It’s Debate Day here on Trope and Dagger and we’re picking the Most Rousing Speech in Film! To read up on Andy’s erroneous selection, go here: Incorrect Things. Now, let me enlighten and inspire you!
When was the last time you heard a speech that really moved you? In film, we hear speeches intended to inspire quite often, those with the intent to rouse the masses or rally the troops, but it’s one in maybe fifty that truly stick with us, much less can be called the most rousing speech in film history. It’s difficult to pick one over all the rest, but that’s what I’m tasked with doing this week.
There are many great speeches in film to choose from. Many tremendous monologues that make you want to take up arms and storm the battlements for glory and honor. Some have you crying “Freedom!” some have you cancelling the apocalypse, some have you celebrating independence day, and those are all well and good.
But there is one speech that stands above the rest. The original film speech. The one that started them all. That speech is from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator.”
Wow. Did you take that in? Did you really absorb it? Did you even know that Chaplin had that in him? Go for a second round, it’s worth it. I’ll wait.
…How was that? Good stuff, right? The best. It should be obvious why by simply watching and listening to the speech, but I’ll go ahead and break down why this speech is truly historic.
In the film “The Great Dictator,” Charlie Chaplin plays both Adenoid Hynkel, the dictator of Tomainia (which is a parody of Hitler and Germany), and an unnamed Jewish barber. When Hynkel is mistaken for the barber and arrested and the barber is mistaken for Hynkel, the barber must assume the dictator’s place and reluctantly deliver a speech in order to save his and his friend’s lives.
The resulting speech is the finest speech ever filmed, and Chaplin deserves a place in history for his words. The character’s opening lines are meek, humble, about how he doesn’t want to subjugate or lord over anyone. He speaks with emotion, having lived under someone’s boot, knowing that the masses don’t want that. He knows that humanity is capable of so much more, that humanity’s capacity for good far outweighs its capacity for evil, even if evil seems much more prevalent.
And then he picks up steam, realizing that he has the ability to reach out to millions, that he has the ear of entire nations at the moment and much more than that, can sway their hearts. His voice is reaching more than their ears, and he seizes the moment to try and illustrate just how lucky humans are and how we should be working to make the world a better place for all. And boy does he let ‘em have it.
It’s amazing and devastating how everything Chaplin said in this film holds true to this day. Even now, in this country, we have to fight against corruption and the immeasurable greed of some people. Granted, the world today is better than it has ever been (Really, it is. Look it up), but there are still places in the world where good people are killed or forced to fight for unrighteous causes. Where men are sent to die for the immoral desires of others. And because of places and people like those, this speech still rings true.
While the speech is the most rousing speech in film history purely by the quality of the words and the conviction of the delivery, if you look at the world in the film and the world at the time the film was released, you really get an idea of how important this speech is. This was released while World War 2 was happening in Europe. Hitler was in power during filming and during release, and when this film went into production, the United States hadn’t even entered the war yet. But Chaplin still made this film, a strong condemnation of Hitler, the Nazis and the Axis powers, and its release was a resounding success amongst the people of the world. The words in this speech are a rallying cry not only to the inhabitants of the film, but to the peoples of the world. And damn did they rally. (Not that it was this film that did it, but I’m sure it helped.)
This speech is the greatest rousing speech in film history, bar none. It is the antithesis of everything that history’s most truly monstrous man ever preached. Everyone remember: that moustache is the Charlie Chaplin moustache. Hitler can straight up suck it.
“Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! In the name of democracy, let us all unite!”