German films and TV shows are not just important from a historical standpoint. They also provide source material for those learning the language.
However, for those who simply want to immerse themselves in the beauty and dynamic style of German cinema, then they can scour through the numerous offerings on Netflix.
The streaming service has become a melting pot of international titles related to TV and movie.
It provides titles of every genre and any language, including German, and below are just some of the best German movies and TV shows on Netflix.
In The Fade/Aus dem Nichts (2017)
In The Fade tells the story of love and loss and how grief can change a person’s moral values. It is a family crime drama that follows widowed Katja (Diane Kruger) and the struggles she faces following the tragic death of her 6-year-old son Rocco (Rafael Santana) and her Kurdish husband Nuri (Numan Acar) in a bomb attack orchestrated by two neo-Nazis. Katja’s thirst for vengeance pushes her to the edge as the murderers stand trial.
The film paints a clear picture of a cruel legal system where social prejudice dictates the verdict. It mirrors a courtroom setting where the victims are demonized and treated as unworthy of justice while the evildoers are protected. Even those whom Katja calls her family starts to turn against each other and puts the blame on her and her so-called carelessness.
This film is no different from other revenge-filled B movies but shines nevertheless thanks to Kruger’s acting. She captivates viewers with her performance as the grieving wife and mother who would go through great lengths to avenge her family’s death.
Kruger is able to convey inner turmoil and toughness mix with a vulnerability that makes viewers easily gravitate toward her character, sympathize with her, and make the audience emotionally invested in Katja’s plight. Her acting enticed viewers and led to her winning the Best Actress Award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
Director: Fatih Akin – Screenplay: Fatih Akin, Hark Bohm – Cast: Cem Akin, Denis Moschitto, Diane Kruger, Hanna Hilsdorf, Johannes Krisch, Numan A, Samia Muriel Chancrin, Siir Eloglu, Ulrich Brandhoff, Ulrich Tukur, Yannis Economides, Youla Boudali – Run Time: 1h 46m
Toni Erdmann (2016)
Filmmaker Maren Ade explores the highs and lows of the corporate world in this nearly 3-hour German comedy that centers on a father-and-daughter relationship.
Music teacher Winfred (Peter Simonischek) does not see much of her daughter Ines who works as a corporate consultant in Bucharest, so he decides to pay her a visit after the death of his puppy. He expects to spend more time with his daughter but ends up being a nuisance instead.
He annoys her with his practical jokes and jabs about her monotonous busy lifestyle of hotel bars, prepping reports, and attending meetings. Winfred eventually agrees to leave and go back home to Germany only to return, but this time as a different person.
In comes, Toni Erdmann, Winfred’s flashy and smooth-talking alter ego who dons a ridiculous shaggy wig, fake teeth, and tacky suit. He forces himself into his daughter’s work circle and introduces himself as her CEO’s freelance life coach.
The no-holds-barge Toni challenges Ines and she meets the challenges face-on. The harder they go against each other the closer they become. Ines eventually realizes that her eccentric father deserves a place in her busy life all things considered.
The film uses subtle yet sharp humor spread throughout to tell a story about family dynamics. It is a social study on a father-and-daughter relationship and the factors that help shape or destroy the relationship.
Simonischek’s portrayal of a thoughtful-to-the-point-of-being-annoying father speaks volumes for those who are desperate to reconnect with their estranged loved ones.
Director: Maren Ade – Screenplay: Maren Ade – Cast: Sandra Sandra Hüller, Peter Simonischek, Michael Wittenborn, Thomas Loibl, Trystan Pütter, Ingrid Bisu Hadewych Minis, Lucy Russell, Ingrid Burkhard – Run Time: 2h 42m
Phoenix/Ave Fénix (2014)
Phoenix talks about love and digs into personal connections in post-WWII Berlin. It tells a sentimental story about identity, loss, betrayal, deception, and the search for answers.
The narrative puts Nelly (Nina Hoss), a German-Jewish nightclub singer, who returns to Berlin after surviving a concentration camp. She comes back home with a new face after having undergone reconstructive surgery to fix a bullet wound.
Nelly goes against a friend’s stern warning and seeks her husband Johnny, who works at the Phoenix club in Berlin. She suspects that he may have betrayed her to the Nazis and she wants answers.
Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), who believes that Nelly is dead, does not realize that the woman before him is really his wife, although she bears an uncanny resemblance to her. He capitalizes on her appearance and asks her to conspire with him on a scheme involving his wife’s inheritance.
Thus begins a dangerous game of duplicity, seduction, and disguise, as Nelly plays along for the sake of finding out the truth.
The film is a psychological drama about revenge and guilt. It has both suspense and mystery to tell a story about rebirth (a nod at the title, which is a metaphor for Nelly’s transformation).
Props also go to Hoss, who delivered an emotional performance of someone who yearns to know the depth of someone’s loyalty and love.
Director: Christian Petzold – Screenplay: Christian Petzold, Harun Farocki – Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf, Trystan Pütter – Run Time: 1h 38m
Naked Among Wolves/ Nackt unter Wölfen (2015)
A remake of the 1963 film and based on the Bruno Apitz novel of the same title, this heart-wrenching WWII drama takes place entirely in the confines of the Buchenwald concentration camp at the end of March 1945. It chronicles the story of a 3-year-old Polish Jewish boy who was smuggled in the camp inside a suitcase by his father.
The story follows the child as he assimilates to prison life. It tells of deception and misdirection that spared him from extermination in Auschwitz, where he was presumably killed. The film later reveals the disturbing truth about how he survived until Buchenwald was liberated.
Naked Among Wolves tells the horrors of the Holocaust through the eyes of the prisoners and of the German commanders. The addition of the young boy adds much more emotional heft to the already stirring narrative about real events that happened in the WWII concentration camps.
Apitz, who was also a prisoner at the time, heard stories about the child through the prison grapevine and saw a dramatic potential to his story. He initially wanted a film made out of the story but was turned down until he made it into a bestselling novel, after which it was made into a movie.
The film tells Apitz’s experiences in the concentration camp and on hearsays about the child. The success of the movie eventually led to the discovery of the real boy years after.
Stefan Jerzy Zweig was identified as the Buchenwald child and he too published a memoir, to tell the truth about his life in the concentration camp.
Director: Philipp Kadelbach – Screenplay: Stefan Kolditz – Cast: Sabin Tambrea, Florian Stetter, Peter Schneider, Sylvester Groth, Rainer Bock, Maria Simon, Ulrich Brandhoff, Torsten Ranft, Andreas Lust – Run Time: 1h 45m
Lore is based on the bestselling novel titled The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert. It was an entry of Australia in the 85th Academy Awards under the Best Foreign Language Film category.
The film is a WWII drama that tells a story of discovery, love, and friendship. It is set in the aftermath of the war in south-west Germany.
The plot follows the title character (Saskia Rosendahl) and her four siblings as they embark on a journey that would change their beliefs about the Nazi regime. The journey would open their eyes to the realities and casualties of their parents’ actions.
The narrative starts after their parents abandoned them following the death of Adolf Hitler and amid the arrests of Nazi believers by Allied forces. The siblings are forced to travel 900km away by foot to their grandmother’s home.
Along the way, they meet other Germans and encounter a mysterious Jewish man named Thomas who was liberated from a concentration camp. He later became their guardian.
Lore and her siblings battle through illnesses, starvation, and other challenges during their journey. All the time, the charismatic Thomas (Kai Malina) provided support and helped them through the harrowing ordeal.
The journey changed Lore’s belief in the Nazi regime after she saw through photos the atrocities that happened at the concentration camps. The discovery rocks her to the core and she soon develops a growing revulsion toward her parents.
As the story progresses, the heroine soon finds her world shattered by confusing feelings. Lore feels both desire and hate as she grows closer to Thomas, who may not be who he seems. He also happens to be the one person Lore was taught to hate in order to survive.
The film tells an unconventional yet moving and intriguing story of the Holocaust and Nazism through the eyes and emotions of the 14-year-old Lore, who is the only one capable of comprehension among her younger siblings. Meanwhile, the cinematography heightens the emotional heft and evokes both wonder and horror.
Director: Cate Shortland – Screenplay: Cate Shortland, Robin Mukherjee – Cast: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai-Peter Malina, Nele Trebs, Ursina Lardi, Philip Wiegratz, Mike Weidner, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Nick Holaschke, André Frid, Mika Seidel, Eva-Marie Hagen – Run Time: 1h 49m
Good Bye, Lenin (2003)
This film is a mixture of comedy, drama, and romance and set in East Berlin in the year 1989. It follows a family whose members have opposing beliefs in Germany’s plight for improvement through socialism.
