German Films

Since the birth of filmmaking, more than 100 years ago, the cinema of Germany have always been among the leaders when it comes to creative and artistic trends.  Film is seen as art rather than business. This has resulted in a lot of interesting films and a number of masterpieces.

Fritz LangStill from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The very first science fiction film made in 1927.

Germany’s population has the last 100 years experienced stormy changes in the form of wars, hyperinflation, totalitarianism, poverty, territorial changes etc. These themes are widely covered in German cinema, and especially films about DDR and contemporary Berlin are in my good books.

In this article I will cover:

How To Benefit from Watching German Films

On Average, a film contains between 5,000 and 10,000 words. That’s a huge amount of words, and since it’s easier to concentrate while watching a film compared to reading through a textbook, there is potential to expand your vocabulary with an awful amount of words if you watch German films on a regular basis.

watching-tvJust sitting there, relaxing, but still learning German. Photo: Anastasia

It’s a good idea to a grab a pen and a piece of paper and write a few words and sentences down during the film. Things just stick easier to the brain if you write it down. Moreover, do also re-watch films a few times once in a while, as it’s easier to understand certain words the second time your hear them.

After speaking and singing German, the next best thing you can do to improve your pronunciation is to listen to it. A film usually last close two hours, so it’a good long listening exercise, and if you feel entertained, then it’s just even better. You concentrate much better when you feel entertained.

Do also try to imitate some of the lines, while you watch the film, especially if it’s something funny, angry, or emotional in some other way.

DownfallEmotional sentences, like the one above, are the best to practise if you want to improve your pronunciation

You can also use films to improve your grammar. Mugging up grammar is usually not very exciting, but as soon as you have learned a few rules, watch a German film. Then listen closely and wait for the grammar you have practised to be used in the film. That will make it stick. I usually write between two and five grammar rules down.

Films improves every aspect of learning German, and therefore, you should plenty of them. I would say go for at least two films a week and try sometimes to have a week where you watch one German film every day.

Stream Free German Films

1) It’s easy. Go into and search for the film title.

2)  Click on search tools and change duration to 20 minutes plus.

Thus, you can watch quite many German films completely free.

free-german-filmsSimple and easy. Try it yourself. 

My Personal Top 10 of German Films

Good Bye LeninGood Bye Lenin

1) Good Bye Lenin! – 2003
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It’s such an amusing and heart-warming comedy film. A dedicated communist mother from East Germany falls into a coma shortly before the fall of the Berlin wall. 8 months after she wakes up as a citizen of a new country. Her heart is weak and to protect her from a heart attack her son keep her from learning that the communist era is over.

2) Das Leben der Anderen (Eng. The Lives of the Others) – 2006
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When Das Leben der Anderen was released in 2006,  it took film festivals and award shows with storm. It for instance won the Academy Award for best foreign film, and it’s easy to see why. It’s simply a dramatic masterpiece. A stasi agent conducts surveillance on a writer and his lover, but gets increasingly interested in their private affairs. 

3) Der Himmel Über Berlin (Eng. Wings of Desire) – 1987
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This is a quite special film, who many probably will find a slightly sad and boring. What I love about this film is this big-city romanticism, which pervades the story. It’s about two angels who wander around Berlin and look up its inhabitants. One later falls in love and wants to become mortal.

The White RibbonThe White Ribbon.

4) Das weiße Band – Eine Deutsche Kindergeschichte (Eng. The White Ribbon) – 2009
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It won the Palme d’Or and Golden Globe for best foreign film. According to its maker, Michael Haneke, the film is about the roots of evil, and there is certainly a lot of evil in the film. Death, sexual abusing, mysteries disappearances of people etc. rages a small North German town in the years up to the First World War.

5) Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (Eng. Christiane F.) – 1981
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An 80s cult classic and a very honest portrait of Christiane, who in the start of the film is a quite normal teenage girl interested in what teenage girls are normally interested in. Music, fashion, boys etc. Heroine is getting increasingly popular among her friends, and one day she tries it herself. She later becomes addicted and must go through a lot of pain and misery.

6) Der Untergang (Eng. Downfall) – 2004
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Perhaps the most breath-taking WW2 film ever made. The acting is great, and it is so well produced that you feel like being with Hitler in his bunker. And you are also going to share his pain and anger. It’s scary to think about, isn’t it?

Funny GamesFunny Games

7) Funny Games – 1997
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A not so funny film featuring two psychopaths who imprison a family in their own house to play sadistic games with them. It starts out a little silly, slowly gets more unconformable, and Oh god, oh god…

8) Die Welle (Eng. The Wave) – 2008
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A high school teacher forms a movement to demonstrate what a dictatorship is all about for his class. His students get more and fascinated by him as a leader and the solidarity, which rises among the students. It gets out of hand, and the students begin to start activities outside their classroom.  At times, it’s a little overdone, but the film has some great points and is highly entertaining.

9) Lola Rennt (Eng. Run Lola Run) – 1998
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Have you ever thought about how life would be if it was a computer game? Lola’s boyfriend has lost a bag containing 100,000 D-Mark, which belongs to a hard-core gangster. He is standing in front of a Supermarket, and if Lola doesn’t have the money within 20 minutes, he will rob it. 

Jenseits Der StilleBeyond Silence.

10) Jenseits der Stille (Eng. Beyond Silence) – 1996
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A touching film about Lara, who falls in love with the world of music. However, her parents are deaf, and especially her father finds it difficult to see her daughter being so absorbed with something he can’t share with her. Later Lara’s mother dies, which doesn’t make things easier.

How To Watch More German Films As Cheap As Possible

Isn’t it great that you can watch so many films for free? For sure it is, but there are downsides to free film streaming. The selection is good, but not perfect, and the audio and video quality are usually not something to write home about.

For a fixed monthly amount, you can sign up for a DVD rental and get a perfect selection of films and you can watch it all in DVD or Blu-ray quality.

I use, which is a DVD rental by mail service,  and for 12 pounds per month I can rent as many films as I want to. I can have two films home at the same time, and I can even rent German films produced in the 1920s. How cool is that? I don’t only use it for German films obviously, and you shouldn’t either.

Lovefilm(.de) are also based in Germany, and I have heard good things about Netflix’s rental by mail service in the US. There are many other shops, which offer rental subscriptions. Some of them are internet based, some of them are not.

The internet based are quite easy to find. Search for DVD rental, or DVD verleih/videothek if you live in Germany, and you’ll find what there is available in your country.

Most psychical chains do also offer rental subscriptions. Search for the same keywords, check following before you subscribe:

  • How many films you can have home at the same time
  • If you can ask for films to be delivered to your nearest store
  • That they have a decent rating on

Really do yourself this favour. It doesn’t cost much, when you keep the outcome in mind.


Films are the best gateway to become fluent in German… Photo: Myka


Links for Discovering More German Films
IMDB is probably the best website to look up films. Especially the user generated content is amazing. As an example, take a look at these lists:
The national information center for the promotion of German films.

Wikipedia – Cinema of Germany
A  historical overview of German cinema.

Film School Rejects – Search: German
One of my favourite film websites, which often come around world cinema.
Check which films that are the most popular at the moment in Germany.

Die Zeit – Films Reviews
Die Zeit is my favourite German newspaper. They do also have an excellent section for film.