Menu Close

Best Movies of the 1900s: Top 10 Films from 1900 to 1909

Welcome to the 1900s, the Ancient Times of Motion Pictures!

The first decade of the twentieth century may be a thing of the distant past, but thanks to an enthralling, good old invention called Film, it will never be really gone.

Whenever you feel like traveling back in time to relive the glamours of the 1900s, all you have to do, is to watch one (or more) of its movies.

But which ones should you watch?
Well, if that’s the very question lurking in your mind right now, then you came to the right place. We’re just about to present 10 of the greatest cinematic gems of the 1900s.

If this is your first ride on the time-travelling FrameTrek Wagon, here’s what this is all about:

We choose a topic, in this case “Best Movies of the 1900s” and we set sail for a journey, where the bricks of the trek are made of movie frames, and each stop represents a magnificent achievement in film.

The Best Movies of the 1900s is an episode of FrameTrek’s Best Movies of All Time. A mega-journey dedicated to identify the greatest films of each decade, chronologically. It starts right here, with the Dawn of Cinema and goes all the way to our ever moving present.


So what was Cinema like in the 1900s?

Once upon a time, in the 1900s, there was a relatively new invention called Moving Picture. It was an eye-catching little thing that became a popular attraction in amusement arcades, traveling fairs, and vaudeville houses in various countries.

Most movies were very simple and short, only a few minutes long, with barely any story, and little or no professional acting or direction. They were silent and uncoloured, unless each frame was hand-painted separately.

Back in those days, people went to picture-shows, not Cinema, as the latter didn’t really exist yet.

So yeah, there’s plenty of archaic stuff to talk about, when it comes to the Cinema of the 1900s, but this article concentrates on its Top 10 Films, so let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

A cinematic era is as good as its greatest achievements. Thus, the finest way to explore a decade in film history, is through watching its best movies as a marathon.

Ready? Buckle up then, and let the best movies of the 1900s carry you to the Cinematic era they came from!

See FrameTrek's definition of 'Best' and the story behind this List (click to expand) ↴

How to define ‘Best’?

That’s a pretty good question, since ‘Best’ is relative. A movie can be considered being among the best for multiple reasons, such as: Critical Acclaim, Audience Feedback, Box Office Performance, Awards and Nominations, Iconic Status, Popularity, Watchability, and even Personal Preference, or for being part of a famous list such as the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die or Roger Ebert’s The Great Movies list – or because that particular movie defined its era.

So how did we pick the Top 10 movies of the 1900s?

Compared to later decades, there is little information about the cinema of the 1900s. Still, the Top 10 list you are about to see was composed by considering multiple factors.

We believe that the movies that made the cut should not compete with one another any further, so we will just present them in the order they were released in.



Presenting the Top 10 Films from 1900 to 1909

Chronologically

Keep reading if you want more info than what’s in the video!


The One-Man Band (1900)

L’homme orchestre (original French title)

The One-Man Band, L'homme orchestre, 1900, Georges Méliès, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

French short silent comedy fantasy film directed by Georges Méliès.

Story: A magician (Méliès) performs the unbelievable act of cloning himself, only to assemble an instrumental band.


The Man with the Rubber Head (1901)

L’homme à la tête en caoutchouc (original French title)

The Man with the Rubber Head, L'homme à la tête en caoutchouc, 1901, Georges Méliès, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

French short silent comedy fantasy film directed by Georges Méliès.

Story: A visionary chemist (Méliès) discovers a method to inflate living organisms. He is so excited that he decides to experiment with his own head.


A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Le voyage dans la lune (original French title)

A Trip to the Moon, Le voyage dans la lune, 1902, Georges Méliès, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

French short silent adventure fantasy sci-fi film directed by Georges Méliès.

Story: A group of astronomers build a giant cannon that can shoot a capsule full of men directly to the moon. It’s important to keep in mind, that this story comes from a time, when landing on the moon was only a dream for fools.

The story is loosely inspired by Jules Verne‘s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon. Would you like to read the book?

