Movies of 1928 Ranked: Films Now In Public Domain

95 years after release, a movie’s copyright expires and enters the public domain, its elements free to be remixed, reinterpreted, and redistributed. For 2024, that means anything from 1928 is now up for grabs, a class of cinema that includes Steamboat Willie, the cartoon short from Disney that introduced Mickey Mouse to the world. Or, at least, a particular version of Mickey. Only this iteration — non-speaking, whistling, and without gloves — is venturing into the public arena. Messing with any later Mickey will incur the wrath Disney’s highly active lawyers.

Still, the arrival of Steamboat Willie‘s Mickey Mouse upon the public domain’s shores has been prognosticated as a major event for pop culture and copyright law. Other notable films from 1928 include another Steamboat movie (Bill, Jr., from Buster Keaton), Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, and The Man Who Laughs, which inspired DC’s Joker character. (Batman and Superman enter the public domain in 2034, by the way). For an example of what hijinks filmmakers can now get up to, look no further than last year’s Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey.

Read on for a more complete list of 1928 movies by Tomatometer entering the public domain.

#1
Adjusted Score: 106802%
Critics Consensus: The Passion of Joan of Arc is must-see cinema for Renée Maria Falconetti's incredible performance alone -- and an all-time classic for innumerable other reasons.
Synopsis: A classic of the silent age, this film tells the story of the doomed but ultimately canonized 15th-century teenage warrior.... [More]
Directed By: Carl Theodor Dreyer

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 103356%
Critics Consensus: If it's a bit lighter on laughs than some other Buster Keaton pictures, Steamboat Bill Jr. more than makes up for it with some absolutely brilliant set pieces.
Synopsis: In this silent comedy, college boy William Canfield Jr. (Buster Keaton) reunites with his boat captain father in a Mississippi... [More]

#3

Steamboat Willie (1928)
100%

#3
Adjusted Score: 97417%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Mickey Mouse steers a steamboat down a river.... [More]
Starring: Walt Disney
Directed By: Walt Disney

#4

The Man Who Laughs (1928)
100%

#4
Adjusted Score: 102857%
Critics Consensus: A meeting of brilliant creative minds, The Man Who Laughs serves as a stellar showcase for the talents of director Paul Leni and star Conrad Veidt.
Synopsis: Disfigured by a king as a child, an 18th-century clown (Conrad Veidt) again becomes the pawn of royalty.... [More]
Directed By: Paul Leni

#5

The Cameraman (1928)
100%

#5
Adjusted Score: 102214%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this silent classic, photographer Buster (Buster Keaton) meets Sally (Marceline Day), who works as a secretary for the newsreel... [More]
Directed By: Edward Sedgwick

#6
Adjusted Score: 101410%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A man obsesses over his fear that his wife will die and be buried alive.... [More]
Directed By: Jean Epstein

#7

The Wind (1928)
100%

#7
Adjusted Score: 100607%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When Letty Mason (Lillian Gish), an emotionally fragile woman from Virginia, relocates to West Texas, she finds herself unsettled by... [More]
Directed By: Victor Sjöström

#8

The Patriot (1928)
100%

#8
Adjusted Score: 100928%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The final days of the mad, tyrannical Czar Paul I of Russia (Emil Jannings) are recounted. As the Czar behaves... [More]
Directed By: Ernst Lubitsch

#9

Red Hair (1928)
100%

#9
Adjusted Score: 100125%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Clarence G. Badger

#10

Speedy (1928)
100%

#10
Adjusted Score: 96415%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Chronically unemployed Yankees fan Harold "Speedy" Swift (Harold Lloyd) dates Jane Dillon (Ann Christy), a girl whose beloved grandfather, Pop... [More]
Directed By: Ted Wilde

#11

The Racket (1928)
100%

#11
Adjusted Score: 96415%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this Prohibition-era silent film, James McQuigg (Thomas Meighan) is an honest police captain in a city ruled by gangsters... [More]
Directed By: Lewis Milestone

#12

The Circus (1928)
97%

#12
Adjusted Score: 100821%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Wrongfully accused of criminal acts, a tramp (Charlie Chaplin) unwittingly ducks into a big top, where his bumbling attempts to... [More]
Directed By: Charlie Chaplin

#13

The Crowd (1928)
96%

#13
Adjusted Score: 98857%
Critics Consensus: King Vidor's dynamic direction brings expressionist style to the American Dream in The Crowd, a powerfully humanist picture about the struggle for self-actualization.
Synopsis: Young John Sims (James Murray) weathers the death of his father and travels to New York City in search of... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#14

The Last Command (1928)
95%

#14
Adjusted Score: 97375%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Tsarist general Sergius Alexander (Emil Jannings) is basking in the glory of imperial Russia. After sending the revolutionary Lev Andreyev... [More]
Directed By: Josef von Sternberg

#15

Show People (1928)
92%

#15
Adjusted Score: 93089%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Starry-eyed country girl Peggy Pepper (Marion Davies) dreams of being a movie star. So that she can begin her career,... [More]
Directed By: King Vidor

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 91768%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A widowed British farmer (Jameson Thomas) enlists his housekeeper's (Lilian Hall-Davis) help to find a wife.... [More]
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

#17

Sadie Thompson (1928)
86%

#17
Adjusted Score: 86125%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A young, beautiful prostitute named Sadie Thompson (Gloria Swanson) arrives on the South Pacific island of Pago Pago looking for... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Walsh

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 80025%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Russian spy Tania Fedorova (Greta Garbo) uses her seductive charms to steal precious secrets for the motherland. Few saboteurs can... [More]
Directed By: Fred Niblo

#19

4 Devils (1928)
82%

#19
Adjusted Score: 86303%
Critics Consensus: 4 Devils combines thrilling cinematography and an affecting story to produce an absorbing and well-acted drama.
Synopsis: Four orphans are taken in by an aging clown and trained to be highwire artists.... [More]
Directed By: F.W. Murnau

#20

Storm Over Asia (1928)
75%

#20
Adjusted Score: 75286%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Lowly Mongolian trapper Bair (Valery Inkijinoff), shunned by his fellow trappers for fighting with a trader, flees his trading post... [More]
Directed By: Vsevolod Pudovkin

#21

Lonesome (1928)
71%

#21
Adjusted Score: 72250%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Two lonely people (Barbara Kent, Glenn Tryon) meet, then are separated.... [More]
Directed By:

#22

The Divine Woman (1928)
70%

#22
Adjusted Score: 70607%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Victor Sjöström

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 64768%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Against the backdrop of Vienna's hidebound caste system, aristocrat and army officer Nicki (Erich von Stroheim) falls for lowly commoner... [More]
Directed By: Erich von Stroheim

#24

Champagne (1928)
63%

#24
Adjusted Score: 63286%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A millionaire (Gordon Harker) pretends bankruptcy to teach his daughter (Betty Balfour) responsibility.... [More]
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

#25

Noah's Ark (1928)
57%

#25
Adjusted Score: 57125%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The same couple (Dolores Costello, George O'Brien) appear in parallel dramas of the Deluge and World War I.... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#26

In Old Arizona (1929)
56%

#26
Adjusted Score: 56749%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this early Western, notorious bandit the Cisco Kid (Warner Baxter) is so feared that he rarely has to fire... [More]
Directed By: Raoul Walsh

#27
#27
Adjusted Score: 56446%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Fresh-faced thespians hoping to conquer the Great White Way become dispirited after crossing paths with a merciless theatrical producer.... [More]
Directed By: Dorothy Arzner

#28

Tenderloin (1928)
25%

#28
Adjusted Score: 25286%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz