The latest sword rattling and (let’s face it) crazy talk emanating from North Korea, and especially from the Democratic People’s Republic’s young, untested head of state differs little in tone and in content from the vividly bellicose rhetoric we’ve come to expect from Pyongyang over the years. After all, North Korea’s leaders over the past seven decades — Kim Il Sung, his son Kim Jong Il and, three times the charm, Kim Jong-un — have all been remarkably eloquent when outlining the ways in which their country’s standing army (the fourth largest in the world) will heroically unleash a “sea of flame” on its enemies.
And yet, as dire as the consequences would obviously be if North and South Korea (and their de facto proxies, the U.S. and China) moved beyond colorful threats and got into a shooting war, one would need a funny bone of stone not to find at least some humor in Kim Jong-un’s picturesque warnings of imminent doom. To be sure, an economically crippled, profoundly militarized, isolated, authoritarian gulag state ruled by a megalomaniac is hardly a laughing matter; but something about any North Korean leader’s manner of expressing himself — with that unique mix of ornery hubris and Pythonesque hyperbole — brings to mind moviedom’s most entertainingly whacked-out rulers.
Here, TIME offers a look at 10 cinematic leaders — historical and fictional, monstrous and embraceable — who remind us that the line between utterly crazy and genuinely charismatic is not merely thin. Sometimes it’s downright invisible.
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