15 Silent Films That Changed Cinema Forever

15. Birth Of A Nation (1915)

The Birth of a Nation 1915

Rarely has a film been more controversial, while at the same time being as influential, as D.W Griffith's landmark The Birth of a Nation. On one hand, The Birth of a Nation probably included more important technological innovations than any other film before or since; on the other hand, its portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic force for good prompted a outcry against the film that has lasted to this day. The innovative elements of The Birth of a Nation are monumental. The practice of intercutting action scenes to make them more frenetic, cutting between wide shots and closeups, using high-angle shots to let the audience see all of a battlefield, using fade-ins and fade-outs to change scenes, and having a musical score written exclusively for the film are just a handful of the essentials of modern filmmaking that Griffith practically invented while making this movie. In addition, The Birth of a Nation was the first epic, running for over three hours in an era where that simply wasn't done, it used massive crowds of extras dressed in authentic period costumes, and featured battle scenes unprecedented at that point in time in terms of size and complexity. The Birth of a Nation, despite the controversy, was as recently as 1960 still considered one of the greatest American films of all-time. While few people still hold that opinion, it remains universally regarded as one of the top two or three most important films ever made. D.W Griffith singlehandedly established the language of commercial filmmaking with it, and even a hundred years later, movies still follow many of the same basic rules established in The Birth of a Nation.

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