User Reviews (248)

Add a Review

  • Part satire, part slapstick comedy, part melodrama; the great pioneer of film, Charles Chaplin, has created his own monument with this film. At the same time, 'Modern Times' was Chaplin's last goodbye to the era of silent film - which, remarkably, had already ended almost a decade earlier.

    After nearly 80 years, this screen marvel still makes me laugh, cry - and think about the ongoing automatization of practically every trivial little thing in our lives. Modern times, indeed.

    To me, this film is as entertaining and funny today as I imagine it was then, and it's certainly as relevant as it was then.

    The tramp still rules. My vote: 9 out of 10.

    Favorite films:

    Lesser-known Masterpieces:

    Favorite Low-Budget and B-Movies:

    Favorite TV-Shows reviewed:
  • Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) is the final film to feature the great actor/director/writer's most easily recognizable incarnation: The Tramp. Here is a character that is so ingrained in the collective conscious of modern film audiences that many recognize him despite the fact that they have not seen a single Chaplin film. Indeed, several iconographic studies have labeled The Tramp (with his worn hat, distinctive mustache, dusty suit, cane, and trademark waddle) as the single most identifiable fictional image in history.

    Still, the film that perhaps most influenced the creation and thematic realization of Modern Times was not even a silent one. The Jazz Singer, which debuted in 1927, five years before Modern Times began production, is perhaps the most important watershed film in the industry's century-old history. In the film, comic great Al Jolson stands up in front of the audience and...sings. And as Millard Mitchell said in Singin' in the Rain, the public was suddenly in a frenzy for "Talking pictures! Talking pictures!" Sadly, with the advent of synchronized sound and dialogue, the world of silent filmmaking began to slip into obscurity with audiences and studios now viewing it as obsolete and undesirable. Nevertheless, Chaplin continued his passion for the subtle craft by creating City Lights (1931), which many critics and academics consider one of the greatest films ever made, but by the time Modern Times was released, Chaplin was one of the last directors left clinging to a dying art.

    Modern Times is not an entirely silent film, (there are dialogue snippets and sound effects), but if you look closely, every character with dialogue (excluding Chaplin himself) is being mocked. Even when The Tramp opens his mouth (the only time he ever did so in a film), the words are nonsensical, defying the burgeoning convention that dialogue is mandatory for substance, entertainment, and quality.

    Despite the film's status as one of the greatest comedies of all-time, it is hard to ignore the political component. In his movies, Chaplin often exhibited a great mistrust for authority and progress, as often embodied through the social elite, the police, and wealthy entrepreneurs. The irony of the film's title, then, is two-fold. It connects with Chaplin's own bitter feelings regarding his moribund art form, but also refers to the plight of the working classes during the Great Depression (long working hours with little job security and meager salary, while the upper classes remain wealthy and bide their idle time) The world was changing fast, and Chaplin foresaw that many of these changes were far from beneficial.

    As we watch The Tramp struggle through the modern, mechanized world, we laugh at his antics and the absurdity of their results, but we can also feel pain and pity. He is clearly a man who does not belong. Indeed, The Tramp can almost be thought of as a misfit who has passed through a membrane from some alternate reality and unwittingly fallen into our familiar world (notice that he does not have a name or identification of any kind, and as far as we know, he has no friends, family, funds, or history).

    He takes on assembly lines, feeding machines, department stores, policemen and various other mass-oriented aspects of the industrialized world (all which demand and exhibit sameness and conformity), but The Tramp (and his symbolic extension, the individual) never seem to fit.

    This is, consequently, why Modern Times is also one of the most poignant love stories ever put on film. The only character who is on the same level as The Tramp is a young, homeless woman who is referred to as "The Gamin" and is played by Chaplin's then-wife, Paulette Goddard. These two are brought together by the fact they have almost nothing except the will to live and continue forward, despite adversity. Both are nameless, neither has a home, and they each have no money or material possessions.

    It is here that Chaplin makes his most poignant and saddening statement about modern living. The Tramp and The Gamin are the only characters who exhibit individuality and idealism, yet they are also the ones lowest on the social and economic food chain. The conclusion of the film, which most likely reflects upon Chaplin's own emotions, is tinged with sadness, but also a lingering hopefulness that resonates as loudly and clearly today as it did more than sixty years ago.

    Then there is, of course, the comedy, which is the stuff of legendary status. Some of the most memorable comic images in film history are found in Modern Times. These include The Tramp's bout with an assembly line (and his resulting twitches), his unfortunate encounter with "nose-powder", the moment when he quite literally becomes a cog in the wheels of industry, and his epic struggle to bring roast duck to an angry customer.

    In my opinion, however, the two standout moments are the scene in a department store involving a blindfold and some rollerskates (the most exquisite moment of comedy in the film) and the sequence where The Tramp is submitted to the mad whim of an out-of-control feeding machine (the most uproarious moment in the film).

