Top 10 animated silent shorts

Silents by numbers

This is a guest post for Silent London by Robyn Ludwig,. The Silents by Numbers strand celebrates some very personal top 10s by silent film enthusiasts and experts.

Gertie the Dinosaur (Winsor McCay, 1914)

Long before there was Bambi or Simba, there was Gertie. The simple ink dinosaur charmed vaudeville audiences with her feisty attitude, and she remains to this day a masterpiece of keyframe animation.

Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (J Stuart Blackton, 1906)

The first entirely animated film, Humorous Phases is a classic lightning sketch film, with chalkboard characters brought to life through stop-motion and cutout animation.

Felix in Hollywood (Otto Messmer, 1923)

Here the iconic kitty meets Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and film censor William Hays, in the first cartoon to feature caricatures of Hollywood celebrities.

Fantasmagorie (Emile Cohl, 1908)

The morphing stick figure clown, inspired by Humorous Phases, is considered the earliest frame-by-frame hand-drawn animation.

Aschenputtel (Lotte Reiniger, 1922)

Reiniger’s elegant silhouette animation creates a surreal fairytale world that is both shadowy and sharp.

The Sinking of the Lusitania (Winsor McCay, 1918)

Notable as the first animated documentary, this 12-minute propaganda film took 22 months and over 25,000 drawings to complete.

The Cameraman’s Revenge (Ladislas Starevich, 1911)

An unfaithful beetle is stalked, caught on tape and exposed by an embittered grasshopper with a camera, in this bizarre puppet animation from Russia.

Koko the Clown – Cartoon Factory (Max and Dave Fleischer, 1924)

The rotoscoped Koko was one of the many creations of the Fleischer Brothers, also famous for inventing animated “follow the bouncing ball” sing-alongs.

Diagonal-Symphonie (Viking Eggeling, 1924)

The hypnotic morphing of Eggeling’s paper cutouts and tin foil figures proved that animation could be abstract and avant-garde.

[NSFW] Eveready Harton in Buried Treasure (1928)

This cartoon certainly isn’t for kids. Earning the dubious distinction of being the first pornographic cartoon, Eveready Harton was the perverse brainchild of three New York animation studios, a twisted “anijam” made for a party in honour of Winsor McCay.

By Robyn Ludwig

Robyn Ludwig holds a Master of Film and Literature from the University of York, UK, and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of British Columbia, Canada. She is currently executive and artistic director of the Freeze Frame Media Arts Centre for Young People, in Winnipeg, Canada.

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