The Great Dictator

The Great Dictator
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Once again - the whole world laughs!
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Dictator Adenoid Hynkel tries to expand his empire while a poor Jewish barber tries to avoid persecution from Hynkel's regime.

Title:The Great Dictator
Release Date:October 15, 1940
Production Co.:United Artists
Production Countries:United States of America
Director:Charlie Chaplin, Wheeler Dryden
Casts:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Plot Keywords:germany, dictator, hairdresser, amnesia, jewish ghetto, jew, propaganda, national socialism, adolf hitler, national socialist party, satire, good vs evil, funny nazi
Alternative Titles:
  • Dokusaisha - [JP]
  • Charlie Chaplin - The Great Dictator - [US]
  • Diktatoren - [DK]
  • 大独裁者 - [CN]
  • El gran dictador - [ES]
  • De diktator - [BE]
  • Великият диктатор - [BG]
  • O Grande Ditador - [BR]
  • Le dictateur - [CA]
  • Diktátor - [CZ]
  • Ο μεγάλος δικτάτωρ - [GR]
  • Ha-Dictator Ha-Gadol - [IL]

The Great Dictator Reviews

  • Remember that......
    by barrysheene on 6 March 2004

    132 out of 161 people found the following review useful:

    ..this movie has been done when Hitler ( and Mussolini who is as well in the movie) was at the top and many politics and even the Roman Church used to close eyes about brutality and evil of Nazism. Especially in USA there were many people who had not understood what was really going on in Germany and Europe ( Charles Lindenbergh for example ).It would be as today a big actor would made a parody of Berlusconi or Chirac. Chaplin maybe made a lot of mistakes in his life, but this is really a masterpiece of humanity and IMHO a great demonstration he was a courageous man. The movie is funny and deep, the final speech has a terrible strength and is still updated. I think this movie is one of the best ever done.

  • The "Pre-Mature" Anti-Fascist
    by donnola on 5 June 2002

    116 out of 140 people found the following review useful:

    Released in 1940, "The Great Dictator" was the first Hollywood film that denounced Hitler directly (albeit in the guise of Adenoid Hynkel), took a virulent stand against fascism, and directly addressed Anti-Semitism.

    Over-long, at times heavy-handed, it still has many wonderful sequences, including the famous dance with the globe, and all the scenes of Chaplin with Jack Oakie, each trying to out-do the other and prove his superiority.

    One criticism that seems to occasionally rear its head is the implication that Chaplin's pre-World War II anti-fascism was somehow wrong-headed. The atrocities of the Holocaust weren't fully known to the world yet, so Chaplin's anti-Hitler diatribe is, in the minds of some, misguided. After the war this mindset would result in the debacle of the blacklist, when Chaplin, among others, were branded "pre-mature anti-fascists." In other words, it wasn't politically acceptable to be against Nazism until war broke out with the U.S. Hard to believe anyone could still see things that way now, but some do.

    The film industry of the 1930s wanted no part of international politics, no matter how blatant the brutality of a given regime. Profits were at stake. It was little goyisha Charley Chaplin, playing a Jewish barber, who took a public stand.

    While "The Great Dictator" may not among Chaplin's finest films, it may, historically, be his finest hour.

  • We think too much and feel too little.
    by muzikla on 23 January 2005

    103 out of 119 people found the following review useful:

    I was surprised and impressed to find out this movie was released in 1940, before the United States entered World War II. On the surface, satirizing something as solemn and horrible as Nazi Germany could be misconstrued as rash. But Chaplin's brilliance isn't limited to making a joke out of everything. In fact, the seriousness of his message wouldn't have been nearly as valid if not for the excellent use of humor in this movie along with the moments of stark drama blended in. Drama alone wouldn't have had the bite and resonance that this film did. Laughing at someone (Adenoid Hynkel) can be the best way to attack them, while laughing with someone (the Jewish Barber) can be the best way to love them. In the Jewish Barber's final speech, I forgot for a moment that the war he was talking about happened more than half a century ago. They are words that have meaning now, and in any time of war. For this reason I believe the film did far greater good than harm, as it still has the same profound effect today.