    These are just a handful of moments that make Modern Times the enduring masterpiece that it is. On a personal level, the aspect of the film that resonates strongest with me is its appeal to the idealistic misfit in all of us. In our hearts, many of us long for the simplicity and exuberance with which The Tramp and The Gamin live life (with attention to the bare essentials and an absence of need for materialism and modern trappings).

    As Chaplin so skillfully shows, however, our modern times make this lifestyle a faded dream, lost among the sheep-like herds of men and women scurrying through a modern metropolis that only Fritz Lang could make seem darker and more devoid of true humanity. Still, the final image of Modern Times refuses to let the film end on an exclusively tragic note and demonstrates that the individual is still alive and may yet find his way in an ever-changing world.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It is difficult to review Chaplin's movies objectively because many of us have seen them, or at least have heard about them, since we were young. They have become part of our emotional and/or cultural background.

    Chaplin is arguably the only complete director: in most of his pictures, he also produces, acts, writes the script, composes the music, does his own stunts and edits. His talent and reputation generated numerous commercial successes, even when he continued directing silent movies after their time. "Talkies" were the only films produced after 1927, the few silent attempts afterwards were failures; yet Chaplin was an exception: "City Lights" in 1931 and "Modern Times" in 1936 were sensations worldwide (the latter includes a few sounds but they are marginal). This is remarkable since nine years is an eternity in cinema timeframe. Only in 1940 did Chaplin direct a talkie.


    Is the movie a comedy? Partly: tragi-comedy is Chaplin's trademark. In my opinion, there are three levels of humour.

    1. Pure amusement, sometimes as in slapstick: the tramp eats all he can to be sent to jail and even buys more when he is with the policeman; he is drugged in jail; the tramp and the gamin imagine their life in an idyllic house; the tramp roller-skates close to an edge in the department store (fabulous stunt); he makes a lousy waiter but a great actor at the end. Again, I am not certain how much of the fun is derived from childhood memories and/or the fact we feel younger as we watch the film. To enjoy it fully, we must lay aside some of our adult critical sense, notably towards old-fashioned cinema.

    2. No humour, just drama: the gamin's father dies; her sisters are taken away; the tramp crashes his way through the crowd to get a job (an efficient illustration of ruthless competition).

    3. Amusement with a dramatic twist: these are the most frequent scenes, and probably the best. We grin even as we laugh. The movie opens on sheep moving grouped (of which a black one: an allusion to the tramp?), that fade out to workers coming out of the subway. This must have been a shock for the audience during the Great Depression. Another example is one of Chaplin's most famous scenes ever: the tramp tries the eating machine. It is at the same time hilarious (Chaplin really gives all of himself here) and pathetic: a metaphor on ill-conceived progress, oppression of man by machine and conditions of workers obliged to comply with strange requests.

    Other scenes include: the entire first part in the factory, including when the tramp is stuck in the machine (inside shot, that became iconic), which also happens to a colleague later on (outside shot); the tramp launches by mistake an unfinished ship into the sea, with footage of an actual ship that was probably sunk because of the Depression; the tramp and the gamin make most of their shabby hut.

    The movie efficiently alternates these three levels of humour, as well as its rhythm. It famously starts as a whirlwind with dynamic tempo and music. And it ends like a roller-coaster: funny musical (the tramp sings), emotional (he is hired), dramatic (the police arrest the gamin), thriller (they run away as climatic music plays), melancholic (they are on the road, free but uncertain). The last image is rightfully double-edged: the tramp and the gamin walk away, but mountains ahead block their road. She looks like an elegant lady, he looks a bit like a clown with his funny walk and big shoes. We don't know where they are going, nor do they.

    Hence Chaplin's ambition was far more than to just divert. Themes depicted eighty years ago are still modern:

    • Crisis, redundancies, strikes, inequalities, social unrest

    • Working conditions in factories, even though exaggerated by humour and symbols: productivity, control, burn-out

    • Technology that dehumanises: chain-working, the eating machine, video surveillance (a science-fiction element at the time). Remarkably, the only sounds of the film are coming from devices, not humans: screen, phonograph, radio

    • Success with talent, work and some luck

    • The law. The topic is prominent (the police are omnipresent) and ambiguous. Can one steal food to survive? Chaplin seems to excuse this behaviour. The tramp is on both sides of the law: he steals food but helps the police arrest villains in jail. And the police's role is complex; notably, they shoot an unarmed man, followed by the ironic card: "The law takes charge of the orphans"

    • Violence and drugs in prison

    The universal dimension of the movie shows by the fact the main characters have no name: the tramp, the gamin. Chaplin will be blamed for its social topics during the McCarthy era, among other grievances, and he will be forced to exile. Considering it now, this seems ridiculous since the message of the film is not communist: the tramp and the gamin want everything but change society; they search for a job, a home and respect. Note also Lincoln's portrait in the tramp's cell: he is a patriot.

