10. Charlie Chaplin
THE GOLD RUSH, CITY LIGHTS, MODERN TIMES, THE GREAT DICTATOR, LIME LIGHT
Decades before Jerry Lewis claimed the descriptor for himself, Charlie Chaplin was the total filmmaker – he wrote, directed, produced, edited, starred in, and often scored all his own work, so beautifully executing each job that the viewer can be forgiven for taking any one element for granted. But he was a beautiful performer. Occasionally reminding the viewer of his physical grace with roller skating, dance, or acrobatic sequences, he more often deployed a comedic timing in his movement and expression that demanded clockwork precision without suggesting its fussiness. In his early career, he churned out films relentlessly, making over fifty shorts in his first five years – yet even at the start, his Tramp was nearly as defined as it would become. This was not stubbornness; this was immediate genius. He worked best in a long shot, letting his body tell the story as he skipped (or waddled) across the screen, but his close-ups could be devastating; how bold the choice to end City Lights with no resolution to the love story, only an outpouring of emotional catharsis. He spent most of his career in silence, only to deploy his magnificent voice for the voiceless – the downtrodden, the pacifists, and those forgotten stars.