Silent Films: Making a Noise without Uttering a Single Word

Saturday, October 22 by Irving Oala

silent films birth of a nation

Silent films were the first storytelling put on film, as the technology required to record sound and effectively and play it back with moving images was not invented until long after films became popular. Dialogue was transmitted through cards put up on the screen with music playing over the entire film. What results from this form of filmmaking is a different type of storytelling, forcing the filmmakers to show and not tell, which is a mantra that still exists in the entertainment industry today. Of course, that is what film is supposed to do in a way and silent films paved the way for this. Below are a list of some of the best silent films out there.

"The Phantom of the Opera." This silent film was the first adaptation of the famous novel and was one of the best silent films ever made. The thing it is most known for is actor Lon Chaney applying his own makeup to make himself look like the horrific phantom and is arguably one of the most frightening phantoms of any of the adaptations of this story.

"Greed." One of the longest silent films ever made and arguably the most expensive (which is ironic, when you think about it) "Greed" was originally nine hours when it was first completed. The final release was a mere four hour film, which is basically the length of one of the longest films ever made and released, but with sound. Despite the outrageous length and no sound, it is still a well-made silent film.

"Birth of a Nation." This silent film is one of the best ever made, a classic by D.W. Griffiths that became a three hour Civil War epic that actually inspired the Ku Klux Klan to reform. So maybe it wasn't all good. However, this silent film is an excellent film by production standards and arguably a film that laid the groundwork for films we see today.

"Metropolis." This silent film was the first modern science fiction film and the greatest silent science fiction film (which there aren't many of) ever made. It influenced most of the science fiction films we know and love today, however, making it one of the most important silent films ever made. It was also one of the most expensive.

"City Lights." Charlie Chaplin was known for making some of the greatest silent films because of his ability to express himself on film and convey story and emotion through mere actions. However, he saved his best silent film for last with "City Lights," where he falls in love with a blind girl who believes he is rich. Sounds like an Adam Sandler movie today.

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