These Early Examples Of Film Will Shock You

Published June 10, 2014
Updated December 23, 2020

Considering that the motion picture has only been around for a little over a century, the advances it's made since its infancy are truly amazing.

First Films In History: Roundhay Garden Scene, 1888

Before Thomas Edison revolutionized American cinema, this moving picture was in heavy circulation throughout Europe. Recorded by French inventor Louis Le Prince, the Roundhay Garden Scene is the first celluloid film created. It was filmed at 12 frames per second and only captures two minutes of footage, but depicts a gathering at the home of Joseph and Sarah Whitely in Roundhay, Leeds, England on October 14, 1888.

Monkeyshines, circa 1889-1890

The first American film ever made, Monkeyshines was the creation of William Dickson to test the Kinetograph format. Inspired by Le Prince’s motion pictures, Thomas Edison developed the Kinetograph, the first practical moving picture camera, and the Kintescope, a manual, single-viewer lighted box to display the films. Monkeyshines films were three sets of experimental movies to test whether Edison’s patented invention worked.

Dickson Experimental Sound Film, 1895

The Dickson Experimental Sound Film is the first known film with live-recorded sound and was made for the Kinetophone, the sound system developed by Edison and Dickson. The film was made by Dickson and produced in Edison’s New Jersey film studio, “Black Maria”. The runtime is only 20 seconds, but the film features Dickson playing a violin into a recording horn while two men dance.

Annabelle Serpentine Dance, 1895

Produced once again by Edison’s Black Maria Studios and filmed by William Heise, this is the first publicly released color film. It shows modern dancer, Annabelle Whitford, performing the Serpentine Dance. Incredibly enough, the film was tinted by hand post-shooting, rather than filmed in color.

Fantasmagorie, 1908

Fantasmagorie was the very first animated film created by French animator and cartoonist Émile Cohl. It is made up of 700 drawings on paper, which were then shot on negative film to give the animation the look of being drawn on a blackboard. It was produced by French studio Gaumont.

The Toll of the Sea, 1922

The Toll of the Sea hit cinemas on November 26, 1922, and was the first Hollywood feature film to be successfully shot in Technicolor. It was directed by Chester M. Franklin and produced by the Technicolor Motion Picture corporation, and is loosely based on the plot of Madama Butterfly, which tells the tragic tale of an illicit love affair between an American man and Japanese woman. In 1985 the film was finally restored from original negatives, delighting cinephiles around the globe.

The Jazz Singer, 1927

The Jazz Singer is an American musical released in 1927. It also has the distinction of being the first feature-length film with synchronized dialogue, marking the end of silent-film era and ushering in the age of the “talkies”. Although other films had synchronized music and sound effects, Jazz Singer was the first full feature film that included dialogue, and not just music or other effects.

Enjoy these early examples of film? Then be sure to see our posts on Netflix documentaries and iconic 1950s photos!

All That's Interesting
All That's Interesting is a Brooklyn-based digital publisher that seeks out the stories to illuminate the past, present, and future.