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Top 10 Movies of Charlie Chaplin

Mrunal Belvalkar
A comprehensive guide to top 10 movies of one of the greatest movie-makers of the silent era, Charlie Chaplin. A tribute to the magician, the maestro, the man with the golden heart.
You think of the silent era of films, and immediately the man in the derby hat, tight jacket, baggy pants, large boots, small mustache and of course the cane stick comes to your mind! And almost immediately you laugh at his clumsy demeanor, cry in the sad realization that he is no more, but smile in fond remembrance of the genius he was.
Charlie Chaplin was a very prominent figure in the 1920s. One of the 10 greatest male screen legends of all times (according to American Film Institute, 1999) Charlie Chaplin is probably "the only genius to come out of the movie industry", in the words of George Bernard Shaw.
In one of the darkest periods of history, Charlie Chaplin brought to the world the greatest gift ever - humor. Here is a compilation of 10 of his greatest movies ever. Many of these were and still are screened at several film festivals year after year. Each is a masterpiece in itself; but "In the end, everything is a gag", as the man once said himself.

Top 10 Charlie Chaplin Movies

The Kid (1921)

Everybody still remembers the cute little Kid and The Tramp from this 1920s classic. The Kid was the first full-length Charlie Chaplin movie. True to its tag line 'A picture with a smile - and perhaps a tear', The Kid is a movie that everyone can relate to.
There should not be a single person whom you have met and has seen The Kid and NOT cried. A movie that tugs at your heart strings, and is ranked it as Chaplin's best movie ever!

The Pilgrim (1923)

The Pilgrim questions every person's sense of right and wrong. An escaped convict ends up becoming a parson at a local church, but even after being identified as nothing more than a criminal, the convict is ultimately set free.
The film builds the faith that whatever good one does in life, does not go unnoticed, and sometimes even convicts deserve salvation. The Pilgrim was the last movie in which Edna Purviance starred opposite Charlie Chaplin.

A Woman of Paris (1923)

A classic tale of love and loss, A Woman of Paris was appreciated by the critics, but failed to gain popularity among the audiences. The audience went to the movie, expecting to see their beloved Tramp. However, Chaplin had only but a cameo in the film.
The other stark difference in this and other Chaplin films was the conspicuous lack of slapstick humor. A Woman of Paris was a serious drama. A film much different from what you would expect off a Charlie Chaplin film, it is yet an exceptional film and worth appreciation.

The Gold Rush (1925)

The Gold Rush was one of Charlie Chaplin's first movies to have been re-released with 'sound' - Chaplin composed and recorded a music score for the film and re-released it in 1942 with two major changes in the plot as well.
The film won many critical accolades and was chosen for preservation by the National Film Registry, United States as being a "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant" movie and also featured at #25 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs (2000).

The Circus (1928)

Charlie Chaplin received Special Award (now known as Academy Honorary Award) for writing, producing, directing and acting in this hit comedy. The movie chronicles the serendipitous entry of a pick-pocket into a circus, that instantly makes him a favorite among the audience, and his journey thereon.
As with quite a few of his other movies, Chaplin played a character that had a golden heart, and who sacrifices his love, and has everybody leave him behind and move on in the end. But as always, he isn't complaining. He is happy his love is with the right man for her.

City Lights (1931)

It is another movie that was released in the era of 'talkies', but was enjoyed and appreciated by audiences all over the nation. Regarded as one of his biggest financial and critical success, the film is held to be one of his most balanced films with a beautiful blend of humor and emotions.
Chaplin's role in City Lights is by far his best depiction of a perfect tramp - shabby, clumsy, ill-dressed and starkly contrasting to the millionaire who befriends and abandons him couple of times in the film.

Modern Times (1936)

Another 'all-Chaplin' movie, Modern Times depicted the woes of a factory man who had lost his job. One sure does find love in the most unexpected places and faces in life sometimes, and Chaplin finds it here in the face of the beautiful gamine.
This time around though, he manages to keep his love, and the movie ends with the two walking hand in hand towards the horizon. This is a favorite movie of many people for the irony (depicted rather brilliantly) of how Chaplin's character lands into trouble when being sincere and fails to be arrested for attempted crimes!

The Great Dictator (1940)

The Great Dictator is probably the most humorous and yet satirical account of Nazism and of Adolf Hitler. The movie caused quite a stir among the American audiences. However Charles Chaplin, Jr. - son of Charlie Chaplin - once recollected that his father was haunted by the marked similarities between himself and Hitler!
It would be difficult for us to imagine, but Chaplin believed that though Hitler was "the madman" and he himself "the comic", "it could have been the other way around"!

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

Monsieur Verdoux broke away from Chaplin's image of The Tramp. The film turned out to be a dark comedy, a cult film, but was poorly received by the American audiences. However, the film broke all records when it was screened as a part of Charlie Chaplin film festival at New York Plaza in 1964.

Limelight (1952)

Limelight is all about rediscovering yourself. In helping a suicidal dancer find her talent again, Chaplin's character regains his lost confidence and attempts and fails at a comeback as a clown.
Though years later dancer and clown reunite and succeed in another comeback attempt, the movie ends on an ironic note as the clown suffers a heart attack and dies in the wing of the stage, while the dancer goes on to perform, unaware of the tragedy. Having refused American citizenship, Charlie Chaplin was exiled from the United States.
Limelight suffered the repercussions of the incidence, and it was not until 1972 that the film was released in America and seen and appreciated. Chaplin was awarded with an Oscar for the best original score of the movie in the same year.

Honorable Mentions

  • The Adventurer
  • Easy Street
  • The Immigrant
  • A Day's Pleasure
  • Shoulder Arms
  • A King In New York
  • A Dog's Life
  • One AM
Chaplin gave people some of the best movies of the 1920s. He remained active in cinema well beyond the 1920s however, with his last film being A Countess From Hong Kong. One of the greatest film-makers of all time, Chaplin had the unique ability to make movies in which his characters were abundantly made fun of and laughed at.
In the master's own words, "Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself." Chaplin truly is the best thing to have happened to cinema.