    The movie does not take sides. Workers can be friendly or violent. Policemen can be friendly (e.g. in jail) or violent (one purposelessly pushes the tramp outside the factory). Prison inmates can be honest (the tramp) or villains. Women can be attractive (the gamin) or not (all others, actually). This double-sidedness also divides individuals. Big Bill was bullying the tramp in the factory, but later sympathises with him. The gamin steals and then becomes settled. The tramp will do anything to protect the ones he loves (the gamin, children), but can abuse almost anybody else to achieve it: a recurrent feature in Chaplin's pictures.

    The underlying message seems to be: people are not good or bad, it mainly depends on their conditions. Yet another modern theme.
  • "Modern Times" is in my top 5 films, and #2 in my list of favorite comedies. Charles Chaplin is arguably the most talented human being, nevermind film maker, that ever lived. I first saw this treasure about 8 years ago, and I watched it again recently to make sure that it really WAS funny, and that I had not given it too much praise because it was simply a Chaplin film. "Modern Times" passed my test with flying colors. I laughed hysterically from start to finish. Each and every scene is innovative, well thought out, and executed with the genius that only Chaplin possessed. Among my favorite scenes are the "automatic worker-feeding machine"; the jail scene in the cafeteria when The Tramp accidentally sprinkles cocaine on his food, thinking it is salt; and the roller skating scene in the department store. No special effects or computer animation, just pure, simple, genius.

    The storyline in "Modern Times" is purposefully naive, a trick Chaplin used time and again to bring a profound humanitarian quality to his films. Watching this film is comparable to watching a Warner Bros. cartoon, which coming from me is a sincere compliment. The level of physical comedy in "Modern Times" is on par with the masterful short films of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and others.

    Finally, as was the case with most of his later films, "Modern Times" is a serious social commentary. Its message is as relevant today as it was more than sixty years ago when it was released. In fact, it is arguably even more relevant today, and unless the world changes drastically in the future it will continue to be. "Modern Times" is essentially the story of a simple but extremely kind man caught in the traps of industrialized society. The opening scene, which compares a crowd of workers boarding the subway to a flock of sheep, is Chaplin's warning against standardization, mechanization, and other facets of life which rob men and women of their individuality. Chaplin always tried to speak for the downtrodden, because despite his enormous success and wealth, he never forgot where he came from. In the end, "Modern Times" is a reminder that no matter how bad things are, you can still smile. Charles Chaplin has made more people smile than almost any other, and his legacy of love and laughter lives on in his films. Its up to us to keep his legacy alive.
  • MrWalrus27 January 2016
    Warning: Spoilers
    Favorite Chaplin film. Packed with social commentary that is still relevant today. Chaplin does a superb job of representing the average worker of the time and the mental impact that the daily motions of what we consider normal in society. Such as the opening of the movie in which a scene of a morning rush of people going to work fades into a herd of sheep. Chaplin hilarious slapstick comedy is also present in this film while still keeping serious undertones. The best example of this is the eating machine. This particular scene was a perfect representation of the problems in our society (a machine meant to further regiment the day of a worker only to break in the process) while also causing a laugh out loud reaction. My favorite part of this film is definitely the ending in which Chaplin sings a song and dances. What makes this scene so great is not only the fact that it was the first time Chaplin/The Tramp ever spoke but that it was also a stance against "talkies". Although Chaplin sings the lyrics are complete gibberish but the audience understands regardless. All in all I believe Modern Times is Chaplin's greatest film, this was the first Chaplin film I had ever seen and since then have watched all of them and found a great respect for Chaplin and silent movies overall.
  • It is a testament to Chaplin's filmmaking skills that he is able to impose such significant meaning on what really boils down to little more than a series of comedy skits strung together on an apparently flimsy clothesline of a plot. Indeed, the cinematic value of Modern Times is unquestionable, but it is ironically noteworthy that such a simple and even blocky plot is made into such a memorable film experience and delivers such a strong, time-transcending message about poverty stricken populations.

    It is no secret that Charlie Chaplin was more or less dragged into the sound era against his will. In the early part of the 20th century, he had built a tremendous career as a silent film actor, and had created a character, the Tramp, that was purely a silent film character who could not be transported into the sound era. Charlie had built his career and his popularity with the Tramp, and the coming of sound to the cinema meant the end of that character (as illustrated by Robert Downey Jr.'s Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 film Chaplin, `The Tram CAN'T talk. The minute he talks, he's dead.'). Chaplin delivers to the world a cynical satire about modern technology as well as his own ode to the silent film with Modern Times.

    Charlie plays the part of a man who works a dehumanizing position in a factory in which he is little more than a component of a machine, and he is controlled like a pawn by the menacing boss, who we see mostly as a looming face on a tremendous television screen. Clearly, the most memorable scenes in the film involve something to do with the factory, such as Charlie's brief trip into the innards of the machine, as well as his warm-hearted efforts to feed lunch to a man who has inadvertently become lodged in a machine, with only his head free. However, there is a very noteworthy but fairly subtle subplot that quietly reveals Chaplin's fondness for the silent film.

