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10 Documentaries about dictators to watch before ‘How To Become A Tyrant’ drops on Netflix

While we wait eagerly for the show to drop, here are 10 similar movies and documentaries to stream across OTTs

Audita Bhattacharya
Jul 07, 2021
 
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How to Become A Tyrant is an upcoming docuseries, season 1 of which is going to premiere on Netflix on uly 9. Starring Peter Dinklage, the series will follow the absolute rise to power of some of the biggest dictators of all times. While we wait eagerly for the show to drop, here are 10 similar movies and documentaries to stream across OTTs :

  • The Great Dictator

The perfect example of Chaplin's wit, this parody of one of the greatest dictators of all time, Hitler, is considered by many as a masterpiece. The five-minute speech at the end of the movie has inspired many to do their own versions and takes of it. Ironically, there's no satire in the speech. Chaplin plays both the dictator and a persecuted Jewish barber in this film. It's a delightful comedy and a grim agitprop drama all in one. The first full blown talkie from the biggest star of the silent era, this 1940 film received five Oscar nominations and has immortalised itself in history.

  • The Last King of Scotland

Kevin Macdonald's film about the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin makes for a provocative and harrowing narrative. Taken from the point of view of a young Scottish doctor, the film is a captivating thriller. The adequate amount of gore (if there ever was such a thing) along with James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker, make for a cinematic masterpiece. This 2006 film doesn't shy away from the truth behind Amin's regime. The dynamics of power and politics depicted led to Whitaker winning the Academy over with his performance. The film is violent yet captivating and makes for an absolute must watch.

  • Schindler's List

There are very few films more powerful than this 1993 Academy Award winner for Best Picture. Spielberg's film follows an Austrian industrialist who saved Jews from Nazi camps. A holocaust movie that actually managed to move the western audience with the girl in the red trenchcoat providing the perfect contrast against the black and white of the rest of the film. A metaphor for the world watching the atrocities unfold before their own eyes yet doing nothing about it. The film is sentimental, beautifully crafted and Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson are absolutely terrific. It's a chilling narrative that you can stream on Netflix right now.

  • The Perfect Dictatorship

This 2014 political satire set in Mexico addresses the 'Chinese Box', the strategy to distract citizens from the real issues. Luis Estrada's black comedy, The Perfect Dictatorship, begins with this statement: “In this story, all the names are fictitious. The facts, suspiciously true. Any similarity with reality is not mere coincidence.”

The director told the Washington Post that this is the first film in the history of Mexican cinema that satirises the President. The film title is a reference to a famous statement by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa that he used to describe the continuous governments of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which dominated politics in Mexico for much of the 20th Century.

  • How to stage a coup

Literally, a guide to human history as we know it, the movie traces mankind under Julius Caesar to Napoleon and from Mussolini to Hitler. Described by many as not just educational but inspirational, the film sees the world from the eyes of those who dared to change it. Regrettably so. The way the military, bureaucracy and the media are controlled, interspersed with sprinkles of trivia Napoleon owned 2 newspapers and the way Catherine the Great used her influence with the Russian imperial guard to depose, and possibly poison to death, her husband Peter the Great (who was Tsar Peter III, not Peter I), make for an interesting watch!

  • The Russian Revolution

An informative and well-researched documentary on the Russian revolution, it goes beyond the 1917 October revolution and brings out details of the Ulyanov family and also provides a backdrop of the Romanovs from the 1880s. It focuses on the path to revolution rather than the reasons behind it, criticising many of the key members. This Netflix original documentary follows Lenin and digs deep into his family, lifestyle. The changing timestamps and the music make it even better. Interspersed with actual footage from history, the viewer can literally see the death of Lenin and the rise of Stalin.

  • The Dictator

Funny and for many, a self-confessed guilty pleasure, Sasha Baron Cohen's Admiral Aladeen is formulaic and scrappy. It's explicit, racist and consistently provocative. The film is intended to shock and outrage the ideals of political decency. The Dictator is a mix of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein and the film draws heavily from Mark Twain's Prince and the Pauper as well as The Great Dictator. Cohen and Ben Kingsley make for a Buster Keaton-esque humour. Watch for a break from all the seriousness and stay for the fluff!

  • The Devil's Double

This underrated thriller shows two hours of Saddam Hussein's psychotic, blood-thirsty, butcher of a son. It is basically a blistering brutal Iraqi Scarface. Dominic Cooper is absolutely brilliant as Uday Hussein, the eldest son of Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Lee Tamahori's The Devil's Double is based on the experiences of Latif Yahia, who was groomed as Uday's double. In this role, he survived no less than a dozen assassination attempts. The movie portrays him as an Iraqi soldier forced to take the job after beatings and threats to his family; he is seen throughout as a respectable figure with contempt for Uday and a good deal of courage in standing up to him.

  • A Twelve-Year Night

The true definition of the triumph of the human spirit. Peace, good governance contrasted against isolation and claustrophobia. This Uruguayan film talks about the civic-military dictatorship of Uruguay, which lasted 12 long years between 1973 and 1985, robbed people of their freedom, dignity and even their lives. Director Alvaro Brechner’s film La noche de 12 años (A Twelve-Year Night) tells the story of three men, José Mujica, Mauricio Rosencof and Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro, who were incarcerated and tortured under the military regime. Among these three men was the future president of the country.

  • Being Napoleon

On the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, thousands of enthusiasts reenact the epic clash. This interesting look into competition, culture and celebration behind historic events makes this feature-length documentary a quirky watch. It's wonderfully filmed and definitely needs to be watched at least once. Brilliant actors and an actual passion for the job, this is truly one of a kind!

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