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The 5 Best Films of Every Year Ever

by Tristan Ettleman
The 5 Best Films of Every Year Ever by Tristan Ettleman
Weekly essays for each of the films on this list can be found at https://medium.com/@trettleman. I’ve recently undertaken a strange, impossible quest to watch all the films created since the beginning of the medium that interest me. I began in 1900 (after doing some research into film pre-20th century), and at the time of this writing, just finished 1920. For some reason, I’m compelled to share my top five picks from each year beginning in 1900, which I see as a reasonable starting point as the earliest year in which films resemble the art form we know today. This living list will be updated as I slowly but surely make my way through the… Read more

Weekly essays for each of the films on this list can be found at https://medium.com/@trettleman.

I’ve recently undertaken a strange, impossible quest to watch all the films created since the beginning of the medium that interest me. I began in 1900 (after doing some research into film pre-20th century), and at the time of this writing, just finished 1920.

For some reason, I’m compelled to share my top five picks from each year beginning in 1900, which I see as a reasonable starting point as the earliest year in which films resemble the art form we know today. This living list will be updated as I slowly but surely make my way through the history of film. Enjoy!

NOTE: I decided that I wanted to include five films pre-1900 because I’m wishy-washy and am never satisfied. Also, I discovered there were some truly exciting films from that era. So, the 1888-1899 period will be treated as one entry.

Number of films per director:

Georges Méliès: 22
Charlie Chaplin: 12
Walter R. Booth: 6
Edwin S. Porter: 6
Segundo de Chomón: 5
Buster Keaton: 5
J. Stuart Blackton: 4
J. Searle Dawley: 4
Fritz Lang: 4
Winsor McCay: 4
F.W. Murnau: 4
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle: 3
Edward F. Cline: 3
D.W. Griffith: 3
Wallace McCutcheon: 3
Sidney Olcott: 3
Francesco Bertolini: 2
Charles Kent: 2
Henry Lehrman: 2
Giuseppe de Liguoro: 2
Willis H. O’Brien: 2
Adolfo Padovan: 2
Charles-Émile Reynaud: 2
Charles le Bargy: 1
John G. Blystone: 1
Carl Boese: 1
Herbert Brenon: 1
André Calmettes: 1
Mario Caserini: 1
Émile Cohl: 1
Cecil B. DeMille: 1
William K.L. Dickson: 1
Allan Dwan: 1
Jean Epstein: 1
Sergei Eisenstein: 1
Robert J. Flaherty: 1
Dave Fleischer: 1
George S. Fleming: 1
Louis Feuillade: 1
Buntarō Futagawa: 1
Charles L. Gaskill: 1
Enrico Guazzoni: 1
William Heise: 1
Lucius Henderson: 1
Cecil Hepworth: 1
Harry O. Hoyt: 1
F. Richard Jones: 1
Teinosuke Kinugasa: 1
J. Farrell MacDonald: 1
Frank Marion: 1
Clément Maurice: 1
Otto Messmer: 1
Ashley Miller: 1
Albert Mullens: 1
Willy Mullens: 1
Marshall Neilan: 1
Fred C. Newmeyer: 1
Fred Niblo: 1
Yakov Protazanov: 1
Lotte Reiniger: 1
Eleuterio Rodolfi: 1
Frank Oakes Rose: 1
Stellan Rye: 1
Scott Sidney: 1
Victor Sjöström: 1
F. Percy Smith: 1
Wladyslaw Starewicz: 1
Mauritz Stiller: 1
Percy Stow: 1
Erich von Stroheim: 1
Charles Tait: 1
Sam Taylor: 1
Otis Turner: 1
Unknown: 1
Gaston Velle: 1
King Vidor: 1
Paul Wegener: 1
Hans Werckmeister: 1
Robert Wiene: 1
James Williamson: 1
William Worthington: 1
James Young Deer: 1
Ferdinand Zecca: 1

And per country of origin:

United States: 69
France: 36
Germany: 13
Britain: 8
Italy: 4
Russia: 3
Japan: 2
Sweden: 2
Australia: 1
Netherlands: 1

