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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: 14
Walter R. Booth: 6
Edwin S. Porter: 6
Segundo de Chomón: 5
Buster Keaton: 5
Fritz Lang: 5
F.W. Murnau: 5
J. Stuart Blackton: 4
J. Searle Dawley: 4
D.W. Griffith: 4
Winsor McCay: 4
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle: 3
Edward F. Cline: 3
Wallace McCutcheon: 3
G.W. Pabst: 3
Josef von Sternberg: 3
Francesco Bertolini: 2
Alfred Hitchcock: 2
Charles Kent: 2
Henry Lehrman: 2
Giuseppe de Liguoro: 2
Willis H. O’Brien: 2
Sidney Olcott: 2
Adolfo Padovan: 2
Charles-Émile Reynaud: 2
Victor Sjöström: 2
William A. Wellman: 2
Charles le Bargy: 1
John G. Blystone: 1
Carl Boese: 1
Frank Borzage: 1
Herbert Brenon: 1
André Calmettes: 1
Mario Caserini: 1
Rene Clair: 1
Émile Cohl: 1
Cecil B. DeMille: 1
William K.L. Dickson: 1
Carl Theodor Dreyer: 1
Allan Dwan: 1
Jean Epstein: 1
Sergei Eisenstein: 1
Pál Fejös: 1
Robert J. Flaherty: 1
Dave Fleischer: 1
George S. Fleming: 1
Louis Feuillade: 1
John Ford: 1
Buntarō Futagawa: 1
Abel Gance: 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
Fred C. Newmeyer: 1
Fred Niblo: 1
Yakov Protazanov: 1
Lotte Reiniger: 1
Jean Renoir: 1
Eleuterio Rodolfi: 1
Frank Oakes Rose: 1
Walter Ruttman: 1
Stellan Rye: 1
Leontine Sagan: 1
Scott Sidney: 1
Robert Siodmak: 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
Edgar G. Ulmer: 1
Unknown: 1
Gaston Velle: 1
Dziga Vertov: 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: 78
France: 40
Germany: 21
Britain: 10
Italy: 4
Russia: 4
Sweden: 3
Japan: 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.
7/27/18: Added tentative fourth form of 1927 top five, placing SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS in third and bumping THE END OF ST. PETERSBURG from the list.
9/2/18: Finalized the 1927 top five with its fifth iteration, placing NAPOLEON in fourth and bumping BED AND SOFA from the list.
9/24/18: Added tentative first form of 1928 top five, including THE LAST COMMAND, THE CAMERAMAN, STORM OVER ASIA, THE VIKING, and THE LIFE AND DEATH OF 9413 – A HOLLYWOOD EXTRA.
10/13/18: Added tentative second form of 1928 top five, placing THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC in first and bumping THE LIFE AND DEATH OF 9413 – A HOLLYWOOD EXTRA from the list.
11/3/18: Added tentative third form of 1928 top five, placing SHOW PEOPLE in fifth and bumping THE VIKING from the list.
11/4/18: Added tentative fourth form of 1928 top five, placing THE CIRCUS in first and bumping SHOW PEOPLE from the list.
11/12/18: Added tentative fifth form of 1928 top five, placing LONESOME in fifth and bumping STORM OVER ASIA from the list.
12/16/18: Added tentative sixth form of 1928 top five, placing FOUR SONS in fourth and bumping LONESOME from the list.
1/9/19: Finalized the 1928 top five with its seventh iteration, placing LONESOME back on the list at fifth and bumping THE CAMERAMAN from the list.
1/31/19: Added tentative first form of 1929 top five, including THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, THE LOVE PARADE, THE WHITE HELL OF PITZ PALU, OUR MODERN MAIDENS, and DISRAELI.
2/8/19: Added tentative second form of 1929 top five, placing THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY in first and bumping DISRAELI from the list.
2/10/19: Added tentative third form of 1929 top five, placing APPLAUSE in second and bumping OUR MODERN MAIDENS from the list.
3/9/19: Added tentative fourth form of 1929 top five, placing MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA in first and bumping THE WHITE HELL OF PITZ PALU from the list.
4/2/19: Added tentative fifth form of 1929 top five, placing THE MANXMAN in fourth and bumping THE LOVE PARADE from the list.
4/18/19: Moved SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS up to first for the 1927 top five.
6/5/19: Added tentative sixth form of 1929 top five, placing DIARY OF A LOST GIRL in second and bumping THE TAMING OF THE SHREW from the list.
6/28/19: Added tentative seventh form of 1929 top five, placing OLD AND NEW in third and bumping THE MANXMAN from the list.
8/4/19: Added tentative eighth form of 1929 top five, placing PANDORA’S BOX in third and bumping APPLAUSE from the list.
8/25/19: Added tentative ninth form of 1929 top five, placing WOMAN IN THE MOON in fourth and bumping THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY from the list, then placing BLACKMAIL at second and bumping OLD AND NEW from the list.
11/9/19: Added tentative tenth form of 1929 top five, placing THE COCOANUTS at fifth and bumping WOMAN IN THE MOON from the list.
