City Lights

Critics Consensus

One of the best underdog romance movies ever, with an ending that will light up any heart.



Total Count: 48


Audience Score

User Ratings: 26,992
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Movie Info

A homeless tramp befriends a lovely blind flower seller and convinces her he is a millionaire while he secretly labors to pay for the restoration of her sight. One of Charlie Chaplin's masterpieces, this hilarious and heart-rending film was made and released as a silent with music track in the post-talkie era.

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Critic Reviews for City Lights

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (47) | Rotten (1)

  • "City Lights" is excruciatingly funny and terribly, terribly sad. It makes you chuckle hysterically. You have the greatest time imaginable, and yet, occasionally you find little hurty lumps in your throat.

    Jan 29, 2016 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Mar 4, 2008 | Full Review…

    Mark Bourne
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Jan 4, 2008 | Rating: 4/4
  • Is this film still funny after 76 years? I think and hope it is.

    Dec 19, 2007

    Andrew Sarris

    Top Critic
  • The British comic is still the consummate pantomimist, unquestionably one of the greatest the stage or screen has ever known.

    Jun 27, 2007 | Full Review…

    Sid Silverman

    Top 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.

    Jun 27, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for City Lights

  • Mar 19, 2017
    One of the cutest films I've ever watched, City Lights is probably Chaplin's masterpiece. It's got an acceptable length, fantastic acting and a well written story. The ending is one of the best acting in the history of cinema.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Jul 17, 2016
    I had seen snippets of Chaplin doing his thing but this was the first time that I had seen City Lights from top to bottom. Charlies charms as usual as his Tramp defies the odds for the woman he loves. Very memorable.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 30, 2016
    A thing of astonishing beauty. As great as so much of Chaplin's filmography is, I don't think he ever did anything as perfect as the final few minutes of this movie.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 11, 2013
    Perfectly simple and simply perfect! They are the only words coming to mind right now. I watched it so many times, but this is the first time that I decided to write a review about this classic which the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies ranked City Lights as the 11th greatest American film of all time! This romantic comedy written by, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin follows the misadventures of Chaplin's Tramp as he falls in love with a blind girl (Virginia Cherrill) and develops a turbulent friendship with an alcoholic millionaire (Harry Myers). The millionaire wasn't originally the first choice for a subplot, Chaplin first considered a black newsboy. Eventually he opted for a drunken millionaire, a character previously used in the 1921 short The Idle Class. The millionaire plot was based on an old idea Chaplin had for a short, where two millionaires pick up the Little Tramp from the city dump and show him a good time in expensive clubs, and then drop him back off at the dump. That was when he woke up the Tramp was never sure if what happened was real or a dream. This was rewritten into a millionaire is a friend of the Tramp when drunk, but does not recognize him when sober. [img][/img] When Chaplin started developing the script in 1928 sound films were on the rise, but he decided to continue working with silent productions. Filming started in December 1928, and ended in September 1930. Chaplin was great in almost everything he touched and in this movie for the first time he was the composer of the music which was written in six weeks with Arthur Johnston. The main theme used as a leitmotif for the blind flower girl is the song "La Violetera" composed by the Spanish composer José Padilla, and Chaplin lost a lawsuit to Padilla for not crediting him. [img][/img] For me, this was probably the highest accomplishments of Chaplin's career and I am glad that in 1992, the Library of Congress selected City Lights for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2007, In 1949, the critic James Agee referred to the final scene in the film as the "greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid". Many will agree with him! At the gala premiere on 30 January 1931, at the Los Angeles Theater. Albert Einstein and his wife were the guests of honour, and the film received a standing ovation. I have to say that from all the movies made until 1952, I will agree with the Sight and Sound magazine's choice in which City Lights finished second in voting for "The Best Films of All Time", after Vittorio DeSica's Bicycle Thieves! If you haven't seen it - go and do it now. [img][/img]
    Panta O Super Reviewer

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