All of Charlie Chaplin’s Feature Films as a Director, Ranked
Charlie Chaplin is perhaps the most popular and renowned figure of the silent film era. Even those who don’t know his name or his work probably know his character from Little Tramp.
Chaplin starred in, wrote and directed some of the funniest and most entertaining films of the 20th century, such as city lights and Modern times. However, as is the case with any director, not all of his films are on the same level, and anyone who has seen some of them will have a way of ranking them.
12) A Countess from Hong Kong (1967)
Chaplin’s last film and the only truly bad one he directed, A Countess from Hong Kong find an American diplomat played by Marlon Brando in a difficult situation after an immigrant stowaway played by Sophie Loren refuses to leave his boat.
The film has no tension, no romance and no laughs. The silly premise spans two hours with uneventful scene after uneventful scene, and though Loren does her best, Brando and the supporting cast look bored.
11) A King in New York (1957)
It was the first film Chaplin made in the UK during his exile from America. It’s a satirical critique of Cold War-era America through the eyes of a dethroned European king who travels to New York in search of sanctuary.
A King in New York is clearly the messy, disjointed work of a weary artist who just wanted to make another movie but had lost most of its spark. It has some interesting ideas and fun moments, but Chaplin failed to pull it all together into a cohesive whole.
ten) Pilgrim (1923)
In this 47-minute comedy, an escaped convict is mistaken for a small-town pastor and uses that to his advantage. The whole thing seems like a good idea for a much shorter film that was poorly stretched.
The film has enough amusing settings to make it interesting, especially for those who greatly appreciate Chaplin’s work, but it doesn’t bring anything new or particularly interesting to the table.
9) A woman from Paris: a drama of fate (1923)
This film begins with a disclaimer where Chaplin warns the audience that he is not in the film and it is not a comedy. Instead, it’s a one-woman drama (played by a mutual Chaplin collaborator Edna Purviance) torn between her mogul husband and estranged lover.
While not without its fair share of humor, the film is certainly unlike anything the director has ever done. It’s poorly paced and the drama doesn’t work very well, but it’s still an interesting experience if only for its uniqueness among the body of Chaplin’s oeuvre.
8) the great dictator (1940)
Chaplin’s first venture into talkies is an anti-fascist farce about a lowly Jewish barber who shares a strong resemblance to the dictator of Tomania, a tyrant who blames Jews for the country’s dire situation.
Although it’s badly paced and very messy, the great dictator is also very funny and deeply sincere. In it, Chaplin warned the world of the real dangers of Hitler and Mussolini, who we now know was surprisingly right, making it nothing short of a prophetic film.
seven) Mr Verdoux (1947)
One of Chaplin’s most unique works, Mr Verdoux is a dark comedy about a Parisian family man who, in order to support his wife and son, hatches a plan to marry wealthy widows and then murder them to keep their fortune.
Despite a crushing lack of focus and a terrible ending, Mr Verdoux is quirky, captivating and hilarious. The standout, however, is Chaplin’s charming performance as a charismatic but cynical and nihilistic serial killer who is oddly hard not to care.
6) The circus (1928)
The circus is one of the director’s simplest and most direct films, about a man who finds an unexpected job – and love – in a circus.
The movie doesn’t have a lot of plot, but its energetic slapstick more than makes up for that. It’s thoroughly entertaining and funny, and its heartfelt attempts at pathos manage to make it heartfelt and satisfying.
5) Modern times (1936)
This classic comedy about a man and a woman confronting modernity on the streets of an industrial society serves as a beautiful farewell to silent cinema and the Tramp, one of cinema’s most iconic characters.
The film is very ambitious and sometimes stretches farther than it can reach, but that only makes it more endearing. Its story is rich and complex, its visuals are perhaps the best of any Chaplin film, and its humor is as funny as expected.
4) The gold Rush (1925)
The gold Rushone of the director’s most popular films, is the story of a gold digger who travels to the Klondike in search of fortune, though he ends up finding much more than that.
The film’s story isn’t particularly solid, but the laughs it provides are some of the biggest of any Chaplin film. This film contains some of the funniest and most iconic sets in silent film history, like the beautiful dinner party dance scene or the thrilling rocking house sequence.
3) city lights (1931)
It’s only city lights, Chaplin’s sixth feature, that he really showed that he was as good a storyteller as he was a comedian. This beautiful classic follows the tramp, who has fallen in love with a blind florist, trying to raise money to get her medical help.
The film is both an endearing romantic drama and a hysterical slapstick comedy. By the time you read “THE END,” you’re also likely to have been crying and laughing your head off.
2) limelight (1952)
Although this may not be the last film directed by Chaplin, limelight clearly serves as a farewell to the artist and his career. It’s about decaying comedian Calvero (played by Chaplin in what might be his best performance) and a suicidal ballerina, who cling to each other to find meaning and hope in their life.
If this sounds like the director’s darkest and most mature work, that’s because it is. It’s a powerful exploration of themes like aging, relationships, love, and optimism in the face of adversity. It’s funny, it’s touching, it makes you think and it’s a must.
1) “The Kid” (1921)
A filmmaker’s debut is rarely their best film, but Chaplin is one of the exceptions to the rule. the child is about the tramp raising a child like his own after being abandoned by his mother as a baby.
Poignant and sweet, it’s one of those films that everyone must see at least once in their life. The story is simple yet incredibly moving, the characters are really fun to follow, the slapstick is hilarious, and the little dramatic elements that Chaplin adds to the mix work perfectly. Even after more than 100 years, the child remains one of the funniest and sweetest films ever made.
NEXT: How Charlie Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’ Perfected the Romantic Comedy