When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1927, it gave away not one but two Best Picture awards. "Best Production" went to Wings, a dull drama about World War I. "Best Artistic Quality of Production" went to a much better movie, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise. That one's on my list—but it isn't at the top:
1. Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
Directed by Walter Ruttmann
Written by Ruttmann, Karl Freund, and Carl Mayer
A day in the life of a city.
Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by Lang and Thea von Harbou, from a novel by von Harbou
Trivia: In 1984 this dystopian science-fiction story was rereleased with a "modern" soundtrack, featuring Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, and the king of Eurodisco, Giorgio Moroder. Only advanced students of late 20th century kitsch should watch that version.
Written and directed by Abel Gance
Featuring the best snowball fight in film history.
4. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Written by Carl Mayer, Katherine Hilliker, and H.H. Caldwell, from a novella by Hermann Sudermann
This was a strong year for great movies with ridiculous subtitles.
5. The End of St. Petersburg
Directed by Vsevolod Pudovkin with Mikhail Doller
Written by Nathan Zarkhi
It's propaganda, but it's dynamic and inventive propaganda. It wouldn't be long before the Soviets stopped even doing that.
6. A Wild Roomer
Directed by Charley Bowers and Harold L. Muller
Written by Bowers, Muller, and Ted Sears
These days it's hardly controversial to claim that Buster Keaton was better than Charlie Chaplin. But I'll go out on a limb and say that Charley Bowers, the most surrealist of the silent clowns, was better than Chaplin too.
7. The Kid Brother
Directed by Ted Wilde with J.A. Howe, Harold Lloyd, and Lewis Milestone
Written by Howard Green, John Grey, and Lex Neal, from a story by Wilde, Neal, and Tom Crizer
Harold Lloyd was also better than Chaplin.
8. The Unknown
Directed by Tod Browning
Written by Waldemar Young and Joseph Farnham, from a story by Browning
"Hands! Men's hands! How I hate them!"
9. Fluttering Hearts
Directed by James Parrott
Written by Charley Chase and H.M. Walker
By the end of this two-reeler, William Burress has taken to dressing like a woman, Oliver Hardy has had a sustained flirtation with a mannequin, and Charley Chase has completely failed to get the girl.
10. The Lodger: A Tale of the London Fog
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Eliot Stannard, from a novel and play by Marie Belloc Lowndes
Hitch's first hit, a riff on the Ripper.
11. R-1, a Form-Play (Oskar Fischinger)
12. Emak-Bakia (Man Ray)
13. Combat de Boxe (Charles Dekeukeleire)
14. Bed and Sofa (Abram Room)
15. Long Pants (Frank Capra)
16. The Battle of the Century (Clyde Bruckman)
17. L'Invitation au Voyage (Germaine Dulac)
18. Should Second Husbands Come First? (Leo McCarey)
19. Walking from Munich to Berlin (Oskar Fischinger)
20. The Cat and the Canary (Paul Leni)
Do not ask me where The General is, OK? The General debuted on December 31, 1926. It was the #1 movie on my 1926 list. If it had come out on January 1 instead, it would be #1 here.
Of the films of 1927 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Diplomatic Pouch and Six et Demi, Onze. And I suppose someday I should sit through 7th Heaven: I'm not a big Borzage fan, but a lot of people love this movie and maybe it'll be the one that wins me over.