Our Top Ten Berlin Films will take you on a captivating journey through a century of the German capital’s cinematic history. From gripping action, poignant drama, tragedy, heroism to hedonistic highs the following movies are as varied as the city itself. From Academy Award winners to indie cult classics, we’ve curated the list to offer a broad scope of subject matter, starting with the present day and continuing back through the ages. So, grab some popcorn, sit back and get inspired by our Top Ten Berlin Films – Viel Spaß!
Reunified Berlin Films
Great acting, a gripping story line, ambitious directorial vision and perfect execution – sometimes a film just nails it. Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria, incredibly shot in one 138 minute long take, is one such occasion. The film follows Victoria (Laia Costa) a Spanish Barista in Berlin, as a chance meeting during a night out leads to her being embroiled in a serious crime. As the viewer is whisked along for the ride we get to see Berlin in all it’s hedonistic, nocturnal and grimy glory.
Berlin Calling (2008)
Shortly before the release of his breakthrough album, electronic DJ Ickarus (played by real life DJ Paul Kalkbrenner) suffers a drug induced mental breakdown which lands him in a psychological institution. Something like Trainspotting meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, this film not only offers an insight into the sweaty strobe-lit pits of Berlin’s night clubs – it also offers a warning of the dangers of living in excess.
Run Lola Run (1998)
This inspired film from innovative German director Tom Twyker, combines stylish direction, inventive visuals and a driving original soundtrack to create a cinematic experience which still seems exciting today. The crimson haired Lola (Franka Potente) is on a one woman race against the clock to save her boyfriend Manni from disaster. A break neck adventure through the streets of Berlin.
Divided Berlin Films
Goodbye Lenin (2003)
East Berlin, 1989. When his mother wakes from a coma, Alex must go to extreme lengths to keep her from discovering that the Berlin wall has fallen and the country she so dearly loved is no more. A heart warming, hilarious and sentimental look at what happened when East was forced to become West.
B Movie: Lust & Sound (2015)
Britsh-born Berliner Mark Reeder recounts his raucous experiences in wild West Berlin. Through archive clips, home movies and re-enacted scenes, B Movie lifts the lid on the unfettered party scene of the marooned city in the eighties. The post-punk soundtrack stitches the scenes together pefectly with many legendary Berlin residents of the era making cameos. The film closes with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the city’s emergence as Europe’s capital of a new musical movement – Techno.
The Lives of Others (2006)
It’s 1984 in East Berlin. A disillusioned Stasi (secret police) operative, grows affectionate towards the couple he is supposed to be observing. As the tension mounts, we witness the transformation of a devout communist ideologue to someone willing to no only protect but aid an active enemy of the state. This riveting, heartfelt and human portrayal of life in communist East Germany won international acclaim, including the Academy Award for best foreign language film in 2007.
Nazi Berlin Films
Oliver Hirschbiegel‘s critically acclaimed masterpiece paints a harrowing picture of life and death in the Nazi capital during the final days of the Third Reich. The action is set primarily in the Führerbunker, the Nazi leader’s last command post, 8 metres beneath the war torn city, Bruno Ganz’s mind blowing performance as Adolf Hitler is one of the great portrayals of an historic figure and a standout among many incredible performances. Harrowing, yet necessary viewing.
The Counterfeiters (2007)
Based on the memoirs by Jewish Slovak Holocaust survivor Adolf Burger, this academy award winning film tells the tale of Operation Bernhard, a Nazi attempt to flood the British economy with forged pound Notes, throwing the country into chaos. Although the plan was never completed, the top secret operation, undertaken in Sachsenhausen concentration camp just outside Berlin, was the largest counterfeiting scheme in history. A unique tale of survival, death and resistance in the SS’s “model” concentration camp.
The Invisibles (2017)
In early June 1943, Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels declared Berlin to be “Judenrein” – pure of Jews. Unbeknownst to him, and much of the Nazi capital’s populace – around 7,000 Jewish residents remained in hiding. Splicing survivor interviews with re-enacted scenes, the Invisibles tells the incredible stories of four such “U-Boote” or “submarines” as they were known, who refused to accept their fate as dictated by Hitler’s regime and eked out an existence right under the noses of the dreaded SS and Gestapo.
Weimar Berlin Films
Bob Fosse’s multiple Oscar winning classic follows the exploits of vivacious cabaret singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minelli) and mild mannered PhD student Brian Roberts (Michael York) as they navigate life, love and lust in depression era Berlin. Inspired by the writing of Christopher Isherwood, the film portrays the heedless decadence of the city during the death throes of democracy and the rise of Nazism.
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)
Shot in 1927, Walter Ruttmann’s silent film offers a breathless portrayal of life in Berlin at the peak of the Golden Twenties. Whether it’s a pigeon race, industrial machinery or a night club being portrayed, the perpetual movement brilliantly captures the frenetic momentum of the Hauptstadt two years before the Wall street crash.A timeless and important film in which Berlin is well and truly the star.