Silent Movies for Mini Cinephiles
What!? No CGI? No 3D?? Not even special effects from 1982??? That’s right, you don’t have to have any of those fancy schmancy effects to appreciate movie-making magic. But will my kids like it? Do they like slapstick humor, hyper-comical characters, action, mind-boggling physical stunts, and a good dose of awesome storytelling???
YES! They’ll like it!
Silent movies are a great way to get your pint-sized film buff to appreciate good cinema. In the silent world, they’ll be better able to focus on the magic of the medium. Good character development, exciting plot lines, and vaudevillian antics will delight any youngster. Plus, most films are short and sweet – just perfect for smaller attention spans. And they’re downright hilarious!
So pick up a few of these silent masterpieces and enjoy some fantastic cinematic storytelling together.
Charlie Chaplin: Cinema’s Most Beloved Tramp
Think silent movies and Charlie Chaplin immediately comes to mind. He’s the most pivotal star and greatest comedian of the silent era; and easily the most lovable. Armed with a moustache, a bowler hat, and a bamboo cane, Chaplin’s little tramp immediately won the hearts of the public. And he’ll win over your kiddo too.
You really can’t go wrong with any of Chaplin’s films. The little tramp gets kids laughing with his physical humor and yet, manages to pull firmly on just about everyone’s heartstrings.
Start off with The Circus. Here, the tramp is accused of crimes he didn’t commit and looks for safety under the Big Top. Silly antics ensue as he tries to escape from police officers – much to the amusement of circus-goers. Their roaring applause lands him a job at the circus where there’s more trouble in store – from getting trapped in the lion’s cage to high-wire follies. With hilarious stunts, an evil ringmaster, wild animals, and madcap adventure, the kids are sure to love this one! After all, who could resist the tramp?
If you’re looking for more hobo hijinks, don’t miss out on The Gold Rush, the tramp’s prospecting adventure in the Yukon. With such comedic scenes like eating a shoe and thoroughly relishing it, being chased by a REAL bear (no man in a suit here!), and teetering in a log cabin on the edge of a cliff, your kids will have a bad case of the giggles.
For something that’s more sweet and sentimental, check out Chaplin’s debut feature film and masterpiece – The Kid. The opening title of this film says it all… “A comedy with a smile – and perhaps a tear.” The film opens up with some harsh realities: a baby abandoned by its mother and left hopeless. If you can get passed that (after all, many Disney animated films start off with a helpless child left to fend for themselves), you have a beautiful film in store.
The tramp discovers the abandoned baby, raises him, and develops a deep relationship. But can he handle losing his kid when the mother wants him back? Full of pathos, the movie will definitely have you sniffling. Having plenty of tissues on hand is a must!
Buster Keaton: The Great Stone-Faced Stunt Master
A scrappy hero, thrilling adventures, and the most death-defying-impossibly-dangerous-no-holds-barred-sans-effects stunts EVER! Buster Keaton delivers an awesome silent movie experience for any kiddo. Between bouts of side-splitting laughter, you’ll all be amazed at how he manages to maintain that signature poker-face despite all outrageous antics (and how he managed to survive them!)
If you’re looking for iconic Keaton, start with The General. Inspired by the Great Locomotive Race of 1862, the film shows Keaton as a plucky engineer with two loves in his life – his locomotive, and Anabelle Lee. Trying to recover his Confederate train that was stolen by Union troops (with his sweetheart on board), he has to go through enemy lines. The film is chock full of chase scenes, dangerous stunts, teeth-clenching acrobatics, and even a cannonball or two.
For truly the most daring, dangerous stunts ever captured on film, check out Steamboat Bill, Jr. Worth the watch for the storm sequence alone, the film features Keaton at his finest – and funniest. His brilliance as a performer shines through the more chaotic choreography as well as in the simpler moments.
Soft college boy, Bill Jr., has to prove his manhood to his tough riverboat captain of a dad when a cyclone hits. As you can imagine, there’s ample room for comedy, gags, laughs, and life-threatening situations.
If you’re looking to take the silliness even further, don’t miss The Cameraman.
Douglas Fairbanks: Swashbuckling Hero
Does your kiddo love anything with action-packed swordplay, costumed superheroes, villains brought to their knees, and damsels saved in the knick of time? Then get them watching Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro – the silent movie inspiration for a whole host of caped crusaders to come. I’m looking at you, Batman!
Armed with a secret identity and a sword, Zorro single-handedly takes on the tyrannical Captain Juan Ramon in an effort to save the oppressed people of Spanish California. A story of dual identities, love, and courage, it’s adventurous, romantic, and very funny. A great candidate for family movie night!
Harold Lloyd: A Squeaky-Clean, Lovable Chap
Ever eager to please, somehow Harold Lloyd’s perfectly nerdy characters manage to find themselves in outrageous situations, completely in over their heads. How else would you explain that iconic image of a bespectacled man in a suit, straw hat included, hanging off a giant clock?
If you watch only one Harold Lloyd film, make it Safety Last! Ready to make it in the big city, Lloyd finds a job as a mild-mannered store clerk. With stunts-a-plenty, mishaps with the police, and efforts to impress his girlfriend, the storyline offers lots of laughs. Both goofy and gullible, Lloyd’s character will please any child. And his skyscraper-climbing antics are sure to delight!
Sports fans will also love The Freshman. If you’ve ever been the new kid at school, Lloyd’s eagerness to show his college peers what he’s made of is a real treat. It’s got enough visual gags to get you rooting for the rookie.
Have you introduced your little ones to silent movies? Share your favorite scenes with us!
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