Battleship Potemkin (1925, USSR) (aka Bronenosets Potyomkin), 75 minutes, D: Sergei Eisenstein
Legendary Russian auteur director Sergei Eisenstein's classic landmark and visionary film was released in the US in 1926, advancing the art of cinematic storytelling with the technique of montage (or film editing). Its most celebrated film scene, with superb editing combining wide, newsreel-like sequences inter-cut with close-ups of harrowing details (a woman with a bullet through her spectacles, troops in formation) - to increase tension, is the Odessa Steps episode. It was based upon the incident in 1905 when civilians and rioters were ruthlessly massacred. In the scene (with 155 separate shots in less than five minutes), the Czarist soldiers fire on the crowds thronging on the Odessa steps with the indelible, kinetic image of a baby carriage careening down the marble steps leading to the harbor (copied by De Palma's The Untouchables (1987)), and the symbolism of a stone lion coming awake.
The Big Parade (1925), 141 minutes, D: King Vidor
At its time, it was the largest grossing silent film ever. Set in wartime, it is the story of an idealistic young man (John Gilbert) who enlists to serve in World War I, and discovers the horrors of war. With extremely realistic battle scenes.
The Freshman (1925), 70 minutes, D: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
In this silent film satire of college life (aka College Days), bespectacled Harold Lloyd plays the naive, awkward, nerdy Harold 'Speedy' Lamb who goes off to college, dressing and copying the behavior of characters in the movie The College Hero. With youthful optimism, he dreams of becoming the most popular guy on campus and a major football star, but he lacks any apparent talent. After he embarrasses himself during football tryouts, the tough but pitying coach (Harmon) makes him the team's water boy - and the tackle dummy. Harold is under the mistaken impression that he is on the team, and ignorant that he is the butt of jokes. His love interest and dream-girl is a co-ed named Peggy (Ralston) and there's the stereotypical college cad (Benedict). The most memorable scene in the film is the hilarious, climactic championship football game where Harold finally gets to play after every other substitute player has been injured and removed from the game.
The Gold Rush (1925), 72-82 minutes, D: Charles Chaplin
One of Chaplin's best films. The Tramp is an Alaskan prospector in the Klondike gold rush, who just about starves. Classic Tramp routines include his Thanksgiving Day Feast of a boiled edible boot, his romance with a dancehall girl, the dancing bread rolls, and the teetering house. A tremendous combination of pathos, sentimentality, and slapstick.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925), 93 minutes, D: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney
One of the earliest horror films. Lon Chaney plays the acid-scarred composer/phantom, who is somewhat crazed and scorned. He hides his deformity under a mask and lives in the catacombs under the Paris Opera House. He becomes infatuated by a young understudy, a beautiful soprano singer Christine (Mary Philbin) who he hears singing. He abducts her to his underground dwelling when she continues to see her fiance Raoul. In the secret dungeon, he plans to make her a star, training her to sing, in order to vindicate himself to those who have wronged him. She becomes intrigued by his mask and manages to impulsively unmask him in a shocking scene. With a two-color Technicolor Bal Masque sequence in which the Phantom suddenly makes a Red Death appearance.