3. “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans”, F.W. Murnau (1927)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Murnau Sunrise

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

dir. F.W. Murnau scr. Carl Mayer cin. Charles Rosher and Karl Struss with George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingston

In 100 words: The greatest of all silent movies is this universal tale of love and redemption that verges on simplistic were it not for the beautiful humanity that its makers have imbued within every frame. Sunrise does not even bother giving a name to its characters, just pronouns, but Murnau uses his brilliant expressionistic style to subtly highlight a romance rekindled or to suggest the overwhelming feeling of being lost in a big city. The freedom of his camera to move and to create such poignant images during the era made this an even more stunning accomplishment. Gaynor and O’Brien are unimprovable.

Other Movies for Context: One of the great masters of cinema, F.W. Murnau made other invaluable contributions to film, including the landmark horror film Nosferatu (1922), the social realist The Last Laugh (1924), and the great documentary-like Tabu (1931).

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