Films from the time Muybridge used a kinetiscope to make the earliest, most primitive "film" in 1878 until 1920. Many of these films were from the The Pre Hollywood Era though many of the later films of the era belong to The Silent Age of Hollywood
Early Films (pre-1900)
- 1888 — Roundhay Garden Scene and Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge — possibly the first true movies ever, and certainly the oldest known to still exist, were shot by Louis Le Prince on experimental camera.
- 1893-1895 — William K.L. Dickson, working for Thomas Edison, shot Blacksmith Scene, Fred Ott's Sneeze, Carmencita, The Great Sandow, and others — The first commercial movies ever. Dickson Experimental Sound Film, the first sound picture, and The Execution of Mary Stuart, the first cinematic special effects, were also produced at the studio. In 1897, it introduced the world to the first pornographic movie with The Dolorita Passion Dance or Dolorita in the Passion Dance. The film was removed from Atlantic City Kinetoscope parlors in 1895, this being perhaps the first instance of film censorship.
- 1895 — The Lumière brothers shot movies, including The Sprinkler Sprinkled, Employees Leaving the Factory, and Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, establishing tropes such as the Practical Joke, Faux Documentary, and cinematic narrative in general.
- 1896 — The Kiss: the first example of a movie kiss and of a scandal caused by a movie.
- 1896 — Rip Van Winkle: Possibly the first film with a narrative plot, however brief.
- 1896 — Georges Méliès begins making films, establishing pretty much every Special Effects-related trope in the book.
- Joan of Arc (George Méliès tackles France's heroine)
- A Trip to the Moon (Méliès' most famous film)
- Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
- The first ever feature-length film, The Story Of The Kelly Gang (approx. 1 hr), was filmed in Melbourne, Australia.
- A Trip Down Market Street
- Ben-Hur — 13-minute adaptation with a pre-stardom William S. Hart as Messala.note
- A Corner in Wheat
- The Country Doctor
- The Curtain Pole
- The Lonely Villa
- Princess Nicotine; or, the Smoke Fairy
- A Cure for Pokeritis
- The Cry of the Children
- Falling Leaves
- From the Manger to the Cross
- The Land Beyond the Sunset
- The Musketeers of Pig Alley
- The New York Hat
- The Evidence of the Film
- Fantômas (five-part serial)
- Matrimony's Speed Limit
- The Student Of Prague
- Traffic in Souls
- The Bargain
- In the Land of the Head Hunters
- The Knockout
- Mabel's Blunder
- Mabel's Strange Predicament, in which a newcomer named Charlie Chaplin invents The Tramp
- The Perils of Pauline, in which Pearl White became the Trope Maker for Damsel in Distress
- Tess of the Storm Country
- Tillie's Punctured Romance
- Uncle Tom's Cabin
- 1915-1919: Charlie Chaplin goes into business for himself, producing and starring in a series of pioneering Slapstick comedies at Essenay, Mutual, and First National studios, including:
- The Birth of a Nation — The movie that invented the feature film as we know it. Values Dissonance to the max today, but the first blockbuster hit (at least, in Hollywood) at the time.
- The Cheat
- Fatty's Tintype Tangle
- A Fool There Was — The film that first popularized the trope of the Vamp, as well as named it.
- The Italian
- That Little Band of Gold
- Les Vampires — A crime serial in 10 parts that ran into 1916. Featured criminal gang the Vampires and a Journalist and his friend trying to stop them. One of the longest films ever made, running to over 6 and a half hours.
- The Curse Of Quon Gwon
- The Half-Breed
- Hell's Hinges
- The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, a deeply weird Sherlock Holmes parody that doubles as the most pro-cocaine film ever made
- The Ocean Waif
- Sherlock Holmes
- Snow White —The first film version
- Where Are My Children?
- Coney Island
- His Wedding Night
- The Poor Little Rich Girl
- Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm
- The Rough House
- Terje Vigen - Adapted from the poem of the same name and considered the beginning of the Golden Age of Swedish Cinema.
- The Blue Bird
- Broadway Love
- The Cook
- Hearts of the World
- I Don't Want to Be a Man
- The Outlaw and His Wife
- Stella Maris
- Tarzan Of The Apes
- Ask Father
- Broken Blossoms — The most sympathetic portrayal of Asians for decades (despite the Yellowface), and probably D. W. Griffith's triumph as a director of actors (and with a disturbing story to boot).
- Bumping Into Broadway
- Different from the Others, notable as the first film to argue for tolerance of homosexuality.
- The Doll
- Dont Change Your Husband
- The Dragon Painter
- From Hand to Mouth
- Male And Female
- The Master Mystery
- The Oyster Princess
- The Sentimental Bloke — Australian classic, recently re-mastered and available on DVD.
The Silent Age of Animation
- Charles-Émile Reynaud exhibits his pioneering animated films in France. (1892-94)
- Little Nemo (1911), a ground-breaking animated short from Winsor McCay
- The Cameraman's Revenge (1912), one of the first examples of Stop Motion animation
- Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), Winsor McCay's follow-up to Little Nemo
- Out of the Inkwell — debut of cartoon series in 1918
- The Sinking of the Lusitania — Winsor McCay defies the Animation Age Ghetto
- Felix the Cat (Classic) — debuted 1919
- Feline Follies (1919)