The Great Train Robbery (1903) Director: Edwin Stanton Porter
The Great Train Robbery is an incredible short silent film that is certainly Edwin S. Porter’s best film. The closing scene of the film is famous worldwide and it has been alluded to in many other films, including Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas and Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.
The Great Train Robbery is the first great American Western film. It was filmed in New Jersey, where many early films were shot before the rise of Hollywood in California.
The film tells the story of two bandits who hold up a train docking in a station station by binding and tying up the operator. Then, they board the train, kill the officials, and file all of the people onto the platform to ransack their belongings. One person tries to escape but is shot down. The bandits escape with their loot on horseback.
Later, the operator gathers men from a dance hall to chase the bandits down and kill them. The famous closing scene of the film portrays Justus D. Barnes shooting his gun point blank at the camera.
According to legend, the realistic scenes of shooting and moving trains frightened early 20th century film goers so much that many fled in fear. It was the most popular film of the silent era before the release of the mega blockbuster, Birth of a Nation in 1915.