I was all set to be disturbed by Buster Keaton's 1929 silent film, The General. It is available on Netflix as an instant watch selection. Keaton plays Johnie Gray, a southern train engineer who helps the Confederate cause against the Union in the Civil War.
Being a 21st century liberal, pacifist, southern historian, I was worried that a film from the twenties might glorify the Confederacy, make explicitly racist portrayals (since the film was made at a time of Jim Crow), and make appalling violence seem trite and funny.
I was utterly relieved that the film totally sidestepped almost all of these issues. It is a film about love, about a train chase, and predominately about one of the most amazing comedians I have seen. Buster Keaton's physical comedy is spectacular, but I am most impressed by his combination of facial expression and perfect timing.
My favorite thing about watching the movie was seeing my 10yo son's unrestrained full-hearted belly laughs. Perhaps his ability to enjoy a silent movie is because he was not raised with a lot of electronic media bells and whistles--but I think not. Buster Keaton is accessible to children--perhaps because of his small stature and his persona of utter innocence--in a way few comedians today are.
I recommend Keaton's The Camara Man and The Spite Marriage. Both are available on the first disc of Buster Keaton Collection, available on Netflix (but not as instant watch).