The Great Dictator

1940

The Great Dictator

Critics Consensus

Charlie Chaplin demonstrates that his comedic voice is undiminished by dialogue in this rousing satire of tyranny, which may be more distinguished by its uplifting humanism than its gags.

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 40

95%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 43,617
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Movie Info

"This is the story of the period between two world wars--an interim during which insanity cut loose, liberty took a nose dive, and humanity was kicked around somewhat." With this pithy opening title, Charles Chaplin begins his first all-talking feature film, The Great Dictator. During World War I, a Jewish barber (Chaplin) in the army of Tomania saves the life of high-ranking officer Schultz (Reginald Gardiner). While Schultz survives the conflict unscathed, the barber is stricken with amnesia and bundled off to a hospital. Twenty years pass: Tomania has been taken over by dictator Adenoid Hynkel (Chaplin again) and his stooges Garbitsch (Henry Daniell) and Herring (Billy Gilbert). Hynkel despises all Jews and regularly wreaks havoc on the Tomanian Jewish ghetto, where feisty Hannah (Paulette Goddard) lives. Meanwhile, the little barber escapes from the hospital and instinctively heads back to his cobweb-laden ghetto barber shop. Unaware of Hynkel's policy towards Jews (in fact, he's unaware of Hynkel), the barber gets into a slapstick confrontation with a gang of Aryan storm troopers. He is rescued by his old friend Schultz, now one of Hynkel's most loyal officers. Thanks to Schultz's protection, the ghetto receives a brief respite from Hynkel's persecution. The barber sets up shop again, developing a warm platonic relationship with the lovely Hannah. But things take a sorry turn when Hynkel, angered that a Jewish banker has refused to finance his impending war with Austerlitz, begins bearing down again on the Ghetto. Near the end of the film, when the dictator is expected to make another one of his hate-filled, war-mongering speeches, the barber steps up to the microphones...and Charles Chaplin drops character and becomes "himself," delivering an impassioned plea for peace, tolerance, and humanity. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Charles Chaplin
as Hynkel/Barber
Jack Oakie
as Napaloni
Henry Daniell
as Garbitsch
Maurice Moscovich
as Mr. Jaeckel
Emma Dunn
as Mrs. Jaeckel
Grace Hayle
as Mme. Napaloni
Carter DeHaven Sr.
as Bacterian Ambassador
Paul Weigel
as Mr. Agar
Chester Conklin
as Barber's Customer
Hank Mann
as Storm Trooper Stealing Fruit
Esther Michelson
as Jewish Woman
Florence Wright
as Blonde Secretary
Eddie Gribbon
as Tomanian Storm Trooper
Rudolph Anders
as Tomanian Commandant at Osterlich
Eddie Dunn
as Whitewashed Storm Trooper
Nita Pike
as Secretary
Peter George Lynn
as Commander of Storm Troopers
Carter DeHaven
as Bacterian Ambassador
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Critic Reviews for The Great Dictator

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (37) | Rotten (3)

  • The first full-blown talkie from the biggest star of the silent era, complete with a message that Chaplin couldn't have sent more loudly or clearly.

    Jun 1, 2011 | Full Review…

    William Goss

    Film.com
    Top Critic
  • Through no fault of Chaplin's, during the two years he was at work on the picture dictators became too sinister for comedy.

    Sep 3, 2010 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Chaplin is at his most profound in suggesting that there is much of the Tramp in the Dictator, and much of the Dictator in the Tramp.

    Sep 3, 2010 | Full Review…
  • Like all major Chaplin works, Dictator was a cheaply, but methodically, made film, a cardboard act of humanist defiance, and, thanks to its purity of purpose, the cheesier the jokes get, the harder they land.

    Dec 23, 2009 | Full Review…
  • It's when he is playing the dictator that the comedian's voice raises the value of the comedy content of the picture to great heights.

    Oct 9, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • The representation of Hitler is vaudeville goonery all the way, but minus the acid wit and inventive energy that Groucho Marx managed.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Great Dictator

  • Apr 30, 2016
    It's a little less great than people are willing to admit (a lot of Chaplin's comedic sensibilities at this time were still entrenched in antics that work better in silent movies) but there's so much to admire here and the parody of Nazi Germany holds up remarkably well.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 02, 2013
    At a moment in time when the horrors of Hitler were not necessarily known to all, Chaplin provides an entertaining educational piece warning of the impending threat out of Germany. It was likely also the first film to highlight the plight of the Jews under Nazi occupation. Chaplin captures the essence of Hitler and provides the rest of the world with a reason to resist.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 03, 2012
    I've been a Charles Chaplin fan since I was a child, and watching this for the first time solidified my belief that he's the king of slapstick. Bean, Keaton, and The Stooges are all great, but this man is the klutz you can't rely on. The film parodied the WWII dictators, and life in the earlier ghettos. A lot of people seem to prefer one to another, while the scenes had more to follow, the dictator scenes had the laughs. The chair scene was comedy gold, no one can mock Nazis like Chaplin, well Mel brooks, but thats his main gig. The end was so unbelievably beautiful and unimaginably relevant today. That was the greatest speech delivered in a film. Show this film and Duck Soup to the young people of the world, and we will have world peace.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Apr 29, 2012
    Chaplin's greatest and contains the best speech a politician never made.
    Jon H Super Reviewer

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