Lost film
A lost film is a feature film
Feature film
In the film industry, a feature film is a film production made for initial distribution in theaters and being the main attraction of the screening, rather than a short film screened before it; a full length movie...

 or short film that is no longer known to exist in studio archives, private collections or public archives such as the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

, where at least one copy of all American films are deposited and catalogued for copyright reasons. Of American silent films far more have been lost than have survived, and of American sound film
Sound film
A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, or sound technologically coupled to image, as opposed to a silent film. The first known public exhibition of projected sound films took place in Paris in 1900, but decades would pass before sound motion pictures were made commercially...

s made from 1927 to 1950, perhaps half have been lost.

The phrase "lost film" can also be used in a literal sense for instances where footage of deleted scene
Deleted scene
In Entertainment, especially the film and television industry, Deleted scenes are parts of a film removed or censored from or replaced by another scene in the final "cut", or version, of a film...

s, unedited and alternative versions of feature films are known to have been created but can no longer be accounted for.

Sometimes a copy of a lost film is rediscovered. A film that has not been recovered in its entirety is called a partially lost film.

Quite often a lost film of a major (i.e. Hollywood) production studio may have still photographs, shot at the time of production, often on glass negative. Glass negatives if properly maintained can last indefinitely preserving image fidelity.

Reasons for film loss

Most lost films are from the silent film
Silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

 and early talkie
Vitaphone was a sound film process used on feature films and nearly 1,000 short subjects produced by Warner Bros. and its sister studio First National from 1926 to 1930. Vitaphone was the last, but most successful, of the sound-on-disc processes...

 era, from about 1894 to 1930. Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese
Martin Charles Scorsese is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and film historian. In 1990 he founded The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to film preservation, and in 2007 he founded the World Cinema Foundation...

's Film Foundation
The Film Foundation
The Film Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to film preservation founded by director Martin Scorsese in 1990.-External links:*...

 estimates that 80 percent of the American films from this era are lost.

Many early motion pictures are lost because the nitrate film used in that era was extremely flammable. Fires have destroyed entire archives of films; for example, a storage vault fire in 1937 destroyed all the original negatives of Fox Pictures' pre-1935 movies. Nitrate film is also chemically unstable over time, and can decay rapidly if not preserved in temperature- and humidity-controlled storage. Films with a nitrate base can be preserved by being copied to safety film
Cellulose acetate film
Cellulose acetate film, or safety film, is used in photography as a base material for photographic emulsions. It was introduced in the early 20th century by film manufacturers as a safe film base replacement for unstable and highly flammable nitrate film....

 or digitized
Digitizing or digitization is the representation of an object, image, sound, document or a signal by a discrete set of its points or samples. The result is called digital representation or, more specifically, a digital image, for the object, and digital form, for the signal...


Eastman Kodak
Eastman Kodak
Eastman Kodak Company is a multinational imaging and photographic equipment, materials and services company headquarted in Rochester, New York, United States. It was founded by George Eastman in 1892....

 introduced a nonflammable 35 mm film
35 mm film
35 mm film is the film gauge most commonly used for chemical still photography and motion pictures. The name of the gauge refers to the width of the photographic film, which consists of strips 35 millimeters in width...

 stock in spring 1909. However, the plasticizer
Plasticizers or dispersants are additives that increase the plasticity or fluidity of the material to which they are added; these include plastics, cement, concrete, wallboard, and clay. Although the same compounds are often used for both plastics and concretes the desired effects and results are...

s used to make the film flexible evaporated too quickly, making the film dry and brittle, causing splices to part and perforations to tear. By 1911 the major American film studios were back to using nitrate stock. "Safety film" was relegated to sub-35 mm formats such as 16 mm and 8 mm
8 mm film
8 mm film is a motion picture film format in which the filmstrip is eight millimeters wide. It exists in two main versions: the original standard 8mm film, also known as regular 8 mm or Double 8 mm, and Super 8...

 until improvements were made in the late 1940s.

But the largest cause of silent film loss was intentional destruction, as silent films were perceived as having little or no commercial value after the end of the silent era by 1930. Film preservationist Robert A. Harris
Robert A. Harris
Robert A. Harris is a film historian and preservationist who specializes in restoring the large-format widescreen films of the 1950s. He has restored and reconstructed a number of classic films including Lawrence of Arabia , Spartacus , My Fair Lady , Vertigo Rear Window , as well as The...

 has said, "Most of the early films did not survive because of wholesale junking by the studios. There was no thought of ever saving these films. They simply needed vault space and the materials were expensive to house."

Many early talkies from Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

 and First National
First National
First National was an association of independent theater owners in the United States that expanded from exhibiting movies to distributing them, and eventually to producing them as a movie studio, called First National Pictures, Inc. It later merged with Warner Bros.-Early history:The First National...

 were lost because they used a sound-on-disk process, with separate soundtracks on special phonograph records. These records were often lost or damaged, thereby making the reel a "mute print", and virtually useless for showing. It was not until 1930 that those studios converted to a sound-on-film
Sound-on-film refers to a class of sound film processes where the sound accompanying picture is physically recorded onto photographic film, usually, but not always, the same strip of film carrying the picture. Sound-on-film processes can either record an analog sound track or digital sound track,...


Before the eras of television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 and later home video
Home video
Home video is a blanket term used for pre-recorded media that is either sold or rented/hired for home cinema entertainment. The term originates from the VHS/Betamax era but has carried over into current optical disc formats like DVD and Blu-ray Disc and, to a lesser extent, into methods of digital...

, films were viewed as having little future value when their theatrical runs ended. Thus, again, many were deliberately destroyed to save the space and cost of storage; many were recycled for their silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 content. Many Technicolor
Technicolor is a color motion picture process invented in 1916 and improved over several decades.It was the second major process, after Britain's Kinemacolor, and the most widely used color process in Hollywood from 1922 to 1952...

 two-color negatives from the 1920s and 1930s were thrown out when the studios refused to reclaim their films, still being held by Technicolor in its vaults. Some prints were sold either intact or broken into short clips to individuals who bought early novelty home projection machines and wanted scenes from their favorite movies to play for guests or family members.

As a consequence of this widespread lack of care, the work of many early filmmakers and performers has come down to us in fragmentary form. Particularly striking is the case of Theda Bara
Theda Bara
Theda Bara , born Theodosia Burr Goodman, was an American silent film actress – one of the most popular of her era, and one of cinema's earliest sex symbols. Her femme fatale roles earned her the nickname "The Vamp" . The term "vamp" soon became a popular slang term for a sexually predatory woman...

, one of the best-known actresses of the early silent era: of the 40 films she made, only three and a half are now known to exist. However, this was still better than the fate of her vamp rival at Fox, Valeska Suratt, not one of whose films survives. Likewise stage actresses such as Pauline Frederick
Pauline Frederick
Pauline Frederick was a leading Broadway actress who later became known for her motion picture work.-Early years:...

 and Elsie Ferguson
Elsie Ferguson
Elsie Louise Ferguson was an American stage and film actress.-Early life:Born in New York City, Elsie Ferguson was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Hiram Benson Ferguson, a successful attorney...

 who made the jump to silent films and became more popular have large caches of lost films. Frederick has about seven films that survive from the years 1915-1928 and Ferguson has one from 1919 that survives from her entire silent career 1917-1925. More typical is the case of Clara Bow
Clara Bow
Clara Gordon Bow was an American actress who rose to stardom in the silent film era of the 1920s. It was her appearance as a spunky shopgirl in the film It that brought her global fame and the nickname "The It Girl." Bow came to personify the roaring twenties and is described as its leading sex...

: of her 57 movies, 20 are completely lost and five more are incomplete.

There are occasional exceptions. Almost all of Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

's films from his entire career have survived as well as extensive amounts of unused footage dating back to 1916. The exceptions are A Woman of the Sea
A Woman of the Sea
A Woman of the Sea, also known by its working title Sea Gulls, was an unreleased 1926 silent film produced by the Chaplin Film Company....

(which he destroyed himself as a tax writeoff) and one of his early Keystone films, Her Friend the Bandit
Her Friend the Bandit
Her Friend the Bandit is a 1914 American comedy silent film made by Keystone Studios starring Charles Chaplin and Mabel Normand, both of whom co-directed the movie. This is Chaplin's only lost film as no copy is known to exist....

(see Unknown Chaplin
Unknown Chaplin
Unknown Chaplin is an acclaimed three-part 1983 British television documentary about the career and the methods of the film luminary Charles Chaplin using previously unseen film for illustration....

). The filmography of D.W. Griffith is nearly complete as many of his early Biograph
American Mutoscope and Biograph Company
The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, was a motion picture company founded in 1895 and active until 1928. It was the first company in the United States devoted entirely to film production and exhibition, and for two decades was one of the most prolific, releasing over three thousand short...

 films were deposited by the company in paper print
Paper print
Paper prints were an early mechanism to establish the copyright of motion pictures by depositing them with the Library of Congress. Thomas Alva Edison’s company was first to register each frame of movie film onto a positive paper print, in 1893...

 form at the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

. Much of Griffith's feature film work, of the 1910s and 1920s, found their way to the film collection at the Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world...

 in the 1930s and were preserved under the auspices of curator Iris Barry
Iris Barry
Iris Barry was the founder of the film department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1935. Barry was a film critic, and an early proponent of relating cinema to sociology, mythology, and genre....

. Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford was a Canadian-born motion picture actress, co-founder of the film studio United Artists and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences...

's filmography is very much complete especially films produced after she gained control of her own productions. She also backtracked to as many of her Zukor controlled early Famous Players
Famous Players-Lasky
Famous Players-Lasky Corporation was an American motion picture and distribution company created on July 19, 1916 from the merger of Adolph Zukor's Famous Players Film Company -- originally formed by Zukor as Famous Players in Famous Plays -- and Jesse L...

 films that were salvageable. Stars like Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. was an American actor, screenwriter, director and producer. He was best known for his swashbuckling roles in silent films such as The Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, and The Mark of Zorro....

 enjoyed stupendous popularity and their films were reissued over and over throughout the silent era, meaning prints of their films were likely to surface decades later. Pickford, Chaplin, Harold Lloyd
Harold Lloyd
Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr. was an American film actor and producer, most famous for his silent comedies....

 and Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil B. DeMille
Cecil Blount DeMille was an American film director and Academy Award-winning film producer in both silent and sound films. He was renowned for the flamboyance and showmanship of his movies...

 were early champions of film preservation. Lloyd lost a good deal of his silent work in a vault fire in the early 1940s.

Another remarkable case was the 1919 German film Different from the Others
Different From The Others
Different From The Others is a German film produced during the Weimar Republic. It was first released in 1919 and stars Conrad Veidt and Reinhold Schünzel.The story for Anders als die Andern was written by Richard Oswald with the assistance of Dr...

(Anders als die Andern), starring Conrad Veidt
Conrad Veidt
Conrad Veidt was a German actor best remembered for his roles in films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari , The Man Who Laughs , The Thief of Bagdad and Casablanca...

. A striking plea for tolerance for homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

, produced in collaboration with Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld
Magnus Hirschfeld
Magnus Hirschfeld was a German physician and sexologist. An outspoken advocate for sexual minorities, Hirschfeld founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, which Dustin Goltz called "the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights."-Early life:Hirschfeld was born in Kolberg in a...

, it was targeted for destruction by the Nazis, with many prints of the film burned as decadent. However, a 50-minute fragment survived the censorship attempt.

Later lost films

An improved 35 mm safety film
Cellulose acetate film
Cellulose acetate film, or safety film, is used in photography as a base material for photographic emulsions. It was introduced in the early 20th century by film manufacturers as a safe film base replacement for unstable and highly flammable nitrate film....

 was introduced in 1949. Since safety film is much more stable than nitrate film, there are comparatively few lost films after about 1950. However, color fading of certain color stocks and vinegar syndrome threaten the preservation of films made since about this time.

Most mainstream movies from the 1950s onwards survive today, but several early pornographic films and some B-Movie
A B movie is a low-budget commercial motion picture that is not definitively an arthouse or pornographic film. In its original usage, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the term more precisely identified a film intended for distribution as the less-publicized, bottom half of a double feature....

s are lost. In most cases these obscure films go unnoticed and unknown, but some films by noted cult
Cult film
A cult film, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a highly devoted but specific group of fans. Often, cult movies have failed to achieve fame outside the small fanbases; however, there have been exceptions that have managed to gain fame among mainstream audiences...

 directors have been lost as well:
  • Cult favorite Herschell Gordon Lewis
    Herschell Gordon Lewis
    Herschell Gordon Lewis is an American filmmaker, best known for creating the "splatter film" subgenre of horror...

    's 1969 films
    1969 in film
    The year 1969 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* Last year for prize giving at the Venice Film Festival until it is revived in 1980...

    , Ecstasies of Women and Linda and Abilene, have disappeared.
  • Several films by Kenneth Anger
    Kenneth Anger
    Kenneth Anger is an American underground experimental filmmaker, occasional actor and author...

     from across his career have been lost for a variety of reasons.
  • Ed Wood's 1972
    1972 in film
    The year 1972 in film involved some significant events.-Top grossing films :- Awards :Academy Awards:*Avanti!, directed by Billy Wilder, starring Jack Lemmon and Juliet MillsB...

     film, The Undergraduate, has been lost along with his 1970
    1970 in film
    The year 1970 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* January 9 - Larry Fine, the second member of The Three Stooges, suffers a massive stroke, therefore ending his career....

     film Take It Out In Trade, which exists only in fragments without sound. Wood's 1971
    1971 in film
    The year 1971 in film involved some significant events.-Events:*February 8 - Bob Dylan's hour long documentary film, Eat the Document, premieres at New York's Academy of Music...

     film Necromania
    Necromania is a pornographic film by Edward D. Wood, Jr., released in 1971.-Production and rediscovery:...

    was believed lost for years until an edited version resurfaced at a yard sale in 1992, followed by a complete unedited print in 2001. A complete print of the previously lost Wood pornographic film The Young Marrieds
    The Young Marrieds (film)
    The Young Marrieds is a pornographic film directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr. Reportedly, this was made after Necromania, thus being Ed Wood's last film before his death.-Preservation:...

    was discovered in 2004.
  • Tom Graeff
    Tom Graeff
    Thomas Lockyear "Tom" Graeff was an American screenwriter, director and actor. He is known for the 1959 b-movie Teenagers from Outer Space.-Early life:...

    's first feature film, The Noble Experiment (1955), in which director/writer Graeff plays a misunderstood genius scientist, was considered lost until found by Elle Schneider during the production of a documentary about Graeff entitled The Boy from Out of This World.
  • Most of Andy Milligan
    Andy Milligan
    Andy Milligan was an American playwright, screenwriter, cinematographer, actor, film editor, producer, and director, whose work includes 27 films made between 1965 and 1988.-Biography:...

    's early films are considered lost.
  • Many short sponsored film
    Sponsored film
    Sponsored film, or ephemeral film, as defined by film archivist Rick Prelinger, is film made by a particular sponsor for a specific purpose other than as a work of art: the films were designed to serve a specific pragmatic purpose for a limited time...

    s—films made for educational, training, or religious purposes—from the 1940s through the 1970s are also lost, as they were thought of as disposable or upgradeable.
  • Some of Jackie Chan
    Jackie Chan
    Jackie Chan, SBS, MBE is a Hong Kong actor, action choreographer, comedian, director, producer, martial artist, screenwriter, entrepreneur, singer and stunt performer. In his movies, he is known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons, and innovative stunts...

    's and Sammo Hung
    Sammo Hung
    Sammo Hung is a Hong Kong actor, martial artist, film producer and director, known for his work in many martial arts films and Hong Kong action cinema...

    's first roles, including Big and Little Wong Tin Bar
    Big and Little Wong Tin Bar
    Big and Little Wong Tin Bar is a 1962 Hong Kong film. The film is notable for being a young Jackie Chan's first film appearance...

    have been considered lost.
  • The first three films of noted Finnish melodrama actor and director Teuvo Tulio
    Teuvo Tulio
    Theodor Antonius Tugai , better known as Teuvo Tulio, was a Finnish film director and actor. Beginning his career as an actor at the end of the silent era, Tulio turned to directing and producing in the 1930s...

     were lost along with several other films that were of interest at least for historians of Finnish cinema, when the film depository of the company Adams Filmi burnt down in Helsinki in 1959.
  • Sometimes only certain aspects of films may be lost. Early color films such as Lucien Hubbard
    Lucien Hubbard
    Lucien Hubbard was a film producer and screenwriter. He is best known for producing Wings, for which he received the first Academy Award for Best Picture. Lucien produced and or wrote ninety-two films over the course of his career...

    's The Mysterious Island
    The Mysterious Island (1929 film)
    The Mysterious Island is an MGM film directed by Lucien Hubbard, a film adaptation of Jules Verne's novel L'Île mystérieuse , published in 1874...

    and John G. Adolfi
    John G. Adolfi
    John G. Adolfi was an American silent film director, actor, and screenwriter who was involved in more than 100 productions throughout his career.-Biography:...

    's The Show of Shows
    The Show of Shows (film)
    The Show of Shows is a lavish all talking Vitaphone musical revue film which cost $850,000 to make. The Show of Shows was Warner Bros. fifth color movie, the first four were The Desert Song , On With the Show , Gold Diggers of Broadway and Paris . This movie featured most of the contemporary...

    exist only partially or not at all in color because the copies that were made of the film that exist were created on black-and-white stock. (See List of early color feature films.)
  • Two 3-D films from 1954, Top Banana
    Top Banana (film)
    Top Banana is a movie musical based on the musical of the same name starring Phil Silvers, and released by United Artists. It stars most of the original cast...

    and Southwest Passage
    Southwest Passage
    Southwest Passage is a 1954 Pathécolor Western film directed by Ray Nazarro and starring Joanne Dru and John Ireland, who are determined to make a unique trek across the west, using camels as his beasts of burden...

    , both exist only in their flat form because only one print, made for either the left or right eye to see, exists.

Unknown films

There are also films whose status is unknown. This may occur if a copy is thought to survive but no specific copy has been located in film vaults.
  • A movie that was previously of unknown status was an early sound movie from Warner Bros.
    Warner Bros.
    Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

     entitled Hardboiled Rose
    Hardboiled Rose
    Hardboiled Rose is a 62-minute part-talkie released by Warner Brothers and starring Myrna Loy, William Collier Jr., and John Miljan.-Plot:...

    (1929). The preservation was later discovered and distributed online. With any unknown film there is a possibility that it is lost or partially lost.
  • Another example of a film of which it is not known whether it has survived is the early color movie Cupid Angling
    Cupid Angling
    Cupid Angling is a silent film, the fifth feature film photographed in color.The film was produced by Leon F. Douglass's National Color Film Company in the Lake Lagunitas area of Marin County, California, and was made in the Douglass Natural Color process, the only feature film made in this process...

    (1918), made in Marin County, California
    Marin County, California
    Marin County is a county located in the North San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. As of 2010, the population was 252,409. The county seat is San Rafael and the largest employer is the county government. Marin County is well...

     by Leon F. Douglass
    Leon Douglass
    Leon Forrest Douglass was an American inventor and co-founder of the Victor Talking Machine Company who registered approximately fifty patents, mostly for film and sound recording techniques.-Life and professional career:...


The majority of films where it is unknown whether they have survived are silent movies
Silent Movies
Silent Movies are 13 solo guitar compositions by Marc Ribot released September 28, 2010 on Pi Recordings.-Reception:The Allmusic review by Thom Jurek awarded the album 4 stars stating "For those interested in one of the more compelling and quietly provocative and graceful guitar records of 2010,...


Lost film soundtracks

Some films produced in 1926–1930 in sound-on-disc
The term Sound-on-disc refers to a class of sound film processes using a phonograph or other disc to record or playback sound in sync with a motion picture...

 systems such as Vitaphone
Vitaphone was a sound film process used on feature films and nearly 1,000 short subjects produced by Warner Bros. and its sister studio First National from 1926 to 1930. Vitaphone was the last, but most successful, of the sound-on-disc processes...

, where the sound discs are separate from the film element, are now considered lost because the sound discs were damaged or destroyed, while the picture element was not. Conversely, some Vitaphone films survive only as sound, with the film missing (such as 1930's The Man from Blankley's
The Man from Blankley's
The Man from Blankley's was a 1930 history epic and comedy film by Alfred E. Green starring John Barrymore and Loretta Young. The film was based upon the 1903 play by F. Anstey, and was considered to be a major comedy masterpiece of the early sound era. The film was Barrymore's first feature...

, starring John Barrymore
John Barrymore
John Sidney Blyth , better known as John Barrymore, was an acclaimed American actor. He first gained fame as a handsome stage actor in light comedy, then high drama and culminating in groundbreaking portrayals in Shakespearean plays Hamlet and Richard III...


Many stereophonic sound
Stereophonic sound
The term Stereophonic, commonly called stereo, sound refers to any method of sound reproduction in which an attempt is made to create an illusion of directionality and audible perspective...

tracks from the early-to-mid 1950s that were either played in interlock on a 35 mm fullcoat magnetic reel or single-strip magnetic film (such as Fox's four-track magnetic, which became the standard of mag stereophonic sound) are now lost. Films such as House of Wax
House of Wax (1953 film)
House of Wax is a 1953 American horror film starring Vincent Price. It is a remake of Warners' Mystery of the Wax Museum without the comic relief featured in the earlier film, and was directed by André de Toth...

, The Caddy
The Caddy
The Caddy is a 1953 American film starring the comedy team of Martin and Lewis. It was filmed from November 24, 1952 through February 23, 1953. It was released by Paramount Pictures on August 10, 1953...

, The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds (1953 film)
The War of the Worlds is a 1953 science fiction film starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. It was the first on-screen loose adaptation of the H. G. Wells classic novel of the same name...

, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. is a musical fantasy film, the only feature film ever written by Theodor Seuss Geisel , who was responsible for the story, screenplay and lyrics...

, and From Here to Eternity
From Here to Eternity
From Here to Eternity is a 1953 drama film directed by Fred Zinnemann and based on the novel of the same name by James Jones. It deals with the troubles of soldiers, played by Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to the...

that were originally available with 3-track, magnetic sound are now available only with a monophonic optical soundtrack. The chemistry behind adhering magnetic particles to the tri-acetate film base eventually caused the autocatalytic breakdown of the film (vinegar syndrome). As long as studios had a monaural optical negative that could be printed, studio executives felt no need to preserve the stereophonic versions of the soundtracks.

List of rediscovered films

Occasionally, prints of films considered lost have been rediscovered. An example is the 1910 version of Frankenstein
Frankenstein (1910 film)
Frankenstein is a 1910 film made by Edison Studios that was written and directed by J. Searle Dawley.It was the first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The unbilled cast included Augustus Phillips as Dr...

which was believed lost for decades until the existence of a print (which had been in the hands of an unwitting collector for years) was discovered in the 1970s. A print of Richard III
Richard III (1912 film)
Richard III is a 55-minute film adaptation of Shakespeare's play, starring Frederick Warde as the title character. The film, a French/U.S. coproduction, was produced by Film d'Art and released through the independent states rights film distribution system...

(1912) was found in 1996 and restored by the American Film Institute
American Film Institute
The American Film Institute is an independent non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was established in 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act...


Beyond the Rocks
Beyond the Rocks (film)
Beyond the Rocks is a 1922 silent drama film directed by Sam Wood, starring Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson. It is based on the novel of the same name by Elinor Glyn.-Plot:...

(1922) with Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson was an American actress, singer and producer. She was one of the most prominent stars during the silent film era as both an actress and a fashion icon, especially under the direction of Cecil B. DeMille, made dozens of silents and was nominated for the first Academy Award in the...

 and Rudolph Valentino
Rudolph Valentino
Rudolph Valentino was an Italian actor, and early pop icon. A sex symbol of the 1920s, Valentino was known as the "Latin Lover". He starred in several well-known silent films including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Sheik, Blood and Sand, The Eagle and Son of the Sheik...

 was considered a lost film for several decades. Swanson lamented the loss of this and other films in her 1980 memoirs, but optimistically concluded, "I do not believe these films are gone forever". In 2000, a print was found in the Netherlands and restored by the Nederlands Filmmuseum and the Haghefilm Conservation. It turned up among about 2000 rusty film canisters donated by an eccentric Dutch collector, Joop van Liempd, of Haarlem. It was given its first modern screening in 2005, and has since been aired on Turner Classic Movies
Turner Classic Movies
Turner Classic Movies is a movie-oriented cable television channel, owned by the Turner Broadcasting System subsidiary of Time Warner, featuring commercial-free classic movies, mostly from the Turner Entertainment and MGM, United Artists, RKO and Warner Bros. film libraries...


In the early 2000s, the 1927 German film Metropolis—which had been distributed in many different edits over the years—was restored to as close to the original version as possible by reinstating edited footage and using computer technology to repair damaged footage. At that point, however, approximately a quarter of the original film footage was considered lost, according to Kino Video's DVD release of the restored film. On July 1, 2008 Berlin film experts announced that a copy of the film had been discovered in the archives of the film museum Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which contained all but one of the scenes still missing from the 2002 restoration. The film now has been restored very close to its premiere version.

In 2010, digital copies of ten early American films were presented to the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 by the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library, the first film installment from the Russian state archives to be repatriated.

