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La Vague 1891

1
Silent
France

This early cinematic experiment was shot by French scientist Étienne-Jules Marey and was recorded on the bay of Naples. It lasts for only a few seconds and is one of the earliest motion pictures ever made.

Pauvre Pierrot 1892

4
Silent
France

Charles-Émile Reynaud was the inventor of the Praxinoscope - a radical development of established animation toys such as the Zoetrope. He was also the first to use film perforations, that made it possible to display a much longer sequence of images. His short animated films visual beauty and novelty makes him an extremely unique and important figure in the history of cinema.

Roundhay Garden Scene 1888

1
Silent
France

This short silent celluloid film is believed to be the oldest surviving motion picture in history, as noted by the Guinness Book of Records. It was shot by French inventor Louise Le Prince on October 14, 1888. The film lasts for less than 2 seconds.

À propos de Nice 1930

22
Silent
France

This first of Jean Vigo's films takes up the then current "city" film genre and uses it as a critique of the idle rich and as a call to the working man to overturn this society. The contrast of these two "worlds" is followed by an exuberant street carnivale, where social conventions are cast aside and common people give in to their passions.

A Trip to the Moon 1902

13
Silent
France

A Trip to the Moon is a 1902 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès. This early, remarkable film follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule, explore the Moon's surface, escape from an underground group of Selenites (lunar inhabitants), and return to Earth with a captive Selenite.

The Andalusian Dog 1929

16
Silent
France

A surrealistic film with input from Salvador Dalí. Director Luis Buñuel presents stark, surrealistic images including the slitting open of a woman's eye and a dead horse being pulled along on top of a piano.

Anémic cinéma 1926

7
Silent
France

A spiral design spins dizzily. It's replaced by a spinning disk. These two continue in perfect alternation until the end: a spiral design, a disk. Each disk is labelled and can be read as it rotates. The messages, in French, feature puns and whimsical rhymes and alliteration. The final message comments on the spiral motif itself.

Autour d'une cabine 1894

2
Silent
France

Autour d'une cabine (Around A Cab) was made in 1894 by Émile Reynaud. It consists of 636 images, each one of them individually hand painted. The film was screened using Émile Reynaud invention of the Théâtre Optique, a method similar to modern cinema projectors.

Baby's Dinner 1895

1
Talky
France

A baby is seated at a table between its cheerful parents, Auguste and Marguerite Lumière. While the father is feeding the baby with a spoon, the mother is pouring coffee into her cup. The father gives the baby a biscuit, which the baby grabs, but doesn't eat, although both parents encourage it. The father resumes feeding the baby with the spoon.

Ballet Mécanique 1924

19
Silent
France

A pulsing, kaleidoscope of images set to an energetic soundtrack. A young women swings in a garden; a woman's face smiles. The rest is spinning cylinders, pistons, gears and turbines, kitchen objects in concentric circles or rows - pots, pan lids, and funnels, cars passing overhead, a spinning carnival ride. Over and over, a heavy-set woman climbs stairs carrying a large bag on her shoulder. An Art Deco cartoon figure appears, dancing. This is a world in motion, dominated by mechanical and repetitive images, with a few moments of solitude in a garden.

Emak-Bakia 1927

18
Silent
France

Emak-Bakia shows elements of fluid mechanical motion in parts, rotating artifacts showing Ray's ideas of everyday objects being extended and rendered useless.

Entr’acte 1924

22
Silent
France

An absolute surrealistic movie. Somebody gets killed, his coffin gets out of control and after a surrelistic chase it stops. The person gets out of it and let everybody who followed the coffin disapear.

Fantasmagorie 1908

2
Silent
France

The first all-animated film in history, a series of scenes without much narrative structure, but morphing into each other.

Histoire d'un crime 1901

5
Silent
France

The cell of a man condemned to death. He's sleeping and dreaming about the past that brought him to prison: a frantic pace of living, bad friendships, alcoholism, the murder of a bank-employer. At the end he dreams of climbing up scaffolding, and he suddenly wakes up...

La coquille et le clergyman 1928

41
Silent
France

Obsessed with a general's woman, a clergyman has strange visions of death and lust, struggling against his own eroticism.

La lanterne magique 1903

3
Silent
France

In this brief "trick film" two clowns assemble an enormous magic lantern which first projects moving images, then emits dancing girls.

La souriante Madame Beudet 1921

54
Silent
France

One of the first feminist movies, The Smiling Madame Beudet is the story of an intelligent woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Her husband is used to playing a stupid practical joke in which he puts an empty revolver to his head and threatens to shoot himself. One day, while the husband is away, she puts bullets in the revolver.

La Vie du Christ 1906

33
Silent
France

The life of Jesus Christ in 25 scenes.

L'Arroseur arrosé 1895

1
Silent
France

L'Arroseur arrosé has the distinction of being the earliest known instance of film comedy, as well as the first use of film to portray a fictional story. A gardener is watering his flowers, when a mischievous boy sneaks up behind his back, and puts a foot on the water hose. The gardener is surprised, and looks into the nozzle to find out why the water has stopped coming. The boy lifts his foot from the hose, whereby the water squirts up in the gardener's face. The gardener chases the boy, grips his ear, and slaps him in his buttocks. The boy runs away, and the gardener continues his watering.

Le squelette joyeux 1898

1
Silent
France

A skeleton dances joyously, often collapsing into a heap of bones and quickly putting itself back together.

L'étoile de mer 1928

21
Silent
France

The film is based on a script by Robert Desnos and depicts a couple (Alice Prin and André de la Rivière) acting through scenes that are shot out of focus.

