Modern Times (1936) - Rotten Tomatoes

Modern Times1936

Modern Times (1936)



Critic Consensus: A slapstick skewering of industrialized America, Modern Times is as politically incisive as it is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Modern Times Photos

Movie Info

This episodic satire of the Machine Age is considered Charles Chaplin's last "silent" film, although Chaplin uses sound, vocal, and musical effects throughout. Chaplin stars as an assembly-line worker driven insane by the monotony of his job. After a long spell in an asylum, he searches for work, only to be mistakenly arrested as a Red agitator. Released after foiling a prison break, Chaplin makes the acquaintance of orphaned gamine (Paulette Goddard) and becomes her friend and protector. He takes on several new jobs for her benefit, but every job ends with a quick dismissal and yet another jail term. During one of his incarcerations, she is hired to dance at a nightclub and arranges for him to be hired there as a singing waiter. He proves an enormous success, but they are both forced to flee their jobs when the orphanage officials show up to claim the girl. Dispirited, she moans, "What's the use of trying?" But the ever-resourceful Chaplin tells her to never say die, and our last image is of Chaplin and The Gamine strolling down a California highway towards new adventures. The plotline of Modern Times is as loosely constructed as any of Chaplin's pre-1915 short subjects, permitting ample space for several of the comedian's most memorable routines: the "automated feeding machine," a nocturnal roller-skating episode, and Chaplin's double-talk song rendition in the nightclub sequence. In addition to producing, directing, writing, and starring in Modern Times, Chaplin also composed its theme song, Smile, which would later be adopted as Jerry Lewis' signature tune. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Henry Bergman
as Cafe Owner
Hank Mann
as Burglar
Stanley Blystone
as Sheriff Couler
Allan Garcia
as Company Boss
Sammy Stein
as Foreman
Juana Sutton
as Woman with Buttoned Bosom
Jack Low
as Worker
Dr. Cecil Reynolds
as Prison Chaplain
Mira McKinney
as Chaplain's Wife
Gloria de Haven
as Gamin's Sister
Lloyd Ingraham
as Prison Governor
John Rand
as Convict
Frank Moran
as Convict
Murdock MacQuarrie
as J. Widdecombe Billows
Wilfred Lucas
as Juvenile Officer
Edward J. Le Saint
as Sheriff Couler
Fred Malatesta
as Cafe Head Waiter
Ted Oliver
as Billows' Assistant
James C. Morton
as Assembly Worker
Frank S. Hagney
as Shipbuilder
Al Ernest Garcia
as President of the Electro Steel Corp.
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Critic Reviews for Modern Times

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (13)

It is a gay, impudent and sentimental pantomimic comedy in which even the anachronisms are often as becoming as Charlie Chaplin's cane.

April 27, 2009 | Full Review…
Top Critic

One of the many remarkable things about Charlie Chaplin is that his films continue to hold up, to attract and delight audiences.

April 1, 2008 | Full Review…

The picture is grand fun and sound entertainment, though silent. It's the old Chaplin at his best, looking at his best -- young, pathetic and a very funny guy.

June 26, 2007 | Full Review…

It's the coldest of [Chaplin's] major features, though no less brilliant for it.

June 26, 2007 | Full Review…

The opening sequence in Chaplin's second Depression masterpiece, of the Tramp on the assembly line, is possibly his greatest slapstick encounter with the 20th century.

June 26, 2007 | Full Review…

Chaplin's political and philosophical naivety now seems as remarkable as his gift for pantomime.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Modern Times

Chaplin writes, directs, acts and even wrote the music for this odd feature that has it's own story, yes, but is far more interesting for the underlying tale: that of a man watching time pass him by. He comments on a lot on the newfangled technology and learning to live with it, and how consumption becomes not only what we do but who we are, and that's obvious, but it's his unsaid bits that resonate. His Tramp, wrongly jailed, begs to stay when offered freedom, one of many insights offered in this complex piece that might live on longer than anything else he's famous for.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


The first twenty minutes are the work of genius, but then the film loses some of its focus and becomes a usual collection of sketches - though most of them hilarious and memorable. And Chaplin's idea of using spoken voices only from mechanical devices is brilliant.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

A classic, influential movie concerning the legendary "Tramp" character (Charlie Chaplin) and how he struggles to keep up in a modern day world of advances in the work force, which sadly makes going to jail seem like an appealing option. Despite mostly being a farce, this treasure of a film has a ton to say about society, and gives some different, touching looks on a few characters who are doing their best to make it in this world despite being at disadvantages financially and not having a real set of skills. The factory scenes with Chaplin are priceless, but it is the creatively constructed and moving finale that makes this film so special. This is an absolutely timeless comedy featuring one of the most iconic characters in all of film.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

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