    The first and most obvious thing is that for the most part, this is a silent film. There are intertitles, there is precious little dialogue, and the film's main character doesn't utter a sound until near the end of the film. But there are also a lot of other things that more subtly hint that silent films are better than sound films. For one thing, the only intelligible words spoken in the film are done so through some sort of barrier. There is the factory boss speaking demandingly through the television screen, and the feeding machine company speaking through the radio as they try to sell the feeding machine to the factory boss. This becomes the most obvious by the fact that anyone speaking on screen - such as the factory boss as he tells the men that the feeding machine is not practical - only does so in intertitles. We know that dialogue can be put in the film, but Chaplin chooses only to do this in a detached and mechanized way.

    There is also a very strong example of Chaplin's endless sympathy for poor people at several points in this film. The most significant example of this is his interactions with the Gamin, played by Paulette Goddard, as well as his nearly constant contempt toward the police. After the scene where he gorges himself at a small diner (note that the window said `Cafeteria: Tables For Ladies'), he casually calls an officer into the diner and tells him to pay the tab, unable to pay it himself. As he is handcuffed to the officer, he gets a cigar from a nearby vendor and hands some large candy bars to a couple of small children nearby, who look to be the type of children who are never sure where their next meal is going to come from.

    Charlie plays a hard working, lower class man in Modern Times, and no matter how badly he just wants to get some good work and earn a living so that he can buy a house for himself and Paulette, things constantly seem to go wrong for him. It seems that this bad luck is used to suggest that poor people are not poor as a result of their own shortcomings, but because they just can't seem to work their way up to a better life, no matter how hard they try. This social commentary is intertwined with such skillful intricacy with the story about Chaplin's love of silent film that there is really no switching back and forth between the two. Modern Times strikes me as especially memorable because it is a very simple story that is punctuated by a series of comedy skits, yet it also delivers several different messages that are important to society as well as to the filmmaker himself. In this way, the movie almost seems to deliver these strong messages without the audience even being aware that they are being presented with these issues. It is a great way to mix entertainment with important societal topics, and Charlie's decision to finally have the Tramp utter vocalized speech is done so in an endlessly watch-able song and dance scene, adding to the immeasurable number of film skits for which Charlie Chaplin will be remembered and loved.
  • Hilarious, touching, anarchic, revolutionary, realist, surreal, of its time, timeless - Modern Times is a multifaceted work of genius. When it's over and you recall the number of sight gags and magic sequences Chaplin has packed into 85 minutes, it is incredible - the conveyer belt and nut turning; Chaplin caught in the cogwheels; the feeding machine; the Red Flag march; the "nose powder"; the roller skating ballet; the waiter with tray caught up in the dance (my favourite); the gibberish song - and many more. Then there is his mixing of silent and sound techniques, making the best of both worlds, not falling between stools as some directors might have done.

    Of course, there is also a political and social dimension; many of the scenes refer to the impact of technical advances, of bureaucracy, and of the then current depression, on the ordinary "little man". And it is the little man, the individual caught up in society's complex machinery, whom Chaplin championed. He may have sympathised with left-wing political parties and unions in so far as they supported ordinary working people, but Chaplin's essential beliefs are enshrined in the final "words" and shot, with him telling Paulette Godard, that she should keep smiling, they will get along, as they walk, a couple of individuals, into an uncertain future. Beyond politics, the individual has to rely on his or her own resources and spirit to survive.
  • This movie is a must see for anyone who loves comedies. Charlie Chaplin is at his all-time best as the Tramp, and he has wonderful chemistry with Paulette Goddard's Gamin. Together, they provide an hour and a half of non-stop laughs. My favorite parts are when he is fed by a "modern" machine that goes awry, and then when Charlie goes crazy in the factory. The situations and expressions are hilarious! Please see this movie definitely will not regret it.
  • Greetings from Lithuania.

    "Modern Times" (1936) is my first movie which i saw that features Charles Chaplin. Saw it first time in 2015, but nevertheless it's a great movie. Comedy here is truly funny, and it's not just a comedy. It tells a story, with some underlying themes that are still kinda topical till this day – technology is changing, evolving, and if you are not keeping pace with it, you will have some hard times like our hero of this movie.

    Acting here is very solid, actually i was surprised of how well acted this movie was – no one overreacted. Story itself is interesting and movie is very well paced – at running time 1 h 27 min it almost never drags and is entertaining from start till finish.

