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Modern Times

Perhaps Chaplin’s foremost contribution to the preeminent art form of the 20th century and routinely voted amongst the greatest films ever made, Modern Times slyly moves through the various stages of mass labor, with Chaplin’s Little Tramp (now The Worker) as the repeated fall guy. Factory worker, repeat offender and prisoner, mechanic, accidental protester, nightclub waiter: he does it all. Meanwhile, other factory workers, protesters, and prisoners are depicted with a sensitive and humane edge. Along the way, The Worker meets the orphan Ellen (Paulette Goddard), perpetually in trouble and on the run, trying to make ends meet. The duo, who protect and look out for each other, finally find peace in the precarity of their situation. Modern times, indeed. “A historical event. . . [Modern Times] criticizes not just industrial capitalism but work itself—as well as authority, the family, and the very nature of adult behavior. Look at the early [Chaplin] movies and then look around you. See if you can’t find Chaplin—our contemporary—out there on the street.”—J. Hoberman, The Village Voice.

Appears in: Print the Legend

Genres: Slapstick

Other Films by Charlie Chaplin

Shorts 8: Chaplin Classics

Charlie Chaplin’s singular blend of slapstick, pathos, and social satire made him one of the cinema’s great artists and his iconic Tramp remains one of the most recognizable characters in film history. In the short two-reelers he made for the Mutual Film Corporation a century ago, Chaplin honed his trademark themes and the inventive techniques

The Rink

Chaplin skates circles around his antagonists, figuratively, waiting tables in a swanky restaurant, and literally, at the rink next door.

Behind the Screen

On a Hollywood movie set a lowly stagehand does all the heavy lifting while his boss hogs the credit. The other workers go on strike, and a pie fight and Keystone-esque chase scene cap the explosive finale.

Easy Street

The Tramp goes straight after falling for beautiful social worker and becomes a police officer. But his challenging first assignment puts him squarely in the path of the tough guy who rules the roost on Easy Street.

City Lights

Chaplin, neverendingly empathetic to his characters—and thus to their real-world counterparts, usually the poor and downtrodden of American society—crafted perhaps his crowning achievement with this 1931 silent, one of the last of its kind, coming well into the sound era. His famous Tramp character here falls head-over-heels in love with a blind flower girl (a