#2 The Great Train Robbery (1903)

This falls into the category of earliest films that ended up sparking what we see as the definitive film making and consumption of our era. it was the first western, the first multi-shot narrative with consecutive story lines happening at the same time, the first breaking of the fourth wall (which we remember hearing sent audiences screaming into the streets from thinking they were actually being shot at?) and the first “blockbuster.”

We watched this film on YouTube as it is in the public domain.


This is considered one of the first films to have a narrative story line ( cowboys holding up a train!  Classic!).  Interestingly, the original negatives of this film are archived by the Library of Congress and is still in excellent condition.  One of the visual effects I found quite interesting was the frames that are hand tinted with color, and how amazing bright these frames are.  This is a great quick film to watch.  It’s also really curious to consider how different it is to tell a story without dialogue – how precise and purposeful each visual image must be to further along the sequence of the narrative.

Also, sort of a timeless story.  Made in 1903, my seven year old would still find this story relevant and exciting.


I don’t have much to say about this film, except that as a modern film viewer this film does a lot of what I expect to happen when I watch a film. The thing that makes it so remarkable on every level is the fact that this is one of the first films to do all of this so much. I was coincidentally reading Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures at the same time, and that added a fun dimension of experiencing this early work of film art once again.

It is a cool flick, and much of what is presented in this film is revolutionary and remarkable for the time considering so many people were just figuring it out at the time. It reminded me of the antique nickelodeon hand-crank films I watched at Canobie Lake Park as a kid – where one would still insert a nickel to watch a short film in a little box made from hundreds of little paper cards flicking by like a zoetrope. Fun, short, and really cool little film that must have astounded Edison’s audiences at the turn of the century as this stuff started picking up!

2 thoughts on “#2 The Great Train Robbery (1903)

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