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City Lights (1931)

tomatometer

100

Average Rating: 8.3/10
Critic Reviews: 12
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 0

No consensus yet.

audience

96

liked it
Average Rating: 4.4/5
User Ratings: 25,726

My Rating

Movie Info

Charles Chaplin was deep into production of his silent City Lights when Hollywood was overwhelmed by the talkie revolution. After months of anguished contemplation, Chaplin decided to finish the film as it began--in silence, save for a musical score and an occasional sound effect. Once again cast as the Little Tramp, Chaplin makes the acquaintance of a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill), who through a series of coincidences has gotten the impression that the shabby tramp is a millionaire. A

G,

Drama, Romance, Classics, Comedy

Charles Chaplin

Feb 8, 2000

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Watch It Now

Cast

Latest News on City Lights

June 22, 2007:
AFI Announces Top 100 Movies of All Time ... Again
Ten years ago the AFI gave us a list of the Top 100 American Films Ever Made -- and when that was...

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All Critics (43) | Top Critics (12) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (1) | DVD (16)

That final scene. Last week, CNN asked -- in "The Screening Room's Top 10 Romantic Moments" -- whether this was the most touching film moment of all time. Could be. Either way, if it doesn't move you, you're beyond human reach.

March 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Film.com
Film.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Only someone with slow-drying cement in their veins wouldn't be moved.

January 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
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With its themes of selflessness and grace, as well as its graceful intertwining of comedy and pathos, this is a fine time for a revisit.

January 4, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
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Is this film still funny after 76 years? I think and hope it is.

December 19, 2007 Full Review Source: New York Observer
New York Observer
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The British comic is still the consummate pantomimist, unquestionably one of the greatest the stage or screen has ever known.

June 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A beautiful example of Chaplin's ability to turn narrative fragments into emotional wholes. The two halves of the film are sentiment and slapstick. They are not blended but woven into a pattern as eccentric as it is sublime.

June 27, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

No filmmaker has ever been as successful as Chaplin in tugging at our heartstrings while simultaneously leaving us helpless in laughter, and this gem finds him operating at the peak of his abilities, even throwing his usual social critique into the mix.

April 18, 2014 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

There's dignity and folly to The Tramp in City Lights, and everything in between.

November 19, 2013 Full Review Source: The Dissolve
The Dissolve

Chaplin's growing seriousness, his desire to be more than a mere comedian have deceived him into holding sentiment more precious than fun.

January 18, 2013 Full Review Source: The Nation
The Nation

City Lights gets to the heart of the Tramp. It is a beautiful romance about loving someone for who they are and not their social or economic status - and it features one of the most tear inducing and iconic endings in Hollywood history.

April 28, 2012 Full Review Source: 2UE That Movie Show
2UE That Movie Show

A screen gem. Youngsters and up.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

This is one of those rare creatures, the work of a master craftsman in full control of his craft.

August 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

An enduring masterpiece.

April 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Perfect.

December 2, 2007
ColeSmithey.com

City Lights is a great gift to all of us by a filmmaker at a latter-day peak of his genius

August 20, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Writer
Cinema Writer

Incredibly powerful and heartbreaking ending.

July 22, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Absolutely delightful, hilarious, heart breaking Chaplin classic.

June 16, 2006
Dispatch-Tribune Newspapers

The greatest and most touching finale of any film. Chaplin's masterpiece mixes comedy and sentiment. it makes you laugh, then brings a tear to your eye.

September 21, 2004
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

Audience Reviews for City Lights

This is Chaplin's first sound film, but still with no voices, to make it a universal tale. A wonderful and funny movie of transition between the silents and talkies, boasting endless fantastic scenes in a row and ending in an incredibly touching, unforgettable last scene.
November 12, 2012
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

Ahh, Chaplin. Your charm is unequivocally attractive. There's a flow -- a dance I would say -- to your performance. "City Lights" is an absolutely entertaining silent picture that exudes a universal charm, all cultures, ages, and generations are able to be involved with.

