan Dwan USA
96. The King of Kings 1927 Cecil B. DeMille USA
97. The Iron Horse 1924 John Ford USA
98. The Penalty 1920 Wallace Worsley USA
99. Stella Maris 1918 Marshall Neilan USA
100. Underworld 1927 Josef von Sternberg USA
Off the List 101-200 |  Off the List 201-300 |  Nominations A-L  |  Nominations M-Z
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