LIFE Photo Collection
The first films were made in the late 1800s, using devices like the Edison Company Kinetoscope, which allowed one person at a time to watch moving images. These films were little more than a few minutes of footage featuring foreign lands or newsworthy events. It was a curiosity but little more.
George Eastman and Thomas Edison at Kodacolor Party (1928) by Unidentified makerGeorge Eastman Museum
It wasn’t until just over 100 years ago that movie industries began to develop in various countries around the world. A handful of pioneering directors started to realize the narrative power of moving pictures. Ultimately, this transformed the fledgling technology into today’s global industry, worth more than $42 billion a year. But how much do you know about the early cinematic masters? Take our quiz to find out.
Battleship Potemkin (1925/1925)Mosfilm Cinema Concern
Early films consisted of a series of extended cuts, usually filmed from one camera angle, stuck together in a linear fashion. It wasn’t until this director came along and pioneered the montage shot that cinema goers could watch films with edited sequences, offering views of scenes from different angles and perspectives.
Director Sergei Eisenstein working in the editing studio (1920/1920)Mosfilm Cinema Concern
Working in Soviet Russia, this director made rousing historical epics such as Battleship Potemkin in 1925 and October in 1928. But can you name him?
Sergei Eisenstein with a calavery (1931) by Hermilo JimenezEisensteins Universum, Film Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
„Metropolis“, D 1925/26, (1987)German Federal Archives
These days, science fiction makes up a huge portion of the global cinematic output. Our love of movie sci-fi can largely be traced back to one film - 1927’s futuristic masterpiece Metropolis.
Tournage de Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)The Cinémathèque française
Building on his work in Expressionistic cinema, this director created a dystopian nightmare set in a futuristic city ruled over by billionaire industrialists. Do you know the director's name?
LIFE Photo Collection
Metropolis was loved by the critics, and was pioneering in its scope, but it almost bankrupted the studio owing to the enormous production costs.
24 Hour Psycho (1993/1993) by Douglas GordonModern Art Oxford
Bridging the gap between the early days of cinema and the modern age, this English director made his first silent films in the early 1920s and carried on making features into the 1970s. One of the most influential filmmakers in history, he helped to define the thriller genre as well as shaping the future of ‘talking’ movies.
Features of his style include the moving camera that mimics the viewer's gaze and framing shots to maximize tension. These elements were used to spectacular effect in his 1960 classic Psycho. Who is it?
Alfred Hitchcock (1942-07) by William VandivertLIFE Photo Collection
Le magasin de jouets de Georges Méliès à MontparnasseThe Cinémathèque française
A French illusionist and director who was revered for leading many technical and narrative developments in early cinema.
Photogramme du Voyage dans la lune (1902) by Georges MélièsThe Cinémathèque française
He was an prolific innovator of special effects, creating some of the most iconic images in cinematic history, such as this image of the moon with a rocket crash-landed in its eye. But what was his name?
Portrait de Georges Méliès (1895)The Cinémathèque française
Battleship PotemkinMosfilm Cinema Concern
Did you name all the cinematic greats?
Cinema has evolved over the last hundred years. But it's undeniably true that none of it would have been possible if it wasn't for the pioneering efforts of the directors above. Find out more about Eisenstein here.