Maniacal dictator Adenoid Hynkel plots to take over the world, while
a poor Jewish barber and his friends challenge his tyrannical regime.
The Great Dictator (1940)
Written and Directed by Charles Chaplin
Starring Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie, Reginald Gardiner, Henry Daniell, Billy Gilbert, Maurice Moscovitch
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Charles Chaplin), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Oakie), Best Original Screenplay,
Best Original Score (Meredith Wilson)
The Great Dictator may just be Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece. It's a vicious send-up of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime, and it was made smack-dab in the middle of World War II. Hitler definitely saw this movie, and I bet it pissed him off. This film was so ambitious and dangerous that no studio wanted to produce it. Chaplin ended up paying for it out of pocket, and it was the biggest hit of his career. Chaplin plays dual roles in evil dictator Adenoid Hynkel and a poor Jewish barber who gets swept up in the new regime of his native Tomainia. Despite his legendary perfectionism when it came to his films, Chaplin always produced incredible films that stand the test of time, and The Great Dictator is one of his best.
The film's two most famous scenes are Hynkel's speech in mock German, mocking Hitler's rallys, and the barber's speech at the end, condemning tyranny and praising humanity. These two scenes do a great job of bookending a film that is equal parts satire and eye-opening drama. Remember, this was released in 1940, when the world was in the midst of fighting a war for its very survival. Most of the world didn't know the full extent of the Nazis' crimes, nor was the full scope of the Holocaust known to world leaders outside of Hitler's inner circle. The fact that Chaplin was willing to point out the absurdity and horrors of the so-called Final Solution is really a testament to the man's unwillingness to compromise for his vision.
The performances are all great, and obviously Chaplin kills it in both of his roles. This film has become one of the most important comedies of the 20th century, and maybe the most brilliant satire ever made. Chaplin was ahead of his time in so many different ways, and his brand of comedy translated brilliantly from silent movies to the talkies. He never lost a step, and even though his personal life was tumultuous, his cinematic genius was incomparable. I adore this movie to death, and I think everyone can find something to take away from it.