Most of us know that Charlie Chaplin was one of the greats of film history. However, given the sheer number of films that he starred in, many of us do not know where to begin in following this great filmmaker’s career. In this article, I discuss five great Charlie Chaplin movies that you can start with.
The Kid (1921): The Kid was Charlie Chaplin’s first feature-length movie, and was one of the most popular films on 1921. It is a unique film, because until then all films were either dramas or comedies, and no one could figure out which category to place this movie in. The film is about Charlie Chaplin’s character, the Little Tramp, and how he befriends a young boy. The film is a mix of comedy and social commentary and should not be missed.
City Lights (1931): City Lights is perhaps the best known of all of Charlie Chaplin’s movies. It is about his Little Tramp, who befriends a drunken millionaire. So long as the millionaire is drunk, he loves the Little Tramp, but he forgets all about him once he becomes sober. This leads to the Tramp going to prison for apparently stealing money that was actually given to him by the drunken millionaire. The Little Tramp doesn’t want the money for himself, though, but for the woman that he loves.
Modern Times (1936): Modern Times is Charlie Chaplin’s harsh critique of modern industrial labor. It is also extremely funny. The Little Tramp moves from job to job, trying desperately to make a living. Along the way, he performs heroic acts and is arrested. The film deals with anti-Communist oppression and even drug abuse.
The Great Dictator (1940): Charlie Chaplin famously decided to deliberately end the career of the Little Tramp in the film The Great Dictator. With silent films on the decline since the development of the “talkie”, there didn’t seem to be any room for Chaplin’s silent clown. So, he decided to play the double role of a Jewish Barber and Adenoid Hynkel (a parody of Adolf Hitler), and decided to have the Little Tramp talk. The film is considered to be one of his best films, and Chaplin kept his word and did not return to the Little Tramp again.
Monsieur Verdoux (1947): Many people don’t know about Chaplin’s roles after the war, but one of the most interesting was the dark comedy, Monsieur Verdoux. In that film, he plays a murderous banker who will do anything for money. The film represents the opposite side of Chaplin’s social commentary. Rather than show the oppressed working class, he instead plays the role of the ruthless bankers.
Charlie Chaplin movies are a wonder mixture of drama, comedy and social commentary. They can be both hilarious and sad. I hope this list will help get you started in enjoying his work.