Chaplin is a master entertainer. As the lead actor and director of "City Lights", everything, down to the slapstick comedy, or the quiet and delicate dramatic moments, "City Lights" is a blast. In an era where Slapstick comedy has worn out, "City Lights" revives it despite being one of the first of the genre. In an era where drama is delivered with heart-tugging dialogue that is bolstered with convincing emotional expressions, "City Lights" delivers simply through great acting capability. Yes, it takes a lot of coals to get "City Lights" running from the opening chapter, but at the end of the day, the "city lights" light up brightly and doesn't cease until the end. This film is an immaculate, timeless, silent movie masterpiece that is surprisingly engaging throughout.
October 10, 2012
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer

Like the music of the Beatles, how is it that Chaplin's work still feels so fresh? Does reverence color our perception or is the product just simply of superior quality? I would argue the latter as I believe that even without prior knowledge of the artists involved, anyone can understand the majesty of "Eleanor Rigby" or be significantly moved by Charlie Chaplin's 1931 film "City Lights."
First off, the film is uproariously funny. Even by modern day standards in which slapstick comedies aren't vogue, Chaplin manages to sell the most inane gags. This is aided obviously by the unrivaled power of his facial expressions. Sure they are comical and over the top, but they are expertly nuanced and give his "tramp" character much depth.
City Lights also encompasses not only timeless messages of love and fraternity, but also one of class distinction that would have been very palpable to American crowds mired in the consequences of the Great Depression. In fact, the film starts off with one of the more moving images I have seen in American cinema in which during an unveiling of a statue celebrating America's peace and prosperity, a crowd is stunned to find a homeless man, our tramp, sleeping on the monument. Chaplin not only pulled off a grand introduction for his protagonist, but also managed to sum up about one hundred years of American history in one scene. Simply stunning.
With the advent of talking pictures during this time, City Lights also utilizes sound in a creative way. From the indiscriminate mumbling of politicians to the tramp's involuntary whistling, Chaplin managed to satisfy those accustomed to traditional silent pictures and those searching for something a little more exciting in their entertainment.
Films of this caliber are rare and deserve every ounce of praise that they receive. Because whether you first witnessed this film during it's opening weekend or whether you stumbled upon it while scouring YouTube, I can almost guarantee that it put a smile on your face.
June 18, 2012
axadntpron
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

City Lights is the highest form of cinema art, it's perfect and works on every level to which Chaplin aspired: the comic, the dramatic, the asethetic and the profound. I screened it with two pre-teens and they were rapt, so the fact that it's silent, black and white and has weird old costumes and cars was not a deterrent for their enjoying this masterpiece. It's a film that never leaves the consciousness once it's been seen.

The story is an elemental fairy tale, a little tramp falls in love with a blind flower girl and becomes her guardian angel, and give up what little he has to save her and get her an operation. Somehow, when handled by Charlie, we buy in to this over the top melodrama, because of total commitment and honesty and superb execution, that holds back just enough to not wallow in bathos.

Watch for the balletic comedic set pieces, every deft move rehearsed by Chaplin and his supporting cast to perfection, yet all looking spontaneous. Watch for this film dealing honestly with human cruelty, (poverty, violence, class wars) but showing the goodness and kindness we all have latent in ourselves.

Most of all, watch for the most emotionally wrenching last scene ever shot, done simply with close ups of Chaplin and his costar Virgina Cherril as the Blind Girl. As one of the reviewer has already stated below, you'd have to be dead inside to not be moved. 2011's The Artist was a terrific acheivement at recreating silent film, but if you want to experience what silent film can truly acheive, take out City Lights. Interestingly, CIty Lights, like the story of The Artist, was made during the talkie era of 1931 and no one missed sound at all.
December 16, 2011
Josh Morris

Super Reviewer

    1. The Tramp: tomorrow the birds will sing.
    – Submitted by Ridho A (17 months ago)
    1. The Tramp: You can see now?
    2. The Blind Girl: Yes, I can see now.
    – Submitted by Ridho A (17 months ago)
    1. The Millionaire: Tell him I'm out!
    – Submitted by Matthew D (22 months ago)
    1. The Blind Girl: Flowers?
    – Submitted by Matthew D (23 months ago)
View all quotes (4)

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Foreign Titles

  • Lichter der GroŖstadt (DE)
  • City Lights (UK)
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