If you’re planning a move to Germany, among other things, you’ll want to have an idea of the country’s history, culture and politics first. Fortunately, rather than consulting textbooks, there are plenty of great movies out there that’ll give you a great glimpse into life as it is and as it has been. Besides, movies are a great way to practice your conversational German outside of the classroom! So here, we have a list of my top five must-watch German-language films.
Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)
This film made waves with movie critics around the world when it was released in 2006. It even won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s got an intriguing plot, fantastic acting, beautiful cinematography and everything else needed to draw the viewer in. The movie follows the life of a playwright in 1980s East Germany who ends up in trouble with the government, which doubts his commitment to the Communist Party. It’s an amazing and authentic look into that period of German history, as well as just being an entertaining, feeling-inducing watch.
Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run)
This quirky 1998 movie is one of the better-known German films. It’s a love-it or hate-it kind of movie. Even if you’re not interested in the plot, which is about a woman trying to collect 100,000 Deutsche Mark in 20 minutes in order to save her criminal boyfriend, it’s one of the easier movies out there to practice your language skills on. The structure of the movie is pretty interesting as well. It’s split into three different parts, showing different scenarios that could happen based on the original phone call that Lola receives. Regardless of how it may appear on the surface, the movie is actually surprisingly deep, touching on themes such as free will vs. determinism, and it features many well-known German actors.
Das Boot (The Boat)
This 1981 drama is well-known among lovers of German cinematography and beyond. It looks at life aboard a World War II U-boat, both during battle and during the long, boring stretches during the hunt, as told by a war correspondent assigned to the sub. Although some critics have claimed that the actors are overly-hysterical in the film, it’s definitely an interesting watch and well put together. For those interested in practicing their German, this film can be especially interesting since half the characters talk in High German, as you would have learned in most schools, while half the characters speak in various dialects.
Nackt unter Wölfen (Naked Among Wolves)
Despite all the horrible things that happened during World War II, there were some amazing stories that came from that time that show the true beauty of humans. This movie, based on the 1958 book by Bruno Apitz, tells the story of a young Polish Jew who is smuggled into Buchenwald Concentration Camp. From that time until the camp’s liberation, the other camp inmates manage to look out for the boy, who would certainly be killed by the camp guards if they were to find him. What’s most impressive, the story is based on real life events—if that doesn’t give you the chills, I don’t know what will! Best of all, this title is up for streaming on the US Netflix site.
Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa)
Another movie based on a true story, this film tells the life of a Jewish family living in Kenya after having fled persecution in 1930s Nazi Germany. Of course, just because they’ve left Germany behind, it doesn’t mean they are unaffected by the war. The movie is an emotional rollercoaster, with the characters struggling both to find their identity in a foreign country, forgive one another for personal differences and much more. This is another Academy Award-winning film, with fantastic cinematography, music and acting, so definitely give it a watch!
Although some people have the mistaken belief that all the good films come out of Hollywood, that’s definitely no longer the case! Germany rolls out some truly wonderful films, and if you’re planning to move to the country, you’ll want to be aware of the culture and history. Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of the German movies that are out there. Have we missed your favorites? Share them in the comments!