Since 2000, German films have won more Oscars in the foreign language film category than any other. This clearly indicates that German cinema has always given value to creating films that leave a lasting impact and have captivated the attention of the audience globally.
From the '30s to the modern times, there have been a good number of German films that set benchmarks. A few like 'Downfall' have become a matter of discussion for critics and cinema lovers.
In this post, we will walk you through those German films that won both awards and accolades from the critics. Read below to know more of which films made it to our list of the best German films of all time.1. The Lives of Others (2006)
The winner of 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 'The Lives of Others' is a finely crafted, gripping tale set at the backdrop of 1983 East Berlin. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's debut is an 'art' film created against a political setting.
The film has got an intimate hue to it added by Ulrich Mühe (who plays a Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler). Gerd spying the lives of Sebastian Koch (a popular playwright performed by Georg Dreyman) and his lover Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck) faces extreme personal and professional conflict.
Released 17 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the viewers and critics were stunned by the accurate atmosphere created in the film and the depiction of East Berlin. The film gives a taste of the German culture at large. 'The Lives of Others' remains at the top of our list and a must watch for world cinema lovers.2. Good Bye, Lenin! (2003)
Directed by Wolfgang Becker, this German tragicomedy narrates the story of a family and their struggles at the time of the 1989 revolution. Christiane (Katrin Sass) wakes up months after being in a coma. His son Alex Kerner (Daniel Brühl) tries to protect her from the news of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Set in East Berlin, 'Good Bye, Lenin!' received strong positive reviews and numerous award nominations including BAFTA and European Film Awards. It went on to win German Film Award for Best Feature Film. The movie resonated with a larger audience in Germany at the time of its release.3. Downfall (2004)
'Downfall' is a historical war drama directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel set in the backdrop of World War II during the Battle of Berlin. Starring Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Corinna Harfouch, Ulrich Matthes, Juliane Köhler, Heino Ferch, Christian Berkel, Matthias Habich, and Thomas Kretschmann, the film outlines the final days of Adolf Hitler (played by Bruno Ganz).
The film's director used eyewitness accounts and survivors' memoirs in addition to many important historical sources to add accuracy to the film. 'Downfall' sparked controversy and remained a matter of debates due to its portrayal of the human side of Hitler, however, went on to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 77th Academy Awards.4. Das Boot (1981)
'Das Boot' is one German movie that has always found its place amongst the best foreign language films of all time. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, and Klaus Wennemann, the film portrays how German U-boat U-96 and its crew, set out on a dangerous patrol in the Battle of the Atlantic.
The film inspired many film-makers to come up with their own versions of films and TV series based on the same theme. With highly positive reviews and six Academy Awards nominations, the film is now seen as a pioneer in the category of war films. The film also holds a record for the maximum number of Academy nominations ever received by a German film.5. The Counterfeiters (2007)
Written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, the Austrian-German drama is a product of high-end research and fine scripting. 'The Counterfeiters' is a story based on Operation Bernhard during World War II (the largest counterfeiting operation in history).
It brilliantly narrates the horrors of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany and chronicles the life of Solly (the counterfeiter). 'The Counterfeiters' received outstanding reviews from the critics. Some even put the film amongst the best films of 2007. The film went on to bag the Best Foreign Language film at the 80th Academy Awards.6. Nowhere in Africa (2001)
Written and directed by Caroline Link, 'Nowhere in Africa' depicts the story of a German-Jewish family that moves to (Kenya) Africa in order to escape the Holocaust in Nazi Germany during World War II. The screenplay of the film is based on the 1995 novel of the same name written by Stefanie Zweig.
The international critics hailed the film's visual appeal and termed it an exceptional story. The film has got the power to captivate the audience and leave them with an experience of a lifetime. Apart from five German Film Awards that it won, 'Nowhere in Africa' also won an Oscar in the foreign language film category.7. Run Lola Run (1998)
Starring Franka Potente as Lola and Moritz Bleibtreu as Manni, 'Run Lola Run' follows the story of a woman who finds herself in a race against time to save the life of her boyfriend. Though it was made decades later, it depicted various allusions to Alfred Hitchcock's film 'Vertigo'.
The film touched on philosophical themes including the butterfly effect and determinism. Directed by Tom Tykwer, the German thriller has got many accolades to its name including seven German Film Awards. The film was also Germany's official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film category.8. The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008)
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 81st Academy Awards, 'The Baader Meinhof Complex', depicts the story of the Red Army Fraction, or Red Army Faction, a.k.a. RAF from 1967 to 1977. Directed by Uli Edel, and written by Bernd Eichinger (who also produced 'Downfall'), much has been taken in the film from a book by investigative reporter Stefan Aust who always had connections to those inside the RAF.
The film portrays the events that took place in a decade with precision and objectiveness and thus stands out when compared to other films in a similar niche.9. M (1931)
Master storyteller Fritz Lang's German thriller-drama 'M' is one film that established itself as a classic over a period of time. Starring Peter Lorre, the magnum opus is based on the story of a serial killer and how both the police and the underworld try to get a hold of him.
The film holds highly positive reviews by the critics and is considered a must watch in the psychological thriller category. Many instances from the film have been used in various other films including the 1940 Nazi propaganda movie 'The Eternal Jew'. In 2010, the film was ranked at number 33 in Empire magazine's list of 100 Best Films of World Cinema. Not only this, but the film has also been adapted into a radio show and comic book series.10. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
Out of the many cult films Germany has given to the world cinema, 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God' stands in its own glory. Written and directed by Werner Herzog, the epic historical drama follows the journey of Spanish soldier Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), who takes his group of conquerors down the Amazon River on a quest to El Dorado.
The film uses a minimalist approach to dialogue and storyline, at the same time succeeds in leaving a lasting impression at the audience. Rolling Stone put the film on its '100 Maverick Movies of the Last 100 Years' list. 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God' went on to inspire films like 'Apocalypse Now', 'The New World' and a few others. It also won a few accolades including the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography.