Film / The Battleship Potemkin

Battleship Potemkin (Rus., Броненосец « Потёмкин », Bronyenosyets "Potyomkin") is a 1925 Soviet silent film, perhaps the most famous one directed by Sergei Eisenstein, who also directed Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible. It was also his experiment to test the emotional power of montages.

In essence, it is a propaganda film that dramatizes the 1905 mutiny on the eponymous ship. Our brave heroes, tired of eating rotten meat, revolt against their superiors. The people of Odessa join them in launching a peaceful protest, which quickly turns violent.

Its best known sequence is one where a baby carriage rolls down the Odessa steps. It has been homaged and parodied numerous times since then.

Although most of the events in the movie are Based on a Great Big Lie, the film itself is considered a masterpiece of direction and cinematography, and is often ranked among the greatest films of all time.

It is in the public domain in many places; you can watch it here.

This film provides examples of:

  • Baby Carriage: The earliest, most famous use of one in cinema, and thus the Trope Maker.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie:
    • That massacre? Never happened. It was just made up so that the revolution would look more justified, though it still might have had some basis in facts—there were reports of demostrations being put down by troops on that day, so while the massacre as shown in the film most probably indeed never happened, this scene might be an exaggeration of some real event. note 
    • The scene where some of the rebellious sailors are rounded up to be shot and a tarp is pulled over them did happen—but there was no tarp. Interestingly, one of the sailors who was in that group saw the film and, in praising it, said "I was under that tarp!" (even though there never was one). Chalk it up to the hypnotic effect of this film.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Almost the entire crew was about to get executed for not liking the soup the ship served (or the meat being full of maggots). Or "killed for a plate of soup", as the rallying cry later in the film put it. The discipline on Imperial Navy ships was notoriously strict, and the ship's XO Ippolit Giliarovsky was well known as a Neidermeyer. The complaining crew would've most probably be court-martialed for insubordination at the very least. Ironically, the Red Navy carried on most of the old Czarist discipline methods.
  • Easy Evangelism: The protagonists manage to instantly turn legions of people to their side as soon as they begin to speak.
    • Not that easy. The poor conditions aboard the ship are shown in detail and the conditions are likely the same all over, and moreover the firing squad takes place at such a delay that it was likely enough.
    • Real Life fact: Joseph Goebbels said that this film was the greatest propaganda film ever, and that "if a man with no strong political motivations saw it, he might well walk out a convinced Bolshevik". Which is pretty awesome, coming from Hitler's Minister of Propaganda... Also, the film was banned in the U.K. until the 1950s, due to fears that it might incite a working class rebellion — high praise when you consider that that's exactly what the film is supposed to do.
  • Epic Movie: Despite being only 75 minutes long, it IS.
  • Eternal Engine: The ship's powerplant.
  • Eye Scream: That screaming woman with broken glasses and blood running down her face. There's an eye, a scream and an eye scream altogether.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade
    • Historical Hero Upgrade as well: The sailor shown in the movie as the mutiny leader in fact wasn't - he was just some dude who got caught in the fighting and was killed. The real leader of the mutiny went to Romania (and further to Europe) with the ship, finally settling in Dublin and opening a fish-and-chips shop.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. If you've seen the movie, you know the scene.
  • Kick the Dog: All of the tsarist massacre, but especially shooting an unarmed mother holding her dead son.
  • The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: It's a government propaganda film which tells you to overthrow the government. Years later, the Soviet government banned the film when they realized that message might apply to, you know, them.
  • Montages
  • Mook–Face Turn: The mutineers manage to convince the government's battleships not only to not fire on them, but to join them in escaping Russia.
  • The Mutiny
  • The Neidermeyer: Ship's XO, Lieutenant Ippolit Giliarovsky, and particularly cocky and bullyish one. One of the aspects in this film where film corresponds well to reality.
  • No Ending: Eisenstein doesn't tell us what eventually happened to the ship; the mutineers sailed to Romania and handed the ship over to the Romanian government.
  • Obviously Evil: One of the characters even twirls his mustache.
  • Popcultural Osmosis: The baby carriage scene.
  • Repeat Cut: The Ur-Example and Trope Maker.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Duh.
  • Sinister Minister: That Moses-looking guy on the ship is an exaggerated version of an Russian Orthodox priest and is meant to show how religion is used to support the status quo and reinforce authority. While the film didn't focus on it, an obligatory anti-religion comment would be unavoidable.
  • Splash of Color: While not Deliberately Monochrome because color photography simply was not available, the Potemkin flew a red flag that was colored in frame by frame.
  • Stock Shout-Out: The staircase sequence has been referenced in so many films, including Star Wars, that it would be redundant to list them all. If there is a scene with a group of soldiers marching in unison up or down a staircase, it's safe to assume that's what it is. In Italy, if you mention this movie, the answer you'll get is "Fantozzi". In the second installment of said movie series, the titular White Collar Worker, Ugo Fantozzi, is forced, alongside his colleagues, to watch (a much longer parody-named version of) the movie as a "routine ritual" demanded by his boss. The famous scene from the movie is when the protagonist snaps and yells, "To me... Battleship Kotiomkin... is nothing but crazy bullshit!". Then the narrator - Fantozzi himself in first person - remarks in an "epic" tone: "Ninety-two minutes of applause ensued". (And hilarity ensued, too.)
  • Vehicle Title
  • World Half Full: The film ends far more optimistically than its Real Life counterpart.

Alternative Title(s): Battleship Potemkin