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The Best Hitler Movies made so far

Last updated on: July 28, 2011 15:05 IST

The Best Hitler Movies made so far

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Raja Sen in Mumbai

'Adolf Hitler is still alive,' Jim Morrison slurred on a Boston stage in 1970. 'I slept with her last night.'

The rest of the improvisation made the audience laugh, but they paused for a moment when Jim began.

The very name Adolf Hitler stops us dead in our tracks, and in our cinema, like in nightmares, Hitler is indeed still alive. Whether or not we sleep with her.

A new film called Gandhi To Hitler hits theatres this week, and with that, here's a look at 10 great films featuring on-screen versions of Hitler. Many of them are understandably satirical, since we need to cut monsters down to size in order to fathom them; some are important works of anti-Nazi propaganda; and some feature talking Ducks.

I suggest you try and hunt them out, using Google where Hitler would have used Goebbels.

10. Hitler

Stuart Heisler directed this 1962 feature, notable for putting the spotlight on Adolf's private life. Richard Basehart, who played the Fool in Federico Fellini's La Strada, here played Hitler, with Cordula Trantow as Geli Raubal and Maria Emo as Eva Braun.

It isn't as well-crafted a film as it is an important historical artifact, the first Hitler movie made by the Americans decades after the propaganda years.


Image: A still from Hitler

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9. To Be Or Not To Be

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Later very memorably remade by Mel Brooks, this 1942 Ernst Lubitsch comedy is a masterpiece of both satire and high slapstick.

Set in Poland in 1939 while the Nazis invaded it, the Carole Lombard-Jack Benny film tells the story of a theatre troupe fooling the Gestapo and helping Jews hide from persecution.

Granted, Hitler himself isn't in the film but there is enormous fun to be had with Tom Dugan's character, Bronski, a pompous actor who prides himself on his Hitler impersonation.

Image: A still from To Be Or Not To Be

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8. The Ducktators

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Norman McCabe directed this 1942 short for Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes, and it's worth noting just how Disney-like the ducks look.

A duck with a toothbrush moustache hatches and starts giving furious speeches, and a big fat Italian goose applauds greatly. Hitler Duck and Mussolini Goose are joined by Hirohito Duck, but eventually routed by a duck who fails at talking them into peace.

In the end the cartoon states that to defeat the Axis Powers, all the audience has to do is buy US War Bonds.

Image: A still from The Ducktators

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7. The Bunker

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This 1981 production, directed by George Schaefer, remains noteworthy by dint of Anthony Hopkins' excellent performance as Adolf Hitler in the lead role.

Hopkins, who brings both fallibility and intelligence to the character, was said to be so good in the part that German soldiers on set snapped to attention instinctively, even when he wasn't in costume. Richard Jordan plays Albert Speer, the man who betrayed Hitler.

Image: Movie Poster of The Bunker

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6. Der Feuhrer's Face

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Donald Duck's most important hour came in 1942, with this phenomenal Jack Kinney cartoon which became the only Donald Duck cartoon to win an Oscar.

Set to the music of Wagner, Hitler's favourite composer, the film shows Donald living in a Germanic town where everything is shaped like a swastika, and his house resembles Hitler's face.

He's assaulted by Mein Kampf and Nazi propaganda and has to repeatedly perform the Hitler salute while making artillery shells on an assembly line. The end, with the head of the Third Reich struck by a tomato, is one of cinema's enduring images.

Image: A still from Der Feuhrer's Face

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5. The Producers

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Mel Brooks made his directorial debut in 1968 with this delicious film about two men trying to make the most disastrous Broadway flop.

They zoom in on a play called Springtime For Hitler: A Gay Romp With Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden, a passionate elegy to Hitler written by a Nazi nutcase.

They cast the worst actors and the campiest theatre director but the musical on stage is misconstrued as a satire and -- as any show today with a title that fantastically funny would -- becomes a massive hit, dooming the producers.

Image: Movie Poster of The Producers

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4. You Nazty Spy

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The first Hollywood film to openly critique Hitler and the Nazis, this 1940 classic -- which came a few months before Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator -- features the Three Stooges in the country of Moronica.

Moe plays Hitler, Curly does a variation on Hermann Goring, and Larry plays the Minister of Propaganda, riffing on Joseph Goebbels. The film ends with the three clueless 'leaders' being chased into a lion's den.

Image: A still from You Nazty Spy

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3. Downfall

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Oliver Hirschbiegel set out to make a strong film, and broke a major German taboo by casting a German actor in the role of Adolf Hitler.

It is a fine, deeply stirring film about the last hours of a fallen man, and Ganz is remarkable in the lead role -- so remarkable, in fact, that he has unwittingly become an Internet meme, Hitler for the YouTube generation, getting angry at everything.

So good, in fact, is his portrayal that we see Hitler as a human being, something many critics agreed was an unsettling variation on the man-as-monster symphony we've always heard.

Image: A still from Downfall

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2. Inglourious Basterds

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Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to rampage through history and make a period film about cinema that actually changes history, period.

The film, about a group of ruthless American soldiers who proudly collect Nazi scalps, features the Fuhrer, Goebbels, and the highest ranking men of the Third Reich trapped in a movie theatre by an avenging Jewish heroine who locks them in and sets the place on fire. And she burns them alive using that most inflammable of materials: film.

Image: Movie poster of Inglourious Basterds

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1. The Great Dictator

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The world waited for Charlie Chaplin, king of the silent picture, to finally make a talkie, but when he brought this masterpiece out in 1940, jaws dropped.

The first major film to ridicule Adolf, this film -- which featured Charlie both as a common barber and as Adenoid Hynkel, the merciless dictator of Tomainia -- strikes ruthlessly sharp satirical blows.

Right from Hynkel's double-cross logo instead of the swastika to the sublime scene where he dances to Wagner with a giant inflatable globe -- which eventually pops in his hands -- this truly is cinema at its bravest.

 


Image: Movie poster of The Great Dictator

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