    Overall, "Modern Times" is a black and white silent movie (there are some sounds actually) which safely can be viewed for the first time even in 2015 – 79 years after it's original release. It has some truly genuine comedic situations, it tells good story and pacing of picture is very solid. Maybe it is not possible to review this movie correctly now because it's very old, but great movies are great movies – they can be viewed no matter what.
  • Chaplin's "Modern Times" has influenced the 20th century as much as any other film could have. His portrayal of man vs. machine, individual vs. group, love vs. the framework of classic modern American "anti-progressive" thinking. Gilliam's "Brazil" is the late century equivalent. But Chaplin hit it right first, insuring generations would have the chance to relate to the challenges of their own modern times.
  • Long after most people thought the silent movie had been buried forever, Chaplin brought his "Little Fellow" out of mothballs for one more magnificent motion picture. The Tramp is trapped in a factory, performing mind-numbing repetitive tasks, and finally he goes hilariously berserk. I started laughing the instant I saw the lady in the dress with the buttons. Like "City Lights," this film is a collection of charming vignettes, this time revolving around The Tramp's desire to settle down with gamin Paulette Goddard. From the Tramp's encounter with an assembly-line "feeding machine" to his unsuccessful stints as night watchman and waiter, this movie is packed full of delights. Chaplin never speaks, but he does sing a little. This work of genius can make you smile though your heart is breaking.
  • Charles Chaplin seemingly had been pushed out of the movie business by the early-1930s due to the advent of sound (a medium that just never seemed right with him). Chaplin, probably the best film-maker/performer of the 20th Century, did not despair though. He fought back with heart and emotion and by 1936 "Modern Times" was a major box office and critical success. It is a movie that quietly showed a man suffering through a world of change. As a factory worker in the film, Chaplin tries to cope with the industrial revolution and tries to make it through a quickly changing U.S. economy. He finds love with vagrant Paulette Goddard (who ended up marrying Chaplin in real life) and the two come together and lean on one another in a world of uncertainty and change. "Modern Times" is one of those films that will put a smile on your face, but it could make you weep just as easily. Chaplin's world was changing (and not necessarily for the better from his point of view) and he wanted to express the variations in his old way of doing things and the new way everyone else had accepted. Goddard is also probably the best actress to match Chaplin's charm in one of his pictures. Their love for one another (even though the marriage lasted a relatively short amount of time in real life) just seems to shine on the silver screen and they have a chemistry that is sweet and heart-warming. Beautifully made, wonderfully written, perfectly performed, smart, insightful and always brilliant, "Modern Times" is another film from Chaplin that will brand itself on the souls of all true lovers of the cinema. 5 stars out of 5.
  • llltdesq30 August 2001
    This is absolutely the finest film Charlie Chaplin ever made-which, considering the overall quality of his work, says a great deal for the quality of the film. Genius is a much over-used word, but in Chaplin's case, it's use is apt. This is one of the classics of cinema and one of the greatest films ever made! The scenes in the factory are hilarious. You have got to see this film! Most joyously, totally and highly RECOMMENDED!!!!!
  • 1966nm4 March 2004
    Somehow, this very old film is particularly modern today and the exaggerations are not really sooo extreme compared with the real world. The humans, enslaved by the machines and by those who control them, become more and more small and insignificant, like the hero of this very funny comedy (one of the best in the history) that speaks about very ugly things in a very amusing way. The Tramp, is not a tramp in the beginning. He has a real job in a modern factory, that almost kills him, as the factory becomes more and more modern. He becomes a tramp when he stays without a job. Picking up red flags in the street can get you in a big problem with the police, who are there to serve and protect the rich. An honest man can stay honest even in prison and get benefits from this. Even a new job. But honesty is not really enough. Trouble is always around the corner and modern society doesn't permit you to make a new start easily.

    Love gives you wings, or at list hope and the power to continue. A beautiful girl of the streets is more than our hero is asking for and he is ready to do whatever necessary. Even put his safety in danger to take care of her. And she, appreciates this. In the end, when everything is lost once again, all they are left with, is each other and that's all they really need.

    For the first time is his cinema career, our Tramp will find a girl that will stick with him and support him. (Chaplin obviously felt with Paulette Goddard something that he didn't feel for his earlier women, and I don't blame him).

    And this story of modern times, like all of Chaplin's films will end up with an optimistic feeling in a unhappy end. Never is everything lost.

    With obvious inspiration from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" and maybe René Clair's "À nous la liberté", it made the strongest point about THE where we 're going, in all the cinema of the 30's (I think) 8) and with only Marx bros' "Duck soup" being able to stand anywhere close to it. Maybe the most complete, funny and mature creation of the best comedian of the seventh art, with a lot more than a non stop production line of great jokes to offer. If made without a single joke, this film would still be one of the greatest of all of our modern times.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Modern Times" begins with a shot of sheep going down a runway followed by a shot of workers entering a factory… Charlie is set down in the midst of industrial civilization, which is dominated by machinery and in which men are organized into mechanical units, Capital and Labor… Charlie's real enemies are no longer the Cop or the Boss, with whom he can always enter into some human relation, but a vast impersonality, invisible and invulnerable…

    "Modern Times" offered a variety of minor attractions: it featured Chaplin's wife, Paulette Goddard; it had wonderful gags; it indulged in tricks of sound which came to the very edge of being dialog… But what did the picture mean, what was it trying to say? Because Chaplin charged his usual enormous percentage for it, and because of foreign receipts, "Modern Times" made money, but exhibitors were not happy at the limited audience turnout… For the majority, the new Charlie was too serious; for the minority, not serious enough…

