Top of page

“Broken Blossoms”: National Film Registry #8

Share this post:

“Broken Blossoms,” one of the great silents, was added to the National Film Registry in 1996.  Directed by D.W. Griffith, it starred his best-known muse, the ethereal Lillian Gish.

Though, today, Griffith is a somewhat controversial figure, Ed Gonzalez, film editor of “Slant” magazine, says that, regardless, his influence on film cannot be ignored:

“No dialectic approach to film form would be complete without discussing the innovations cultivated by D.W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein in the early 1900s. Just as Eisenstein’s radical principles of montage would forever inform the way films were cut and consumed, Griffith’s equally essential narrative and aesthetic innovations were becoming overshadowed by the controversy surrounding his epic Civil War reconstruction epic ‘The Birth of a Nation.’ Coincidentally, ‘Intolerance’ would irrevocably inspire budding Soviet filmmakers like Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Kuleshov when the film was shown in the USSR in 1919, and if Griffith’s legacy remains tarnished to this day, it’s impossible to fathom the state of modern cinema without the influence of his artistic advances, such as his refinement of such techniques as the iris shot, the mask, or the simple flashback.”

Read the rest of the of ”Broken Blossoms” (PDF) essay.


Title:  “Broken Blossoms”

Year of Release:  1919

Year Added to the National Film Registry:  1996  (See all films added to the Registry in 1996.)

Trivia:  Though perhaps best known for her work in silent films, one of Gish’s later “talkie” films is also on the Registry.  It is “The Night of the Hunter,” directed by Charles Laughton in 1955.

This blog post is the eighth out of 30 in our” 30 Years of the National Film Registry” series which was launched to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Registry.  The National Film Registry selects 25 films each year showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation.  The 30th National Film Registry selections will be announced on December 12, 2018.



  1. If you love silent films and have not seen this one be prepared for a great film experience! This is a so-called ‘melodrama’ to be sure but what power Gish commands the role and manages to wrench out our emotions with her acting skills. This is a sensitive beautiful film carefully directed by the great Griffith, ‘The Father of Film.’ Truly, one of the great cinema experiences you will never forget. Highly recommended!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *