What was the first movie with sound? Exploring the history of sound in film

What was the first movie with sound? Exploring the history of sound in film

Sound enhances the overall cinematic experience. However, for the first few decades of film history, sound did not actually exist. The move from silent to sound films signalled a significant shift in how stories were told and experienced on the big screen. At the forefront of this transformation stands a pioneering masterpiece that forever altered the landscape of cinema—the first movie with sound ever made.

The first movie with sound The Jazz Singer (1927)
Al Jolson with his co-star May McAvoy (L) and the poster of the The Jazz Singer (1927). Photo: @jolson.iajs on Instagram (modified by author)
Source: UGC


A century ago, silent films dominated the entire film industry. Eventually, when film evolved into a storytelling art form and was exhibited to large audiences, the sound was incorporated to match what was seen on screen. Explore the history of sound in film, the milestones that paved the path for this remarkable discovery, and the first movie with sound.

What was the first movie with sound?

On 6 October 1927, Warner Bros. released The Jazz Singer, the first full-length movie to use synchronised sound for dialogue sequences. Though these scenes were brief, hearing the voices of the film's stars was a revelation for viewers.

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This landmark film, directed by Alan Crosland and starring Al Jolson, marked the transition from the silent to sound era of cinema. While not the first film to use synchronised sound, The Jazz Singer is widely recognised as the first significant motion picture to utilise this innovative technology.

The Jazz Singer used the Vitaphone system, developed by Western Electric and Warner Bros., to sync sound recordings with film projections. The Vitaphone system used electrical encoding and playback to seamlessly integrate conversation, music, and sound effects into the cinematic experience.

History of sound in film

First movie with sound
A group of people watching movies. Photo: pexels.com, @tima-miroshnichenko
Source: UGC

Before the introduction of synchronised sound, early motion films were silent, relying only on visual storytelling techniques and live musical accompaniment to convey story and emotion. Silent films wowed spectators with dynamic performances and inventive storylines, but they lacked the immersive impact of synchronised sound.

The effort to combine sound and moving images started long before it became a commercial reality. Inventors and filmmakers tried various approaches and technology to sync sound recordings with film projection.

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The first public presentation of projected sound films was held in Paris in 1900. This event challenged the established quo by bringing the concept of synchronised sound to the world of film.

It used the Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre system, which involved recording conversations or songs on a phonograph and adjusting the speed of the film projector to match the sound.

What was the first video with sound?

The route to pairing visuals with synchronised sound was a process fraught with obstacles and tribulations. One of the first pioneers on this subject was Thomas Edison. He began experimenting with using a phonograph record to synchronise sounds with his kinetoscope films in 1893.

Thomas Edison's role in The Dickinson Experimental Sound Film, which occurred in 1894, marked an important milestone in film history. It was the first known attempt to synchronise sound and video, with William K.L. Dickson playing the violin into a recording horn for an off-camera wax cylinder.

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However, combining sound and image was challenging despite his best efforts. But these first moves, these daring explorations, paved the way for what was to come. They were a watershed moment, a foreshadowing of future events. Sound in films was no longer a faraway ideal; it was becoming a reality.

The emergence of The Jazz Singer

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As mentioned above, The Jazz Singer was the first full-feature movie to be presented as a talkie, making its debut in 1927. It was deeply rooted in the traditions of silent cinema and included many of its well-known themes.

However, it dared to go beyond the silent realm by introducing sound into its narrative. Although the silent sequences remained, they were now merged with instances of dialogue and singing.

Surprisingly, The Jazz Singer contained only about 281 spoken words throughout the full-length film. But these few words alone earned it the title of the first movie with sound in the world, ushering in thousands of other films with sound.

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When did silent films end?

The release of The Jazz Singer in 1927 is often regarded as the official end of the silent film period, making it a significant movie in film history.

By 1932, sound-on-film technology had stabilised and improved, and films featuring a soundtrack known as "talkies," in reference to the increasingly robust speech between the characters, had swept much of the globe.

Effect of sound in film in the industry

The introduction of sound in movies enabled Hollywood to grow into the cultural and commercial powerhouse people know today. Sound significantly increased the potential of film. It gave filmmakers an entirely new medium, as highly effective and expressive as visuals, to tell their stories.

As more people spent their free time at the cinema, films became longer, experimental, sophisticated and profoundly embedded in popular culture.

What was the first movie to include spoken words as sound?

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The Jazz Singer was the first full-length movie featuring synchronised speech.

What were the first words spoken in a movie?

"Wait a minute… Wait a minute… you ain't heard nothin' yet." These were the first words spoken by Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer.

What was the first all-talking sound feature film?

Lights of New York was the first all-talking feature film.

When did movies transition from silent to sound? Talkies gradually replaced silent films between 1926 and 1930.

What was the first movie in colour and sound?

The animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937, was the first full-length and sound movie in colour.

Why do they talk so fast in old movies?

In the past, Hollywood frequently used the posh British accent, which allows for relatively fast speech due to cleanly enunciated syllables.

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The Jazz Singer is widely recognised as the first movie with sound. It marked the arrival of synchronised sound and forever changed how audiences experience film. Its legacy is a tribute to the power of innovation and the timeless magic of storytelling.

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