Difference Between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: August 14, 2022


Difference Between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton Difference Between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton

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If you’re familiar with the history of film comedy, then you’ve heard of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Both icons have stood the test of time, with each having long and storied careers as some of the most well-known comedians in history. But what about the differences between these two personalities? They’re both famous silent film actors, so what made them different from one another? As it turns out, there are quite a few major differences between these two classic comedians, even beyond their iconic looks!

One of the film’s most recognizable stars is Charlie Chaplin. Despite his fame and undeniable influence, however, many viewers still confuse him with fellow silent-film actor Buster Keaton. The two men are often associated with each other for a few reasons. First, both actors were associated with specific, iconic looks: Chaplin as the Tramp with his toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, and walking cane; Keaton as an acrobat dressed in baggy pants. Second, both men had very similar on-screen personas: They appeared frequently in silent films (though their careers spanned different decades) that incorporated slapstick comedy into stories about laborers fighting against managers or trying to make it big in love or both. However, while they may have shared similar styles and themes, these comedic icons differed in several ways. For example, Chaplin was known for playing characters who struggled against society’s elite members—often upper-class businessmen—while Keaton played characters who battled each other over their greediness. Additionally, though Chaplin focused more on storylines than physical comedy when making movies, Keaton often included physical stunts in his work. While both comedians have remained influential over time—and continue to be referenced by modern filmmakers—they also differ from one another today.  Chaplin died in 1977 at age 88, while Keaton passed away in 1966 at age 70.

Charlie Chaplin vs Buster Keaton

Comparing Actors Who Changed Silent Film Comedy Forever. The two actors were both born in 1889, in London and raised in poverty, but they took very different paths to success. Chaplin was a pioneer of film comedy who made his mark on Hollywood with his Little Tramp character. He was a perfectionist who insisted on writing, directing, producing, and acting in his films. Keaton, meanwhile, became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars thanks to his deadpan humour and stoic demeanour. While he also wrote many of his movies—and directed several others—he preferred to stay out of the spotlight as much as possible so that audiences could focus on watching him act instead. When you watch clips from their best films side by side, it’s clear that each actor brought something unique to silent film comedy. But which one is better? Let’s break down some of their most famous scenes for a closer look at how Chaplin and Keaton went about bringing laughter to movie theatres across America.  You be the judge!

Difference Between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in Tabular Form

Table: Charlie Chaplin vs Buster Keaton
Basis For Comparison
Charlie Chaplin
Buster Keaton
Silent actor
Silent actor
British Citizen
American citizen
Known For
He is very well known for his expressive facial expressions and body language. He also uses emotions to bring laughter to his audience.
He is known as the “The Great Stone Face,” meaning he always wore a stoic expression in his films.
Best Work
Better filmmaker
Best actor

What is Charlie Chaplin?

One might say that Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr. was born into fame, but that's not strictly true. He was born to a family of vaudeville performers who performed under their names on stage: His father, Charles Sr., was part of a troupe called Spencer's British Blondes; his mother (Chapman) had her act as Lottie Coogan, she toured with her husband under their stage names until he died from drink in 1893 when his son was only five years old. At which point Lottie took young Charlie out of school and started touring as The Eight Lancashire Lads — though she never officially changed her name, or got remarried. And since Chaplin was already known by his middle name, it stuck. But while he spent most of his childhood on tour, he didn't start performing himself until age 14, when his mother found him an apprenticeship at Fred Karno's comedy company—the same one where Stan Laurel would eventually join him. He made his first appearance onstage in 1914, debuting in a sketch called A Night Out alongside some other English comics you may have heard of: Alfred Leete and Albert Austin (who would later play Bootles in Chaplin's film The Gold Rush). But Chaplin soon decided to strike out on his own—and quickly rose through the ranks to become one of England's biggest stars by 1918. Not bad for someone whose first-ever performance onstage consisted of falling off a chair.

Charlie Chaplin Films

If you have watched a movie, you may have heard about Charlie Chaplin. His comedy is remembered for his mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and walking upstairs in reverse. He was tagged as a silent film actor by his outstanding wit with each step of his style. In his silent films which are also known as early era films, he was all over action during that time till he came to America during World War I and became a real entertainer who could also tell jokes in front of an audience. This transformation made him more popular than ever before. Though he had been active for only 12 years from 1914-1926 still managed to make 16 feature-length movies. These movies include The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), and Modern Times (1936). Out of these 16 movies, 8 were directed by himself while others were directed by his assistants like Charles Chaplin Jr., Leo White, and Sydney Aibinstone. While other actors like Buster Keaton made only 15 short comedies between 1921-23 but still managed to leave behind a mark on every frame of those 15 short films due to his unique sense of humor. His most famous works include One Week (1920), Cops (1922), and The General (1927). Both Chaplin and Keaton used to perform their stunts themselves without any help from stuntmen. There are many similarities found between them such as their acting skills, physical appearance, etc. However, there are some differences too; one being that Charlie Chaplin worked mostly with Edna Purviance whereas Buster Keaton worked mostly with Natalie Talmadge. They both had different styles of performing comedy in their way but both brought out laughter through their amazing workmanship and creativity. Although they never met personally, they inspired each other’s career paths through letters sent back and forth to one another since the 1920s.

What is Buster Keaton?

Buster was born in Piqua, Kansas to Joseph Hallie Keaton, a vaudeville entertainer, and Myra Lewis Baker. His parents were both in love with show business, Joseph more so than Myra. He would later build a theater in his hometown just so he could make sure that he would always have a stage to perform on. When he came of age, Buster took to stage like a duck takes to water—and quickly made it known that he was far more interested in performing than going off to college or finding a real job. At first, Myra discouraged him from pursuing such an ill-advised career choice but eventually relented after seeing how much her son loved doing what he did. She moved to New York City with him and helped him get started in the show business. By 1925, Buster had become one of America’s most popular silent film comedians; his tramp persona became iconic during that period. In 1928, though, after being disappointed by a string of critical failures (such as The Cameraman), Buster decided to retire from acting altogether. Instead, he bought out his contract with MGM Studios and began working behind-the-scenes instead. He co-directed Steamboat Bill Jr., which won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at that year's ceremony. It would be another five years before Buster returned to acting again—this time in talkies—with The General, directed by fellow comedian Charles Chaplin. Despite starring alongside Chaplin himself, Keaton received no recognition for his performance and went back into retirement shortly thereafter. During World War II, Buster served as a member of the USO entertainment troupe alongside other celebrities like Bob Hope and Jack Benny; afterward, he continued working behind the scenes until retiring permanently in 1966 due to health issues related to diabetes.

Buster Keaton Films

One of these men is considered one of history’s greatest comedians while his competitor was a star with whom no comparison could be made. Here at Gather Around This Spot in History, we aim to shine a light on many famous personas from various walks of life. Today, we do just that with a discussion about two iconic men from Hollywood history: Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Of course, there are more things than what meets our eyes when it comes to these two actors; for example, here’s how their birthplaces differ immensely. But where do they begin to differ? And where do all similarities between them end? Let us now dive deeper into our aforementioned conversation by discussing some key differences between these historical icons. To begin, let us first discuss their differing childhoods. Born as London natives, Chaplin and Keaton both spent time growing up in poverty—but only one man had an act of kindness intervene during his youth. For those who don’t know already, young Chaplin began acting early on in life after he had been abandoned by his father (who would later return). His mother worked long hours as a performer to support her son but unfortunately fell ill shortly after giving birth to her second child. To care for her son, she sent him off to live with relatives who were wealthy enough to provide for him throughout her illness.

Main Difference Between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in Points

  • Chaplin was an American actor and filmmaker who worked on countless films during his 40-year career including Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), and Limelight (1952).
  • He is best known for his role as the Tramp in comedies such as City Lights (1931), where his pantomime-faced expressions became famous, or Modern Times. With his realistic style, political themes, and mime-based acting he has become one of cinema's most influential stars.
  • He is still considered to be one of America's greatest comedians.
  • During Chaplin's period, slapstick comedy was popular; it relied heavily on physical humor and pratfalls.
  • Slapstick comedy often used stereotypes to exaggerate situations for comedic effect.
  • Although slapstick comedy can be traced back to Vaudeville acts, it reached its peak with silent film actors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton; these two comedians have very different styles that contributed greatly to slapstick comedy's development over time.
  • The difference between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton is their acting style as well as their body types. Chaplin was a short man who had a small build whereas Keaton was tall and lanky.
  • This is significant because their size differences affected how they portrayed characters in films.
  • Chaplin played characters who were usually poor or downtrodden, but he always maintained an optimistic outlook throughout his films.
  • He developed a pantomime technique called the Little Tramp which allowed him to convey emotions without speaking or moving his face much at all.
  • His tramp character became so famous that people would dress up as him in public just for fun.


The thing that you should remember when watching movies is that they are not documentaries, rather they are a way to escape reality. Many times you will see two stars playing against each other in a movie or two actors starring together. But what you might not know is why these two actors were cast to play these parts. There are many reasons why one actor might be right for a role over another but often it comes down to their physical characteristics, which leads us back to what we discussed earlier about types versus methods of acting. As I mentioned before, Chaplin and Keaton had very different personas on screen because of how they looked physically. This meant that their characters could be played differently as well. While both men excelled at slapstick comedy, one was more serious than the other so their roles reflected those personalities as well. All things considered, it’s important to keep in mind that even though there are some similarities between actors and characters there is also a difference between them as well—and sometimes those differences can make all the difference on screen!


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"Difference Between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton." Diffzy.com, 2023. Thu. 23 Mar. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-charlie-chaplin-and-buster-keaton-795>.

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