Germany has always been a key player in the invention and the reinvention of cinema. Just like Germany’s constantly changing political ideals, German Cinema has also been subject to many changes, making it one of the richest, most versatile scenes in the world. From the very first images of Skladanowsky brothers to the fresh perspectives brought by New German Cinema, Germany’s countless contributions in cinema has made this country one of the main creative forces behind the ever-evolving medium. Here is Movie Hunger’s Top 10 List of German Films that have and continue to shape the way we view cinema today:
Top 10 German Films1 of 10
Fritz Lang's masterpiece, Metropolis, is arguably the greatest legacy that the genius of classic cinema has ever left us. Lang's silent sci-fi film is a profound social commentary that explores the duality between the Industrialist society that lives above ground and the subterranean workers that perpetuate their Utopian lifestyle. It has been almost a century since Metropolis has been released, but Fritz Lang's foreshadowing depiction of society rings true to this day, making Metropolis as relevant as it has ever been.
Fritz Lang's first sound film, M tells a story about a child murderer, Hans Beckert, who is hunted by police and criminal mobs after killing a child. After finding Beckert, a beggar writes a huge letter 'M' on his hand for 'murderer' and marks the back of his coat with the letter so that other people could identify him. Beckert is eventually captured and is tried in a people's court. M is one of the first crime movies ever made and has expanded the possibilities with regard to what can and cannot be shown in cinema. Fritz Lang initially encountered resistance from the studios when he told them he was going to make a movie about a murderer, but the overwhelming response from the viewers later allowed him, as well as other film makers, more freedom to show violent elements in cinema.
Alice in the Cities (1974)
Alice in the Cities provides an interesting vantage point of Germany through the eyes of two amiable characters Phillip Winter and his young friend, Alice. Philip Winter returns to Germany after missing his deadline for an article about America. He meets Alice and her mother Lisa, who asks Phillip if she could leave Alice with him. Phillip agrees and waits for Lisa to come back but she never returns. Phillip then takes Alice and accompanies her to different German cities looking for Alice's grandmother. However, the child doesn't remember her grandmother's name nor her address, and the only clue they have is a picture of her grandmother's door. Alice in the Cities is the very first installment of Wim Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy along with Wrong Move (1975) and Kings of the Road (1976).
Nosferatu is lso known as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors, this iconic German expressionist film by F.W. Marnau has inspired countless other movies since it was first shown in 1922. Nosferatu is actually an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, but the movie has become as iconic as the novel itself because of its unequaled creative brilliance. The movie's dramatic use of scare tactics has made it one of the scariest films of all time and the vampire, Nosferatu, still remains one of the most recognized characters in cinema to this day.
Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972)
Werner Herzog has made a lot of films in both fiction and non-fiction genres, but perhaps there is nothing else that truly epitomizes his style than Aguirre: The Wrath of God. Loosely based on the story of the Spanish Conquistador, Lope De Aguirre, the movie utilizes the classic Herzogian man vs. nature theme. Categorized as an 'art film', Aguirre has the all the elements that are typically expected from a highly experimental director such as Herzog. Aguirre's visual aesthetics became the blueprint for Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.
The Wave (2008)
Based on the 1981 made-for-TV movie, The Wave is one of the most intriguing films that has ever come out of Germany in the last few years. The Wave is about a school experiment that attempts to prove that autocracy could still be established in this age. Despite the initial doubts of the students (third generation since the demise of Nazi Germany), the experiment takes a life of its own and goes out of control. The film successfully brings to light the fundamental psychological susceptibilities of society, and the fear that history could indeed repeat itself.
The Lives of Others (2006)
The Lives of Others is the story about an East German spy Gerd Wiesler who wire taps the apartment of playwright Georg Dreyman and his actress girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland. Wiesler finds out that one of his superiors is in a romantic affair with Sieland and plans to get rid of Dreyman. The film is regarded as one of the best thrillers exported from Germany and grossed $77 million, with a $2-million budget.
Wings of Desire (1987)
Shot in color and sepia, Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire is a story about an angel who falls in love with a trapeze artist, and chooses to become a human so he could be united with his love on Earth. Its American remake, City of Angels starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage was made in 1998 and grossed $198 million, bringing Wenders's story to the Hollywood masses. However, even City of Angels cannot match the original film's very distinct visuals and emotional ambiance. Wenders's version is a different kind of experience that should be witnessed all on its own. Wings of Desire is followed by the sequel Far Away, So Close! In 1993.
Never Mind The Wall (2001)
In a politically divided Germany, a woman named Nele meets a punk rocker named Captain. They fall in love but are eventually separated by the Iron Curtain and the stark differences between their lifestyles. Nele lives a restricted life in Communist East Germany, while Captain lives a much more liberal lifestyle in West Germany. When the wall collapses in the 1990, Nele begins her search for her long lost love once more. Never Mind the Wall is a testament to the resilience of love and humanity despite the seemingly insurmountable odds brought upon by political divisions.
Triumph of The Will (1934)
Despite being a propaganda film, Triumph of the Will is undoubtedly one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces Germany has ever produced. Leni Riefenstahl's movie documents important political events in Hitler's Germany in a span of few days. Riefenstahl's distinct approach in this movie has influenced the styles of many movies and documentaries that came after it. Triumph of the Will may be a product of Germany's dark history, but it is still a significant part of history, regardless. Leni Riefenstahl lived to be 103 years old, creating a few more films after her days with the Nazi, but Triumph of the Will, along with her other masterpiece, Olympia, remains to be etched in the minds of many people to this day.