March 26, 2021

At first, movies were very short, sometimes only a few minutes or less. They were shown at fairgrounds, music halls, or anywhere a screen could be set up and a room darkened.

Films have been around for a long time, and they’ve certainly come a long way. From Peter Mark Roget’s Explanation of an optical deception in the appearance of the spokes of a wheel when seen through vertical apertures to the creation of Ultra HD Blu-ray, the medium has continuously evolved and continues to do so for the means of impressing audiences time after time. It may be debatable if Passage de Venus and Sallie Gardner at a Gallop can even be considered movies, but the illusion and magic is still there in some form today.

Let’s take a look at ten of the earliest and most groundbreaking works of cinema!

1.Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)

The first motion picture ever made. Need I say more? It was directed by Louis Le Prince and it features a family walking around the premises of their yard, so there really isn’t much to say.

2.Histoire d’un crime (1901)

Directed by Ferdinand Zecca, this was the first film to convey a non-linear narrative through the use of flashbacks. The narrative follows a burglar as he spirals into killing a man, and it looks surprisingly stylish for something from its era. Definitely worth checking out if you have five minutes.

3.Le voyage dans la lune (1902)

The first sci-fi film ever created, this twenty-minute legend was based on Jules Verne’s classic novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. Georges Melies’s classic work has been recognized as one of the most influential films ever made, from it’s technical achievements to its success in the narrative compartment.

4.Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906)

Not only was this the first animated film ever made, but it utilizes both stop-motion and cutout animation to create the illusion of movement through its chalkboard imagery. Nothing too impressive today, but still immensely interesting.

5. The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)

This Australian movie from Charles Tait is said to be the first feature-length film ever made, at a whopping (for its time) sixty minutes in length. It’s divided into six scenes, loosely portraying the fall of outlaw Ned Kelly and his gang. Sadly, only seventeen minutes of it remain as of 2021, meaning that we will probably never get to see this story in its entirety.

6. L’Assassinat du duc de Guis (1908)

As the first film to have a score composed for it, director duo Charles le Bargy and Andre Calmettes turned what would otherwise be a fine fifteen-minute showing into something much grander. Composer Camille Saint-Saens did a fantastic job bringing the visuals to life through his use of audio, marking a huge turning point for cinema.

7. Wilbur Wright und seine Flugmaschine (1909)

Not only was this the first film to contain aerial photography, but it’s what introduced the airplane to many around the world. The idea of men flying was no longer a distant dream, and a revolution was about to begin.

8.The Birth of a Nation (1915)

At an insane three hours in length, D.W. Griffith’s cinematic monolith is considered to be the first true Hollywood epic. It’s creative directing left marks on the industry that can still be seen today. Unfortunately, not everything is positive about this one, as it is also a pretty vile propaganda film and managed to single-handedly reignite the dying flame that was the Ku Klux Klan. I’d only recommend this one to those passionate about film history, as it’s not worth sitting through otherwise.

9. El Apostol (1917)

This piece of lost Argentinian media directed by Quirino Cristiani was the first feature-length animated film. It utilized paper-cut animation and was oddly enough a political satire based on ill-received Argentine president Hipolito Yrigoyen. Supposedly there were a lot of references to the greek mythos in it. Due to a 1926 fire, we will never see this film unless some sort of miracle occurs.

10. The Gulf Between (1917)

Although you may be surprised to hear it, this American comedy was the first use of Technicolor, which is considered to be the first process to utilize colors in a realistic manner. The film is sadly lost due to a fire which occurred in 1961, but a magazine describes it as a comedic drama about a girl presumed dead and her grieving family.

Which one did you find the most interesting? Early films aren’t always the easiest to come back to, but they’re worth checking out every once in a while.


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