Television material existing on film has sometimes been recovered. The 1951 pilot of I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy is an American television sitcom starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley. The black-and-white series originally ran from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957, on the Columbia Broadcasting System...

was long believed lost, but in 1990 the widow of one of the actors, Pepito Pérez (who played Pepito the Clown), found a copy. It has since been shown on television. Sometimes a film believed lost in its original state has been restored, either through the process of colorization
Colorization or colourisation may refer to:*Film colorization - a process that adds color to black and white, sepia or monochrome moving-picture images...

, or other restoration methods. The Cage, the original 1964 pilot film
Television pilot
A "television pilot" is a standalone episode of a television series that is used to sell the show to a television network. At the time of its inception, the pilot is meant to be the "testing ground" to see if a series will be possibly desired and successful and therefore a test episode of an...

 for Star Trek
Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry, produced by Desilu Productions . Star Trek was telecast on NBC from September 8, 1966, through June 3, 1969...

, survived only in a black-and-white print until 1987, when a film archivist found an unmarked (mute) 35mm reel in a Hollywood film laboratory with the negative trims of the unused scenes.

Similarly, a number of videotaped television programmes, previously thought lost (see wiping
Wiping or junking is a colloquial term for action taken by radio and television production and broadcasting companies, in which old audiotapes, videotapes, and telerecordings , are erased, reused, or destroyed after several uses...

) have been recovered as overseas Kinescope
Kinescope , shortened to kine , also known as telerecording in Britain, is a recording of a television program made by filming the picture from a video monitor...

 film prints from private collectors and various other sources over the years.

Lost film in film

Several films have been made with lost film fragments incorporated into the work. Decasia
Decasia is a 2002 found footage film by Bill Morrison, featuring an original score by Michael Gordon. The film is a meditation on old, decaying silent films and is similar in spirit to Lyrical Nitrate. It begins and ends with scenes of a dervish and is bookended with old footage showing how film...

(2002) used nothing but decaying film footage as an abstract tone poem of light and darkness, much like Peter Delpeut's more historical Lyrisch Nitraat (Lyrical Nitrate, 1990) which contained only footage from canisters found stored in an Amsterdam cinema. In 1993, Delpeut released The Forbidden Quest
The Forbidden Quest
The Forbidden Quest is a 1993 mockumentary written and directed by Peter Delpeut.The film won the 1994 International Fantasy Film Special Jury Award at the Fantasporto in Portugal...

, combining early film footage and archival photographs with new material to tell the fictional story of an ill-fated Antarctic expedition.

The Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
-1920:* White Youth* The Flaming Disc* Am I Dreaming?* The Dragon's Net* The Adorable Savage* Putting It Over* The Line Runners-1921:* The Fire Eater* A Battle of Wits* Dream Girl* The Millionaire...

 feature film The Cat Creeps
The Cat Creeps
The Cat Creeps is a crime/mystery film, and a sound remake of The Cat and the Canary . It is one of the many lost films of the early talkie film era....

(1930) is a lost film with the only now-extant footage included in a Universal short film called Boo!
Boo! (1932 film)
Boo! is a 1932 comedy short film by Universal Pictures, directed and written by Albert DeMond. Boo! contains clips of famous horror films, such as The Cat Creeps , Frankenstein and Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens and mocks them thoroughly...

(1932). The Fox Film Corporation feature Charlie Chan Carries On (1930) only exists in a trailer made to promote the film, and in a Spanish language
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 version Eran Trece.

The James Cagney
James Cagney
James Francis Cagney, Jr. was an American actor, first on stage, then in film, where he had his greatest impact. Although he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances, he is best remembered for playing "tough guys." In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth...

 film Winner Take All
Winner Take All (1932 film)
Winner Take All is a 1932 film starring James Cagney, who had electrified the industry the previous year with his performances in The Public Enemy and Smart Money, as a boxer...

(1932) used scenes from the early talkie Queen of the Night Clubs
Queen of the Night Clubs
Queen of the Night Clubs is a sound musical-drama film produced and directed by Bryan Foy and distributed by Warner Brothers. It is now considered a lost film.-Cast:*Texas Guinan - Texas Malone*John Davidson - Don Holland...

(1929) starring Texas Guinan
Texas Guinan
Mary Louise Cecilia "Texas" Guinan was an American saloon keeper, actress, and entrepreneur.-Early life:...

. While Queen of the Night Clubs was not a lost film in 1932, no prints of the film have survived through the decades since then. But the Cagney movie still is extant along with the selected footage taken from Queen of the Night Clubs.

Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson
Sir Peter Robert Jackson, KNZM is a New Zealand film director, producer, actor, and screenwriter, known for his The Lord of the Rings film trilogy , adapted from the novel by J. R. R...

's mockumentary
A mockumentary , is a type of film or television show in which fictitious events are presented in documentary format. These productions are often used to analyze or comment on current events and issues by using a fictitious setting, or to parody the documentary form itself...

 Forgotten Silver
Forgotten Silver
Forgotten Silver is a New Zealand film mockumentary that purports to tell the story of a pioneering New Zealand filmmaker. It was written and directed by Peter Jackson and Costa Botes, both of whom appear in the film in their roles as makers of the documentary.-Synopsis:Forgotten Silver purports...

purports to show recovered footage of early films. Instead, the filmmakers used newly shot film sequences treated to look like lost film.

In Robert Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez
Robert Anthony Rodríguez is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor and musician. He shoots and produces many of his films in his native Texas and Mexico. He has directed such films as Desperado, From Dusk till Dawn, The Faculty, Spy Kids, Sin City, Planet...

 and Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Jerome Tarantino is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer and actor. In the early 1990s, he began his career as an independent filmmaker with films employing nonlinear storylines and the aestheticization of violence...

's Grindhouse double feature, both of the Planet Terror
Planet Terror
Planet Terror is a 2007 American action horror film written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, about a group of people attempting to survive an onslaught of zombie-like creatures as they feud with a military unit, including a go-go dancer searching for a way to use her "useless talents." The film, a...

and Death Proof
Death Proof
Death Proof is a 2007 American action thriller film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. The film centers on a psychopathic stunt man who stalks young women before murdering them in staged car accidents using his "death-proof" stunt car...

segments have missing reels used as plot device
Plot device
A plot device is an object or character in a story whose sole purpose is to advance the plot of the story, or alternatively to overcome some difficulty in the plot....


John Carpenter
John Carpenter
John Howard Carpenter is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, editor, composer, and occasional actor. Although Carpenter has worked in numerous film genres in his four-decade career, his name is most commonly associated with horror and science fiction.- Early life :Carpenter was born...

's Masters of Horror
Masters of Horror
Masters of Horror is an informal social group of international film writers and directors specializing in horror movies and an American television series created by director Mick Garris for the Showtime cable network.- Origin :...

 episode Cigarette Burns deals with the search for a fictional lost film, La Fin Absolue Du Monde (The Absolute End of the World).

Actress turned gossip columnist Hedda Hopper
Hedda Hopper
Hedda Hopper was an American actress and gossip columnist, whose long-running feud with friend turned arch-rival Louella Parsons became at least as notorious as many of Hopper's columns.-Early life:...

 made her screen debut in a Fox Film called Battle of Hearts (1916). The star of the film was William Farnum
William Farnum
William Farnum was a major movie actor. One of three brothers, Farnum grew up in a family of actors. He made his acting debut at the age of ten in Richmond, Virginia in a production of Julius Caesar, with Edwin Booth playing the title character...

, then at the beginning of his long Fox contract. 26 years later in 1942 Hopper produced her documentary series Hedda Hopper's Hollywood #2. In the documentary, Hopper, Farnum, her son William Hopper
William Hopper
William Hopper, born DeWolf Hopper, Jr. was an American actor. He is best-remembered for playing Paul Drake on television's Perry Mason.-Early life:...

, and Hopper's wife Jane Gilbert view portions of Battle of Hearts. These brief portions of that movie survive within the Hopper documentary. More than likely Hopper had an entire print of the movie in 1942. However, like many early Fox films, Battle of Hearts is now lost or missing.

See also

  • Lost artworks
    Lost artworks
    Lost artworks are original pieces of art that credible sources indicate once existed but that cannot be accounted for in museums or private collections or are known to have been destroyed deliberately or accidentally, or neglected through ignorance and lack of connoisseurship.For lost literary...

  • List of lost television broadcasts
  • BBC Archive Treasure Hunt#Archives Treasure Hunt
  • List of unpublished books by notable authors
  • Lost work
    Lost work
    A lost work is a document or literary work produced some time in the past of which no surviving copies are known to exist. Works may be lost to history either through the destruction of the original manuscript, or through the non-survival of any copies of the work. Deliberate destruction of works...

  • List of missing treasure

External links

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