Review of “The Great Dictator”

Plot Summary

The Great Dictator, written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, who also stars, is a compelling movie. The film begins in a setting that resembles World War I. Charlie Chaplin plays a private in the Tomainian military, and also a barber. Charlie is startled by a cry of help from Schultz, the military commander. He successfully attempts to rescue the military commander. The two board Shultz’s airplane and fly off. Unfortunately, the plane crash lands into a nearby marsh. The two survive, but after being seen by a medical staff, they are told that Tomainia has lost the war.

Twenty years later, Adenoid Hynkel, (who is also played by Chaplin) the new dictator of Tomainia, has begun the persecution of the Jews. The focus then shifts the Charlie’s other character, the barber. He has been in the hospital recovering from memory loss inflicted from the plane crash. When the barber returns to his shop, which is located in a new Jewish Ghetto, he is surprised when storm troopers write “Jew” on the front of his shop. The barber is beaten by storm troopers when a resident of the ghetto named Hannah arrives and comes to his rescue. Then, as the barber is getting beaten for a second time, he is saved by Commander Shultz, who recognizes Charlie from World War I.

It becomes much more apparent that Hynkel is obsessed with world domination. This is shown in particular when Hynkel dances with a large globe. Hynkel plans to invade Osterlich, a neighboring town. He wishes for a loan to fund this invasion but is turned down. He continues his persecution of the Jews when he realizes the man who turned him down for a loan was Jewish.

Hynkel then invites Benzino Napaloni, who is the dictator of Bacteria, to Tomainia. They sign a treaty which establishes that Hynkel would not go through with the invasion. This treaty is immediately broken when Hynkel invades Osterlich anyway. One scene in the movie with great significance is the “great dictator” speech.

What eventually happens in the film is that Hynkel is on a hunting trip and is arrested due to his resemblance to the barber, and the barber who is wearing a Tomainian uniform is mistaken for Hynkel. He is then taken to the capital to give a speech. In the speech he calls for democracy and calls the government officials “Machine men, with Machine mind and Machine hearts.” This is the most moving part of the film.


The Great Dictator is one of the best movies ever made. There is a good mix of drama and comedy, and it gives a relatively accurate description of what happened up to World War II within the context of its humorous nature.  The film is one of great passion, especially expressed during the speech given by the barber in the Tomainian uniform as the “Great Dictator.” The speech was one that called for an end to injustice and one that would inspire people to rise against their exploiters. The film depicts a scenario in which an average man has the ability to speak with passion and compassion. For example, the barbar (dressed as the dictator Hynkel) states, “Power does not rest in one man or a group of men, but in all men, in you the people.” This film expresses passion, history, humor and progressivism. We here at the Red Phoenix recommend this film.

Main Cast
1. Barber + Hynkel – Charlie Chaplin
2. Commander Schultz – Reginald Gardiner
3. Garbitsch – Henry Daniell
4. Herring – Billy Gilbert
5. Hannah – Paulette Goddard

Categories: History, Imperialism, Imperialist War, International, Media & Culture, Movies, Second World War, World History

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