What movies are good for learners who want to improve their grammar and vocabulary?

56

41

This question is present as a matter of historical interest. While you are encouraged to help maintain its answers, please understand that "big list" questions are not generally allowed on German Language and Usage and will be closed per the FAQ.

I want to practice my listening comprehension and build up my grammar and vocabulary.

I find movies to be a good way to do this as it is full of dialogue by native German speakers talking at normal real-life speed, and if I get really stuck I can turn on subtitles.

Things I'm looking for:

  • Dialogue that is clear and close to High German or at least isn't full of strong regional dialect.
  • If it teaches something about German life or culture that would be good (e.g. Goodbye Lenin).
  • I'd also prefer films that are enjoyable to watch in their own right.
  • Should be easily available on DVD (preferably in the UK or through sites like amazon.de).
  • Should have (optional) English subtitles.

What are some recommendations for movies that learners will find beneficial?

Twelve47

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 720

While the general idea (learn through watching movies) is great, I am still not sure that excluding dialect makes sense - after all, some kind of dialect is what you will hear in real life. – Ingo – 2013-12-16T14:48:51.833

Downfall (Der Untergang) has English subtitles. I don't know about the other criteria, as I haven't seen it yet. – Andrew Grimm – 2011-07-23T13:09:59.943

I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because possible anwers will be way to broad, and can not be maintained in a sensible way. Big list questions are generally not a good fit for any Stack Exchange site. – Takkat – 2015-08-03T12:27:32.060

2There are lots and lots of movies that would fit your description (especially since German cinema is known for its extensive dialogs) - can you name any constraints as to what you're looking for? – Jan – 2011-05-27T09:20:56.343

4Too bad no dialect is allowed, that actually excludes some of the best movies. We might start a communitiy wiki of those as well. ^^ – ladybug – 2011-05-27T12:51:18.427

1@ladybug I'm not opposed to dialect. I just thought it would probably teach learners phrases that couldn't use in post situations. What do you think? – Twelve47 – 2011-05-27T12:54:37.957

Of course you are absolutely right. It wasn't meant as criticism at all. Only the first 3 movies that came to my head all were strong dialect ones. :) – ladybug – 2011-05-27T12:57:41.650

1I'd try Soap Operas, althoug comedy would be more fun it's often full of dialect – mbx – 2011-05-27T19:05:14.257

@mbx. Thanks for the suggestion. I live in a block of flats with a communinal dish that can't pick up German TV. Do you know any sites that stream German tv shows that are accessible in the uk? – Twelve47 – 2011-05-27T19:19:24.890

You mean real cinema? I prefer to use DVDs with multiple languages and audiobook to English. – bernd_k – 2011-05-27T20:30:27.267

I suggest a proxy as I think ARD and ZDF Mediathek have IP based filters.

– mbx – 2011-05-27T20:34:38.620

@bernd. I generally meant movies. I changed the question to be clearer. – Twelve47 – 2011-05-27T20:35:22.533

Answers

9

Collecting the suggestions in one answer, to be edited community-wiki-style:

Also: About.com's list of movies for German learners

user2013

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 527

@Tim Fair point. On the other hand, @Twelve47 had suggested this might work better as a community wiki answer. So, a Meta question: How does an SE site normally handle this trade-off between "all answers in one place" vs "rank each suggestion via voting"? – user2013 – 2011-05-29T19:41:25.633

1@Arthaey The consensus over on the math stackexchange is "one answer in each post". Since you only have to scroll down to see the other answers anyway, I think this makes more sense than the "all answers in one place". – Stovner – 2011-05-31T06:08:43.830

If we really want this answer to be deleted, we should post every movie mentioned in it as a separate answer first. – RegDwight – 2011-06-02T10:00:36.243

@RegDwight I didn't add any of my own suggestions, only consolidated existing ones. So they already have separate answers for each movie. – user2013 – 2011-06-02T23:02:57.767

@Arthaey: I see answers mentioning two, three, even four movies at once. If your answer is to be deleted, then so are those. – RegDwight – 2011-06-03T08:41:33.067

@RegDwight: I've separated out all the multiple-suggestion answers now, I think. – user2013 – 2011-06-10T00:23:09.107

