As stated on the The First Movies page, Edwin S. Porter directed this most famous of the early westerns. It contains many of the elements of the classic hold-up story: a daring robbery involving violence and death, a posse being hastily formed, and the final flight and showdown in the woods.

If you would like to watch the complete movie (Streaming RealMedia), see the links on the bottom of this page.

Below are numbered thumbnail stills taken from the film (click on for larger images) with brief descriptions of the action. The final shot of the movie obviously was added to the end of the movie in order to surprise and startle the audiences of the day--and was successful in doing so.

(1) The robbers first make the telegraph operator signal that the train stop at this station--they compel him to write a order to have the train stop for water. (2) They tie him up and leave him on the floor, (3) Still tied up, the operator is able to send a message with his chin--but then collapses on the floor, where his little daughter finds him--she unties him and he goes for help. (This latter action actually takes place after the train is robbed.) (4) As the train slows to take on water, two robbers climb aboard the moving train. One of them struggles with the fireman, who attacks him with a shovel.

(5) Quickly overpowering the fireman, he throws his victim off the train. (6) The train engineer is forced off the engine while (7) the passengers are lined up in order to relieve them of their valuables. (8) One passenger attempts to run away--and is shot in the back.

(9) The bandits shoot the man in charge of the strongbox and light the fuse to a stick of dynamite, (10) which causes a terrific explosion. (11) The bags of money are grabbed up and (12) passed off the train.

(13) They board the engine with the loot and ride it to where they have tied their horses. (14) A festive scene is shown where several men and women are dancing--the men find it great fun to make a greenhorn "dance" by shooting at his feet. Suddenly the exhausted operator staggers in and tells everyone what happened. A posse is formed. (15) The posse quickly catches up to the desperadoes. (16) Gunfire is exchanged during the chase. One robber is shot off his horse.

(17) Thinking that they have eluded the posse, the remaining bandits pause to split up the loot--only to be surrounded by their pursuers. (18) After a short, but ferocious gun battle, (19) all the train robbers are killed. (20) The final shot (literally) of the film.

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Producer: Thomas A. Edison
Length: 12 minutes at 18 fps.
Director and camera: Edwin S. Porter.
Cast includes: Justus D. Barnes, Walter Cameron, George M. Anderson.

Complete The Great Train Robbery (1903) (Streaming RealMedia)
Part I Part II Part III

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RealVideo Excerpts from TGTR (2 minutes)

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Original Poster: The Great Train Robbery (1903)

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