The Great Dictator (1940) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Great Dictator1940

The Great Dictator (1940)



Critic 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.

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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

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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 (45) | Top Critics (11)

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.

June 1, 2011 | Full Review…

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

September 3, 2010 | Full Review…
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.

September 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.

December 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.

October 9, 2008 | Full Review…

Though the slapstick may seem tired now, there are moments of greatness.

December 30, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Great Dictator


Chaplin's first all-talking picture is this wonderful, hilarious classic that makes a poignant statement against dictatorial regimes with countless memorable moments, from the dictator's speech in incomprehensible German to an unforgettable conclusion.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

When watching this film, the first talkie from mega talented filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, it's all so visceral. Your response, neither weathered by time nor the shame of what was happening at that point in time, is primal. Chaplin here is fusing his talents of comedic slapstick and international propaganda so seamlessly, that you can't distinguish the two, and in the midst of those elements is also a flawless interpretation of human suffering and degradation, laced with hope. This film, from the king of silent comedic films, made his coup de grace at this time, unequalled in his commentary of the Nazi Party, because at the time of production it was unpopular to mince words when you were speaking about the Germans. At the time of release however this was a pivotal motivator for all countries, and still stands as a great form of propaganda and art. Where does the humor towards a dictatorship come from, you ask? Well, Chaplin saw the similarities between himself and Hitler, not just in mustaches but in upbringings. Using his off-brand form of humor he floats through scenes as The Tramp (though now labeled as The Barber), upends the government, makes friends with a traitorous former colleague, and has to grasp to understand the evils of the party in power. The dictator uses anti-Semitism for political gain, giving speeches that sound furious and biting, though in reality none of its in proper German (true to Chaplin's sense of humor). While the Barber is an enlightened, strong-willed, and clumsy Jew on the verge of romance with another in the ghetto, Chaplin also portrays the dictator named Hynckel, who is in direct control of the fake country of Tomania. The differences between the two performances are astounding, not just because one is filled with light humor and the other with cloying hatred. Hynckel is savage in his opinion of Jews while not caring about their fate, tries to take over Europe without much thought, treats women as objects, and lives an opulent lifestyle. Some of the scenes truly show the deranged political power of Hynckel while masking any resemblance to Chaplin's adopted tramp. The facts of the Nazis' true terror had not fully come into the public sphere, but many people did know about these horrors. Chaplin denies any knowledge of the realities of the camps and wouldn't have made light of them had he known, though this fact is debated. Either way, what is shown onscreen seems to be of the right atmosphere and a little easier to digest now that it's been seventy odd years. The film balances between sincere odes to intervention and humane love for one another and full out comedy, including an inspired dance between Hynkel and Hitler's famed globe, in balloon form of course. If you know anything about this film already, it's the ending speech that remains famous. Though I didn't know anything of it prior to watching, it was miraculous, inventive, beautiful, and something else altogether, and can be observed as much no matter what. This film is lovely from all angles, so good it's miraculous, and belies its own reputation, simply creating beauty onscreen.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Brilliant comedy classic starring Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator is a well crafted jab at fascism and is the most outspoken film that Chaplin has ever made. This is a brilliant satire, and a must see film that still holds up to this day. With a great cast at hand, Charlie Chaplin crafts a memorable comedy/ drama film that is a must see for cinema buffs. This was the first major talkie of Chaplin as he veered into new territory. This is a fun, entertaining film that also manages to be critical and smart in exposing the worst that fascism has offered. This is a terrific film that will surely please fans of classic movies, as much as comedy lovers. The film blends elements of drama, comedy and political satire brilliantly to create an outstanding picture that has plenty of laughs and an important message to boot. This is among one of the greatest films ever made and it showcases Chaplin's talents perfectly. I would consider this film as one of the first satires ever filmed. With an effective plot, and wonderful acting by its cast, this is a comedy classic that is a memorable viewing experience, if you want a well crafted satire that is smart, witty, funny and above all critical of policies overseas at the time, and then definitely give this classic a viewing. This is among the most important and significant films made in the long history of cinema. Eye opening and well executed, The Great Dictator is a genre defining picture that definitely is worth your time if you love Chaplin's work or if you're getting into his work, and then this is the perfect place to start.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

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