1Shall I move these up into the question? – Twelve47 – 2011-05-27T16:46:12.253

1The first film in the About list was a German production but the German soundtrack is a dub. While I agree it's a great film, it shouldn't be #1 for learners. – z7sg Ѫ – 2011-05-27T16:50:52.230

2If the suggestions were written as separate answers, it would be easier to upvote specific suggestions poll-style. – Tim – 2011-05-27T21:16:14.393

26

I recommend Good Bye Lenin! (2003), one of my favorite German movies. It's an entertaining film that deals with with the sudden reality when Eastern Germany merged with Western Germany. You can learn a lot about both parts of Germany and their recent history.

In 1990, to protect his fragile mother from a fatal shock after a long coma, a young man must keep her from learning that her beloved nation of East Germany as she knew it has disappeared.

splattne

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 32 543

1I was studying German, German history and the whole question of Wiedervereinigung during 1989-1990, so this film really resonates with me. Also, the exterior scene with the helicopter and Lenin is cinematic gold. – Nick Dixon – 2011-06-01T11:34:51.000

23

Das Leben der Anderen (2006) is another great (and Oscar-winning) movie dealing with German history.

Wikipedia:

The film involves the monitoring of the cultural scene of East Berlin by agents of the Stasi, the GDR's secret police.

Jan

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 8 854

Aw yeah, a very good movie indeed! – hiergiltdiestfu – 2015-08-04T09:14:23.767

1That is one you really should have seen! :) – ladybug – 2011-05-27T11:01:14.760

10

If you're a geek and grew up in the 1980s (or are interested in the European 1980s):

23 - Nichts ist so wie es scheint (1998)

The movie's plot is based on the true story of a group of young computer hackers from Hannover, Germany

From Heike Angermaier's review:

Ein intelligentes und vielschichtiges Drama über das Erwachsenwerden, das Regisseur und Ko-Autor Hans-Christian Schmid auch in Nach fünf im Urwald und in Crazy eindringlich schildert. Hier nahm er sich den realen Hacker- und Industriespionage-Fall von Karl Koch als Vorbild, der in den 80er Jahren von den Medien aufgekocht wurde.

Mit Autor Michael Gutmann recherchierte er den Fall sehr ausführlich, bemühte sich aber vor allem dem Menschen Karl gerecht zu werden. Sehr schön gefilmt (einschließlich Archivmaterial aus Fernsehnachrichten der Zeit) und mit gutem Soundtrack bestückt, funktioniert der erwachsene Film, mit etwas über 680.000 Zuschauern übrigens einer der erfolgreichsten deutschen Filme des Jahres 1999, auch als spannender Politkrimi.

splattne

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 32 543

I think is the case cracked by Clifford Stoll that he wrote about in his book The Cuckoo's Egg.

– Eugene Seidel – 2013-05-21T11:22:52.497

I'd never heard of this. It sounds like a really interesting film, but I can't find a copy with english subtitles. – Twelve47 – 2011-05-27T12:27:09.297

9

Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (2004) is a very good movie about the younger generations of Germany. Not yet grown up but neither children, these youngsters are rebelling against "the system", eventually making a very big mistake.

I think it's a very good movie to get a grab about how "not so old but not so young" people in Germany feel and of course talk.

Florian Peschka

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 2 403

8

One of my favourite German movies is Das merkwürdige Verhalten geschlechtsreifer Großstädter zur Paarungszeit (1998).

It's light-hearted, entertaining and contains a lot of dialogue.

ladybug

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 3 695

1Great movie. I've watched this on a school trip to Berlin. OMG. That was thirteen years ago. Now I also feel old. – OregonGhost – 2011-05-27T12:33:54.543

1Oooh, Christoph Waltz. Hmm. Which reminds me: Would Inglourious Basterds qualify in this context? A substantial portion of the dialogs are German, after all. – Konrad Rudolph – 2011-05-27T12:59:36.997

@ladybug do you know if it is available with English subtitles? The version I've found on amazon.de doesn't list any. – Twelve47 – 2011-05-27T13:01:46.817

