The Great Train Robbery - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Great Train Robbery Reviews

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Super Reviewer
May 4, 2009
Of more value as a historical document than an entertaintment but fascinating on that level.
Super Reviewer
½ October 23, 2013
A year after George Melies made history with his cute little sci-fi picture, American film maverick Edwin S. Porter cemented his own legacy with this breezy western action film.

Based on an 1896 story by Scott Marble ,this 1903 caper follows a group of bandits as they rob a train, make their escape, then have a confrontation with a group of local townspeople bent on vengeance. That's it.

There's more to it than that though. Yeah, it's pretty simple and straightforward, but this film pioneered a lot of now commonplace techniques like cross-cut editing, location shooting, and double exposures. And, unlike A Trip to the Moon, this one is more like real life as opposed to fantasy, and feels a tad documentary like.

This is a pretty influential and important film, and basically set the standard for the western genre especially, but also the action/heist genre as a whole. Unfortunately the version I saw had no soundtrack other than the cranking of the camera, and that's my only real complaint. Yeah, the cranking kinda fits with the movements of the train, but it gets real tedious real quick, especially since it plays for just under 12 minutes straight.

Some of the acting is over the top and hammy, and it makes things feel dated and cheesy, but it also kinda adds to the charm. It's ridiculously tame by today's standards, but I also have to give this a lot of credit for being ballsy with the violence, something that was probably rather jarring for audiences 110 years ago.

All in all, this is a fun movie. Yeah, it has since been eclipsed 1,000 times over, and, while it really deserves classic status for it's historical, social, and aesthetic merits, it also still works fine on its own terms as just a simple, entertaining movie.
Super Reviewer
October 19, 2007
Love that opening shot
Super Reviewer
February 18, 2010
Edwin S. Porter's landmark film from the early days of cinema is amazingly accomplished, not to mention immensely entertaining. I was surprised at how contemporary it felt. Yes, it was filmed with one camera and much of it was done on a soundstage, but the story elements -- train robbers, exploding safes, gunned-down bystanders, fistfights aboard the tops of moving trains, chases on horseback -- are as exciting and watchable as most action films of more recent vintage. Technically, there are well-done explosions, some color sequences, outdoor on location scenes, and the iconic ending where the cowboy shoots directly at the audience. I applaud this film and accept it as the classic it is.

