Top 10 Movies of the 1920s

Script written by Niki Neptune. The 1920s saw Hollywood expand, feature films become common, and talkies overtake silent movies. For our series of the Best Movies of All Time, we’ve chosen ten movies per decade based on their iconic status, critical acclaim, box-office success, and watchability. And just so you know, we’re not necessarily choosing the movies your film studies professor would pick. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, in this installment of our series on the greatest movies of all time, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movies of the 1920s. Special thanks to our users 14728 and Philip Folta for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Niki Neptune.

This decade saw Hollywood expand, feature films become common, and talkies overtake silent movies. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, in this installment of our series on the greatest movies of all time, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movies of the 1920s.

For our series of the Best Movies of All Time, we’ve chosen ten movies per decade based on their iconic status, critical acclaim, box-office success, and watchability. And just so you know, we’re not necessarily choosing the movies your film studies professor would pick.

So sit back and relax and prepare to laugh, cry and be terrified.

#10: “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928)

Though talkies began a year or two earlier, this was a holdover from the silent film era. Without words, this movie and its actors rely on body language and facial movements to get the point across. Based on the trial of Joan of Arc, the teenage hero of France who was burned at the stake, this French film showcases an intensely emotional performance by actress Maria Falconetti, which has gone down as one of the best ever.

#9: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920)

This German silent horror film was a true thriller for audiences at the start of the ‘20s. Influential due to its Expressionist style and atmospheric vibe, the movie focuses on the tale of a sleepwalking murderer who’s controlled by a mad doctor. But, since it also started the “twist ending” phenomenon, you can guess that it’s not really about a sleepwalker and a mad doctor at all. Spoiler alerts are in order almost 100 years later.

#8: “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” (1927)

Love triangles in the ‘20s were raw, even by modern standards. In this classic, a man is torn between two women, and the only solution to this problem is murder. Naturally. Leaving its characters unnamed to add to its allegorical nature, “Sunrise” was one of the first movies to feature music and sound effects. Winning three Oscars at the inaugural Academy Awards, it’s an innovative piece of cinema that employs unique and groundbreaking techniques to tell a universal story.

#7: “Battleship Potemkin” (1925)

As far as film propaganda about revolutionary soldiers goes, this silent Russian movie set the standard. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein, the film makes masterful use of quick edits and montages to test their effect on audiences. And, sequences like the “Odessa steps” massacre have influenced filmmakers ever since. Considered graphic at the time, “Potemkin” is remarkable for its violence, its pulse-pounding action and its pioneering and highly dramatized retelling of historical events.

#6: “The Jazz Singer” (1927)

As the first feature-length movie with audible dialogue, this movie marked the end of the silent film era. Based around a man who eschews his religious family values to live his life wearing blackface and performing jazz music, the movie was widely acclaimed both critically and commercially, winning a Special Academy Award, ushering in the new era of “talkies” and revolutionizing cinema forevermore.

#5: “The General” (1926)

Who knew you could love a train so much? Apparently, Buster Keaton did, and his character in this silent movie standard is willing to risk his life to prove it. Following a man on his adventure to save his woman and his train from pesky Union soldiers, the film wasn’t widely revered until some years later. But now, thanks to its blend of death-defying stunts and comedy, “The General” has earned its spot in cinema history.

#4: “The Kid” (1921)

Aside from starring in the film, Charlie Chaplin also wrote, directed, and produced this story of “The Tramp” and his informally adopted son – and in the process solidified his longstanding movie persona. After finding an abandoned baby on the street, The Tramp raises him as his pint-sized partner-in-crime. With sentimental and realistic depictions of poverty and the father-son dynamic, this classic left audiences laughing through their tears – making it the second-highest grossing film of 1921.

#3: “The Gold Rush” (1925)

Once again reprising his famous role as “The Tramp,” Charlie Chaplin plays a downtrodden prospector seeking his fortune in the Klondike Gold Rush. Much like “The Kid,” “The Gold Rush” comments on social issues, but interweaves comedy throughout. Chosen by Chaplin as the movie he most hoped to be remember for, it was a financial and critical success that was re-released in the 1940s and named the second greatest film of all time at the 1958 World’s Fair.

#2: “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror” (1922)

A court once ruled that all copies of this film were to be destroyed; but you can’t stop true horror. Illegally based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” the story follows a young man’s encounter with Count Orlok – a vampire residing in the Carpathian Mountains. “Nosferatu” was and still is incredibly creepy, even by conventional standards. And the image of a pointy-eared, long-nailed Max Schreck as Count Orlok influenced many and is not easy to forget.

Honorable Mentions

- “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925)
- “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1920)
- “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1923)

#1: “Metropolis” (1927)

In a dystopian future, the extremely wealthy live in oblivious luxury while the poverty-stricken masses work themselves to death to support the city. Up until the release of “Metropolis,” science fiction wasn’t a dominant genre in Hollywood. But this German groundbreaker changed that. While it was critically panned at the time, it’s gone down in cinematic history as one of the best because of its pioneering special effects, sharp vision and revolutionary achievements.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite movie of the ‘20s? For more thrilling top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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