3

@Twelve47: I am not sure, but probably there aren't English subtitles. However, as a general idea: have you tried watching German movies with German subtitles? I found this very useful for learning English and it's still my preferred way of watching English movies today. This is even proved to be the most efficient way to learn: http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/mensch/0,1518,660578,00.html

– ladybug – 2011-05-27T13:04:02.810

@ladybug I watched a few films where I've understood the odd scene, and I've failed to understand big chunks. I found watching film with subtitles once lets me work out what the story and each scene is about, then it's easier to go back and watch without subtitles. – Twelve47 – 2011-05-27T17:04:45.570

8

Das Boot (1981): about the crew of a german submarine (2nd World War)

mbx

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 1 025

7

Knocking on Heaven's Door (1997) is a nice comedy-drama with Til Schweiger and Jan-Josef Liefers (who btw is hilarious in the Tatort TV series), both very good German actors.

Mr. Schweiger is a bit of a mumbler though, but you'll manage :-)

Jan

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 8 854

Definitely +1 for this movie. I also liked later Til Schweiger films though, like Keinohrhasen or Wo ist Fred?. – OregonGhost – 2011-05-27T10:10:14.377

2Keinohrhasen was great - Zweiohrküken was disappointing though... – Jan – 2011-05-27T10:51:05.247

I still liked it. But that's why I didn't mention it ;) – OregonGhost – 2011-05-27T10:54:48.773

6

Next to "Good Bye Lenin" another good film that tells about life in Eastern Berlin is Sonnenallee.

musiKk

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 5 378

5

On the not-so-light-hearted, but historically interesting side is Napola (2004). Covers a rarely adressed topic from the NS time.

-- originally suggested by ladybug

user2013

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 527

5

Soul kitchen (2009)

In Hamburg, German-Greek chef Zinos unknowingly disturbs the peace in his locals-only restaurant by hiring a more talented chef.

A comedy which avoids slapstick humor by simply telling a good story with charming characters and which highlights some curious parts of German culture by portraying them through the eyes of an immigrant.

Stovner

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 1 859

Sounds fascinating! – Mark C – 2011-07-08T22:08:08.697

5

Movies and sketches by Loriot such as Pappa ante Portas or Ödipussi.

k.stm

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 1 007

4

There is Herr Lehmann which is about life in West Berlin just prior to the fall of the Wall (although the film doesn't pay that much attention to that fact, it's more or less bolted on).

-- originally suggested by musiKk

user2013

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 527

4

If you want to learn about an important part of history of Western Germany there is Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, which sheds some light on infamous terrorism organization Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF).

-- originally suggested by musiKk

user2013

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 527

4

Die Welle (2008) - The best movie about coping with the history of germany and how young people are trying to find their identity in the modern Germany (Of course, the original played in the US, but I think Germany's a much better place for such a movie due to history). Extremely well written script and very nice dialogues and arguments.

I can't imagine why nobody brought that one up until now...

-- originally suggested by Florian Peschka

user2013

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 527

4

Free Rainer - Dein Fernseher lügt (2007): fictional, about TV and manipulating viewer levels

mbx

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 1 025

If you wrote the suggestions as separate answers, it would be easier to upvote specific movies. – Tim – 2011-05-27T21:16:24.627

@Tim I forgot this is a community wiki question – mbx – 2011-05-27T21:20:28.317

4

There is Edgar Reitz's chilling Heimat (Film-Trilogie), covering the period 1919 - 2000.

The first of the three is not exactly free of dialect, but in the second one (Die zweite Heimat – Chronik einer Jugend) one of the main characters learns High German and there should not be too many problems in the third. Of particular mention in the second are the two episodes Zeit des Schweigens and Die Zeit der vielen Worte.

It is available from Amazon (I bought it from the German Amazon).

Peter Mortensen

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 144

4

Europa Europa / Hitlerjunge Salomon

A Jewish boy separated from his family in the early days of WWII poses as a German orphan and is taken into the heart of the Nazi world as a 'war hero' and eventually becomes a Hitler Youth.

This one is historical, funny, improbable (though apparently based on a true story) and most of the dialogue is fairly clear.

There's some Russian dialogue in there too.