    Since the picture seemed to be about the dehumanizing effect of machinery, intellectuals called upon Chaplin to join them in reorganizing machine culture to some more human scale of things…

    Off the screen, Chaplin said nothing… On the screen, his anarchic hostility for any kind of machine culture expressed itself in scenes like that in which Charlie is fed by a machine and that in which, crazed by the assembly line, he runs into the street, his arms moving convulsively like two pistons… Charlie the rebel, Charlie the poet, Charlie the invincibly human, had been turned into a machine…
  • gmorgan200724 May 2007
    Modern Times exemplifies Depression-era America; a stream of disappointments, tattered dreams and missed chances that attempt to drag the characters down, but are defied by the ever buoyant hope of the American Dream.

    Scenes from Modern Times aptly capture the mood of America in the late 1930's; men superimposed by sheep shuttled into a waiting line, workers being pushed to go faster and faster, eventually consumed by the very machine they deigned to control. Yet elements of optimism shine through the weary film-Chaplin and his gamin dream of a home of their own, with cows ready to be milked and steaks crackling on the stove. Though their reality-a depilated shack "Is no Buckingham Palace" the two are able to sustain themselves on the "American Dream" of a more secure, fruitful life.

    Several aspects of the film called to mind a 1984-type reality (Though 1984 was written in 1949, 13 years after the birth of Modern Times) including the large two way screen in the factory, allowing the owner to be "Big Brother" to the workers as well as the police brutality and Ford factory line of men and machine.

    The film ends appropriately; dusty and bruised from pursuit, hardship and hunger, Chapin and his orphan girl head of hopefully into the sunset, convinced of a better reality awaiting them on the sun's return; a hope shared by many in America's Modern Times
  • Dejan_Ostojic27 June 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    The hands of the cinema clock were set back five years last night when a funny little man with a microscopic mustache, a battered derby hat, turned up shoes and a flexible bamboo cane returned to the Broadway screen to resume his place in the affections of the film-going public. The little man—it scarcely needs be said—is Charlie Chaplin, whose "Modern Times," opening at the Rivoli, restores him to a following that has waited patiently, burning incense in his temple of comedy, during the long years since his last picture was produced.

    That was five years ago almost to the day. "City Lights" was its name and in it Mr. Chaplin refused to talk. He still refuses. But in "Modern Times" he has raised the ban against dialogue for other members of the cast, raised it, but not completely. A few sentences here and there, excused because they come by television, phonograph, the radio. And once—just once—Mr. Chaplin permits himself to be heard.

    Those are the answers to the practical questions. They do not tell of Mr. Chaplin's picture, or of Chaplin himself, or of the comic feast that he has been preparing for almost two years in the guarded cloister in Hollywood known as the Chaplin studio.

    But there is no cause for alarm and no reason to delay the verdict further: "Modern Times" has still the same old Charlie, the lovable little fellow whose hands and feet eyebrows can beat an irresistible tattoo upon an audience's or hold it still, taut beneath the spell of human tragedy. A flick of his cane, a quirk of a brow, an impish lift of his toe and the mood is off; a droop of his mouth, a sag of his shoulder, a quick blink of his eye and you are his again, a companion in suffering. Or do you have to be reminded that Chaplin is a master of pantomime? Time has not changed his genius.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The mechanized and standardized world made of levers, bolts, department stores and lifts is too difficult, or probably too ordinary, for the "honest and trustworthy" Charlie Chaplin, who always ends up trapped in his times. But did this world really change a lot when nowadays we walk to the subway (or we drive in crowded streets) like cattle in order to reach our working place? In fact, what Charlie Chaplin and the beautiful Paulette Goddard (a close up of her face after The Little Tramp is arrested for the theft of a loaf of bread is magnificent) really wants from modern times is a small, decent house where to have dinner together, an apple to grab by stretching your arm outside the window and fresh milk from a cow. Charlie Chaplin doesn't need to speak on the screen (while talking pictures were already widely produced since late 20's) to deliver his brilliant view on 1936's world; and even when he does talk during the floor show towards the end of the movie, we don't need to understand what it is said to appreciate once more his talent and genius. There are two moments that stand out during the movie: the feeding machine that feeds The Little Tramp on the assembly line in the first part of Modern Times (note also some similarities later when the mechanic assistant feeds his boss). And the splendid final scene when before fading out, The Little Tramp invites The Gamin to smile while walking on an empty street at dawn; a scene that alone is worth a full movie, a smile that becomes the essence of the use of trying. This last moment is full of hope and full of humanity; things that we still struggle for in our modern times.
  • Prof_Lostiswitz23 January 2004
    Modern Times owes a lot to Metropolis, despite the difference in tone. You can see this especially in the first half, with the giant gears and flywheels of the monstrous factory, as well as the two-way TV intercom the boss uses to give orders.

