ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

8 Good German Movies with English Subtitles

Updated on January 3, 2014
A scene from Wings of Desire
A scene from Wings of Desire

What kind of movies would come from a country of poets, philosophers and scientists? Indeed, Germany, which gave us Beethoven, Kant, Goethe and Röntgen, has always been indefatigable in her quest for humanism, and German cinema is not an exception.

German (and European) cinema in general is neither fast-paced, nor filled with actions. You should expect rather silence than orchestra roar; dramatic conversations rather than dramatic smiles. European cinema is less a dream factory, it's more a poetic reflection of an ordinary man's life. The best examples of their cinema throw a ray of light into the deepest recesses of human psyche.

DVD cover.
DVD cover.

The Legend of Paul and Paula // Die Legende von Paul und Paula (1973)

Heiner Carow's The Legend of Paul and Paula is one the best East German <sic!> movies. No, don't expect the glorification of tractor-drivers or scenes with defectors hopping over the Berlin Wall, or anything socialist for that matter. It's a universally human love story, a legend of struggle and victory. There is Paula, a single mother, who tries to break her loneliness and, exhausted, wants to settle down for a good match. Class-free or not, but a country house, car and other amenities do matter in a socialist country to a young single mother when she considers a prospective partner, even if he's old and dull. In a parallel world there is Paul, a modest young man, married to a bimbo who only spends his money and cheats on him. The fate inevitably brings Paul and Paula together. Full of visual metaphors and some naked flesh, the film was very controversial for the authorities but has become a cult classic ever since for East Germans.

DVD Cover
DVD Cover

Fox and His Friends // Faustrecht der Freiheit (1974)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was one of the key figures of German New Cinema of the 1970s. Fassbinder’s constant theme is a play within a play. In his movies the protagonist often plays someone, whom he wants to be but cannot be: he only manages to carry out his dream for a moment.

Fox, the main character (played by Fassbinder) wins lottery and immediately finds himself surrounded by various 'friends' from bourgeoise circles. He does not realise that the upper middle class he was let in accepts only his checks, despising at the same time his unsophisticated personality of a working-class nobody. He randomly buys posh things, pays for his homosexual friends, who laugh at him behind his back. Then penniless and unwanted, he is thrown out of their lives, as if he had never existed. It's a stark realistic portrait of the 70s Germany that rolled in chic decadence.

Stroszek (1977)

Following Fassbinder's fascination with lost souls, another German director, Werner Herzog, tried his hand at the utmost desperation. This is truly the most depressing German melodrama ("ballad") that I have ever seen. Stroszek, the aponymous protagonist (played by Bruno S., non-actor, as is often the case in Herzogs's movies), tries to find his place in this cruel and indifferent world. Having some mental slowness, he is played around by everyone; his girlfriend is a slut; he gets occasionally beaten up by her friends in his own apartment. When things start to look unbearably grim, a ray of hope comes from his friend's suggestion to move to America, the land of promise. Upon their arrival, everything goes according to rainbowed booklets: there's a new car, a new house, a new job... only to see how they all are taken away soon. In an act of despair, Stroszek and his friend decide to rob a bank, but even that turns into a failure (the bank is closed). The end is inevitable: it could have happened back in Germany earlier, but it happened in cold foreign Wisconsin...

Unlike Fassbinder, Herzog has explored a vast spectrum of themes and settings with each movie. His latest film is Bad Lieutenant: Port of Calls New Orleans, with Nicolas Cage.

Das Boot (1981)

Das Boot ("The Boat") is a war epic that follows the small fearless crew of U-96, a German submarine, in their struggle to pass by the enemy. It hardly has any spectacular marine battles. Instead, it shows the clandestine work of those who are locked in the depths of the ocean. Staring at the green waters and listening to the sounds of a sonic depth-finder is not for everyone. However, if you're patient, you will be rewarded with a great symphony of tension and joy. Like a masterful conductor, the director Wolfgang Petersen plays our emotions, leading us towards the victory over the elements and inner fears and doubts. The movie has several editions, its longest version runs about 4 hours. Recommended for a big TV screen and good sound system.

Wolfgang Petersen went on to make more epic international and American movies, including The Perfect Storm, Troy and Poseidon.

Film Trailer

Wings of Desire // Der Himmel über Berlin (1987)

1987: the Berlin Wall is still there, as are people's despair, joy, fears and confusion. Two angels quietly observe people's thoughts and actions and meditate upon little miracles of human existence. Wim Wenders's Wings of Desire, or "The Heaven over Berlin" by its German original title, is a romantic fantasy film, an eerie soundtrack of human soul of the 20th century. Shot almost entirely in black and white, it is another symphony of a big city. It brings together men of three different generations: actor Curt Bois, born in 1901; Peter Falk, who plays himself; and finally Nick Cave, a post punk icon of the 80s.

The sequel was made in 1993 (oddly it includes a scene with Mikhail Gorbachev). City of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan is the 1998 American remake of the Wings of Desire.

