The world of cinema is incomplete without Charlie Chaplin. He introduced comedy in various forms. Mime, slapstick, and visual comedy were his forte. Taking queue from French artist and comedian Max Linder, Chaplin gave to this world about 81 films. He directed his films and though comic in style, they delivered a message to the viewers. In this light, it would be interesting to pick the top ten movies of Chaplin. Let us proceed in a descending order.
10. On the tenth spot, we place A Dog’s Life. This film faced a lot of criticism primarily because of its overtly sentimental take, and also because of portraying a dog to be the hero of the film. However, it proved to be another building block in Chaplin’s fame as Scrap, the dog, went on and became an iconic figure.
9. Shoulder Arms comes next in rank. It is the shortest film made by Chaplin and proved to be the most successful till 1918 when it was released. The setting is in a dream intertwined with the First Word War situation in France. The take is empathetic and makes light the seriousness with which wars are fought. People chuckled saying that “the fool’s funny” after they came out of the theatres.
8. Limelight is by far the autobiography of Chaplin’s life. He has shown the world that the world does not stop with the death of an artist. Someone fitting is present as replacement as “the show must go on”. Chaplin has shared screen space with Buster Keaton. The film is a combination of wit, humor, pathos, and art and that is the reason it has made its way in this list.
7. Next in line is Modern Times. With his iconic character of the tramp, Chaplin gives an inside view of the struggle a common man faced during the Great Depression. There is subtlety in the way the fight for existence has been portrayed, and also the flip side of modern industrialization. With other veterans like Henry Bergman, Chester Conklin, and Stanley Sanford in the film, it has created a place of its own. The film was considered “culturally significant” and was considered a must watch in primary schools.
6. One cannot be funny when demanded; this is the bottom line of Chaplin’s The Circus. It shows with great dexterity that a clown also has a mind of his own, and the iconic tramp makes it all the more enjoyable. The film has a pace that keeps you glued to your seats. It is not a surprise to learn that The Circus earned as high as $3.8 million in 1928.
5. The emotional tale of the iconic tramp, his adopted son, and the biological mother had taken people by awe in The Kid. The complete story, accentuated by great performances by Edna Purviance, Jackie Coogan, Henry Bergman, and Chaplin himself make way for a great watch. There are many small moments in the movie that are soft and beautiful. The reunion scene is one worth mentioning. The movie was a huge success in 1921 only second to The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
4. We all remember the scene where the tramp wakes up under a statue when the statue is being unveiled. This is City Lights. It is a romantic movie and revolves around true emotions vis-a-vis the continuously changing relations that we see in day to day life. Chaplin has narrated a story that centers around a man caught between his lady love and his friend. Very beautiful moments capture your attention in the movie. The last scene where the girl recognizes the tramp by his touch is worth mentioning. Chaplin’s performance throughout the movie is laudable.
3. The tramp is the leitmotif in Chaplin’s movies. However, if a choice is made on the one movie of the tramp, it would be The Gold Rush. The movie took more than a year to make and was shot across 5 locations. The tramp’s journey to the Yukon for participating in gold rush, his getting stranded, taking up a job, and the helping a man suffering from amnesia all make for a wonderful plot. The confusion in love, the quaint shaped food, the dream sequence all build up to make this movie worthwhile.
2. Though many would rate The Great Dictator as the best film, this list considers it to be just short of the first spot. However, the greatness and artistry of this movie is in no way less. This movie is a talkie and considered the most successful commercial film by Chaplin. The character of Adenoid Hynkel is played by Chaplin himself. Note the careful nomenclature of the dictator. Since the character was a caricature of Hitler, the initials have been maintained accordingly. There are many scenes that are praiseworthy. The globe scene is extraordinary. The dictator treats the globe like a toy and plays with it fantasizing himself to be the “emperor of the world”. However, his act of fun goes too far and the balloon (globe) bursts. The movements of Chaplin, his handling of the balloon, his proud laughter, and finally his resigned look on the balloon bursting are incredibly drafted. The movie is ambitious and daring, targeting the German in a time when they were strong and able.
1. Finally let us talk of the first spot. It goes to Monsieur Verdoux. This is a masterpiece in the form of a critique. Henry Verdoux, a loyal and efficient banker loses his job. In an attempt to fend for his family, he marries rich widows, murders them and finds his next prey. His routine is offset by two widows, and he falls prey to the police. Here Verdoux asks rhetorical question where he justifies his murders for feeding his family, and asking the justification of the killings in the wars.
The top two movies of Chaplin are talkies, in spite of his genius being in making silent movies for years.