5 films that prove you don’t always need dialogues – Best silent films to watch

The prolific ‘Silent Era’ laid the foundation for basic filmmaking practices before inventions were made and sound was synchronized with image in 1927. Some of the most creative and significant films in history were made during this era, which proves that a film’s language is its visual narrative and the depth of its characters. Anything that dialogues can depict, pictures can do it better. The reason being that it enables the viewers to create their own film experience, without relying on dialogue to inform them on the happenings.

Although the Silent Era faded with advances in technology, a few filmmakers kept its essence alive across all genres in recent times as well. Here’s WWI Virtual Academy’s list of 5 films that captivated us merely through their visuals, filmmaking techniques, and the well-portrayed characters:


1. A Quiet Place (2018)
This post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film revolves around a family living in isolation that has been reduced to silence because of a bunch of blind extraterrestrial creatures with an acute sense of hearing. The movie depicts a plethora of emotions – fear, rage, tension, and pain all without any dialogue. Besides the shrieking yet subtle background music, it is mostly a silent movie as the name suggests. The characters are shown communicating with each other through sign language, providing depth to the visual narrative of the film.


2. The Artist (2011)
This French comedy-drama film that swept multiple academy awards in 2011 is the perfect example that movies don’t always need dialogues to touch hearts. The movie takes place in the era of silent cinema being replaced by the talkies and is brilliantly showcased as a black-and-white silent film itself. The movie focuses on the love story between a rising young actress and a falling silent film star. The emotions of the characters here are portrayed through the expressions of the actors to convey the story to the audiences.


3. The Bear (1988)
This adventure drama family film that won various international film awards tells the story of an orphaned bear cub that befriends a male grizzly, as they are both pursued by trophy hunters. The film follows the journey of the bear without any dialogues, yet creates an emotional connection with the viewer through its thoughtful narrative. The masterful use of setting and theme along with its unconventional storyline was widely acclaimed by critics.


4. City Lights (1931)
After the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927, the silent era was already taken over by talkies in the film industry. However, Charlie Chaplin’s decision to stick to the silent tradition led to the creation of one of the greatest films of all time. While the structure followed Chaplin’s typical picaresque structure, the silent romantic comedy follows the misadventures of The Tramp falling in love with a blind girl and a turbulent friendship with an alcoholic millionaire. The final scene of the movie was a powerful one with a showcase of mixed emotions and indecision. It is considered as ‘the greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid’ by critics, and the film as the highest accomplishment of Chaplin’s career.


5. Pushpak Vimana (1987)
The silent masterpiece of Kamal Hassan, Pushpak Vimana revolves around an unemployed youth who dreams of living a rich life and the dangers he encounters after taking over the lifestyle of a millionaire. The movie captured the hearts of the audience by conveying more than words could have and proved that the visual narrative can be as compelling as the written one. The film gained critical acclaim and became a landmark in Indian cinema receiving the National Film Award. It was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and the Shanghai International Film Festival.


These movies immersed us into their world without any or little dialogue. If this inspired you to create your own silent film, then sign up for WWI Virtual Academy’s Advanced Certificate Program in Filmmaking and build a solid foundation in filmmaking!