The Great Train Robbery ★★★★

Before 1900, American films showed scenes of everyday life and objects in motion, but these very short films (usually a couple of minutes or less) did not tell a story. The Great Train Robbery is one of the first films to present an entire story. The train robbery is shown from the first action, the robbers tying up the telegraph operator, through the robbery itself, the escape of the robbers on horseback, the mobilization of a posse, to the conclusion, the killing of the bandits by the posse and the recovery of the money.

The entire action is shown from a distance so that the actors and a portion of the surroundings are included in every shot. The actors accentuate and exaggerate every movement. The only person who is individualized (slightly) is the little girl who finds her father, the telegraph operator, unconscious and attempts to rouse him. The film concludes on a close up of a cowboy who fires his gun at the audience.

The rating is based on the historical importance of the film, not its merits as an example of fine filmmaking.