Alex (Daniel Brühl) and her sister Ariane (Maria Simon) are cynics unlike their mother Christiane, who is a member of the Socialist Unity Party. The story kicks off when Alex participates in an anti-government rally and is arrested. His mother sees the arrest, suffers a heart attack, and falls into a coma.
Now, Alex must do his best not to trigger another near-fatal heart attack after Christiane wakes up. She must not learn about the fall of the Berlin Wall and everything that happened in the months she was asleep.
Alex and the rest of the family find ways to shield Christiane from the truth that East Germany is not what it used to be, so they resort to deception. They recreate the German Democratic Republic (GDR) but with hilarious results. After all, they can only do so much since a lot has changed.
Director: Wolfgang Becker – Screenplay: Wolfgang Becker, Bernd Lichtenberg – Cast: Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova, Florian Lukas, Maria Simon, Alexander Beyer, Burghart Klaußner, Michael Gwisdek – Run Time: 2h 1m
Dark Season 1 (2017)
Dark is a mystery-drama and the first German original series produced for Netflix. It follows the lives of four families and uses the supernatural to tell a story that spans three generations.
The premise builds on the disappearance of two children. It rattles a community in the small fictional German town of Winden. As the search for the missing continues, family drama ensues and dark secrets start to unravel.
The narrative spreads to include two timelines: the present in 2019 and the past in 1986 and 1953. The storytelling switches between the different timelines not through flashbacks but via time travel.
Through these travels, viewers see the events unfold in a slow-motion series of family disasters and mind-boggling mysteries. Ultimately, the unraveling of dark secrets reveals a link between past and present and with the four families.
Viewers have compared Dark to The Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things. However, it surpasses the latter with its overwhelming twists, surprises, and dark atmosphere.
A great deal of the show takes place in dim rooms, shadowy corners, and ominous surroundings. Even the underlying concept is dark– outrageous killings, dreadful secrets, and cheating partners.
Director: Baran bo Odar – Screenplay: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese, Martin Behnke, Ronny Schalk, Marc O. Seng – Cast: Oliver Masucci, Karoline Eichhorn, Jördis Triebel, Louis Hofmann, Shani Atias – No. of Seasons, Episodes: 1, 10 – Run Time: 1h
Old Money/ Altes Geld (2015)
This Austrian dark comedy mini-series tells of greed, corruption, and incest made worthy to watch through a bizarre, vicious and downright funny storytelling. David Schalko’s creation brings into focus a family that knows no love and holds no moral grounds.
The show delves into family intrigue after the evil billionaire patriarch ignites a war among his children over his inheritance. Rauchensteiner (Udo Kier) is in urgent need of a liver transplant so his wife Liane (Sunnyi Melles) gathers the estranged family. She enlists the children’s help.
Rauchensteiner suffers from several types of Hepatitis. He only has less than a year to live unless he gets a new liver. Being a billionaire, it shouldn’t be hard to get the transplant right away. But he doesn’t’ want to be blackmailed into getting one.
Instead, Rauchensteiner devices a plan to have his children get the organ for him in exchange for his inheritance. However, there can only be one heir. Thus begins the momentous and unscrupulous family drama.
Director: – Screenplay: David Schalko – Cast: Udo Kier, Sunnyi Melles, Nicholas Ofczarek, Edita Malovcic, Nora von Waldstätten, Cornelius Obonya, Robert Palfrader, Ursula Strauss – No. of Seasons, Episodes: 1, 8 – Run Time: 47m
Babylon Berlin (2017-)
Babylon Berlin from Sky Atlantic is a German noir crime-drama set in 1929 Berlin during the Weimar Republic. It is an adaptation of the series of best-selling novels by Volker Kutscher.
The TV show follows German Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch) who served in the military during World War I. Shell-shocked from his service, the young detective from Cologne is transferred to Berlin to investigate the porno ring run by the Berlin Mafia.
Rath is on a secret mission to dismantle the extortion ring. Together with his irrepressible stenotypist Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries) and his partner Bruno Wolter (Peter Kurth), they infiltrate the world of extortion masked by the glitz and glamor of 1920s Berlin.
