Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Modern Times (1936)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Modern Times (1936)

In actor/director Charlie Chaplin's last 'silent' film - a critique of the dehumanizing effects of technology - and marking Chaplin's last performance as The Tramp, and prefaced: "A story of industry, of individual enterprise - humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness":

  • the opening metaphoric image of sheep (workers) entering an industrial factory (the Electro Steel Corp.) at 6 am
  • the scene of the 'Big Brother' factory owner, the President (Allan Garcia) spying (via remote television) on workers, including the Factory Worker (Charlie Chaplin) wearing overalls and a T-shirt as he took a smoke break in the men's lavatory at 12 noon, and the harsh order: "Hey, quit stalling. Get back to work!"
  • the factory assembly-line conveyer belt scene with the Factory Worker armed with nut-tightening wrenches in both hands and eventually was unable to keep up with the fast-moving, ever-increasingly sped-up assembly line (of widgets whizzing by)
  • the additional scene of the disastrous experiment in which the Factory Worker became a guinea pig for an out-of-control automated feeding machine that would force-feed lunches to workers on the job, promoted by a recorded voice; it was a masterful sequence of visual comedy involving a soup dispenser, a corn-cob feeder and a gentle face-wiper mechanism, and the engineer's final words: ("We'll start with the soup again")
Out of Control Automated Feeding Machine
  • during the same day after falling onto the assembly line and being fed into the machine's gears and cogs (literally and figuratively), the Worker's inability to stop making mechanically-imitative tightening motions: he chased after a female worker with a button-adorned dress, and then out of the street, tightened bolts on a fire hydrant and pursued a matronly woman with black dots on her chest
  • now portraying the Tramp character after a nervous breakdown, his unwitting leading of a Communist workers' protest march in the street when waving a flag, leading to his jailing
  • the entrance of the Gamin (Paulette Goddard), a "child of the waterfront" - who was homeless, barefooted and hungry (lustfully consuming a banana), she was soon befriended by the Tramp
  • the scene of the Tramp accepting a job on the 4th floor toy area of a department store, where he rollerskated and narrowly missed the drop-off ledge
  • while living in a dilapidated shack by the waterfront with the Gamin, the Tramp's dive into a shallow body of water
  • after the factories reopened ("Work at last!" - he promised the Gamin: "Now we'll get a real home!"), the unemployed Worker was rehired at the Jetson Mills - the last one to receive the opportunity; a title card read: "The mechanic and his new assistant put to work repairing the long idle machinery" - but before long, he was out of a job when the workers went on strike
  • the Tramp's singing waiter sequence after being hired to work in a restaurant/nightclub - a gibberish or nonsense song
Roller-Skating in a Department Store's Toy Area
Diving Into Shallow Body of Water
A Gibberish Song and Dance Routine as a Waiter
Walking Into the Sunrise With the Gamin
  • the final sequence of the Tramp on the side of the road sitting with the spunky, homeless Gamin who complained about the return of their unemployed plight: "What's the use of trying?" - the Tramp replied with encouraging words (the film's last line of title dialogue) and a smile: "Buck up - never say die. We'll get along!" before the unforgettable image of the two arm in arm silhouetted together and walking into the dawn's sunrise (not the sunset!) and a hilly horizon

Workers as Metaphoric Sheep

"Big Brother" Factory Owner on Video Monitor

Assembly-Line Conveyer Belt Sequence

Caught in Cogs of Machine

Twisting Bolts - Chasing Matronly Woman With Dark Buttons (Bolts) on Her Dress

The Tramp Leading a Socialist March

Entrance of The Gamin (Paulette Goddard)

The Tramp Befriending the Gamin

"What's the use of trying?"


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