Learning a new language can be fun when you think outside the box. Navigating your way through learning anything requires discipline, practice, and finding ways to increase your knowledge while enjoying the process. And what better way to learn German than watching some of the best German films and TV shows?
This is an easy way to strengthen your German listening practice and discover cultural traditions, fashion, and historic facts about the language. When speaking, people don’t always adhere to the same grammatical rules as in writing. Words are left out or placed in a different order, regional slang is used, and pronunciation is influenced by local traditions. Simply reading is therefore not enough to fully master a language, but listening to how people really speak helps.
Practice what you hear and repeat different words and phrases. You can do this by yourself and don’t need to worry about people looking at you strangely. This way, your language understanding will be much deeper, and you’ll pick up new sayings much quicker when you spot them.
Not sure where to start watching? We’ve compiled a list of classic German television and film, which you can access on streaming sites, including Amazon Prime and Netflix, or using VPN for sites like ProSieben, Arte, and ARD if your locale is outside of Germany.
Get started with an enthralling show
Luckily for language learners, Netflix is a great way to understand cultural fluency and hone those German listening comprehension skills. This is a great way to start with easy-to-watch shows that will improve your understanding of the country and its people.
1. Babylon Berlin is a lavish German neo-noir crime drama set in Berlin in 1929. Neo-noir is a contemporary revival of the noir genre that was popular in the 1950s. Set during the Weimar Republic (the German Reich between 1918 to 1933), it tells the story of police inspector Gereon Rath and clerk Charlotte Ritter. The series portrays the challenges of the impending takeover of society by fascism in Germany, accompanied by stunning imagery and opulent film sets of Berlin.
2. Charité is set in the year 1888 around a prestigious hospital in Berlin and focuses on the scientists, doctors, and nurses in their fight to cure disease, along with the dynamics of their interpersonal relationships. Expect romance as the show explores some of the serious issues of the period, including religion and the gap between men and women. This is a good one to watch to understand the society’s attitude towards healthcare.
Vintage must-see films
German expressionist films are one of the most recognizable styles of silent cinema. They first appeared as the new medium of film was taking off during the Golden Twenties, following World War I and hyperinflation. Below are some best German movies:
1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), directed by Robert Wiene, is arguably the first true horror film that tells the story of an insane hypnotist (Werner Krauss) who uses a somnambulist (Conrad Veidt) to commit murders. The visual style is dark and a mix of sharp-pointed forms, with oblique and curving lines, and shadows and streaks of light painted directly onto the sets.
2. Metropolis (1927), directed by Fritz Lang, is a science-fiction drama film, written in collaboration with Thea von Harbou, and is based on a novel of the same name (published in 1925). Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban apocalypse, and follows Freder, the wealthy son of the city master, and Maria, a saintly figure to the workers. Viewers experience their attempts to bridge the vast gulf separating the classes and bring the workers together in their city with the city master. It is regarded as the most well-known silent film by a German filmmaker.
Movies with female leads
If you want to learn more about Germany or practice listening to native speakers, these films can be a good starting point and entertaining at the same time. Don’t miss out on these movies:
1. The 1955 Austrian classic Sissi, directed by Ernst Marischka, is the first of a trilogy series that tells the story of Elisabeth of Austria, who was affectionately called “Sissi” by her family and subjects. The follow-up films are titled The Young Empress and Fateful Years of an Empress. They follow the life of Sissi, from her love story with the young Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, to her life as an empress and her final years. Romi Schneider plays the role of Sissi and found fame, fortune, and tragedy after its release.
2. Der Blaue Engel (1930) is one of Marlene Dietrich’s most well-known films. The tragicomedy is based on Heinrich Mann’s novel, Professor Unrat (Professor Garbage). The film follows the journey of a teacher falling in love with a cabaret dancer, played by Dietrich, when he visits a cabaret bar in an attempt to catch some of his students there. You can watch this film on Amazon.
The list of notable German movies and TV series is long. Honorable mentions also include Das Leben der Anderen and Goodbye Lenin, as examples of life behind the Berlin Wall.
Remember not only to watch the films, but also to repeat the words and sentences that you hear. It’s an easy way to practice phrases and words that you likely wouldn’t have come across otherwise. Our handy Linguist app can help you along your journey in speaking fluent German. Download it for free and set your personal goals, complete your courses at your own pace, and impress your friends and family with your new skills.