1927 Ten Best Movies

Last week I saw two 1927 films projected in theaters with live music accompaniment (Sunday was Underworld at the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, Monday was Seventh Heaven at Seattle’s Paramount). Surely this is a cue for this week’s list? Or at least an excuse.

sunrise1927 was the year sound permanently changed cinema, but another way of putting it is that the art of silent film had reached a very high point in 1927. To say that the #1 movie defines “very high point” is rather understating it: Sunrise is deservedly on the short list of greatest movies ever made. F.W. Murnau (himself a #1, on the list of directors who died too young), given a free hand to make his first American film, achieved something so rich and supple that Hollywood directors immediately began imitating it like crazy. Subtitled A Song of Two Humans, Sunrise is musical in the way that it seems to breathe on its own, the way its immensely sophisticated technical devices are rendered invisible and almost liquid.

The ten best of 1927:

1. Sunrise (F.W. Murnau)

2. Metropolis (Fritz Lang)

3. Napoleon (Abel Gance)

4. Seventh Heaven (Frank Borzage)

5. Underworld (Josef von Sternberg)

6. Berlin – Symphony of a City (Walter Ruttman)

7. Wings (William Wellman)

8. The Love of Jeanne Ney (G.W. Pabst)

9. The Unknown (Tod Browning)

10. The Kid Brother (Ted Wilde)

Harold Lloyd nips into the final slot ahead of Buster Keaton, because Keaton’s 1927 film, College, isn’t quite up to the glorious level of his other silent work. As they keep finding more and more pieces of Metropolis, that mad classic just keeps getting greater; and speaking of movies with changing running times, I am basing Napoleon on the Coppola cut that came out in the early 80s, which was convincing enough for me. But really, every film on this list is gorgeous in its own way, the crest of silence, the beginning of the era’s end.

Next week: 2004.

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One Response

  1. Great list, Robert! And 2 I haven’t seen!

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