Hallo und Willkommen. This is our list of best films to watch to help you learn German. So you’ve decided to learn German, but maybe you’re sick of classrooms and textbooks and you want something a bit more natural or fun?
Watching movies is a great way to achieve this. It allows you to access more natural dialogue than some of the formal grammar structures you might encounter in the classroom and it helps you to learn about the culture of a place as well as giving you access to the language.
Films can tell you a lot about what a place was like at a time, and these German films definitely do that. In addition to helping you learn German, our top picks will show you life during the second world war, life in East Berlin and life in modern day Germany. Obviously these are just snap shots into a time, but as important parts of German history, they’re definitely worth learning watching.
So sit back and let’s have a look at our top recommendations of films to watch to help you learn German and to learn about German history and culture.
Best films to learn German
The Lives of Others
German title: Das Leben der Anderen
What’s it about?
The lives of others is our number one choice for best films to help with your German.
Set in East Berlin after the second world war, the lives of others is told through the eyes of a Stasi officer who has been assigned a couple of artists to monitor as part of his work.
Each day he goes to work and sits down to listen to recordings of their home and their conversations. For months he hears the inner most parts of their lives, what they talk about, how they make love and then he goes back alone to his apartment to occasionally sleep with prostitutes.
Not only does the lives of others give a portrayal of what it was like to live in east Berlin and the culture of the struggling artists there who have their work constantly monitored and restricted but it also shows the psychological tolls that spending your life inside the lives of other people can have on you.
The lives of others is a beautiful and insightful film that I would highly recommend watching even if you weren’t learning German.
German title: Der Untergang
What’s it about?
Downfall is set during the last days of Hitler’s life in his bunker as the second world war is coming to a close. Most second world war films are set from the view of the allies, with the nazis being a more ominous or sometimes almost faceless enemy, but Downfall went down into the inner circles of Hitler’s closest group to see how his final days panned out as the war came to a close.
As well as being a fascinating film, Downfall has been played in many history classes outside of Germany as an educational tool.
What’s it about?
Goodbye Lenin is a comedy set after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is a celebration for the whole of Germany except for one young man Alex. For 8 months Alex’s mother has been in a coma, during which time the wall was torn down. The only problem is that the doctor has told Alex that he needs to avoid upsetting or shocking his mother as she wouldn’t be able to survive a second heart attack.
With this in mind, they decide to hide from her the fact that the wall has come down and continue living in an East Berlin world where coca cola and burger king don’t exist. But how long can this last? Watch Goodbye Lenin to find out, to learn about what life was like in East Berlin and to improve your German.
What’s it aboot?
Das Boot is set aboard a U-boat during the second world war and follows their time in the war in the Atlantic. Das Boot looks at how dangerous it was to be aboard a U-boat during the war but it also deals with the boredom and monotony of life aboard the submarine and how all the men were just normal people getting on with their part in the war.
Just like in Downfall, it’s useful for us to watch films set from the German point of view as the vast majority of war films released in the UK and the USA are of course told from the point of view of the allies. Watching the film you find yourself sympathising with these men and seeing how everyone got pulled into a war that should never have happened.
What’s it about?
Metropolis is a science fiction film set in a futuristic (at least for it’s time) dystopian world, where it follows the main character Freder who tries to overcome the differences in wealth within the city and unite the classes.
The film was created in the 1927 and although is black and white and a bit dated, it is one of the greatest science fiction movies and has influenced many that have come after it. Since this film, countless stories of dystopian lands have been told and the theme has grown and grown in popularity.
We hope you liked our list of best films to watch to improve your German. Although we wanted to give a varied list, hardship often brings about creativity and art, meaning a lot of the best films to come out of Germany were set during the second world war, or after it in East Berlin. There are obviously other great German films but these were out top picks and we hope you like them as much as we do.
If you have any other recommendations for films to help improve your German then please leave them in the comments below so we can watch them and potentially add them to this list. Any recommendation is always welcome.