What was the first ever film made? Well, that’s a loaded question — and one that has sparked debate among film historians and enthusiasts for decades. It all hinges on how you define the term “film.” Does an experiment with moving pictures from the 1800s count? Or is a true film only one with narrative structure, or even audible dialogue? We explore why determining the first film ever created is harder than you might think.


As you can see, there are several candidates worthy of the title of “first film ever made.” Let’s take a closer look at the contenders from a few different “categories.”


The first-ever stop-motion film was created by Eadweard Muybridge in 1878. Called The Horse in Motion, it’s an 11-frame clip that was created to settle a debate over whether all four hooves of a horse were off the ground at the same time when it gallops.

To capture the motion of the horse, Muybridge set up a series of cameras side-by-side along a track, each with a tripwire that would trigger the shutter when the horse passed by and take one photograph each. Using this technique, he captured a series of still images, each showing the horse in a slightly different position as it moved along the track.

He then used his own invention, a zoopraxiscope, to project them in rapid succession. This consisted of a rotating glass disk with a series of images painted around its edge. When the disk was spun and viewed through a light source, the images appeared to animate, creating the illusion of motion.

His pioneering techniques laid the groundwork for modern stop-motion filmmaking: a method where physical objects are manipulated frame by frame to create the illusion of movement. When these frames are played in sequence, the objects appear to move fluidly. Some notable films shot using stop-motion animation include Chicken Run and Coraline.


The next two notable clips are 1888’s Roundhay Garden Scene and 1895’s Arrival of a Train. These projects marked a transition from stop-motion experimentation to the creation of motion-picture-style films. Unlike Muybridge’s stop-motion animation, these were captured as continuous motion, rather than as a sequence of photographs.

Roundhay Garden Scene, shot by Louis Le Prince, is a brief, 2.11-second clip showing a group of people walking around a garden. The Lumière brothers’ Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat captures a train pulling into a station.

Both of these clips were shot using single-lens cameras that captured continuous motion onto a strip of film. Le Prince is considered by some as the father of modern cinema, thanks to his groundbreaking invention that built a bridge between static photography and motion pictures.

Demonstrating the potential of motion pictures to depict real-life events, these two clips helped pave the way for the development of narrative storytelling in cinema. However, these clips are short and show nothing but a small snippet of everyday life. They don’t actually capture a story end-to-end, as you would expect a film to. So would it be fair to consider either as the first film ever made?


The first motion-picture film is a topic often debated among film historians, as there are several contenders, depending on the criteria used. One of the most renowned early examples is Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, released in 1902. The groundbreaking film is celebrated for its innovation in length, special effects, and narrative storytelling — unlike the previous clips which just showed a glimpse of regular life.

Méliès, a French filmmaker and magician, depicted the tale of a group of astronomers who travel to the moon, encountering fantastical adventures along the way. The film’s runtime of approximately 14 minutes (long for its time!) allowed for a more elaborate story. The film also features groundbreaking special effects, including innovative use of miniatures, hand-painted sets, and visual trickery.

A Trip to the Moon holds a significant place in cinematic history, but there are a few other early motion pictures from this period that deserve to be recognized.

In 1903, US filmmaker Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery was celebrated for its dynamic action sequences and storytelling. The Western short film clocks in around 12 minutes, and featured innovative editing techniques. It also helped to popularize the function of storytelling in early cinema.

Three years later, in 1906, The Story of the Kelly Gang was released in Australia and is regarded as one of the world’s earliest feature-length narrative films. Running for an impressive 70 minutes and directed by Charles Tait, the historical drama chronicles the exploits of the notorious outlaw gang led by Ned Kelly. Cinematic historians celebrate this film even today, for its ambitious scope and early experimentation with feature-length storytelling.


Again, this is a loaded question. While films were projected with an accompanying soundtrack as early as 1894, these audio tracks weren’t “burned into” the film, but a separate entity.

Next, various devices were invented to mechanically link film projectors with disc players, aiming to synchronize sound with moving images. However, these early attempts were often clunky and failed to provide a seamless viewing experience. Subsequent inventions, such as the Tri-Ergon, Audion Tube, and Phonofilm processes, emerged in independent films, which yielded more effective results in syncing sound with visuals.

The most notable breakthrough came with the introduction of Vitaphone technology, which synced sound directly onto film strips, allowing Hollywood films to seamlessly include sound in their films. Warner Brothers’ Don Juan (1926) is an often-cited example of this first being successfully used, featuring sound effects and a soundtrack recorded by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.


Then in 1927, the “talkie” era was born. The film The Jazz Singer featured synchronized dialogue, a first in cinema history. Audiences were captivated by the innovative use of sound, solidifying the transition from silent to sound cinema. The film’s success demonstrated the immense potential of films with sound. It sparked a rapid transformation in the film industry, leading to the widespread adoption of sound technology in motion pictures worldwide, within a few short years.


So truly, the question of “what was the first film ever made” depends on your definition of “film”. The Horse in Motion, born out of a bet made at the pub, was an innovative use of stop-motion to create movement. However, Roundhay Garden Scene can be considered the very first time that continuous motion was captured by a single-lens camera.

Similarly, A Trip to the Moon may have been the first example of storytelling through cinema, though some argue that the 70-minute length of The Story of the Kelly Gang makes it more of a classic film.

Then we have to consider sound. If, to you, a “real” film includes sound, then maybe the answer to the question is The Jazz Singer, which was the first-ever talkie.

To find out more about the history of film, why not read about the last VHS movie ever made? And if you’re interested in VHS or film to digital conversion, we’d be happy to walk you through our process. Contact us directly where one of our warm and friendly representatives is waiting to assist you!