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Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers, Hank Mann, Allan Garcia ... see more see more... , Florence Lee , Albert Austin , Henry Bergman , James Donnelly , Jean Harlow , John Rand , Stanhope Wheatcroft , Robert Parrish , Eddie Baker , Jack Sutherland , Al Ernest Garcia

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 ... read more read 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 second storyline begins when the tramp rescues a genuine millionaire (Harry Myers) from committing suicide. When drunk, the millionaire expansively treats the tramp as a friend and equal; when sober, he doesn't even recognize him. The two plots come together when the tramp attempts to raise enough money for the blind girl to have an eye operation. Highlights include an extended boxing sequence pitting scrawny Chaplin against muscle-bound Hank Mann, and the poignant final scene in which the now-sighted flower girl sees her impoverished benefactor for the first time. Chaplin's decision to release the silent City Lights three years into the talkie era was partially vindicated when more than one critic singled out this "comedy in pantomime" as the best picture of 1931. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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96% liked it

25,765 ratings


98% liked it

43 critics

G, 1 hr. 21 min.

Directed by: Charles Chaplin

Release Date: January 1, 1931

Keywords: silent

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DVD Release Date: February 8, 2000

Stats: 1,896 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,896)

  • November 12, 2012
    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.
  • October 10, 2012
    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... read more 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.
  • June 18, 2012
    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 un... read morederstand 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.
  • December 16, 2011
    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 weir... read mored 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.
  • fb1341085175
    October 20, 2011
    Chaplin could be as much of a mass manipulator in America as Leni Riefenstahl was in Germany - while his constant themes underlying the struggle of the have-nots under the tyrannical hands of the haves can be a bit too dualistically black and white, there's no denying that he kne... read morew how to make each member in the audience sympathize with the Little Tramp's misfortunes and misadventures. Here he is at his most effective at pulling the audience's heartstrings, and while the comic timing is a little off sometimes (the boxing sequence does go on more than it should), this remains one of those iconic cinematic gems whose payoff makes even the most cynical moviegoer fall for its sentimental trap.
  • May 11, 2011
    A wonderful, classic film of the silent film era. Charlie Chaplin is nothing short of amazing here; he truly is a brilliant comedic performer. He delivers a hilarious and fantastic performance as The Tramp. Virginia Cherrill is also great as The Blind Girl, and she's adorable. Th... read moreis film is funny, sweet, cute, and a classic. I recommend it!
  • May 11, 2011
    A cute little film which was fairly funny but obviously not of my time. I admire Chaplin for sticking with his "silent" films and I do believe this is a better movie for it. He did what he knew best. I couldn't make out at the end if she was still interested in him or not.
  • April 22, 2011
    City Lights is probably one of the most well loved, along with Modern Times, Chaplin movies. The iconic and everlasting character of The Tramp, one of the most lovable, truly human and sympathetic characters perhaps of all time. Sometimes there is some hate towards tramps, like t... read morehey are labeled lazy and troublesome. It is very hard to hate The Tramp, because he gives so much when he has so little. He spends his time and money giving to people - whether it be saying a millionaires life or buying a flower from a blind girl. Undoubtedly, we all have a little bit of The Tramp in us.

    The plot is as follows: the Tramp meets and falls in love with a blind girl who sells flowers on the street. She is poor and by a mere coincidence, believes that The Tramp is rich. He also saves a drunken millionaire from suicide, and despite his gratefulness, doesn't remember the poor tramp unless he is drunk.

    City Lights is no doubt a magnificent feat in motion picture history. It's poignant view of the world and society leaves you laughing and crying at the same time. Some believe this should really be called a drama instead of a comedy. I believe it is a strong mixture of both, and a great balance of the two. Both comedic and touching, City Lights should not be missed by anyone.
  • fb619846742
    October 19, 2010
    An undeniable classic which ranks amongst one of the best films ever made. It's funny, fast-moving, tragic, and ultimately moving, with an endearing lead character to boot. The Tramp is an unforgettable character, someone who stumbles in to riches then is thrown out on the street... read mores, a figure who definitely doesn't fit in the world he lives in, but in the end, you care for him, just because how simply sweet and sacrificing he is. Charlie Chaplin couldn't have made this film any better, each scene is pitch-perfect and the way in which the humor is grasped by this master of comedy is really a treat to watch. The last scene is something else, nearly tear-jerking - it's just full of sheer beauty.
  • July 13, 2010
    Still funny after 79 years. Go Chaplin Go!

Critic Reviews

Mark Bourne
March 4, 2008
Mark Bourne,

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,... Full Review

David Fear
January 18, 2008
David Fear, Time Out New York

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

Michael Phillips
January 4, 2008
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

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. Full Review

Andrew Sarris
December 19, 2007
Andrew Sarris, New York Observer

Is this film still funny after 76 years? I think and hope it is. Full Review

Sid Silverman
June 27, 2007
Sid Silverman, Variety

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

Dave Kehr
June 27, 2007
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

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 ecc... Full Review

June 24, 2006
Time Out

Plenty of great moments, and the occasional comic use of sound. Full Review

Mordaunt Hall
January 28, 2006
Mordaunt Hall, New York Times

A film worked out with admirable artistry.

Roger Ebert
January 1, 2000
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Contains some of Chaplin's great comic sequences. Full Review

James Berardinelli
January 1, 2000
James Berardinelli, ReelViews

It's an altogether wonderful gem, and one of the five best films the silent era has to offer. Full Review

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    • The Tramp: tomorrow the birds will sing.
    • The Tramp: You can see now?
    • The Blind Girl: Yes, I can see now.
    • The Millionaire: Tell him I'm out!
    • The Blind Girl: Flowers?

City Lights : Watch Free on TV

City Lights Trivia

  • **** In What Movie Was This Song*************** *******************Played********************** ***************Pump Up The Volume**************  Answer »
  • Which two actors appeared in Bright Lights Big City together?   Answer »
  • Who directed "The Gold Rush", "City Lights", "The Kid", "The Circus", "Limelight" and "A Woman of Paris"?  Answer »
  • Which Actor was not in "Bright Lights, Big City?"  Answer »

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