Just because you can’t join us in-person doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of the city’s history and culture from home. With that in mind, we asked our members to tell us some of their favourite films set in Berlin.
Though most found it difficult to choose just one, they did not disappoint. Our shortlist includes madcap comedies and oppressive dramas, films set on both sides of the Wall and all over the city (especially the last one!).
Read on for six of the best films set in Berlin, as recommended by Berlin tour guides.
Three Films Set in East Berlin
Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others (2006)
Although he was born outside of East Germany and was only 16 when the Wall fell, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck made his directorial debut with this highly authentic and incredibly personal film about Stasi surveillance. The film was applauded internationally, even winning the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Georgia Riungu: “One of my all-time favourite University classes was called ‘Perceptions of National Identity in German Cinema’. That’s when I first saw the utterly gripping Das Leben der Anderen – I was totally blown away!”
Top Secret! (1984)
Action comedy Top Secret! comes from the makers of Airplane. Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer) is an American rock star who’s been sent to the DDR to perform in a festival. Little does he know the whole event has been organised by the East German government in order to divert attention from a military plot to reunite Germany under their rule…
Nadav Gablinger: “This is the movie of my childhood. It has (almost) no connection to reality, but it has given me many hours of laughter.”
Goodbye, Lenin! (2003)
Wolfgang Becker’s award-winning tragicomedy follows the story of an East German family whose matriarch – a fierce devotee of the Socialist cause – falls into a coma just before the Wall comes down in 1989. She wakes in June 1990 and her son (Daniel Bruehl) is under strict doctor’s orders to protect his mother from any news that might cause fatal shock…
William Mollers:“Ostalgie triggers me emotionally. I always cry.”
Two Films Set in West Berlin
One, Two, Three (1961)
In Billy Wilder’s political comedy, a high-ranking Coca-Cola executive (played by James Cagney) is saddled with the unenviable task of keeping an eye on his boss’s 17-year-old daughter (Pamela Tiffin). Hilarity and disaster ensue in what Variety described as “a fast-paced, high-pitched, hard-hitting, lighthearted farce that packs a considerable wallop.”
Jeremy Minsberg: “It captures a point in West Berlin with humour and love.”
Herr Lehmann / Berlin Blues (2003)
We first meet Kreuzberg bartender, Frank Lehmann, drunk on his way home from work. It’s Autumn 1989 and – though the story is set shortly before the Fall of the Wall – this film isn’t about the seismic historical change that’s coming. It focuses instead on the mood of disaffected young adults at a very particular, oft-forgotten time. For a faithful and humorous portrait of everyday life in SO 36, look no further.
Chiara Baroni “It shows a Berlin which is no longer there, but was still present when I watched it in 2000. Kreuzberg, the Kneipen, the sense of helplessness this city offered in those years. It was like a playground for adults.”
… and a film, set in post-reunification Berlin
Lola Rennt / Run, Lola, Run (1998)
Lola (Franka Potente) has twenty minutes to get her hands on 100,000 Deutschmarks and save her boyfriend’s life (Moritz Bleibtrau). Written and directed by Tom Twyker, this iconic experimental thriller, was a firm favourite at the festivals and has inspired many a pop culture tribute.
Sam Wiszniewski: “It shows Berlin at an interesting historical moment that’s not Third Reich or DDR.”
Finn Ballard: “I have a soft spot for ‘Run, Lola, Run,’ now that I have given a couple of tours of the movie’s locations!”
And there you have it! Six Berlin film recommendations for your next movie night.
Is your favourite among them?