1920 Movies

The 1920 Plex database stands as a curated repository, emphasizing the pioneering spirit of cinema at the dawn of the 1920s. This collection not only facilitates exploration of the year's cinematic outputs but also sheds light on the silent era's technical advancements and the thematic diversity that characterized the period's storytelling.
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Browse 342 titles in our 1920 Movies Database

The Best Movies in 1920

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Directed by Robert Wiene, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" is a testament to German Expressionism's impact on cinema. This film stands out due to its dark, twisted visual style and engaging tale of a hypnotist who commands a somnambulist to perform murders. Its unique approach to set design, featuring distorted perspectives and sharp, jagged landscapes, played an influential role in setting the tone for psychological thrillers and horror films in the years that followed. This film is not only a cornerstone of silent cinema but also a study in how visual aesthetics can drive narrative depth.

One Week

Buster Keaton, known for his deadpan expression and impeccable comedic timing, directs and stars in "One Week." This short film centers on a newlywed couple navigating the chaos of assembling a do-it-yourself house—a gift that promises simplicity but delivers an uproar of comedic mishaps. Keaton's innovative use of physical comedy and visual gags in "One Week" underscored his talent in eliciting laughter without a single spoken word, marking it as a noteworthy contribution to the genre of silent comedy.

The Golem

In "The Golem," directors Carl Boese and Paul Wegener transport viewers to medieval Prague, where a rabbi creates a colossal creature out of clay to protect the Jewish community. This silent horror film intertwines folklore with a palpable sense of dread, pioneering many elements that would become staples in the horror genre. The creation of the Golem, a figure drawn from Jewish mythology, explores themes of creation, power, and consequence, making it a compelling narrative deeply rooted in cultural stories.

The Scarecrow

Buster Keaton's "The Scarecrow" follows the antics of two farmhands vying for the affection of a farmer's daughter. Similar to "One Week," this comedic short shows Keaton's masterful control over his physicality and timing, delivering a series of hilarious yet intricate situations. The film's inventive use of props and settings exemplifies how silent comedies could effectively communicate humor and story without dialogue, showcasing Keaton's genius in the silent era.

Way Down East

D.W. Griffith's "Way Down East" stars Lillian Gish in a heart-wrenching narrative of a young woman deceived into a sham marriage and her struggle for redemption. Unlike other films from 1920, this romantic drama touches on social issues with a level of realism and emotional depth rare for its time. Gish's performance, particularly in the film's harrowing climax on an ice floe, demonstrates the power of silent film to convey complex emotions and social commentary through expressive acting and meticulous direction.

Film & Industry Highlights of 1920

Silent Movies and the Rise of Movie Stars

The 1920s marked a period of transformation in the American film industry, with silent movies at the forefront. These films were pivotal in shaping the first generation of movie stars, a phenomenon that played a critical role in the development of a national media culture in the United States. The allure and appeal of these early film stars transcended the cinema, embedding them into the fabric of society. Their fame was not just confined to their performance on screen but extended beyond, making them household names across the country.

The Dawn of the Hollywood Studio System

At the inception of the 1920s, most US film production was concentrated in or around Hollywood on the West Coast. This period witnessed the birth of the Hollywood studio system, characterized by long-term contracts for stars, high production values, and the studios' tight control over directors and stars through their production chiefs and in-house systems. The studio system was comprehensive, encompassing production, distribution, marketing, and more. The inception of this system dictated the operations of the industry, setting a precedent for the decades that followed.

Business Expansion and Cultural Influence

Filmmaking during this era transitioned into a business venture. The public might have been unfamiliar with their elected officials, but they knew the names of the leading actors and actresses. This shift illustrates the immense cultural impact the film industry had during the 1920s. By the decade's end, there were 20 Hollywood studios, indicating the booming demand for films. This demand was not just a testament to the industry's economic growth but also its cultural resonance.

An Era of Freedom and Experimentation

The 1920s were also emblematic of freedom and experimentation within the movie industry, leading to decadence, debauchery, and excess in Hollywood. This era preceded the establishment of the production code, granting filmmakers a more liberated approach to exploring themes and narratives. Such freedom allowed for a broad range of storytelling, reflecting the social and cultural dynamism of the time.

Technological Advances: Sound and Color

A major turning point in the film industry was the introduction of sound and Technicolor. These technological advancements transformed the cinematic experience, marking the end of the silent film era and the beginning of a new chapter in filmmaking. The transition to sound films revolutionized the industry, altering not only production processes but also audience expectations. Similarly, Technicolor brought a new dimension to films, enriching visual storytelling with the vibrancy of color.

The Role of Motion Picture News

During the 1920s, "Motion Picture News" emerged as a leading film industry trade journal. It provided objective film reviews and program summaries, offering insights into the theaters' offerings across the nation. The publication played a pivotal role in shaping public opinion and taste, contributing to the dissemination of film culture.