NOTE: I saw this film as part of a compilation of early films from the Edison Company...yeah, THAT Edison. Other memorable ones include:
*Life of a Fireman, which was just what it sounds like -- a group of firefighters are called to a housefire. It was thrilling and even moving, as when a child is rescued from the house and is reunited with his mother outside.
*The Kleptomaniac, which may be the first film with a social message. A well-to-do woman and a woman living in poverty with small children are both arrested for stealing, from a department store and from a grocer respectively. The wealthy woman is set free, while the poor woman is found guilty and incarcerated. The ending shot is the Scales of Justice out of balance due to a bag of money in one of the trays.
* Two films -- The Kiss and What Happened on 23rd Street -- show that even early in the days of cinema (we're talking circa 1900), naughtiness put asses in the seats. The Kiss was notorious in its day. It's a simple peck between two rather plain people, but it caused a furor because it was considered vulgar. What Happened on 23rd Street starts off as a simple street scene that climaxes with *SPOILER ALERT* a young woman's skirt being blown up by the wind from a subway (?) grate. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Super Reviewer
November 20, 2010
An 11 minute action ride that is now 107 years old. Silent movies have a place in my heart, by demonstrating the medium in its purest form. The Great Train Robbery even avoids using dialog cards. Most scenes are shot from one position, locked down and motionless. This enables the scenes to unfold, but also keeps us at a distance. It also allows for humor, such as the swap from human to dummy, and the passengers constantly exiting a train into a single shot. It's a wonderful film, with some surprising violence for its time. You can see the evolution of cinema before your eyes, as editing, pacing and action join forces for this early gem.
Super Reviewer
September 3, 2010
A very cool old movie. It's got action and adventure in the old west! No sound yet, but one of the first movies to attempt some colourization. A must-see.
Super Reviewer
½ November 6, 2007
Innovative. The opening shot (which, in my version, came at the end hm) was the crowning touch.
Super Reviewer
½ January 22, 2008
Important piece of history. Not a particularly thrilling narrative by current standards, but it won't take much of your time to learn a bit about film history.
Super Reviewer
½ October 1, 2011
I imagine that it must have been a million times more exciting back when it was released, but I respect it, nonetheless, for its importance in cinematic history. Plus, it helped create the crime and western genres.
Super Reviewer
August 20, 2009
Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery was what would now be defined as an 'epic' as it ran all of twelve minutes and boasted a cast of forty, the proverbial 'thousands' of its day. ( pending review/ to be continued, not enough time)
Super Reviewer
February 25, 2009
Often crowned the first American Western ever produced, this is an intriguing piece of cinema history. Director Edwin S. Porter crafted a work that had effective, intelligent narrative, interesting composition and an unforgettable closing shot. Essential viewing for film enthusiasts.
Super Reviewer
½ November 29, 2011
I imagine that it must have been a million times more exciting back when it was released, but I respect it, nonetheless, for its importance in cinematic history. Plus, it helped create the crime and western genres.
Super Reviewer
½ March 20, 2010
One of the landmark films of early cinema: When "A Voyage to the Moon" molded the first sci-fi film, "The Great Train Robbery" created a world that served as a benchmark for the action and the western genre. There was not much to look forward to characters here, but the revolutionary props and editing were the real highlights of the picture. Just consider the part where the robber throws a man out of the train, the swift editing of a man to mannequin summarized the intent of the film, it is not just a project made by a bunch of guys which got nothing better to do, but it is a creation of a group of people with a vision, a vision that we are benefiting of even today. And the final shot, back in those days, scared the hell out of audiences, thinking they have been shot for real. If influence is what we're talking about, consider the final scene of "Goodfellas", looks familiar? It is Martin Scorsese's homage to this very great early motion picture.
Super Reviewer
February 2, 2010
So this is how the Western begins... as an impersonal comedy. Or maybe this little movie wasn't meant to be a Western, after all.
Super Reviewer
May 8, 2008
This movie has been called the first western by many and it is somehow. Although the plot does not really resemble many western movies but rather the extinct genre that is the "Heist" movie genre, but the whole setting and atmosphere is Wild West. Wild West travelling shows were very popular in the United States for a long time (Buffalo Bill etc.) and still are to this day in some more rural parts of the United States. Therefore, making a movie out of an already popular genre was a good move, especially when you could take the props, costumes and actors and put them into your movie. Again, considering the early days of cinema, a director / produces decides to go with a (at least partially in this case) fictional world. Now, one can argue whether the Wild West is a fictional entitiy but Id say the truth lies somewhere in between. The movie has some good special effects, not only the spectacular ending which had the audiences literally jumping in their seats (watch the movie, and you know what I am talking about). Oddly enough, Porter did not go and made more movies which became as famous as this one, although he kept making a few movies a year up to 1915.

As a film, I must admit that I found this one lacking a bit of visionary brilliance as many others movies had which were made in the same period of cinema history (Meliers' or Griffith's movies) and you could even go as far and compare this movie with contemporary Hollywood action cinema. Lots of action, a simple yet effective plot, no twists and surprises but just the thrill of the train robbery and the shootouts. I am not putting this film down, but out of all the early cinema movies, this one is my least favourite.

July 17, 2015
Regarded as the first western, The Great Train Robbery introduced innovative film editing, camera movement, and cross cutting, becoming a great influence to not only the Western genre, but to film itself!!!
April 4, 2015
So freaking cool! It's amazing what these guys could create, basically inventing stunt cinematography and special effects shots.
January 25, 2012
Being the obviously influential and historical relic it is, The Great Train Robbery is in all it's simplicity a landmark film despite it's honky acting and long static shots.
November 9, 2013
This being the first American film to tell a story, it certainly has a place in history - however, it's brilliance is pretty much lost to a modern audience that have a hard time imagining how people in 1903 would have had their minds blown by this short feature that allowed them to see & experience something that was earth shaking.
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