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