Its unusual length, lavish production values, innovative special effects, and emphasis on storytelling were markedly influential on other film-makers and ultimately on the development of narrative film as a whole.


Life of an American Fireman (1903)

Life of an American Fireman 1903, Edwin S. Porter, Thomas Edison, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

Short silent adventure film created by Edwin S. Porter and Thomas Edison.

The film presents contemporary American firemen responding to a house fire, and it depicts the rescue of a woman and child from a burning building. Over 300 actual firemen appear in the various scenes of the film.

It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


The Great Train Robbery (1903)

The Great Train Robbery 1903, Edwin S. Porter, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

American silent short western film written, produced, and directed by Edwin S. Porter.

Story: A group of bandits stage a brazen train hold-up, only to find a determined posse hot on their heels. (IMDB)

The film uses a number of then-unconventional techniques, including composite editing, on-location shooting, cross-cutting and frequent camera movement.



Alice in Wonderland (1903)

Alice in Wonderland 1903, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

British silent short fantasy film.

Story: Alice dozes in a garden, awakened by a dithering white rabbit in waistcoat with pocket watch. She follows him down a hole and finds herself in the magical world of Wonderland.

This is the very first movie adaptation of Lewis Carroll‘s classic children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Would you like to read the book?

The film is memorable for its use of special effects, including Alice’s shrinking in the Hall of Many Doors, and in her large size, stuck inside of White Rabbit’s home, reaching for help through a window.


The Impossible Voyage (1904)

Le voyage à travers l’impossible (original French title)

The Impossible Voyage, Le voyage à travers l'impossible, 1904, Georges Méliès, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

French short silent adventure fantasy sci-fi film directed by Georges Méliès.

The film is directed and modelled in the style of A Trip to the Moon. It presents of a group of scientists, who attempt to travel into the interior of the sun.

The story is loosely based on Jules Verne‘s 1882 fantasy play Journey Through the Impossible. Would you like to read the book?


The Black Devil (1905)

Le diable noir (original French title)

The Black Devil, The Black Imp, Le diable noir, 1905, Georges Méliès, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

French silent short comedy fantasy film directed by and starring Georges Méliès.

Story: A mischievous devil enjoys himself by jumping around in a hotel room. When his solitude is broken by the arrival of a respectable guest, he decides the make the guests stay unbearable.


A Fantasy (1908)

Fantasmagorie (original French title)

A Fantasy, Fantasmagorie, 1908, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

French silent short animated film by Émile Cohl.

Considered by film historians to be the very first all-animated cartoon in history. It doesn’t have a story, but it is surely a treat for the eye even today.


A Corner in Wheat (1909)

A Corner in Wheat, 1909, D. W. Griffith, Best movies of the 1900s, Top 10 films from 1900 to 1909
Where to Watch?   More info

Short silent drama film directed by D. W. Griffith.

Story: A greedy capitalist tycoon tries to corner the world market on wheat. As a result, the price of bread doubles, pushing the masses into poverty.

It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.



…end of the reel…

So there you have it: The 10 Best Movies from 1900 to 1909.

If you want to take a look at the movies listed above, without all that info between the titles, here’s a quick recap:

Top 10 Movies of the 1900s
Chronologically
The One-Man Band 1900
The One-Man Band (1900)
The Man with the Rubber Head 1901
The Man with the Rubber Head (1901)
A Trip to the Moon 1902
A Trip to the Moon (1902)
Life of an American Fireman 1903
Life of an American Fireman (1903)
The Great Train Robbery 1903
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Alice in Wonderland 1903
Alice in Wonderland (1903)
The Impossible Voyage 1904
The Impossible Voyage (1904)
The Black Devil 1905
The Black Devil (1905)
A Fantasy 1908
A Fantasy (1908)
A Corner in Wheat 1909
A Corner in Wheat (1909)
*Click any Title for more Info and for Streaming / Disc Buying options.

Is there a movie on the list you’d replace with another one? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!


Ready for another journey?

Explore the Best Movies of the next decade too!

Next: 1910s

Related Posts

Your turn! Share your thoughts below...