#29 The Big Parade (1925)

Introducing The Big Parade, the first film in the silent era to realistically portray what war is really like from the point of view of a soldier. This film is about a man who is encouraged by his father to enlist in the army where he forms a bond with his fellow soldiers, stays with his squad when they’re in combat, and is stuck in a love triangle between his fiancé and a French girl he meets while away. 

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This quote perfectly sums up what this movie is trying to tell the audience- war, just what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Okay, so I added a quote with another quote. Sue me! So this film made history in a lot of ways. It was the most successful box office hit of the silent era, surpassing 22 million dollars! It was also the most successful MGM film of the silent era. I wouldn’t necessarily call this film a propaganda film towards supporting the war or being against it. It’s just showing war for what it is. You defend your country but there’s always dire consequences that can be tragic and life-changing. The first half of the film is much lighter where we are introduced to Jim’s squadron as well as the love story. Then the second half takes a darker turn as the men hide in a hole in the ground to avoid gunfire. 

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I really liked the love story in The Big Parade. It seems like in a lot of war films they seem to add some type of love triangle. Probably just to show that war can change you and see people differently. I especially loved the scene when Jim and Melisande find each other and give each other a warm embrace before he’s to be shipped off to war. When I think about it, the ending reminds me of Rocky how he fights the battle and the most important thing to him isn’t winning but to keep the one he loves close to him. The Big Parade ended up inspiring many other war films later such as Quiet on the Western Front. If you like films of love and war, this is the one to see.

Watch this realistic depiction of war in The Big Parade. Unfortunately, this was the only copy I can find and it’s not on streaming sites. Try your best to enjoy this version and you can follow along with the inter-titles here: http://www.filmsite.org/bigp.html. You can buy the film on YouTube for $2.99:

#28 The Gold Rush (1925)

So this is the first film on the list where we are introduced to Charlie Chaplin’s character The Tramp. Ever heard of him? He’s that clumsy, animated little man with a short mustache, top hot, cane, and wears a suit a few sizes too small? Well, you’ll get to meet him in Charlie Chaplin’s personal favorite The Gold Rush all about a lone prospector who’s in search for gold and ends up finding new love.

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This is known as the film that Charlie Chaplin wanted to be remembered for the most. It also happens to be the fifth grossing silent film ever. Charlie Chaplin may not use Buster Keaton‘s deadpan expression but they do have a lot in common such as they’re both slapstick geniuses and they both know how to turn tragedy into comedy. Do you prefer Chaplin over Buster Keaton? Charlie Chaplin made surviving a chilly winter storm stuck in a cabin so funny that you forget why it would be unbearable in real life. How to survive in a cabin 101– eat a cooked boot (don’t get any shoelaces caught in your teeth), imagine anyone else in the cabin as a live chicken, and run for your life!

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My favorite scene was when the cabin gets pushed to the edge of the cliff during one out of the many blizzards in the film. It was a hilarious adventure seeing the cabin tipped over as The Tramp tries to get out before it falls to the bottom. I’ll admit this may not be my favorite Chaplin film but it’s a favorite to everyone else as it’s ended up on many film critics Best Comedy lists. The Tramp is the star in this film- that’s reason enough to see this film. What’s your favorite Charlie Chaplin film? 

Watch The Tramp in Charlie Chaplin’s favorite The Gold Rush and let me know what you think. For a better quality, find the film on Hulu:

#27 Battleship Potemkin (1925)

If you’ve ever taken film classes before or at least Film Appreciation, this film will come up at least twice. I assure you. So the last film we saw of Sergei Eisenstein’s was Strike! about a group of factory workers who go on strike against the factory for the mistreatment in their workers told in a daring fashion. Well, if Strike! was daring, then Battleship Potemkin was legendary. Battleship Potemkin is about a bunch of sailors who fight against their officers after being served unhealthy meat and not being treated fairly. 

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So Battleship Potemkin is told like Strike! was where it’s told in parts and the protagonist is in the sailors as they all come together as one. What other similarities can you find with this film and Strike!? This film originally was released as revolutionary propaganda but then Eisenstein wanted to use this film as a way of experimenting with his editing techniques. He came up with a revolutionary technique that all future film editors should be aware of called Montage Theory where Eisenstein wanted to show contrasting shots fitting together- seeing something happening in one shot and then a reaction shot to follow. It can also manipulate time this way. Eisenstein did this in order to generate as many emotional reactions as possible to what the audience was seeing. 

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Where you can see this montage in the film is in the infamous Odessa Staircase sequence where a group of officers moving in a robotic motion are shooting at unarmed citizens who are fleeing down the staircase. Can you believe this scene wasn’t originally supposed to be in the film? It was added in later. Good thing it was considering it’s a scene that people remember the most from this film. When you think about it, this whole sequence could have just been about ten seconds if it was in real time but with montage sequence, it ran about seven minutes long as you’re seeing rapid quick shots of the tragic shot, the reaction, the same shot in a different angle, reaction, a different tragic shot, etc. With seeing children getting killed, graphic images of bullets through people’s eyes, and a baby rolling down the stairs, this film should convince anyone that to say war is bad would be an understatement.

If only not just filmmakers but public service announcements or campaigns would use this technique. What would you use this technique for or what films/ads would have benefitted from this technique to make it stronger? This film is revolutionary in the world of cinema and one every film lover such as myself should see it at least once. 

Watch Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece and let me know your reactions to it: