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To Be or Not to Be (1942)



Average Rating: 8.7/10
Reviews Counted: 38
Fresh: 37 | Rotten: 1

A complex and timely satire with as much darkness as slapstick, Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be delicately balances humor and ethics.


Average Rating: 7.1/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 1

A complex and timely satire with as much darkness as slapstick, Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be delicately balances humor and ethics.



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Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 5,628

My Rating

Movie Info

Ernst Lubitsch directs the 1942 political satire classic To Be or Not to Be, which marked the final screen appearance of comedienne Carole Lombard. In Warsaw at the beginning of WWII, Maria Tura (Lombard) and husband Joseph (Jack Benny) perform anti-Nazi plays with their theater troupe until they are forced to switch to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Lt. Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack) falls for Maria and meets up with her during Joseph's famous "To Be or Not to Be" speech as Hamlet. When Stanislav is


Drama, Classics, Comedy

Melchior Lengyel, Edwin Justus Mayer

Mar 1, 2005

United Artists

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All Critics (38) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (37) | Rotten (1) | DVD (7)

To Be is a very funny comedy, salted to taste with melodrama and satire.

August 20, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Lubitsch's guidance provides a tense dramatic pace with events developed deftly and logically throughout.

August 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's certainly one of the finest comedies ever to come out of Paramount.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

To say it is callous and macabre is understating the case.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comments (2)
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the most profound, emotionally complex comedies ever made, covering a range of tones from satire to slapstick to shocking black humor.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Terribly funny.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

one of Lubitsch's greatest works and one of the most inventive anti-Nazi films to emerge from Hollywood

September 20, 2013 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

Singing "Heil pbbt!" right in Der Fuehrer's face was certainly an act of resistance, and Lubitsch, Benny, Lombard, and company sure knew how to carry the tune.

September 9, 2013 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

To Be or Not to Be has all the hallmarks of a Lubitsch comedy: a solidly constructed plot, good comic pacing, a light touch, and strong performances from top to bottom. [Blu-ray]

September 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

Lubitsch understood at the time, even if many critics and filmgoers didn't, that all those elements and all that rule-breaking make To Be Or Not To Be brilliant.

August 27, 2013 Full Review Source: The Dissolve
The Dissolve

A masterpiece satire around the Second World War is more likely to be appreciated now after some distance.

August 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Royalties from Springtime for Hitler in Germany outta be sent to Lubitsch's family.

May 1, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinemania

Like Chaplin before him in The Great Dictator, Lubitsch aimed a wet raspberry in Der Fuhrer's face.

April 4, 2006 Full Review Source:

One of film's great farces.

September 22, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Lubitsch carefully mixes his usual brand of sophisticated humor with a bit of bittersweet.

September 16, 2005 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Jack Benny's best, a fun WWII comedy directed by Lubitsch. And it has Lombard.

June 15, 2005

The famed "Lubitsch touch," whatever it really was, was never put to a more formidable test… the last hour is satiric perfection.

May 2, 2005 Full Review Source: Decent Films Guide
Decent Films Guide

A masterpiece. ... Hurtling forward with its dizzying blend of laughs and intrigue, the movie's blessed with a script that's jam-packed with memorable quips (some laced with naughty double entendres), with most of the best ones handed over to Benny.

March 18, 2005 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

To Be or Not to Be is a delightfully comic take on a dreadfully momentous topic.

March 8, 2005 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

simultaneously hilarious and chilling

March 1, 2005 Full Review Source:

To Be or Not to Be's wit continues to be overshadowed by its touchy plot.

February 23, 2005 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Jack Benny's best movie.

December 21, 2004
Greenwich Village Gazette

Lubitsch uses a myriad of hilarious situations and entertaining characters to provide the backdrop to his reflective meditation on the horrors of tyranny.

October 24, 2004 Full Review Source: Cinematic Reflections

Audience Reviews for To Be or Not to Be

Many comedies giftwrap the jokes so that the poor rubes (which'd be us) know that that is what they're hearing and/or seeing (think of Mel Brooks or a pie in the face or Vines), but not so here. The Lubitsch touch involves leaving the humor for one to discover - or not - and therein the charm. Benny, f'instance, is totally unbelievable as the leading man, or as a leading man whatsoever, but that works for him here as a insecure ham actor constantly seeking approval. Lombard (braless mostly) shimmers in her last effort gracefully. A delight, and better than Lubitsch's other classics in my opinion.
October 16, 2013

Super Reviewer

Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds lovingly ripped dozens of pages straight from the books of cinema history. From "actors" playing Nazis to trick the Gestapo to a climactic theater "Nazi Night" including a surprise visit from the Fuhrer, Tarantino was perhaps influenced by few more than Ernst Lubitsch's zany satire To Be Or Not To Be. Set in 1940's Warsaw during the German occupation, a raucous theater troupe, led by the arrogant "great, great actor" Joseph Turan (Jack Benny), take on the Gestapo in the name of the Polish Resistance. Variably a farce and a film of vital importance, this 1942 classic took whip-smart shots at Nazi servitude and Jewish sacrifice even before they were known to the American public. (The war would last for three more years.) In 2011 To Be Or Not To Be could be seen as a mockery or a gem. In any case it's a seminal comedy and, like Casablanca, a saavy look at World War II when its outcome was still indeterminable.
March 6, 2011
Bob O'Reilly

Super Reviewer

This movie is hilarious, it has a great cast and a good director, and the story is interesting. It's even funnier than Brooks' 80s remake. I highly recommend this movie.
October 3, 2010

Super Reviewer

As much a political statement as it is a comedy. Probably Jack Benny's best work in film and the role for which he's most remembered. Mr. Benny kept me in stitches and Carole Lombard kept me drooling. What a talented, beautiful (and very funny!) actress.
July 23, 2009
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

    1. Prof. Alexander Siletsky: I won't be long; the Gestapo is so busy these days I'm sure they'll be glad to get rid of me.
    – Submitted by Christopher B (14 months ago)
    1. Joseph Tura: I'm going to meet Herr Siletsky at Gestapo Headquarters and after I've killed him I hope you'll all be kind enough to tell me what it was all about!
    – Submitted by Christopher B (14 months ago)
    1. Maria Tura: You certainly don't want me to waste a lot of time giving you a long explanation!
    2. Joseph Tura: No, but I think a husband is entitled to an inkling!
    – Submitted by Christopher B (14 months ago)
    1. Greenberg: There was no censor to stop them.
    – Submitted by Christopher B (14 months ago)
    1. Lt. Stanislav Sobinski: Anna, I'd like to speak to Mrs. Tura alone.
    2. Maria Tura: Now look Stanislav, I usually tell my maid when to leave the room.
    3. Lt. Stanislav Sobinski: I've so much to tell you. When we're in the plane we can't talk, when we're in the tearoom we can't do anything but talk. Maria...
    4. Maria Tura: And when we're in the dressing room we must be very careful of my makeup.
    – Submitted by Christopher B (14 months ago)
    1. Anna the Maid: After all: what a husband doesn't know won't hurt his wife.
    – Submitted by Christopher B (14 months ago)
View all quotes (10)

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Foreign Titles

  • Sein oder Nichtsein (DE)
  • To Be or Not To Be (UK)
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