The Great Dictator is a 1940 American satirical comedy-drama film written, directed, produced, scored by, and starring British comedian Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other films. Having been the only Hollywood filmmaker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, Chaplin made this his first true sound film.
Chaplin’s film advanced a stirring condemnation of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, fascism, antisemitism, and the Nazis. At the time of its first release, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany and neutral during what were the early days of World War II. Chaplin plays both leading roles: a ruthless fascist dictator and a persecuted Jewish barber.
The Great Dictator was popular with audiences, becoming Chaplin’s most commercially successful film. Modern critics have praised it as a historically significant film, one of the greatest comedy films ever made and an important work of satire. Chaplin’s climactic monologue has frequently been listed by critics, historians and film buffs as perhaps the greatest monologue in film history, and possibly the most poignant recorded speech of the 20th century. In 1997, it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The Great Dictator was nominated for five Academy Awards – Outstanding Production, Best Actor, Best Writing (Original Screenplay), Best Supporting Actor for Jack Oakie, and Best Music (Original Score).