The General, “Perhaps the Greatest Film Ever Made,” and 20 Other Buster Keaton Classics Free Online

What motion picture did no less an auteur than Orson Welles call “the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made”? Why, Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton’s 1926 The General, unsung in its day but heaped with critical acclaim ever since. The General, as Roger Ebert describes it, “is an epic of silent comedy, one of the most expensive films of its time, including an accurate historical recreation of a Civil War episode, hundreds of extras, dangerous stunt sequences, and an actual locomotive falling from a burning bridge into a gorge far below.” This and all of Keaton’s movies, Ebert adds, showcase “a graceful perfection, such a meshing of story, character and episode, that they unfold like music.”

You can watch The General online right above. If you then find yourself moved to take in more of Keaton’s filmography, have a look at this list of his freely viewable pictures helpfully compiled by MUBI. Its still-active links include all of the following movies:

They also provide a list of available films Keaton made in collaboration with his fellow silent star and mentor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle:

These 21 films will give you a thorough primer on the joy of silent comedy as perfected by Buster Keaton, in Ebert’s words “not the Great Stone Face so much as a man who kept his composure in the center of chaos. Other silent actors might mug to get a point across, but Keaton remained observant and collected. That’s one reason his best movies have aged better than those of his rival, Charlie Chaplin. He seems like a modern visitor to the world of the silent clowns.”

We will add a number of these films to our collection of 500+ Free Movies Online.

Related Content:

The Power of Silent Movies, with The Artist Director Michel Hazanavicius

Hollywood, Epic Documentary Chronicles the Early History of Cinema

535 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

25 Free Charlie Chaplin Films Online

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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