Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Great Dictator (1940)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Great Dictator (1940)

In director/actor Charlie Chaplin's controversial political (anti-war) slapstick comedy satire on world conditions and fascism at the start of World War II (it was Chaplin's first all-talking feature film), the lampooning of Adolf Hitler (in the role of Adenoid Hynkel) and The Third Reich - it was Chaplin's last film with the Little Tramp character:

  • the scene of unnamed Jewish ghetto barber (Charlie Chaplin), actually an amnesiac soldier from WWI (who spent two decades in a military hospital) who returned to his anti-Semite police-state (Tomainia) with storm-troopers (functioning under a symbol of a "Double Cross"), and was seen shaving a customer in his barber shop, in time to a radio broadcast of Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5
  • the early caricatured scene of an exaggerated nonsense speech, delivered in mock-German by egomaniacal Hitler look-alike, the tyrannical Tomainian dictator Adenoid Hynkel (also Charlie Chaplin) with wild gestures; his confused double-talk and gutteral words were translated briefly by an overly-concise English-speaking news voice-over when he finished ("His Excellency has just referred to the Jewish people")
  • the comically-tense scene in which Commander Schultz (Reginald Gardiner) instructed five Jewish locals (one of whom was the barber) to be part of a sacrificial lottery selection process - to pick an assassin to eliminate the fascist Adenoid Hynkel; the individual who found a coin in one of five small pudding cakes would face a suicide mission; the barber painfully consumed three coins (only to hiccup them out at the last moment, like winnings spit out from a slot machine); the joke was that all of the cakes contained a coin and the participants kept trying to secretly pass the coins off to the others
  • the comedic scene of Hitler-like Adenoid Hynkel and Mussolini-like Benzino Napaloni (Jack Oakie) of Bacteria, seated adjacent to each other in adjustable barber's chairs as they competed to be higher in their adjacent chairs
  • the sublime mock ballet sequence of Herr Hynkel uniformed in his Hitler-like outfit in his imperial palace office - an "emperor of the world" ballet/dance performance with a giant, balloon-like floating globe of the world; it was a visual, satirical metaphor of the world he hoped to dominate; at the end of the dance, as he held out the conquered world, it suddenly exploded in front of his face - he picked up the tattered rubber rag - all that was left of his world; distressed, he whirled around, put his head on his desk, and with his back to the camera, he burst into tears
Hynkel Dancing With World Globe Balloon
  • in the film's infamous closing, the "Look up, Hannah" anti-fascist, pro-democracy speech about hope and human rights made by the Jewish barber, fakely impersonating Hynkel; the speech was heard around the world on the radio and by now-persecuted refugee Hannah (Paulette Goddard), the barber's Jewess-laundress neighbor, and by her adoptive family; the passionate speech was delivered to confront the imminent threat to world civilization from Nazi dictatorship, and to plead for human brotherhood: ("Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up, Hannah! The clouds are lifting! The sun is breaking through! We are coming out of the darkness into the light! We are coming into a new world, a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed and brutality. Look up, Hannah! The soul of man has been given wings and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow! Into the light of hope! Into the future, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me, and to all of us. Look up, Hannah! Look up!"); the sequence ended with Hannah in a silhouetted side shot, looking up heavenward
"Look up, Hannah" Final Speech

Jewish Barber Shaving Customer

Adenoid Hynkel's Mock-German Speech

Coins in Pudding Cake Scene

Dueling Barber Chairs Between Hynkel and Napaloni


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