The Circus (1928)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Less maudlin than many of Chaplin's longer films, this one won him a special Academy Award for "versatility and genius in writing, acting, directing and producing," due in part to the outlandish final scenes. In this silent film, the Little Tramp is a member of a traveling circus and falls in love with a beautiful bareback rider.
Action & Adventure , Classics , Comedy , Drama , Kids & Family , Special Interest
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Allan Garcia
as Ringmaster
George Davis
as Magician
Stanley "Tiny" Sandford
as The Head Property Man
Stanley J. Sanford
as Property Man
Betty Morrissey
as Vanishing Lady
John Rand
as Asst. Property Man
Henry Bergman
as Old Clown
Steve Murphy
as Pickpocket
Armand Triller
as A Clown
Bill Knight
as A Cop
Jack Pierce
as Man Operating Ropes
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Circus

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (3)

It's a brilliant combination of light and darkness, tenderness and violence and, yes, laughter and tears.

July 13, 2010
Top Critic

There's an edge to The Circus that suggests a man gazing deep into the void, laughing at the darkness and urging us to do the same.

Full Review… | July 13, 2010
Time Out
Top Critic

Innovative and timelessly hilarious.

Full Review… | May 26, 2010
Village Voice
Top Critic

It is the political subtext and discussion of capitalism vs. communism that is the saving grace of The Circus, since the surface material, comprised of frantic slapstick mixed with maudlin and melodrama, is very standard for Chaplin.

Full Review… | August 17, 2011

sort of B-grade alternative to City Lights

July 15, 2010

The Circus may be the film that most definitively silences critics who claim that Charlie Chaplin's movies aren't cinematic.

Full Review… | July 11, 2010
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for The Circus


A very amusing and delightful silent film that probably would have been better had it been made a bit shorter, since it begins extremely hilarious but after a while starts to become less funny - even though the climax on the tightrope is belly-achingly hysterical.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


The Circus is quite a charming little film from the silent era, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. He of course plays the "little tramp" character who, while being chased by the cops, stumbles into the middle of a three ring circus where his antics draw the attention (and laughs), of the audience. The crowd's reaction does not escape the attention of circus proprietor and Ring Master (Al Garcia), who attempts to hire the tramp as a clown. The little tramp can only be funny spontaneously, and all the ring master's attempts at training him to be a clown fail, so the boss hires the tramp on as a janitor, whom he finds surreptitious ways to put out in front of the crowd at showtime. Of course the ring master has a beautiful step-daughter (Merna Kennedy), who is kowtowed to the ring master after years of abuse. The tramp falls in love with her and tries to win her affection. It's said that after choosing the circus location, Chaplin largely improvised the film, which is probably why the plot is so basic. However, films from this era (especially comedies) are rarely plot-heavy, relying on different situations and tableaus rather than in depth story-telling. The Circus does deviate in the end from other standard stories, and it's final scene is quite effective. Overall, a sweet comedy that lets just the tiniest bit of real life peek through the movie screen.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

This movie is really fun, cute, and humorous, I enjoyed it, and I recommend it.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

The Circus Quotes

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