Creator/CharlieChaplin as The Tramp, who, while running away from the police (who mistook him for a pickpocket) runs into a circus big top and is an (unintentional) comedy hit. The circus owner finds that Charlie can't be funny when they want him to be, so he gets a job as a janitor who "accidentally" winds up as part of the act every night.

Charlie falls in love with the owner's daughter, Merna the circus rider, and determines to save her from her abusive father. She however only considers him a friend, and instead falls in love with Rex, the circus' tightrope walker. Charlie tries to impress her by also learning to walk the tightrope, but almost gets killed in the process.

Eventually, Merna runs away from the Circus, so the Tramp convinces Rex to marry her to keep her safe. They then return to the circus, but Charlie stays behind, going back to being a tramp.

Less well remembered than his previous effort, ''Film/TheGoldRush'', or his next features ''Film/CityLights'' and ''Film/ModernTimes''. [[TroubledProduction Plagued with production difficulties both internal (a fire destroyed much of the set) and external]] (production took place during Chaplin's ugly, public divorce battle with Lita Grey, causing Chaplin to smuggle portions of the film out of Hollywood to prevent Grey's attorneys from seizing it.)

Chaplin was awarded a special UsefulNotes/AcademyAward for "versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing ''The Circus''". The film can be seen [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIteUpNk17A here]].

!!This film provides examples of:
* AbusiveParents: Merna's father is quite cruel to her.
* AllPartOfTheShow: The Tramp gets chased by the cops through the circus, to the delight of the crowd.
* BadBadActing: The Tramp can't be funny on command.
* BadBoss: The circus owner.
* BananaPeel: Taken UpToEleven. The Tramp slips on a banana peel on a tightrope, [[MischiefMakingMonkey placed there by a monkey]].
* BittersweetEnding: The Tramp frees the girl from her father, but loses her, and is left alone, leading him back to tramping again, but he gets over his funk with his usual aplomb and is on his way with his usual hopeful spirit intact.
* BunnyEarsLawyer: The Tramp. The Circus Proprietor doesn't like him and considers him incompetent, but thanks to the crowd who love the Tramp, he is getting hired as The Funny Man.
* CaptainMorganPose: Rex does this in his outfit in front of Merna. Later, the tramp does the same pose for Merna right before his EmergencyImpersonation.
* ChekhovsSkill: The proprietor sees the Tramp practicing tightrope walking. This becomes plot-relevant later when Rex is gone missing and [[EmergencyImpersonation a replacement is needed]].
* CircusEpisode: For Chaplin's films. This story has the Tramp run away to a circus.
* DeniedFoodAsPunishment: Merna, by her father.
* DidNotGetTheGirl
* DishDash: One of the jokes involve the Tramp balancing a stack of plates.
* DoItYourselfThemeTune: "Swing, Little Girl", sung by Chaplin
* EmergencyImpersonation: When Rex is missing, the director remembers the Tramp doing some tightrope walking and hires him for the act.
* ExactEavesDropping: First the Tramps overhears the Gypsy woman tell Merna her future. Then later he is back at the right time to overhear Merna telling the Gypsy woman about her LoveAtFirstSight.
* {{Fainting}}: Instead of helping the Tramp out of the lion cage, Merna faints and could only be revived with a WaterWakeup.
* FortuneTeller: A Gypsy fortune teller from the side show tells Merna her future.
* GiveMeBackMyWallet: The pickpocketing in the opening scene.
* GreenEyedMonster: The Tramp, watching Merna and Rex flirting. Leads to his IndulgentFantasySegue.
* HallOfMirrors: Possibly the TropeMaker.
* HappyDance: The Tramp does this after hearing the fortune teller talk about Merna ending up with a dark, handsome man.
* HastilyHiddenMacGuffin: A pickpocketer steals a wallet and a watch from a man in the crowd. Suddenly the victim turns around and charges the thief who then shoves the valuables unnoticed into the pocket of the Tramp behind him. HilarityEnsues when the thief later goes after the Tramp to get his loot back.
* HotPursuit: By a cop, through a HallOfMirrors and into a circus tent.
* IJustWantMyBelovedToBeHappy: This is why Charlie decides to convince Rex to marry Merna, even after she was willing to run away to join him in being homeless.
* IndulgentFantasySegue: The Tramp imagines himself knocking his romantic rival on his butt. This is done with a then-innovative special effect showing the Tramp stepping out of his own body.
* IrisOut: The movie ends with this effect as the Tramp walks away from the camera.
* JustFriends: Merna cares a lot for the Tramp but only as a friend, and never realizes what he feels for her.
* LapPillow: After running away from the circus Merna cries into the Tramp's lap at the campfire.
* LookBehindYou: The Tramp uses this trick to distract the Circus Proprietor and the Property Man, so he could throw a pie up to Merna on the trapeze.
* LoveAtFirstSight: Merna and Rex.
* MischiefMakingMonkey: Chaplin is plagued by monkeys while performing a high-wire routine.
* NiceKitty: Charlie in the lion cage.
* NobodyHereButUsStatues: Chaplin and the other crook miming mechanically animated puppets on the boat.
* NoNameGiven: Except for Merna and her boyfriend Rex, no one has names.
* NonIronicClown
* OffIntoTheDistanceEnding: The film ends with the Tramp, who DidNotGetTheGirl and is then left behind by the circus, walking away from a static camera after the last circus truck pulls away. The shot is accompanied by an IrisOut.
* OutOfTheFryingPan: The Tramp tries to escape the lion cage only to find himself faced by a tiger in the next cage.
* ThePlace
* PlotInducedStupidity: Charlie was hilarious when he stumbled into the big top show, but he can't be funny on command. The circus master's solution is to have Charlie "accidentally" stumble into the act over and over again. Somehow Charlie does not figure out he is star of the show.
* PropheticFallacy: The Tramp overhears the fortune teller talk about a dark, handsome man and believes that to be him. Enter the tightrope walker Rex.
* RomanticFalseLead: The Tramp for Merna and Rex.
* TheRunaway: Merna runs away from the circus.
* RunningGag: The BerserkButton donkey going after the Tramp whenever he is in sight.
* SchmuckBait: The Tramp is told not to touch the button on the magician's trick table. Guess what happens in the arena.
* TapOnTheHead: In the Tramp's IndulgentFantasySegue, Rex goes out after a punch from the Tramp.
* TemptingFate:
-->'''Merna''': You'll get killed.
-->'''The Tramp''': Oh no, I have a charmed life.
--> ''Cue a sandbag plummeting onto his head.''
* TightropeWalking: Charlie is pressed into service as the tightrope walker after Rex the tightrope walker is MIA during a show.
* WaterWakeup: Merna faints when seeing the Tramp stuck in a cage with a lion. He is able to revive her by pouring the lion's drinking water on her face.
* WhatHappenedToTheMouse: Rex's absence on the day Charlie had to replace him was never explained.
* [[WickedStepmother Wicked Stepfather]]: The Circus Proprietor [[DeniedFoodAsPunishment denies his step daughter meals for punishment]] and is shown [[WouldHitAGirl hitting her]] several time.
* WouldHitAGirl: The evil stepfather does this to Merna more than once.