Why Silent Films Still Matter to Us (Watch Our Favorites)
We recently got an inspiring email from a 15-year-old filmmaker who loves silent films. It got the entire office talking. So we wanted to share it with you.
Rory Marion is a fifteen-year-old kid who grabbed the senior editor of No Film School's email off our site and sent him an email. He expressed a love of what we do here and shared a video about his love of silent movies. After watching the three-minute video I had to say, Rory encapsulated a lot of why we love cinema in general.
Today, we want to celebrate Rory's video, his knowledge, love of the past, and talk about some amazing silent films that we love as well.
Let's jump in.
Why You Should Love Silent Movies
With huge shows like Game of Thrones dominating TV and Avengers: Endgame crushing at the box office, it's important to remember the history behind film. Filmmaking started in a circus tent, where an arriving train terrified viewers. The magic of that moment helped bring innovation and changes. Music was added, and for a period of 20-some years, we lived in the era of silent films.
Silent films had a lot of weight to carry. They had to tell us a story without dialogue. Sure, sometimes random cards would come up with words on them, but mostly these movies had to have stories that survived without any dialogue to solidify the story. They were the embodiment of the rule "show, don't tell."
Without the safety net of exposition, we had to pay attention and learn with each new scene.
They also just show the world in a different light. We, as a society, are not perfect. Older movies are incredible at capturing the parts of society, norms, social morays, and blemishes as well.
Rory espouses his love for silent films and how they changed modern cinema for the better in his video essay. Watch Rory's video below!
Silent films still matter because they're part of the film language that evolved over time. Even as Talkies took over in the late 1920s, the drive and actions of a character still mattered. and look at all the camera angles that needed to be used to show emotion within a silent film. The close up seems like the most important one. and cutaway shot as well.
Honestly, not enough of us watch these movies. They can help you break your story, push through the second act slog, and give you a new idea for a set piece or a visual. These movies laid the foundation for everything Hollywood gives us today. So watch them and appreciate them. Let them inspire your work and see your stuff shine.
We were so inspired by Rory's video and our animated discussion that we all picked a favorite silent film and talked about what it meant to us. Check that list out below.
No Film School's Favorite Silent Films
"Sergei Eisenstein’s first feature film, 'Strike!' was not only a perfect example of the intellectual method of montage, an editing theory established by Eisenstein himself, along with a number of other early Soviet filmmakers, but it was also a powerful statement regarding relations between the proletariat and the capitalist bourgeoisie."
"One of my earliest movie memories is seeing 'The Gold Rush' as a kid, and while gags like the house on the cliff are amazing, I'll never forget the realization that the Tramp imagined his entire date, and in fact was stood up, that kind of sorrowful humanity is what makes Chaplin the greatest."
"Action! Romance! Suspense! 'City Lights' is an engaging movie that is romantic without being sappy, funny without being dumb and leaves the viewer with renewed faith in humanity."
"I remember my professor Roy Grundmann showing my class 'The General' when I was in grad school. As soon as Buster Keaton hit the screen everyone was laughing and got incredibly invested in the story. still one of the best vieweing experiences of my life as we all gasped and clapped at Keaton's insane stunts and cinematography."
"Combining two of my favorite genres, the Western and the Crime movie, directed by a former DP, with composites, a moving camera, and that amazing shot of Justus D. Barnes shooting straight down the barrel of the lens (foreshadowing the Bond opening by 60 some odd years), and driven by a plot surrounding the importance of the mail, The Great Train Robbery really fires on all cylinders for me."
What's next? Learn Film Theory!
Basic knowledge of Film Theory could be your ticket to making a compelling argument, a classic film, or winning at Jeopardy. So read on! Tell me if this sounds familiar. It’s a Friday night, and you and your group of friends are exiting the movie theater. You saw a new release, and everyone is jockeying to get their opinion out. It can be hard to articulate the way you feel about a movie or TV show besides the typical "good" or "bad" gut reaction.
Sometimes you want to say more about a film or TV show. So click the link and learn film theory!
Got a favorite silent film? Put it in the comments!