You know why the action genre will never die? Because it has already been going for 110 years; that’s right, 110 years ago a 12 minute action movie was made called ‘The Great Train Robbery’ and it is essentially the first action movie of all time.
There are other short action-esque films like ‘Daring Daylight Robbery’ which is just over 3 minutes and is also from 1903 and there probably are other ones but “The Great Train Robbery” has genuinely become a classic.
Even now you can see its influence and the closing shot of the movie has become completely iconic.
The thing which surprises me is that it has all the elements of a classic action movie. You’ve got the bad guys perpetrating a heist on a train with people being robbed at gunpoint. One guy even gets hit on the back of the head with a gun and another is shot. It even has a (small) explosion as the criminals blow up a safe and steal the money.
The most shocking thing was the fight scene on top of the moving train where someone gets beaten to death and thrown off. It’s like a silent version of Broken Arrow!
It’s funny how you don’t get to see a close-up of anyone’s face until the final shot. For anyone interested in the history of the genre and how it essentially got its start, ‘The Great Train Robbery’ is fascinating and pretty damn entertaining to boot. It’s just a shame about the rather repetitive pipe organ music…
You can even watch the full movie on YouTube as it’s in the public domain. There is a fascinating bit of insight provided by The Video Cellar who did a remastering job of the film too.
“Filmed in November 1903 at Edison’s New York studio, at Essex County Park in New Jersey, and along the Lackawanna railroad and released in December 1903, “The Great Train Robbery” is considered to be one of the first significant early US narrative films. Greatly influenced by the British film “Daring Daylight Robbery” (1903) it introduced many new cinematic techniques (cross cutting, double exposure, camera movement and location shooting) to American audiences. It was directed by Edwin S Porter and stars Justus D. Barnes as the head bandit, G. M. Anderson as a slain passenger and a robber, Walter Cameron as the sheriff.”
So there you go; now you know what the first ever action movie was; you can go amaze your friends and surely pick up girls with this information. You’re welcome.