#3 Favorite Movie of the Silent Era
Nosferatu (1922) - F.W. Murnau's unauthorized telling of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with character names and some events changed in a failed attempt to avoid legal problems. It's 1838, and Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) is sent from his hometown in the fictional coastal city of Wisborg to Transylvania. There he is to meet with the reclusive Count Orlok (Max Schreck) and facilitate the sale of a parcel of land in Wisborg to the Count. Upon arrival, Hutter learns that something is not quite right with the strange Orlok, who is in fact a vampire, or nosferatu as the locals call it. Orlok makes his way to Wisborg, leaving outbreaks of plague in his wake, and he sets his sights on Hutter's wife Ellen (Greta Schroder). Also featuring Alexander Granach, Georg H. Schnell, Ruth Landshoff, and John Gottowt.
Compared to other Murnau films such as The Last Laugh, Faust, or Sunrise, this fairly conventionally told, looking more like the real world than Murnau's typical stylized storybook production design. This helps accentuate the feeling of horror at the repulsive, rat-like Orlok as he scurries about the city streets and castle walls. Schreck makes for one of the most iconic film monsters of all time, so much so that urban legends built up around his performance, eventually leading to the fictional Shadow of the Vampire (2000) which asserted that Schreck actually was a vampire. For such a lasting impression, Orlok appears on screen rather infrequently, only 9 minutes out of the film's 96 minute running time. One moment that I particularly like is when the traveling Hutter is warned by an innkeeper not to stray outside at night because a werewolf is on the prowl, and the creature that's then shown skulking in the woods is a jackal! Despite the filmmakers' efforts, the estate of Stoker still sued them, and won, and an attempt was made to confiscate and destroy all copies of this film. Thankfully they failed, but it has been a long and arduous process getting the movie back into a restored version. 9/10
Source: Kino DVD, a 2-disc set including two versions, one with German intertitles, the other with English ones. There's also a 52-minute documentary on Murnau's life and the making of the film, as well as another short about the movie's restoration. Finally, there are clips from several other Murnau films.