The best Charlie Chan films

20th Century Fox made 27 Charlie Chan mysteries before the series went to poverty row studio Monogram. Four of the early films are lost, but the rest maintain a high level of quality considering they were made by Fox's B unit under Sol Wurtzel. Chan was played by Warner Oland until his death in 1938. The movies continued with Sidney Toler as Chan. This list has what I consider to be the ten best Chans, my four favorites, followed by six other excellent examples.
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1.
Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
While visiting the circus with his family, Charlie is recruited by the big top's co-owner to investigate threatening letters that he's received. (72 mins.)
Director: Harry Lachman
“ The setting and strong cast elevates this film. Lee Chan (Keye Luke) has a bit of a romance with a female contortionist played by Shia Jung. ” - Hunley
 
2.
Charlie Chan at the Opera (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A dangerous amnesiac escapes from an asylum, hides in the opera house, and is suspected of getting revenge on those who tried to murder him 13 years ago. (68 mins.)
“ Another great setting. A good mystery with excellent comic relief from Keye Luke, and Boris Karloff plays a mad man. ” - Hunley
 
3.
Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
While Charlie is distracted with the birth of his first grandchild, son Jimmy impersonates his father in order to investigate a murder aboard a freighter in the harbor. (67 mins.)
“ Sidney Toler's first Chan. He is joined by Sen Yung as Jimmy Chan. They have great chemistry from the beginning, and it's a fun mystery. ” - Hunley
 
4.
Castle in the Desert (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Charlie Chan investigates apparent poisonings at a mystery mansion in the Mojave Desert. (62 mins.)
Director: Harry Lachman
“ The last Chan film by Fox has a good mystery and terrific atmosphere. ” - Hunley
 
5.
The Black Camel (1931)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
The unsolved murder of a Hollywood actor several years earlier and an enigmatic psychic are the keys to help Charlie solve the Honolulu stabbing death of a beautiful actress. (71 mins.)
“ In the earliest surviving Chan with Warner Oland, the cast actually went to Hawaii for some scenes. Some of the location shots have a surprisingly fluid camera considering this is an early sound film. Bela Lugosi is in the cast. ” - Hunley
 
6.
Charlie Chan in Paris (1935)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Hired to investigate forged bonds, Charlie is thwarted by the murder of his undercover agent, but the arrival of son Lee helps him uncover the true culprits. (72 mins.)
Director: Lewis Seiler
“ First appearance of Lee Chan played by Keye Luke. He adds immeasurably to the films he appears in. ” - Hunley
 
7.
Charlie Chan's Secret (1936)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
The heir to a huge fortune is presumed drowned, then shows up, is then murdered. (72 mins.)
Director: Gordon Wiles
“ Keye Luke is absent from this one, and he is missed. However, the atmosphere is creepy and the suspense good. ” - Hunley
 
8.
Charlie Chan at Monte Carlo (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Although Charlie and Lee are in Monaco for an art exhibit, they become caught up in a feud between rival financiers which involves the Chans in a web of blackmail and murder. (72 mins.)
Director: Eugene Forde
“ This one adds in lots of comedy, much of it coming from supporting actor Harold Huber. He is not to every taste, but I found him more amusing than annoying. ” - Hunley
 
9.
Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise (1940)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Charlie tries to discover the identity of a strangler who strikes multiple times on a cruise ship bound from Honolulu to California. (76 mins.)
Director: Eugene Forde
“ Murder aboard a ship with a confined set of suspects is such a natural that it's no wonder that the films used this device several times. Features Layne Tom Jr. as one of the younger Chan sons. ” - Hunley
 
10.
Charlie Chan in Rio (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
On the trail of a singer who killed the man she loved in Honolulu, Charlie finds her stabbed to death when he ultimately catches up to her in Rio. (60 mins.)
Director: Harry Lachman
“ Jimmy Chan finds a girl friend in this one. She's played by Iris Wong. Another good mystery. ” - Hunley