Official Film Trailer

Run, Lola, Run // Lola rennt (1998)

If you're not into German melodramas from above, you would definitely appreciate this then-ultramodern movie, which was shot in the 90s Berlin besieged by gangsters and sounds of techno. After Pulp Fiction, Europe experienced a series of similar groundbreaking crime-flavored films (Trainspotting, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch). Tom Tykwer's Run, Lola, Run followed the trend. The protagonist, a petty criminal, loses his bag with money and he has a dozen minutes before his boss would come to collect it. In despair he calls his girlfriend Lola. She is determined to help him with every possible way to beat the time and get the required amount of money. Thus the race against time begins. It's all about time: past, present and future. The most fascinating thing about this movie is how the director presents several split realities springing from the same moment in time, which makes us think: how do little things change the course of our lives? Highly recommended.

DVD Cover
DVD Cover

Goodbye, Lenin! (2003)

The Rip-van-Winkle theme comes frequently to our mind when we change dramatically our ways of life: haven't we all thought about the shock our ancestors or our past selves would experience in our present? There are several devices for that to happen: a time machine or waking up after a coma. The latter is what happens in Wolfgang Becker's Good Bye, Lenin!

A woman, who lapsed into coma in a socialist Berlin hospital, wakes up in the reunited Germany in the 1990s. For her, time stopped: she had lived in the world that venerated Marx, Lenin and all the things the German communists fought for. But how to present her the new reality, where capitalism had defeated the idealistic world of her past? Her son tries to cover it up by a make-believe reality created in her bedroom. Finding East German socialist paraphernalia is not difficult, it's harder to get perishable items like food in its socialist package. The movie is quite ironic but its delicious idea could have been carried out better, in my opinion.

Official Film Trailer

Downfall // Der Untergang (2004)

Some may remember Anthony Hopkins playing Adolf Hitler 30 years ago in the CBS TV film The Bunker, a story of Hitler's last days. Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall is the German version, based on the same sources. What makes Downfall a masterpiece is a perfectly balanced measure of excellent acting and historic authenticity that reaches here the voyeuristic level. German speech further enhances the atmosphere.

Downfall kept my breath stopped to the end entirely having me absorbed into this deadly oasis among human ruins. Like in a genuine Greek tragedy, you realize that each of these men and women was mentally trapped and could not act any other way than they did. Hitler is played well, albeit not without a little grotesque, which Hitler himself, like any huge public figure, unconsciously cast upon himself. As well portrayed are Albert Speer und Magda Goebbels. Eva Braun has somewhat decadent imprint on her personality. You watch a highly deluded man's sudden acceptance of harsh reality when it's "too late". The grim verdict - "Der Krieg ist verloren" ("The war is lost") - needed nevertheless to be heard by his well-informed staff from the Führer himself, for it meant the ultimate end.

Bruno Ganz, who plays Hitler in the movie, also played the main character in Wings of Desire and a small role in The Reader. Downfall was produced by Bernd Eichinger who also directed dramatically excellent Rosemarie's Lovers (Das Mädchen Rosemarie), which is hard to find even in German.

Of course...

Of course, all the movies above were made after the war. If you want to explore the most groundbreaking era of German cinema, look out for the 1920s, when Fritz Lang, Friedrich Murnau, G.W. Pabst and Robert Wiene created their silent masterpieces that had a profound impact on world cinematography. Such movies as Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, Pandora's Box and M are timeless.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • kikibruce profile image

      kikibruce 

      5 years ago from New York

      The is also Rosenstrasse, Die Harmonisten, , A Woman in Berlin, Sophie Scholl, Nirgendwo in Afrika, North Face, The Wedding Party, The Lives of Others , The Counterfeiters, As Far As My Feet Can Carry Me, and Young Goethe in Love. I have seen them all and they are all very good.

    • moncrieff profile imageAUTHOR

      moncrieff 

      6 years ago from New York, NY

      icountthetimes, first time I saw Das Boot was in the cinema and after two hours I left it in the middle... But something compelled me, years later, to rent a DVD and watch it all the way. I blame them uncomfortable theater seats. Thank you for reading!

    • profile image

      icountthetimes 

      6 years ago

      I'd forgotten how many great movies there have been over the years until I read through this list. Das Boot, Downfall, both classics.

      I'm almost ashamed to admit that I still haven't seen Run, Lola, Run. I know it's held in high regard though, and will definitely get around to watching it sometime soon.

    • moncrieff profile imageAUTHOR

      moncrieff 

      6 years ago from New York, NY

      princesswithapen, thank you for your input. I hope you'll find yourself amused with some good foreign flicks!

    • princesswithapen profile image

      princesswithapen 

      6 years ago

      moncrieff

      I am an avid lover of world cinema and have been exposed to films in many different languages. Catching up on a foreign film on a lazy Sunday with a hot cuppa or a glass of red is simply amazing!

      Besides popular ones like Run Lola Run, I am yet to fully immerse myself in classic German flicks. This list looks very interesting and I must get started on the ones I haven't seen from it, this weekend! Thanks for sharing.

      Princesswithapen

    • moncrieff profile imageAUTHOR

      moncrieff 

      7 years ago from New York, NY

      kittythedreamer, thank you so much! German films have a peculiar flavor (despite being European, they are quite different from Italian and French). I think I'll do a hub about some good French movies next month.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 

      7 years ago from Summerland

      Moncrieff - I love foreign films, so I'm definitely going to have to try out some of these German films. Thanks for sharing. I voted up and awesome.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)