Nick Dixon

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 101

4

Das Experiment (2001): about the infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment".

bjoernz

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 1 054

Great film, absolute must! – Ingo – 2013-12-16T14:46:24.790

3

I also recommend Zugvögel - ... einmal nach Inari.

-- originally suggested by z7sg

user2013

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 527

3

Here are some I've watched on streaming Netflix. All of these have the original German soundtrack, with English subtitles:

The Edukators (Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei) -- An entertaining, 'Oops, we're sorry we kidnapped you' kind of story.

Requiem -- Contemporary story about a young woman, her mental illness, and religion.

Vision (Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen) -- Roughly the same premise as the preceding, set in an era when mental illness and religion were the same thing. I suspect the dialog was (intentionally) archaic.

Gentlemen in White Vests (Die Herren mit der weißen Weste) -- Very amusing 1970's-era Robin Hood-ish story.

The Seven Dwarfs (7 Zwerge) -- Funny and ridiculous, lots of good dialog.

The Forest for the Trees (Der Wald vor lauter Bäumen) -- Sad story of a socially awkward young school teacher. German dialects seem to play a role in this movie, but the subtleties were lost on me.

Blue

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 181

3

Stalingrad (1993): about the encirclement of the 6th army (2nd World War)

mbx

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 1 025

-1 One of the (unforunately for German cinema) few examples where some characters do not speak Hochdeutsch, but fake dialect. – Residuum – 2011-07-14T22:58:37.823

3

In Germany, movies are generally dubbed. Therefore you can get a lot of DVDs with German and original dialogue. For beginners, it might be a good idea to choose movies that they've already watched in a more familiar language. This way the brain can fill in the blanks.

bjoernz

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 1 054

++This is a brilliant idea!++ What could be a more fun way to learn a new language than to watch the movies one loves (and probably already knows by heart) dubbed into the new language? I wish I had more than one upvote to give it! – kjo – 2012-12-23T13:40:33.327

Please correct my English. – bjoernz – 2011-06-02T07:11:51.487

What do you mean by "movies that they an understand in their native language"? Movies about simple subjects? – Tim – 2011-06-02T10:41:23.173

I mean movies that they have watched before in a more familiar language. This way the brain can fill in the blanks. – bjoernz – 2011-06-02T11:24:24.517

Ok, I've added that wording to the question. – Tim – 2011-06-02T11:28:01.797

@Tim thanks, I have trouble articulating myself (esp. today) – bjoernz – 2011-06-02T11:34:39.770

2

I'd recommend Die Architekten which is a relatively little-known film, made in the GDR and released after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it must have seemed completely irrelevant at that time, but now it's a fascinating insight.

z7sg Ѫ

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 768

1+1 I really enjoyed Die Architekten. It gave me an amazing insight into the struggles people doing creative jobs people must have faced under the DDR. The liner notes in the UK DVD provide an talk about the difficulties the DEFA had getting the film into production (before the Wall fell) which mirror the themes in the movie. – Twelve47 – 2011-05-27T17:01:20.330

2

I enjoyed "Russendisko", a film adaptation of the popular novel of the same title by Vladimir Kaminer, in which he recounts the adventure of arriving in Berlin as a Russian immigrant around the time of the fall of the DDR. It's a fun movie and the dialog is not too hard to understand.

nibot

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 269

1

Todesspiel also shed some light on infamous terrorism organization Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF), an important part of the history of Western Germany.

-- originally suggested by musiKk

user2013

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 527

1

I quite like Männer wie wir (de) / Balls (uk) / Guys and Balls (us).

Ecki is a young man who works in a bakery in Dortmund and plays soccer on his local team. Already under pressure for playing badly, his homophobic team-members find out that he is gay and throw him off the team. With the help of his sister and a cranky former soccer star, he tries to form an all-gay football team to challenge his old team in a grudge match.

The story is entertaining and fairly simple, so it is still reasonably easy to follow if even you don't understand everyline of dialog. As one of the main themes is football, there is a lot of football related vocab you can pick up from too.

Twelve47

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 720

0

I am seeing the short and interesting TV series called Deutschland 83 about the Cold War back in the eighties. It has a pretty good spoken language.

optim1st

Posted 2011-05-27T09:17:36.447

Reputation: 762