18. Modern Times
directed by Charles Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin made better films (City Lights and The Great Dictator, for example), but none of his films were as pure a comedy as Modern Times. Featuring the last appearance of Chaplin’s silent Tramp persona, it is actually his first film to use sound — City Lights came out after the sound revolution, but he hung on. Though we don’t hear Chaplin speak, the filmmaker shows his aptitude for sound gags with the many whirring and beeping contraptions. Chaplin sets the film primarily inside of a factory, which gives him access to many great setpieces, like the conveyor belt scene or the hilarious feeding machine. I wouldn’t exactly call Modern Times prescient, but its look at technology in the blue-collar workplace gives the film a different layer that keeps it fresh. If you are a fan of Modern Times, I also suggest checking out the early French musical A nous la liberte, directed by Rene Clair, which holds many strong similarities to Chaplin’s film — strong enough for the distributor to actually sue Chaplin’s company for copyright infringement.