Berlin in Film
Watching films set in Berlin is a great way to get a feel for the city that is impossible to achieve by reading a guide book or history text. They offer an insight into the way people lived; their joys and sorrows, and their relationship with the environment they live in.
There have been many films set either wholly or partly in Berlin. Here is a list of our favorites – some date from the early days of silent film when Berlin’s studios were counted as some of the best in the world and show Berlin in all of its pre war majesty. Included are some historical dramas and also some great films set during the period that the Berlin Wall divided the city into East and West.
Berlin: die Sinfonie der Großstadt (Symphony of a Metropolis)
Dir: Walter Ruttmann. 1927
Conceived as a documentary art film, Berlin: die Sinfonie der Großstadt reveals an average day in Berlin. It offers a wonderful insight into the city as it was prior to the destruction of the Second World War.
Das Leben der Anderen (The lives of others)
Dir: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. 2006
Focusing on the life of a STASI (The East German secret service) officer, this film offers a great look into the lengths that the GDR went to, to spy on their own citizens. Beautifully shot, this powerful film is definitely worth watching.
Dir: Wolfgang Becker. 2003
As funny as it is touching, Goodbye Lenin is set in East Berlin around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Filmed in various locations around Berlin it is about the family of a ardent supporter of the communist regime who wakes from a coma shortly after wall comes down. Her family, in a effort to spare her from the painful (for her at least) reality, go to both comical and heartwarming lengths to conceal the truth.
Lola rennt (Run Lola Run)
Dir: Tom Tykwer. 1998
This is arguably one of the most internationally successful and well-known German films. Shot predominantly outside, it features many interesting locations in and around Berlin. It also has a great story and is a fast paced, interesting film with a rocking soundtrack. If you haven’t seen it – grab a copy, if you have, you should thinking about watching it again!
Dir: Bob Fosse. 1972
Bob Fosse’s fantastic film version of the musical Cabaret staring Liza Minelli is set in Berlin during the fall of Weimar Germany and the rise of the Third Reich. Although it was filmed in various locations across Germany many Berlin locations are also featured.
Der Untergang (The Downfall)
Dir: Oliver Hirschbiegel. 2004
This German feature film documents the last days of the Third Reich. The winner of various awards including an Oscar nomination, “Der Untergang” was both a critical and box office success and Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of Adolf Hitler is simply amazing. One of the scenes shot in Hitler’s bunker has developed a life of its own on YouTube with many pranksters giving the scene some pretty funny alternative subtitles.
Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of desire)
Dir: Wim Wenders. 1987
A beautiful but haunting film directed by Wim Wenders in 1987. The main characters are two angels who have been on earth as witnesses since the beginning. The can hear our thoughts although can’t directly take part in the world. The thoughts they hear are not always pleasant from the man contemplating suicide, to a mother complaining about her no good son. Shot almost entirely in black and white, it is a very atmospheric film and includes a lot of outdoor locations around Berlin including various locations along the Berlin Wall.