Berlin is the capital of Germany and has been the epitome of cool for several years now. This makes knowing this city a must when learning German and diving into German culture for, as Rita Mae Brown said, “Language is the road map of a culture”.
Yet, when looking for movies that are set in Berlin, one is often stuck with older ‘pre-fall-of-the-wall’ movies which do not appeal to everyone and might not be the best option for those who are merely looking to empty their mind and relax, all while practising their German skills or polishing their knowledge of German culture. Moreover, it is just as important to know about a country’s present than it is to know about its past.
Therefore we have selected 10 recent movies that are set in Berlin. All of them were released after 2004 and there should be something for every taste, whether you favor vampire movies or are more interested in getting to know Berlin’s lively nightlife.
1. Herr Lehmann (2003 – Language: German)
This movie is set just weeks before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, but its main character – who is about to turn 30 and gets called Herr Lehmann by his friends – is bound to charm you. The film takes place in Berlin’s ever-hip neighborhood of Kreuzberg and depicts the life of a young barkeeper who is mostly interested in his Kiez (meaning neighborhood in Berliner slang) and his new relationship with Katrin. But his world is about to get turned upside down by the fact that his parents have finally decided to come visit him, thus disturbing his day-to-day life.
2. Sommer vorm Balkon (2005 – Language: German)
Sommer vorm Balkon tells the story of two thirty-something women living in the same building in Prenzlauer Berg, another neighborhood in Berlin which could be described as Kreuzberg’s wiser but cuter older sister. The two become close friends and spend most evenings on a balcony drinking wine and discussing men, relationships, getting older and life in general. This is a beautiful, melancholic story of love, friendship, solidarity, unemployment and loneliness.
3. Knallhart (2006 – Language: German)
In Knallhart, a 15-year-old has to move from posh district Zehlendorf to Neukölln which is one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city. Today, Neukölln is undergoing rapid change and experiencing gentrification, being increasingly populated by many young and creative people. In the movie, however, the main character has to face the reality of new social dynamics he knew nothing about. A local youth gang threatens him and he ends up going down the path of criminality himself. All in all, Knallhart is a movie with a high level of realism which makes it really worth seeing.
4. Berlin Calling (2008 – Language: German)
If you are interested in electronic music, this is a must watch! Berlin Calling revolves around the life of DJ Ickarus, whose role is played by electronic music superstar Paul Kalkbrenner himself. It tells the story of his career and how a drug overdose endangers it by forcing the main character to be admitted to a psychiatric clinic. A major highlight is also the movie’s soundtrack which was recorded almost exclusively by Paul Kalkbrenner and largely contributed to his popularity as an artist.
5. Männerherzen (2009 – Language: German)
Featuring German international movie star Til Schweiger, Männerherzen is a romantic comedy which focuses on the male side of the story. It follows five men who attend the same gym in Berlin and have troubles coping with their relationship with the opposite sex (never mind whether they are single or not) and their career. Watch it for a good laugh!
6. Wir Sind Die Nacht (2010 – Language: German)
We did promise a vampire movie, so here it is! This one tells the story of three female vampires who arrive in Berlin after causing troubles in an airplane. One of them falls in love with small-time pickpocket Lena in a nightclub and turns her into a vampire. All of them enjoy the city’s nightlife and end up getting suspected of criminal activity. One of the main locations of the movie is abandoned entertainment park Spreepark which sadly caught fire in 2014 but used to be clandestinely visited by many, as reported here.
7. Unknown Identity (2011 – Language: English/German)
Unknown Identity is about a man who awakens from a coma 4 days after a car accident only to find out that his identity has been stolen. However, nobody believes him so he has to find ways to prove his identity with the help of a nurse, a cab driver, a former Stasi agent and an academic friend. Watching this movie will give you the chance to see many famous Berlin locations including the beautiful Oberbaumbrücke – a red brick bridge which links Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg and is a strong symbol of Berlin’s unity as it is located right next to the section of the Berlin Wall now called East Side Gallery – as well as iconic club Tresor.
8. Oh Boy (2012 – Language: German)
Niko is in his late twenties, has dropped out of law school two years ago and has since been living a hand-to-mouth existence. The black-and-white movie runs over the course of one day and one night and shows short sequences depicting random situations and various encounters happening to Niko as he wanders around the city. The movie has received numerous prestigious prizes and we believe it would be the perfect movie to watch while daydreaming on a rainy day.
9. Who Am I – Kein System ist sicher (2014 – Language: German)
For the most tech-savvy among you, do not miss Who Am I! It is centered around a Berlin-based hacker group that wishes to achieve international recognition but has to compete against another hacker clique which happens to be backed by the Russian cyber mafia. Get ready for an adrenaline rush!
10. Victoria (2015 – Language: English/German)
This one was the single-take action sensation from this year’s edition of the Berlinale. It follows young Spaniard Victoria who has recently moved to Berlin and gets by by working in a café. She goes out a lot and one day meets four young men who introduce themselves as true Berliners upon leaving a club. They spend the rest of the night together sharing drugs and alcohol and the four men end up convincing Victoria to commit a bank robbery. Don’t miss the movie’s soundtrack which was largely composed by piano virtuoso Nils Frahm, who is best known for combining classical and electronic music in the most exquisite way.