1/13/20: Finalized the 1929 top five with the eleventh iteration, placing LUCKY STAR in first and moving MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA down to fourth, bumping THE COCOANUTS from the list.
2/1/20: Added tentative first form of 1930 top five, including PAID, MYSTERIOUS MOSE, FOLLOW THRU, THE HASH SHOP, and BEDELIA.
2/12/20: Added tentative second form of 1930 top five, placing GOLF NUTS in fourth and bumping BEDELIA from the list.
2/16/20: Added tentative third form of 1930 top five, placing BORDERLINE in first and bumping THE HASH SHOP from the list.
2/20/20: Added tentative fourth form of 1930 top five, placing HOLIDAY in third and bumping GOLF NUTS from the list.
2/23/20: Added tentative fifth form of 1930 top five, placing JOURNEY’S END in fourth and bumping FOLLOW THRU from the list.
2/28/20: Added tentative sixth form of 1930 top five, placing THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY in fifth and bumping MYSTERIOUS MOSE from the list.
3/9/20: Added tentative seventh form of 1930 top five, placing HELL’S ANGELS in first and bumping THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY from the list.
3/19/20: Added tentative eighth form of 1930 top five, placing ANIMAL CRACKERS in second and bumping JOURNEY’S END from the list.
3/20/20: Added tentative ninth form of 1930 top five, placing BILLY THE KID in fourth and bumping HOLIDAY from the list.
5/1/20: Added tentative tenth form of 1930 top five, placing THE BLUE ANGEL in first and bumping PAID from the list.
5/29/20: Added tentative eleventh form of 1930 top five, placing MOROCCO in first and bumping BILLY THE KID from the list.
6/7/20: Added tentative twelfth form of 1930 top five, placing MONTE CARLO in fourth and bumping BORDERLINE from the list.
6/18/20: Added tentative thirteenth form of 1930 top five, placing UNDER THE ROOFS OF PARIS in third and bumping ANIMAL CRACKERS from the list.
7/30/20: Added tentative fourteenth form of 1930 top five, placing PEOPLE ON SUNDAY in fourth and bumping MONTE CARLO from the list.
8/12/20: Added tentative fifteenth form of 1930 top five, placing LADIES OF LEISURE in fifth and bumping HELL’S ANGELS from the list.
9/4/20: Added tentative sixteenth form of 1930 top five, placing THE BIG TRAIL in fifth and bumping LADIES OF LEISURE from the list.
9/21/20: Finalized the 1930 top five with the seventeenth iteration, placing WESTFRONT 1918 in third and bumping THE BIG TRAIL from the list.
11/19/20: Added tentative first form of the 1931 top five, including LA CHIENNE, MATA HARI, SPOOKS, AIN’T NATURE GRAND!, and MICKEY’S ORPHANS.
11/22/20: Added tentative second form of the 1931 top five, placing DRACULA in second and bumping MICKEY’S ORPHANS from the list.
11/24/20: Added tentative third form of the 1931 top five, placing SAFE IN HELL in second and bumping AIN’T NATURE GRAND! from the list.
11/29/20: Added tentative fourth form of the 1931 top five, placing THE PUBLIC ENEMY in second and bumping SPOOKS from the list.
12/2/20: Added tentative fifth form of the 1931 top five, placing THE MIRACLE WOMAN in fourth and bumping MATA HARI from the list.
12/8/20: Added tentative sixth form of the 1931 top five, placing WATERLOO BRIDGE in fourth and bumping DRACULA from the list.
1/28/21: Added tentative seventh form of the 1931 top five, placing M in fourth and bumping THE MIRACLE WOMAN from the list.
3/2/21: Added tentative eight form of the 1931 top five, placing CITY LIGHTS in first and bumping WATERLOO BRIDGE from the list.
4/29/21: Finalized the 1931 top five with the ninth iteration, placing MÄDCHEN IN UNIFORM in third and bumping M from the list.
7/21/21: Added tentative first form of the 1932 top five, including BIRD OF PARADISE, HORSE FEATHERS, SPRING SHOWER, EMMA, and SO BIG.
7/26/21: Added tentative second form of the 1932 top five, adding WHITE ZOMBIE at fourth and TOWED IN A HOLE at fifth, bumping EMMA and SO BIG from the list.
8/7/21: Added tentative third form of the 1932 top five, adding FORBIDDEN at fifth and bumping TOWED IN A HOLE from the list.
8/9/21: Added tentative fourth form of the 1932 top five, adding FANNY at first and bumping FORBIDDEN from the list.
9/1/21: Added tentative fifth form of the 1932 top five, adding SCARFACE at third and bumping WHITE ZOMBIE from the list.
9/10/21: Added tentative sixth form of the 1932 top five, adding TROUBLE IN PARADISE at fourth and bumping SPRING SHOWER from the list.
9/16/21: Added tentative seventh from of the 1932 top five, adding VAMPYR at second and bumping HORSE FEATHERS from the list.

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