City Lights (1931)

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

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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 (45) | Top Critics (12)

"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…
Film.com
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
Observer
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…
Variety
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

½

Chaplin's first sound film (but still with no voices, for he wanted it to be a universal tale) was this wonderful and funny movie of transition from the silents to the talkies, structured as a series of fantastic sketch-like scenes and with an incredibly moving, unforgettable last scene.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

Lovely film, the ending is a killer.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

½

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.

Albert Kim
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.

Reid Volk
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

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