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2,149 Ratings

To Be or Not to Be

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
United States, 1942
Comedy, War


When the Nazis invade Poland, a group of actors with a lot of Nazi uniforms on their hands find a new role to play. As a spy arrives in Warsaw to give the Nazis his latest information, the actors, led by Joseph and Maria, lead the Nazis a merry dance with various charades, rescues and escapes.

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To Be or Not to Be Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Lubitsch’s masterful wartime satire has had many imitators, including Mel Brooks’s 1983 remake and Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but none matches the original’s audacity and effortless blend of comedy and drama.
January 18, 2017
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No film about Hitler and the war was as direct in its approach to the subject at the time as To Be or Not To Be. Nor was any film about Hitler and the war as funny. Part of this is the genius of its director, Ernst Lubitsch, who simply couldn’t be prevented from making things funny. Was the popular sentiment against Nazism ever furnished with a more compelling punchline than “heil myself!”, which the Führer says flatly after a battery of salutations come his way?
April 10, 2016
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Now, with the benefit of time’s remedial passing and decades worth of hindsight, Ernst Lubitsch’s classic stands as an entertaining, surprisingly audacious, and powerfully poignant comic gem. One of the great filmmaker’s final features (he would pass away just five years later), it is today most shocking not so much for the comedy itself, but rather the abrupt yet effortless shifts in tone, from screwball hysterics to genuinely austere observations.
July 29, 2015
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