1931 | Drama/Comedy | 87 minutes | Silent
The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin), while clowning around the city, encounters a beautiful Flower Girl on the street corner. While buying a flower, the Tramp notices she’s blind. He is instantly smitten. That evening, the Tramp saves a drunken Millionaire from suicide. The grateful Millionaire takes his new friend for a night on the town and hands him money. When the Tramp sees the Flower Girl he buys all the flowers and drives her home in the limousine. The Flower Girl tells her Grandmother about the kind and wealthy friend she just met. The next morning, the Millionaire is sober. He doesn’t remember the Tramp and casts him aside. One day, the Tramp does not see the Flower Girl at her usual corner. He rushes to her house where he finds her gravely ill. While at her bedside, the Tramp reads about a new breakthrough that will restore vision. The Tramp and the Flower girl are elated. The Tramp encounters the Millionaire who, fortunately, is drunk. This enables the Tramp to borrow the money to pay for the Flower Girl’s treatment. However, the police accuse the Tramp of stealing the money. The Millionaire is now sober and denies knowing the Tramp and he is jailed. When he is released and walking the streets again, he notices the Flower Girl in a shop and she can now see. In what is often called one of the greatest final scenes in movies, they recognize each other. Seeing that her benefactor and friend is, in reality, a tramp, will the Flower Girl embrace or reject him?
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 98%
- Metacritic Score: 99
Sight and Sound Magazine’s Best Films of All Time: City Lights voted #2
National Board of Review: City Lights was voted as one of the Top Ten Best Films
The Library of Congress selected City Lights for preservation in the United States Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”
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If only one of Charlie Chaplin’s films could be preserved, CITY LIGHTS would come closest to representing all the different notes of his genius. It contains the slapstick, the pathos, the pantomime, the effortless physical coordination, the melodrama, the bawdiness, the grace and, of course, the Little Tramp—the character said, at one time, to be the most famous image on earth.
Charlie Chaplin’s love for a blind flower girl and his friendship with a drunken millionaire who doesn’t know him when he’s sober, is a beautiful example of Charlie’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.
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. Charlie Chaplin is still the wholly ingratiating, wistful, mischievous, mad, intellectual clown. He’s spontaneous. He’s fresh. He’s—well, he’s thoroughly human.
The story of a tramp in love with a blind flower girl, Charlie Chaplin’s CITY LIGHTS, is one of the cinema’s greatest and most durable masterpieces.
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