Prior to moving to Germany, I was a member of a German club at my university. I had recently met my now-husband (a German) and was looking to learn the German language. I thought it would be a good idea to join the club so I could get a better grasp on not only the German language, but also the people, history, and culture.
The club hosted conversation nights and promoted local German events and festivals, but I was most interested in the German movie screenings. Every month or so, the club would play a German or German-language movie in a classroom on campus and provide copious amounts of donuts and coffee to keep us caffeinated and sugar-buzzed throughout the screening. Many students were beginner-level German speakers, so they usually played the movies with English subtitles so we could follow along. Some people don’t like foreign language movies, but for me, it’s an excellent, low-stress way to practice my German comprehension and learn about popular themes in German society.
Since my university club days, I’ve watched some more German movies and have compiled a list of my favourites for you.
Recommended German Movies
Good bye, Lenin!
Good bye, Lenin! is a multi award-winning 2003 tragicomedy set in East Berlin in October 1989. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, a young man protects his fragile mother (who has just awoken from a long coma) from learning that her beloved nation of East Germany is no longer. Hilarity ensues as he and his sister attempt to cover up any traces of the new West German influence in their surroundings.
Das Leben der Anderen
Known as The Lives of Others in English, this drama depicts the monitoring of East Berlin residents by agents of the Stasi, the East German secret police. This critically-acclaimed film won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Released 17 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Das Leben der Anderen was the first notably dramatic film about the subject after comedies such as Good bye, Lenin! caught the audience’s attention. The film is hailed for its authenticity and accurate portrayal of the atmosphere of East Berlin in the 1980s.
Gegen die Wand
Germany and Turkey, 2004
Entitled Head-On in English and Duvara Karşı in Turkish, this 2004 German-Turkish drama tells the raw and provocative love story of two Turkish immigrants living in Germany and their conflict of being caught between the traditional and modern.
Germany and Turkey, 2000
Im Juli (known as In July in English) is a 2000 road trip film that follows a shy young teacher as he travels to Istanbul one summer to find the woman he loves. Along the way, he picks up a hitchhiker and street vendor, Juli, who has feelings for him. They travel together across southeastern Europe on his quest to find his true love. But is that person who he thinks it is?
Die Fetten Jahre sind Vorbei
Germany and Austria, 2004
Called The Edukators in English, Die Fetten Jahre sind Vorbei is a 2004 German-Austrian crime drama. Three young anti-capitalists from Berlin invade upper-class homes, rearrange furniture and leave notes behind declaring that “the days of plenty are over”. When accidentally caught mid-invasion, the activists kidnap the home owner and take him to a remote cabin in the Austrian alps. While on the run, the kidnappers discover that their captive was once a radical himself but he has since changed his ways. As they struggle to find a way out of their predicament, a love triangle between the three friends complicates matters. Since its release, Die Fetten Jahre sind Vorbei has become a cult hit in Germany and abroad.
Nirgendwo in Afrika
Nirgendwo in Afrika (translated to Nowhere in Africa in English) is a 2001 German film based on the 1995 autobiographical novel of the same name. The film depicts the life story of a German-Jewish family who emigrated to Kenya in 1938 to avoid persecution by the Nazis. The family struggles to adjust to farm life in a foreign country as the war breaks out in Europe. The film won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and received many more accolades.
What’s your favourite German (or German-language) movie? What are some other great German movies that you can recommend? I’d love to hear in the comments below.