The Great Dictator
Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.Join Britannica's Publishing Partner Program and our community of experts to gain a global audience for your work!
The Great Dictator, American comedy film, released in 1940, that Charlie Chaplin both acted in and directed. Satirizing Adolf Hitler and Nazism and condemning anti-Semitism, it was Chaplin’s most successful film at the box office.
Chaplin portrayed a Jewish barber who is mistaken for a tyrannical dictator. He plays up the charade and ultimately gives a speech in which he calls for peace and compassion. Chaplin, in a dual role, also played the fascist dictator, modeled after Hitler.
The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s first feature film with full sound. When the movie was released in 1940, the United States was still not officially at war with Nazi Germany. The names of the characters mock the fascist leaders of the day, including “Adenoid Hynkel,” standing in for Hitler, and ministers “Garbitsch” and “Herring,” who were modeled on Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring, respectively. “Benzino Napaloni,” dictator of the neighbouring country of “Bacteria,” was a satirical portrayal of Italy’s Benito Mussolini. One of the film’s most-celebrated scenes features Hynkel dancing with a balloon of the world to the music of Richard Wagner. Chaplin later said he would never have been able to make the film had the true extent of the Nazis’ crimes been widely known.
Production notes and credits
- Studio: United Artists
- Director and writer: Charlie Chaplin
- Music: Meredith Willson
- Running time: 124 minutes
- Charlie Chaplin (Adenoid Hynkel/Jewish Barber)
- Paulette Goddard (Hannah)
- Jack Oakie (Benzini Napoloni)
- Reginald Gardner (Commander Schulz)
- Henry Daniell (Garbitsch)
- Billy Gilbert (Herring)
Academy Award nominations
- Lead actor (Charles Chaplin)
- Supporting actor (Jack Oakie)
Learn More in these related Britannica articles:
satire: Motion pictures and television…target for satire, yet in
The Great Dictator(1940) Charlie Chaplin managed a successful, if risky, burlesque. (Chaplin wrote, however, that, determined as he was to ridicule the Nazi notions of a superrace, if he had known of the horrors of the concentration camps, he could not have made the…
Charlie Chaplin: The sound era: City Lights to Limelight
The Great Dictator(1940) was Chaplin’s most overt political satire and his first sound picture. Chaplin starred in a dual role as a nameless Jewish barber and as Adenoid Hynkel, Dictator of Tomania—a dead-on parody of German dictator Adolf Hitler, to whom Chaplin bore a…
Charlie Chaplin, British comedian, producer, writer, director, and composer who is widely regarded as the greatest comic artist of the screen and one of the most important figures in motion-picture history.…