- Directors: Charles Chaplin, Wheeler Dryden
- Producers: Charles Chaplin
- Writers: Charles Chaplin
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, War
- Actors: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie
The film begins during World War I. Chaplin, as an unnamed Jewish private in the army of the fictional nation of Tomainia (allusion to ptomaine poisoning), valiantly attempts to rescue an officer named Schultz (Reginald Gardiner), only to lose his memory when the plane the two had taken off in crashes into a tree. Schultz escapes from the wreckage, and the young private spends the next 20 years in the hospital, thoroughly oblivious to the changes that are taking place in Tomainia: Adenoid Hynkel (cf. Adolf Hitler, Chaplin in a double role), now the ruthless dictator of Tomainia, has undertaken to persecute Jews throughout the land, aided by ministers Garbitsch (cf. Joseph Goebbels) (played by Henry Daniell) and Herring (cf. Hermann GГ¶ring) (played by Billy Gilbert).
The amnesiac soldier returns to his barbershop in the Jewish ghetto, still unaware of the political situation, and is shocked when storm troopers paint “Jew” on the windows of his shop. In the ensuing scuffle with the stormtroopers, he finds a friend, and ultimately a love interest, in Hannah (Paulette Goddard), a beautiful resident of the ghetto.
Meanwhile, Schultz, who has come up in the ranks in the intervening 20 years, recognizes the barber (who is reminded of WWI by Schultz and therefore gets his memory back) and, though surprised to find him a Jew, orders the storm troopers to leave him and Hannah alone. Hynkel, in addition, has relaxed his stance on Tomainian Jewry in an attempt to woo a Jewish financier into giving him a loan. Egged on by Garbitsch, Hynkel has become obsessed with the idea of world domination. (In one famous scene, he dances with a large, inflatable globe to the tune of a theme from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin). On Garbitsch’s advice, Hynkel has planned to invade the neighboring country of Osterlich (likely a corruption of Г–sterreich, the German name for Austria) and needs the loan to finance the invasion. Eventually, the financier refuses, and Hynkel reinstates his persecution of the Jews, this time to an even greater extent.
Hannah hears the barber’s speech on the radio, and is amazed when “Hynkel” addresses her directly: “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” .