  • Masterpiece
    by Kakueke on 29 October 2001

    98 out of 136 people found the following review useful:

    The Great Dictator is a beyond-excellent film. Charlie Chaplin succeeds in being both extremely funny and witty and yet at the same time provides a strong statement in his satire against fascism. The anti-Nazi speech by Chaplin at the end, with its values, is one of filmdom's great moments. Throughout this movie, I sensed there was some higher form of intelligence, beyond genuinely intelligent filmmaking, at work.

  • Credit where it's due
    by Valerie Perry ( on 7 January 1999

    70 out of 89 people found the following review useful:

    Aside from giving this film its proper socio-historical credit as one of only 2 U.S films which condemned Hitler, Naziism and the Holocaust prior to U.S. involvement in WWII, it's a great time as well. Much of the humor remains visual, and some of the funniest (and most famous) scenes are done in the silent mode (e.g. the globe). Although a bit more lacking in continuity and editing than many of Chaplin's earlier films, to do it credit simply as a passable first effort at a new medium is to damn it with faint praise. It's unique. No serious student of film can neglect to see and appreciate The Great Dictator as a classic amalgam of film talents.

  • A film of its time, without a modern equal
    by David on 22 December 2003

    81 out of 114 people found the following review useful:

    This film entered production before WW2 began, but was not released until it was well under way. With significant fascist-sympathy in the US, and Chaplin himself being suspected as a communist sympathiser, The Great Dictator was a very courageous endeavour. Such risks in film-making - thinly veiled political statements - would be almost inconceivable today. Imagine the fallout if someone were to make an equally satirical film today which criticised the USA's foreign policy?

    This film is hilarious, poignant and tragic. The tragedy is that Chaplin makes a plea for the madness to end, but it is already to late - for him and for us. A must see if you have any interest whatsoever in history, film-making, politics or sattire as an art-form.

  • The Man With Hitler's Face
    by lugonian on 9 January 2001

    53 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

    "The Great Dictator" (United Artists, 1940), became the long awaited talking debut of silent film comedian, Charlie Chaplin (who also wrote and directed), in a political satire on Adolph Hitler, only the way Chaplin dared to do at the time. He plays a Jewish barber and Hynkel, dictator of Tomania. Some of the humor cannot really be absorbed at first glance, but after repeated viewing, it gets better. My personal classic moment occurs with Chaplin in the barber shop working on a bald-headed customer by giving him a shave while listening to a classical composition on the radio, never missing a beat. Co-starring opposite Chaplin for the second and final time is Paulette Goddard as Hannah. Goddard became the only Chaplin leading lady to ever make a success on her own while the others just drifted to "B" movies or faded away. Jack Oakie as Napaloni, the Dictator of Bacteria (a spoof on Mussolini), appears late in the story but shares with Chaplin some of its brilliant comedic moments. Both Chaplin and Oakie earned Academy Award nominations for their performances (Chaplin for Best Actor/Oakie for Best Supporting Actor), but no wins. Henry Daniell as Garbitsch and Reginald Gardiner as Schultz also share the spotlight. Aside from Chaplin's screenplay in poking fun of its then current issues on European invasion by the Nazis, "The Great Dictator" expertly blends satire with dramatic overtones. Its closing scene in which Chaplin makes a speech pleading for all people to follow the path of peace, brotherhood and democracy, is not to be missed. Whether this movie is above or beyond the Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup" (Paramount, 1933) is anyone's matter of taste. (***)

  • Chaplin's comment on fascism is his first talking film...
    by Righty-Sock ( on 14 September 2000

    54 out of 67 people found the following review useful:

    Hynkel, dictator of Tomania, is a spoiled child who becomes angry when he cannot gets what he really wants... And what he simply wants is nothing less than the world...

    In one of the extraordinary scenes of Chaplin art, Hynkel performs a ballet with the 'world' which bursts when he thinks he has it in his grasp...

    Chaplin also has some biting words on war and war films... In a scene at the beginning of the movie, which takes place during World War I, the Tomanian messenger crashes the plane and thinks... He is about to die... In a state of delirium, he begins to say ridiculous words... The empty double-talk continue ascending into a brilliant take off on all the heroic death scenes of War films...

    In another scene when he becomes a fugitive in the Jewish ghetto and assumes command of the resistance fomenting rebellion among the old men, he plans to kill the dictator... One of the group must kill the ruthless conqueror of Austerlich... Whoever is chosen will naturally die, but his heroic death will be rewarded and his name will shine like a star in Tomanian history...

    The sequence in which he and four other characters eat cream cakes containing coins to determine which shall sacrifice his life to murder the dictator is a bitter hilarity filled with great fear...

    For all its disappointing shortcomings, "The Great Dictator" is still a significant movie for the ironic tones of the film adding something that neither Chaplin nor anymore else could have given it: the irony of history... The necessity to murder Hynkel presages the assassination attempt against Hitler by his generals... The force of the original satire is only surpassed by history's imitation of art...

    With a splendid sequence like the duck-shooting accident which leads to the dictator being mistaken for the humbly Jewish barber and vice versa, "The Great Dictator" is Chaplin's first talking movie... This time 'Charles' and not 'Charlie,' wanting to say more through his movie and not through an amusing comedy, the last in which he uses his celebrated 'Tramp Character.'

  • Great and Then Some
    by Ermengarde on 2 November 2004

    28 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

    I agree that the final speech is powerful, and stirring. It made my heart hurt (in a good way ;-) But I also have to say that the comedy is first-rate. When the Charlie and the pilot are unknowingly upside down and chatting away...when the pilot is serenely reminiscing about his girlfriend back home even as the downed plane plows right into the ground...when Hynkel delivers this vitriolic diatribe about 'the Juden' and the blandly impassive translator says, 'the Phooey has just made reference to the Jewish people' and 'the Phooey's heart is full of love to all mankind,' ...when Hynkel strips his hapless henchman of all his beautiful medals, spitting and fussing a mile a minute...I could go on and on! I think no one else on earth could play Hynkel as hilariously as Chaplin, but it might be fun to imagine modern comedians trying. ;-)

  • Probably Chaplin's Most Powerful Film
    by ElenaP-3 on 12 April 2005

    21 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

    Here we have the inimitable Charlie Chaplin forsaking his slapstick past to tackle the serious subject of anti-Semitism, and intolerance in general. He portrays two characters - the sweet, innocent Jewish barber - a war veteran, and the raving and ruthless dictator, Adenoid Hynkel. The Jewish ghetto in this country is not safe for long, due to the whims of Hynkel and his armed thugs, who routinely rough up its residents, or leave them alone, dependent upon his mood that day or week. The barber is among them, but is befriended by his former commanding officer, Schultz (Reginald Gardner), who seems to keep things quiet for a while, until Hynkel condemns him to a concentration camp. He seeks refuge with the Jews in the ghetto, most specifically the barber, and the feisty young woman, Hannah (Paulette Goddard). The premise will be - who will be the one among these Jews to put their lives on the line to get rid of Hynkel and his cronies? We needn't guess too hard to know the answer; the barber is a dead ringer for the dictator, and he is outfitted in his image, accompanied by Schultz, also in full military gear. Hannah escapes with several of her ghetto friends to the country of Osterlich, where Mr Jaeckel's (Maurice Moscovich) cousin has a farm, and they can live peaceably for a while. At this point, Hynkel himself has been arrested by his armed forces, thinking him to be the notorious barber. The latter, meanwhile, has been escorted with Schultz to a podium, to make a speech announcing the conquest of Osterlich. The ensuing ten minutes is pure Chaplin himself, speaking from his heart of tolerance, love and freedom, and denigrating greed and hatred. Albeit Chaplin started production on the film in 1937, it can be forgiven some naivete. He was allegedly unaware of the gravity of this persecution and hatred, and said had he known the full extent, he would never have made the film, because he most likely believed it would have trivialized the situation. He has a marvelous supporting cast: Reginald Gardner, Henry Daniell as Garbitsch, his aide-de-camp, the always wonderful Billy Gilbert as the bumbling Herring, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie as the dictator Napaloni, his rival for conquest, veteran European actors David Gorcey (Leo's father), Maurice Moscovich, among others. The scene he choreographed with globe, with just a musical accompaniment is sheer, luminous inspiration, and luminous, as well, is Paulette Goddard at the film's end, smiling through her tears. I have seen this film before, but there is always something new in it for me. Last evening, when it finished, I sat there in tears. I defy anyone not to be moved by it.

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