    Although there is a lot of serious content - strikes, riots, poverty, police killings - the serious and comic elements blend seamlessly. You never get the feeling you're being lectured about anything, you're laughing too much.

    The element of tragedy lurking in the background makes the comedy that much stronger. When Paulette Godard comes into the picture, the tone changes from industrial to romantic. And it must be said that she is one of the sexiest heroines to appear in an American film, more surprising since it's a farce. I'd go so far as to say that Godard out-performs Chaplin in this picture, even if her later career was less notable.

    You have to see this movie before you can understand anything about the art of cinema.
  • Arguably Charlie's best film. Maybe not his funniest but his best because there's so much more to it than the Keystone Kops kind of pratfalls that he so commonly used.

    Frankly I don't know how the guy did it, being so consistently humorous without using any words. All of it depends on a story simple enough to be followed visually and on Chaplin's genius for mime and situation construction. There ARE some words spoken on screen -- this was his last holdout against talking pictures -- but none of them involve people speaking directly to one another. There is a song at the end with gibberish lyrics. And the rest of the speaking is always filtered through some mechanical medium, a record player, a radio, a television set.

    Charlie was accused of communism somewhere along the line and pretty much thrown out of the country, after which he lived in Switzerland. You couldn't tell he was a Commie from this movie. It comments on its time, of course, the Great Depression, and Charlie and Paulette Goddard are two poor people. Management is shown as callus, playing with a jigsaw puzzle and reading newspapers while the workers slave away on the assembly line. There is even a communist demonstration. But it's all played for laughs. One of those red warning flags falls off the back of a truck passing down an empty street. Charlie picks up the flag and waves it, shouting after the truck. As he begins to hurry after the truck, still shouting and waving, a horde of dissatisfied workers silently falls in behind him and he's arrested. Poor people steal, but they only steal food. If having sympathy for the unemployed is communism then roughly one American out of three was a communist, because that's roughly what the unemployment rate was. "Modern Times" is no more communistic than, say, "My Man Godfrey" or "Salt of the Earth" or "The Grapes of Wrath."

    Besides that, Charlie is no classical Marxist. Marxism posited a transition from "false consciousness" (the feeling that one's miserable poverty was due to personal failure or bad luck) to "class consciousness" (the realization that exploitation by the property owners was at fault). Charlie is no activist. He fumbles every job he gets. The other workers are hardly sympathetic. Charlie's not a working class hero but a black sheep. The opening shot of the herd of sheep hurrying past the camera includes one black sheep in the middle of the flock and it's hard to imagine that this was accidental.

    Actually, Charlie had lost a lot of respect in America because he had an eye for young girls. His second marriage resulted from a sixteen-year-old girl's (faked) pregnancy. Paulette Goddard, who became his third wife, maybe and maybe not, was twenty when this movie was made, and Charlie was forty-three. In any case -- boy, if you want to get Americans heated up just combine sex with politics. A sure-fire winner for the puritans. (It may have cost Goddard the part of Scarlet O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind" because she may have been living in sin with Charlie at the time.)

    I don't want to spell out too many of the gags because I don't want to spoil them but be alert for the feeding machine that goes berserk and shoves lug nuts down Charlie's throat and hits him in the face with a corn cob. Charlie looks as if he's strapped helplessly into his seat, but his hands were free under the rotating table so that he could manipulate the fiendish devices himself.

    The first time I saw this movie was in the Arts Theater on Springfield Avenue in Irvington, New Jersey. When Paulette Goddard first appeared, the man on my right chuckled and said, "Now that's a good-looking babe." On my left, my marmorial ex laughed out loud during the feeding machine episode for perhaps the only time in her life. There can be no higher recommendation.
  • Usually you watch old films trying to be generous with your criticism because of the huge difficulties the directors and actors faced those days. This one is a miracle. A comedy that stands tall even in today's cinema, starring perhaps the best comedian who lived on earth. At some parts it is hilarious, but the social message Chaplin wants to pass is always there, making Modern Times even more important. The love story is also very sweet and Paulette Goddard is a remarkably beautiful woman! So what to say about this man's genius? Charlie Chaplin acts, directs and even composes the music! And by all means he does a magnificent job. You can find great symbolism and a lot of political references, we all have to remember that Chaplin was accused of being a communist (which of course was a pride for intellectuals, given their accusers). I have unlimited respect for the Great Charlie Chaplin.
  • lampic31 July 2015
    This is where I decided to have a look at Charlie Chaplin and his famous "Modern times" - we are all familiar with scenes in a factory but honestly there is much, much more happening later and it truly surprised me that film turns into a such epic saga. Another example of things I just assumed I know. It charmed me instantly, of course, because Chaplin was a true genius and magician - his creation, "Little Tramp" is easily understood to anybody no matter what background and we love him dearly, for all his sweetness, clumsiness and old heart. This story apparently happens in Metropolis-like factory where work, machines and buttons are parodied mercilessly until we (audience) roar with laughter - I was honestly surprised that something filmed almost a century ago was still so fresh and funny. Basically, everything after the first start on the fast track was new to me and I laughed and laughed, until I found myself rewinding scenes and enjoying them again. What a genius!

