RANKED! 7 Hilarious Silent Films to Watch Before the Roaring ’20s Start Next Year
The 1920s were the dominion of jazz, expatriation, prohibition, flappers, modernism and more. We’re assuming the 2020s will be the same way. To help you prepare for the turn of the decade, we’ve compiled a list of the funniest silent era films to get you into that roaring ’20s mood.
Silence is deafening: A Lot Of Folks Can Hear Noise Coming From This Silent Gif
So sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy these wonderful movies in your new mansion that you bought to impress your old flame who lives on the other side of the bay. (That’s a The Great Gatsby reference for the uninitiated.)
7. 'The Gold Rush' (1925)
Charlie Chaplin’s widely-beloved character the Little Tramp appears in The Gold Rush as he does many films before and after. This ambling, perennially down-on-his-luck character finds himself heading West in search of that precious metal. He eventually gets trapped in a cabin in a snowstorm with a prospector and a fugitive. Classic antics ensue. The Gold Rush is often most widely remembered for the gag when Chaplin puts two potatoes on forks and mimics doing a little jig.
6. 'The Cameraman' (1928)
The Cameraman is motivated by what many of Buster Keaton’s silent era classics were: love. When Keaton’s protagonist (also named Buster) falls in love, he abandons his job as a photographer to impress her, instead becoming a news cameraman. It is hard to forget that The Cameraman was Keaton’s first film with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a move which he would later call the worst decision of his career, but at this time, he was still at his creative peak. Regardless of the issues behind the scenes, The Cameraman is easily one of his best—and one of the best of the genre at large.
5. 'Safety Last!' (1923)
The classic Harold Lloyd comedy Safety Last! predates any of the other hilarious comedies on this list. The bespectacled clown of the silver screen finds himself trying to make it in New York City—which turns out to be much harder than it seems. The film is widely regarded as an essential film—even joining the Criterion Collection in 2013. The image of Lloyd dangling from a clock tower has become synonymous with the silent comedy era and inspired more wonderful physical comedians for decades to come, including Jackie Chan.
4. 'City Lights' (1931)
Chaplin’s the Tramp returns in City Lights. Ever the hopeless romantic, he gets in over his head taking on a variety of odd jobs to help a blind woman from whom he vies for affection. As with much of Chaplin’s body of work, it is a sentimental film—perhaps overly so—but the physical comedy is in equally high supply. The extended boxing match set piece continues to be, even today, one of Chaplin’s most vibrant and impressive bits of choreography.
3. 'Modern Times' (1936)
The sort of predicaments Chaplin’s Tramp gets into in Modern Times are unforgettable. The imagery is powerful as his diminutive factory worker gets continually ground up and abused by the various mechanisms of his place of work. From getting stuck in the gears to being over-fed by some sort of eating machine, every gag is hilarious but serves a purpose. With Modern Times, we can see how the reality of the Great Depression impacted Chaplin as well as hesitance to transition to “talkies.”
2. 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924)
In Sherlock Jr., Keaton plays a daydreaming film projectionist. When he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, he must don his amateur detective cap and try to clear his own name. Among its many memorable gags, perhaps the most impressive is Keaton’s projectionist continuing to ride the handlebars of a motorbike long after the vehicle’s driver has fallen off, unbeknownst to the projectionist.
1. 'The General' (1926)
The General is based on a real-life raid during the American Civil War known as “The Great Locomotive Chase” in which a Union volunteer commandeered the titular train. Keaton plays the film’s protagonist, Johnny Gray, who takes control of the General after the Union soldiers unwittingly kidnaps his fiancee. The General shows off his physical prowess like no other as he spends a great deal of the film sprinting up and down The General, accomplishing the tasks of a dozen by himself.