by Matt Adler
But the beloved Admiral General is far from the only despot to reign over the big screen throughout the years, so as a celebration of this momentous occasion in his glorious reign, we thought it might be instructive (not to mention entertaining) to take a look a back at some of filmdom’s other most feared (or mocked) tyrants.
Pharaoh Rameses II
A heavyweight among our lineup of autocrats, Rameses II has roots that are not just historical, but biblical to boot. But it was the screen presence of Yul Brynner that brought him to life in modern times, as the vindictive and arrogant Pharaoh in 1956’s “The Ten Commandments,” who just doesn’t know when to quit, even after Moses (Charlton Heston) tells him to “Let my people go!”
Now, granted, the esteemed Doctor Evil doesn’t actually have a nation or throngs of subjects to rule over. But he does have a doctorate from Evil Medical School, absolute control over a global megacorporation, a passel of fearful lackeys eager to obey his every whim (or else get dropped into a pit of fire), and he’s come pretty close to conquering the world on a few occasions, throughout the “Austin Powers” film series. Combine all that with a management style that competes with some of the worst bosses in history, and you’ve got the makings of a tyrant that moviegoers won’t soon forget.
Big Brother. A phrase so iconic, it’s made it into our lexicon, not just as the name of a reality show, but as a synonym for absolute control over our daily lives. So who better to appear on a list of film tyrants than the original Big Brother, from the film adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel “1984”? The movie brings to life Orwell’s warnings about totalitarianism, and as portrayed in the film by actor Bob Flag, Big Brother isn’t so much of a person, as an idea; you are being watched, and therefore you must obey.
Sometimes a tyrant doesn’t just prove their bonafides through their harsh rule, but by the means they came to power. Certainly that’s the case in the films of the Star Wars Universe, where an ambitious Senator named Palpatine secretly used his powers as a Dark Lord of the Sith to subvert democracy, lure a young Anakin Skywalker to the dark side, exterminate his opponents, and set himself up as the Galactic Emperor. In the end, as tyrants tend to do, he meets a violent end, but not before cementing his place in movie history.
Sacha Baron Cohen isn’t the first person to have taken a look at real world dictators and decided they need to be taken down a peg or two. 1940’s “The Great Dictator,” starring screen legend Charlie Chaplin (who also wrote and directed the film), mercilessly ridicules the pompous Adenoid Hynkel, a not-so subtle parody of the real-life dictator who at that very time posed a threat to the entire world. Although the world would eventually discover the full and horrific extent of that dictator’s ambitions, Chaplin’s gutsy move to take on one of the world’s most feared men proved that comedy can be one of the greatest weapons in the fight against those who rely on unquestioning obedience.
Who is your favorite film tyrant? Let us know what you think in the comments section below or hit us up on Twitter!