    Once Little Tramp looses his job - there is a whole unspoken atmosphere of unfairness, poverty and depression around - he quickly ends up in a prison, from which he doesn't even want to leave. However, he gets Cocaine in his salt, (Charlie Chaplin on a Coke!), saves policemen from escaped criminals, meets minister's wife (very funny scene) and gets release from the prison, with job recommendation letter. And this is still just a beginning of the movie! There is much, much more coming up later - it really goes on forever but its wonderful, heart-warming and joyous to watch. I almost forgot everything about myself and my whereabouts while I was so deeply lost in this masterpiece. Film is so immensely rich with characters, stories, little details and magic that I honestly think its one of the best things I have ever seen.
  • The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) is just a cog in the modern machinery. He is unable to keep with the production line tightening bolts. The owner picks him out for testing the automatic feeding machine. By late afternoon, he gets lost in the machinery. He can't stop tightening causing great damage and they send him to a mental hospital. He gets out but he doesn't have a job anymore. A red flag falls off the back of a truck. He picks it and a massive march starts behind him without he knowing it. The police grabs him thinking that he's the leader. In prison, he helps thwart an escape attempt and is released. A Gamin (Paulette Goddard) is stealing food for the children. Her unemployed father is shot dead leaving her little sisters sent off to the orphanage. She steals a loaf of bread and runs into the Tramp. He tries to take the blame but she's caught anyways. He prefers life inside and deliberately gets caught stealing. They get thrown into the same wagon and escape getting thrown out together.

    This has the iconic factory scene with the Tramp in the machinery happening early on. The story is slightly random as the pair has one misadventure after another as they struggle to have the American dream. The Tramp is making a statement of sorts as he gets swept up from one thing to the next. He's the cog that never really fits in the machinery. This is a sound movie with sound being used for specific and interesting ways. The Tramp is actually singing but it's a lot of non-sense. This definitely has a social commentary but it's still funny message movie.
  • A delightful film with one great scene after another, Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times" is hilarious, thoughtful, and timeless. Chaplin combined his silent film skills with creative use of sound effects and music, and added a wide variety of interesting and entertaining settings, to create a film that is very pleasing to watch. Chaplin's own fine acting is complemented by a delightful and charming performance by Paulette Goddard. And the story itself, filled with twists and turns, is a timeless commentary on "modern" life, much of which is applicable to any era.

    Charlie's "Tramp" character joins up in this one with a lively, orphaned gamin (Goddard) to help each other through a lengthy series of setbacks and triumphs that reflect the stresses of fast-paced modern life. Most of their adventures are hilarious, but many also contain serious social commentary that is still just as relevant in any age. Chaplin and Goddard make a delightful pair who win the complete sympathy of the viewer in their fight for survival.

    The movie has one great scene after another, from some wild sequences in a steel factory, to a set of sometimes breath-taking antics in a deserted department store, to the incomparable climactic sequence in a cafe, and many others in between. The settings are done with great care and wit, and the action makes full use of the props and possibilities at hand.

    This is a wonderful movie that anyone who likes vintage cinema will enjoy. Even those who are thoroughly jaded by the excesses of modern cinema should at least give "Modern Times" a try. This is one of the great masterpieces of Chaplin's or any other era.
  • Could any other actor recycle the same character so many times and make it fresh and insightful each time? I think not. The Tramp (Chaplin) does what most people would really like to do to the assembly line that underpins modern industry that we love for its bounty and hate for its dehumanizing characteristics; he thumbs his nose at it. For that his character pays the price. And, yes, he pays the price for some of the usual perils of 1930s life -- its poverty and its desperation. He takes the blame for stealing a loaf of bread that a damsel in distress has stolen so that she could sate her hunger. Picking up a red flag that has fallen from a lumber truck, he becomes by accident a communist agitator who ends up in jail for what was then a serious crime. He keeps his humanity in a world that punishes assertions of humanity with hunger and humiliation.

    To put it simply, Charlie Chaplin masters, as no comedian since has, the art of saying as much with the fewest words; insteadhe expresses himself physical comedy that nobody since can imitate. He demonstrates as nobody else could the absurdity of the harsh realities of the assembly line that dwarfed persons in his time -- and that there was still some life to the esthetic of the silent movie. He offers double-barrel laughter: we laugh at the circumstances, but laugh with him, with a twinkle and a trace of a tear. Nobody else has succeeded at that since.

    Today we see more talking heads, more people resorting to body functions, more self-pity, and lots of four-letter words and blasphemy. Yet it is Chaplin who puts humanity into humor as few others before (Mark Twain? Will Rogers?) and few since could. We laugh with him, and laugh at the things at which he pokes fun.
An error has occured. Please try again.