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A film with no soundtrack. Until the 1920s or so, this was a technological limitation, though filmmakers certainly made the most of it. After the mid-1930s, it was as much an artistic decision as Deliberately Monochrome became after the introduction of color.

Note, however, that many silent movies (especially the big-budget ones) did have custom musical scores, for the entire movie or just a few key scenes, intended to be performed by live musicians in the theatre. Some scores even called for sound effects, also performed live, and a few called for important bits of dialog to be read out by live actors. Unfortunately, most of the scores have been lost.

In America, this was the beginning of the Golden Age of Hollywood. See also: Early Films, Films of the 1920s

A bit of trivia: Did you know that the first four Academy Awards for Best Cinematography all went to silent films? Because of the cumbersome sound-synchronization cameras and recording equipment of the early talkie era, they were rarely shot on location, giving silent film cinematographers a distinct advantage. Those first four winners were:

  • Sunrise (1927/28) -- Charles Rosher and Karl Struss
  • White Shadows in the South Seas (1928/29) -- Clyde De Vinna
  • With Byrd at the South Pole (1929/30) -- Joseph T. Rucker and Willard Van Der Veer
  • Tabu (1930/31) -- Floyd Crosby

Lee Garmes won the first Best Cinematography Oscar to go to a talkie for Shanghai Express (1931/32).

Notable silent films:

  • Notable silents from the talkie era:
    • City Lights (1931) -- Charlie Chaplin's first refusal to acknowledge talkies
    • Tabu (1931)--the last film of F.W. Murnau, about a forbidden romance between two Pacific Islanders
    • Modern Times (1936) -- Charlie Chaplin's second refusal to acknowledge talkies
    • The Thief (1952) -- spy thriller starring Ray Milland, told without any dialogue
    • Silent Movie (1976) -- Mel Brooks makes a tribute to silent slapstick
    • Koyaanisqatsi (1983) -- Kind of a documentary, but really more of a film collage portraying the state of modern civilization, told without any dialogue or narration
    • The Triplets of Belleville (2003) -- animated film with songs but almost no spoken dialogue
    • The Artist (2011) -- A deliberately Retraux romantic comedy about, appropriately enough, a silent movie star who struggles to adjust to talkies

Notable talkies about the silent film era:

Notable silent film stars:

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