Ménilmontant 1926

38
Silent
France

A couple is brutally murdered in the working-class district of Paris. Later on, the narrative follows the lives of their two daughters, both in love with a Parisian thug and leading them to separate ways.

Miniature Theatre 1906

5
Silent
France

Three young children set up a table, and on the table is placed a miniature stage. The stage curtain opens, a carpet appears, and then the carpet unrolls by itself. Two puppet figures then come out and begin to perform a series of routines.

Nanook of the North 1922

78
Silent
USA / France

Documents one year in the life of Nanook, an Eskimo (Inuit), and his family. Describes the trading, hunting, fishing and migrations of a group barely touched by industrial technology. Nanook of the North was widely shown and praised as the first full-length, anthropological documentary in cinematographic history.

Snowball Fight 1897

1
Silent
France

Wintertime in Lyons. About a dozen people, men and women, are having a snowball fight in the middle of a tree-lined street. The cyclist coming along the road becomes the target of opportunity. He falls off his bicycle. He's not hurt, but he rides back the way he came, as the fight continues. Uh-oh. He forgot his cap in the snow.

Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory 1895

1
Silent
France

Workers Leaving The Lumière Factory in Lyon, also known as Employees Leaving the Lumière Factory and Exiting the Factory, is an 1895 French short black-and-white silent documentary film directed and produced by Louis Lumière. It is often referred to as the first real motion picture ever made, although Louis Le Prince's 1888 Roundhay Garden Scene pre-dated it by seven years.

The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station 1896

1
Silent
France

This 50-second silent film shows the entry of a train pulled by a steam locomotive into a train station in the French coastal town of La Ciotat. Like most of the early Lumière films, L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat consists of a single, unedited view illustrating an aspect of everyday life. There is no apparent intentional camera movement, and the film consists of one continuous real-time shot.

The Assassination of the Duke of Guise 1908

15
Silent
France

Lasting longer than was then usual, about 15 minutes, the film more or less accurately depicts the events of the day in 1588 when King Henry III (played by co-director Le Bargy) summoned his powerful rival, Duke Henri de Guise, to his chambers at the Château de Blois and had him brutally murdered. The film has its share of lurid thrills, and the pacing is quick throughout, with better acting than most films of the time, and staged in a somewhat theatrical manner.

The Cabbage Fairy 1896

1
Silent
France

La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy) is one of the earliest narrative fiction films ever made. It was probably made before the first Méliès fiction film, but after the Lumière brothers' L'Arroseur Arrosé. The confusion stems from the uncertainty in the dating of these three films. Many film historians have accepted that La Fée aux Choux was made in April 1896, just a month or two before Méliès made his first fiction film. L'Arroseur arrosé (generally considered the earliest fiction film) was screened in December 1895. "The Cabbage Fairy"is the first film directed by a female director. It presents a brief fantasy tale involving a strange fairy who can produce and deliver babies coming out of cabbages. Gently moving through the cabbages and using of lovely gestures, she takes one baby out of there, then makes more magic and delivers two more.

The Impossible Voyage 1904

24
Silent
France

Using every known means of transportation, several savants from the Geographic Society undertake a journey through the Alps to the Sun which finishes under the sea.

The Life and Passion of Christ 1907

44
Silent
France

Life and Passion of the Christ is one of the earliest feature-length narrative films. The film, with sequences made in the stencil color process Pathéchrome, takes a straightforward approach to its subject matter. All scenes are introduced by an inter-title giving the traditional name of the event (the Annunciation, the Nativity, etc.) followed by the actors playing out the familiar stories from the Gospels. Other than the scene titles, there are no other inter-titles.

The Living Playing Cards 1904

3
Silent
France

A bearded magician holds up a large playing card and makes it larger. He tears up a card of a queen, burns the torn bits, and a life-size Queen of Hearts card appears; then, it becomes alive. The magician puts her back into the card. The same thing happens with the King of Clubs: the card becomes alive. The king removes his costume, and there's something very familiar about him.

The One-Man Band 1900

2
Silent
France

On an empty stage, a magician (Méliès) multiplies himself and his chair to form an instrumental band, which he conducts in a lively piece of music. He then returns to each of his identical copies, and a giant ornamental fan appears behind him. Jumping up, the magician disappears in a puff of smoke before returning to the stage for a final bow.

The Photographic Congress Arrives in Lyon 1895

1
Talky
France

Members of the French Photographic Society arrive from a riverboat to their congress venue in Neuville-sur-Saône on a summer day. They go ashore across a wooden landing stage. Among the many men in straw hats are also a few women in long skirts. Some of the men lift their hats toward the photographer when passing. Many of them are carrying their own cameras.

The Return to Reason 1923

3
Silent
France

Experimental film, white specks and shapes gyrating over a black background, a light-striped torso, a gyrating egg crate. One of the first Dadaist films.

The Vanishing Lady 1896

1
Silent
France

A magician walks onto a stage and brings out his assistant. He spreads a newspaper on the floor (thus demonstrating that no trap door is hidden there) and places a chair on top of it. He has his assistant sit in the chair, and spreads a blanket over her. When he removes the blanket, she has disappeared. He then waves his arms in the air and conjures up a skeleton. He places the blanket over the skeleton and removes it to reveal his assistant, alive and well.

Vampyr 1932

70
Talky
Germany / France

A drifter obsessed with the supernatural stumbles upon an inn where a severely ill adolescent girl is slowly becoming a vampire.