Copyright laws are a messy, frightening topic 90% of the time, but what if I told you that there was a super-cool 10% hiding out on YouTube, just waiting for you? That 10% is absolutely free silent films, made available to everyone with internet access when they fell into the Public Domain eons ago (okay maybe only decades, and some of them weren't ever really copyrighted because they were made before film was a "thing", but let's not nitpick). Below are three of my personal favorites that you can watch anytime on YouTube!   

A Trip to the Moon, directed by Georges Melies -- If you are just beginning to dip your toes into the wonderful world of silent cinema, this short is an exciting intro. The film follows a group of astronomers on a voyage to the moon (as perhaps you could guess) and the ensuing run-ins with Ant-Men and giant mushroom forests. It can be viewed in all it's hand-colored glory by clicking on the top left image.

The General, co-directed by and starring Buster Keaton -- Now we're moving into full-length movie territory. The General is the first silent film I ever saw, and an all-around classic. Buster Keaton's Civil War Era, train-traveling quest to save the lady he's in love with showcases prime examples of slapstick physical comedy, along with a dose of hopeless romance that will melt your heart into a sepia-toned puddle. 

Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang -- A sweeping, ambitious science fiction masterpiece of German expressionism that is hailed as a pioneer of the sci-fi genre -- have I convinced you yet? The film follows Freder, the silver-spoon-son of Metropolis's master, as he has a moral crisis about his father's hellish industrial practices that enable him to live in a futuristic paradise. Throw in a mad scientist and a beautiful robot, a masterpiece is born! A painstakingly restored version of Metropolis is available on YouTube, featuring a live (when it was screened) orchestral soundtrack. If you're like me and the soundtrack gets too intense, try muting it and playing your iTunes on shuffle: you'll get some surprisingly great results. 


This Review by Lydia Dullinger