10/3/16: Began creating the list, adding films from 1900-1911.
10/4/16: Added films from 1912 and 1913.
10/5/16: Added films from 1914-1920.
10/22/16: Added tentative first form of 1921 top five, including THE KID, DESTINY, THE HAUNTED HOUSE, THE FIRST CIRCUS, and HARD LUCK.
10/25/16: Iterated with second 1921 top five, placing THE IDLE CLASS in fourth and bumping HARD LUCK from the list.
10/26/16: Iterated with third 1921 top five, placing THE HIGH SIGN in third and bumping THE FIRST CIRCUS from the list.
11/1/16: Iterated with fourth 1921 top five, placing A SAILOR-MADE MAN in fifth and bumping THE IDLE CLASS from the list.
11/27/16: Finalized the 1921 top five with fifth iteration, placing THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE in first and bumping A SAILOR-MADE MAN from the list.
12/22/16: Added tentative first form of 1922 top five, including JUMPING BEANS, COPS, GRANDMA’S BOY, FIRE FIGHTERS, and THE FOUR MUSICIANS OF BREMEN.
12/24/16: Added tentative second form of 1922 top five, placing THE BURNING SOIL in first and bumping THE FOUR MUSICIANS OF BREMEN from the list.
12/26/16: Added tentative third form of 1922 top five, placing DR. JACK in first and bumping FIRE FIGHTERS from the list.
1/2/17: Added tentative fourth form of 1922 top five, placing BLOOD AND SAND in third and bumping GRANDMA’S BOY from the list.
1/4/17: Added pre-1900 films.
1/8/17: Added tentative fifth form of 1922 top five, placing NOSFERATU in first and bumping COPS from the list.
1/19/17: Added tentative sixth form of 1922 top five, placing DR. MABUSE THE GAMBLER in first and bumping JUMPING BEANS from the list.
2/4/17: Added tentative seventh form of 1922 top five, placing ROBIN HOOD in third and bumping BLOOD AND SAND from the list.
2/7/17: Added tentative eighth form of 1922 top five, shuffling ROBIN HOOD to first, placing PHANTOM in fourth, and bumping THE BURNING SOIL from the list.
2/13/17: Finalized the 1922 top five with ninth iteration, placing NANOOK OF THE NORTH in fifth and bumping DR. JACK from the list.
4/25/17: Added tentative first form of 1923 top five, including THE EXTRA GIRL, DOGS OF WAR, THE COVERED WAGON, BED TIME, and THE LOVE NEST.
4/30/17: Added tentative second form of 1923 top five, placing FALSE ALARM in third and bumping THE LOVE NEST from the list.
5/1/17: Added tentative third form of 1923 top five, placing SAFETY LAST! in first and bumping BED TIME from the list.
5/5/17: Added tentative fourth form of 1923 top five, placing OUR HOSPITALITY in first and bumping THE COVERED WAGON from the list.
5/7/17: Added tentative fifth form of 1923 top five, placing A WOMAN OF PARIS in fourth and bumping FALSE ALARM from the list.
5/12/17: Added tentative sixth form of 1923 top five, placing THREE AGES in fifth and bumping DOGS OF WAR from the list.
5/27/17: Finalized the 1923 top five with seventh iteration, placing FAITHFUL HEART in first and bumping THREE AGES from the list.
8/2/17: Added tentative first form of 1924 top five, including DIE NIBELUNGEN: SIEGFRIED, DIE NIBELUNGEN: KRIEMHILD’S REVENGE, AELITA, HE WHO GETS SLAPPED, and THE MOON OF ISRAEL.
8/22/17: Added tentative second form of 1924 top five, placing MICHAEL in fourth and bumping THE MOON OF ISRAEL from the list.
9/22/17: Added tentative third form of 1924 top five, placing THE SAGA OF GOSTA BERLING in third and bumping HE WHO GETS SLAPPED from the list.
9/27/17: Added tentative fourth form of 1924 top five, placing SHERLOCK JR. in fifth and bumping MICHAEL from the list.
10/11/17: Finalized the 1924 top five with fifth iteration, placing GREED in first and bumping SHERLOCK JR. from the list.
10/31/17: Added tentative first form of 1925 top five, including GO WEST, GRASS: A NATION’S BATTLE FOR LIFE, THE JOYLESS STREET, MASTER OF THE HOUSE, and ALICE THE JAIL BIRD.
11/13/17: Added tentative second form of 1925 top five, placing THE FRESHMAN in second and bumping ALICE THE JAIL BIRD from the list.
11/30/17: Added tentative third form of 1925 top five, placing THE LOST WORLD in first and bumping MASTER OF THE HOUSE from the list.
12/6/17: Added tentative fourth form of 1925 top five, placing OROCHI (SERPENT) in first and bumping THE JOYLESS STREET from the list.
12/30/17: Added tentative fifth form of 1925 top five, placing THE BIG PARADE in third and bumping GRASS: A NATION’S BATTLE FOR LIFE from the list.
1/20/18: Added tentative sixth form of 1925 top five, placing BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN in fourth and bumping THE FRESHMAN from the list.
2/10/18: Added tentative seventh form of 1925 top five, placing STRIKE in first and bumping GO WEST from the list.
2/24/18: Finalized the 1925 top five with eighth iteration, placing THE GOLD RUSH in first and bumping BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN from the list.
3/23/18: Added tentative first form of 1926 top five, including THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED, ELLA CINDERS, BURIED TREASURE, and THE FOURTH ALARM.
3/26/18: Added tentative second form of 1926 top five, placing TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP in third and bumping THE FOURTH ALARM from the list.
3/27/18: Added tentative third form of 1926 top five, placing THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE in third and bumping BURIED TREASURE from the list.
3/29/18: Added tentative fourth form of 1926 top five, placing 3 BAD MEN in third and bumping ELLA CINDERS from the list.
4/1/18: Added tentative fifth form of 1926 top five, placing MÉNILMONTANT in third and bumping TRAMP, TRAMP, TRAMP from the list.
4/8/18: Added tentative sixth form of 1926 top five, placing FAUST in third and bumping THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE from the list. Also, swapped THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, placing them at first and second, respectively.
4/19/18: Added tentative seventh form of 1926 top five, placing THE GENERAL in first and bumping 3 BAD MEN from the list.
5/1/18: Added tentative eight form of 1926 top five, placing A PAGE OF MADNESS in second and bumping MÉNILMONTANT from the list.
5/29/18: Finalized the 1926 top five with its ninth iteration, moving FAUST from fifth up to third and placing TARTUFFE at fourth, bumping THE HOLY MOUNTAIN from the list.
7/10/18: Added tentative first form of 1927 top five, including METROPOLIS, BERLIN: SYMPHONY OF A GREAT CITY, THE END OF ST. PETERSBURG, CHILDREN OF DIVORCE, and LONG PANTS.
7/13/18: Added tentative second form of 1927 top five, placing THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG in third and bumping LONG PANTS from the list.
7/15/18: Added tentative third form of 1927 top five, placing BED AND SOFA in fourth and bumping CHILDREN OF DIVORCE from the list.

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