Watch D.W. Griffith’s Silent Masterpiece Intolerance Free Online — It’s the “Ulysses of the Cinema!”

In 1915, D.W. Grif­fith shot one of the most con­tro­ver­sial films in the his­to­ry of cin­e­ma. Birth of a Nation “was a deci­sive­ly orig­i­nal work of art—in effect, the found­ing work of cin­e­mat­ic real­ism,” writes Richard Brody in The New York­er. But, despite being “titan­i­cal­ly orig­i­nal,” the film was out­ra­geous­ly racist in the way that it depict­ed African-Amer­i­cans dur­ing the Recon­struc­tion Era. Even in 1915, audi­ences knew that the film had crossed a line. The NAACP protest­ed against the film’s fab­ri­ca­tions and inac­cu­ra­cies. Riots broke out in Boston, Philadel­phia and oth­er major cities. And Grif­fith’s lega­cy nev­er recov­ered, even if he tried to atone (some say) in 1916 with the release of Intol­er­ance, anoth­er mas­ter­piece of the Silent Era.


Billed as a “colos­sal spec­ta­cle,” Intol­er­ance fea­tured mas­sive sets, extrav­a­gant peri­od cos­tumes, and more than 3,000 extras, and, in grand fash­ion, it wove togeth­er “four dis­tinct but par­al­lel sto­ries that demon­strat­ed mankind’s intol­er­ance dur­ing four dif­fer­ent ages in world his­to­ry.” A cen­tu­ry lat­er, Birth of a Nation might not get many pub­lic view­ings. But this past week­end a restored ver­sion of Intol­er­ance began a week­long run at the Film Forum in New York City. If the restored ver­sion does­n’t make it to a city near you, you can view the orig­i­nal film, all three epic hours of it, online for free. Intol­er­ance is cat­a­logued in our col­lec­tion of 525 Free Movies Online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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

Hol­ly­wood, Epic Doc­u­men­tary Chron­i­cles the Ear­ly His­to­ry of Cin­e­ma

25 Free Char­lie Chap­lin Films Online

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