The Circus

The Circus

Criterion Collection Edition #996

In the last film he made during the silent era, Charlie Chaplin revels in the art of the circus, paying tribute to the acrobats and pantomimists who inspired his virtuoso pratfalls. After being mistaken for a pickpocket, Chaplin’s Tramp flees into the ring of a traveling circus and soon becomes the star of the show, falling for the troupe’s bareback rider along the way. Despite its famously troubled production, this gag-packed comedy ranks among Chaplin’s finest, thanks to some of the most audacious set pieces of the director-performer’s career, including a close brush with a lion and a climactic tightrope walk with a barrelful of monkeys. THE CIRCUS, which was rereleased in 1969 with a new score by Chaplin, is an uproarious high-wire act that showcases silent cinema’s most popular entertainer at the peak of his comic powers.

The Circus
  • The Circus

    Directed by Charles Chaplin • 1928 • United States
    Starring Charles Chaplin, Allan Garcia, Merna Kennedy

    In the last film he made during the silent era, Charlie Chaplin revels in the art of the circus, paying tribute to the acrobats and pantomimists who inspired his virtuoso pratfalls. After bei...


  • THE CIRCUS Commentary

    The following commentary by Charlie Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance was produced in 2019.

  • Eugene Chaplin on THE CIRCUS

    The following interview with Eugene Chaplin, the fifth child of Charlie and Oona O'Neill Chaplin, was recorded at Chaplin's World in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, in 2019.

  • In the Service of the Story

    In this interview, produced in 2019, film scholar Craig Barron sheds light on the care taken in creating THE CIRCUS's visual gags and the skills of the Chaplin Studios' dedicated lead technicians.

  • Chaplin Today: “The Circus”

    This twenty-six minute documentary, directed by François Ede in 2003, explores Charlie Chaplin's creative and personal journey during the making of THE CIRCUS and includes personal observations by filmmaker Emir Kusturica.

  • Stepping Out: Edited Sequence

    In the 1980s, film archivist Kevin Brownlow and David Gill screened thousands of feet of outtakes from Charlie Chaplin's silent movies for what would become the British television series “Unknown Chaplin.” One treasure from THE CIRCUS is the deleted sequence presented here, edited by Brownlow and...

  • Stepping Out: Outtakes

    Presented here is a selection of outtakes from the 'stepping out' sequence, with narration by comedy choreographer Dan Kamin.

  • A Ring for Merna

    To expand on the Tramp’s love for Merna the circus rider, director Charlie Chaplin filmed a scene expressing his character’s overwhelming nervousness about giving her a ring. Presented here are outtakes of that scene, edited into their possible position in THE CIRCUS. Also included are alternate ...

  • Eric James on Charlie Chaplin

    The following audio excerpts are from an interview with director Charlie Chaplin’s musical collaborator Eric James, recorded by Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance in 1998.

  • “Swing Little Girl”

    In 1968, when Charlie Chaplin decided to rerelease THE CIRCUS, he composed a new score and wrote a song for the film's opening credits, “Swing Little Girl.” The song was originally recorded by singer Ken Barrie, though in the end, Chaplin used a version he sang himself. Audio excerpts from the re...

  • Hollywood Premiere

    This brief piece of silent footage was filmed on January 27, 1928, during the star-studded Hollywood premiere of THE CIRCUS at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

  • Charlie Chaplin in 1969

    The following footage, in which director Charlie Chaplin is interviewed by several international journalists at his home in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, was recorded for Swiss television on the occasion of the 1969 rerelease of THE CIRCUS.