However, they uncover a far more troubling truth the deeper they went into the investigation. They unravel a scandal and the mission opens a bigger conspiracy that could implicate their lives.
In the course of his mission, Rath also gets caught up in a tangled web of arms trafficking, corruption, and drug dealing. The discovery forces him into an existential crisis as he is torn between loyalty and revealing the truth.
Babylon Berlin offers thrills and drama every season. It provides satisfying twists and turns, and heart-pounding action sequences to get you through the whole two seasons.
The characters are striking and irresistible to watch, enough to get you hooked. Every episode of this TV show is binge-watch worthy until Season 3 arrives.
Director: Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries – Screenplay- Volker Kutscher, Henk Handloegten, Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries – Cast: Volker Bruch, Matthias Brandt, Liv Lisa Fries, Peter Kurth, Severija Janusauskaite, Leonie Benesch – No. of Seasons, Episodes: 3, 16 – Run Time: 45m
The Same Sky/ Der gleiche Himmel (2017)
This six-part German spy thriller is set in 1974 during the Cold War. It tells the fate of two families from opposing sides of the Berlin Wall.
The series explores the tactics the East German secret agents used to get government secrets from the West. It follows Lt. Col Lars Weber (Tom Schilling), a “Romeo Agent” from East Germany. He went through seduction training as a member of Romeo Operation so he can gather information from female intelligent officers of the West.
The young Weber assumes a different persona and sneaks into West Berlin for a special assignment. He is tasked to seduce German Lauren Faber (Sofia Helin), a 40-something single mother who works as an NSA analyst. He is to seduce her first and then spy on the women who work in the government.
Of course, what follows is a series of encounters between the two. Slowly but surely Weber graduates from meaningful eye contacts and mere skin brushes to the actual bedroom action.
However, halfway through the show, the young spy sets his eyes on Faber’s friend Sabine (Friederike Becht). He forgets the divorcee in the process.
The Same Sky provides a historical glimpse of the daily struggles and triumphs during the Cold War. It tells a story about oppression and the pursuit of freedom from people of the Cold War and not just from one side of the wall.
Director: – Oliver Hirschbiegel – Screenplay- Paula Milne – Cast: – Tom Schilling, Sofia Helin, Friederike Becht, Ben Becker, Anja Kling, Hannes Wegener – No. of Seasons, Episodes: 1, 6 – Run Time: 2h
Dogs of Berlin (2018 - )
Dogs of Berlin is the second German series produced for Netflix after Dark. The story revolves around detectives Kurt Grimmer (Felix Kramer) and Erol Birkan (Fahri Yardım) as they investigate the murder of German-Turkish football star Orkan Erdem.
These two unconventional and very different police officers suspect the crime is politically motivated. As they dig deeper into the investigation, they must confront personal demons and battle with the Berlin underworld.
The series is a modern German exploration of the Berlin underworld and the dark underside of football: illegal sports betting. It shows the diverse inhabitants of the city as listed in the long list of murder suspects: Neo-Nazis from the district of Marzahn, Turkish relatives of the victims, or possible crazed fans.
Dogs of Berlin is a gritty crime drama that hits close to home. The interpretation of police corruption and the characterization of the criminal gangs and the biker groups are spot-on. The show makes light of the actual happenings in Germany and mirrors the country’s politics and issues.
Director: Christian Alvart – Screenplay: Christian Alvart, Ipek Zübert, Erol Yesilkaya – Cast: Felix Kramer, Fahri Yardim, Samy Abdel Fattah Mohamed Issa, Anna Maria Mühe, Katharina Schüttler, Urs Rechn – No. of Seasons, Episodes: 1, 10 – Run Time: 45m
Charité at War (2019 - )
This new Netflix German series tells of life during World War II and focuses on the harsh reality of working in a hospital under the Nazi regime. The show opens with a story about two siblings, Annie and Otto, who continue to live their dreams in the medical field despite the struggles the era presents to the hospital and its residents.
This is an interesting enough drama with elements of romance and tension to keep you intrigued until the very end. Despite it being a six-part miniseries, the story has a few plot twists to keep you engrossed and possibly wanting more (viewers are already asking for a Season 2). It has enough story about forbidden romance, mystery, and betrayal.
What makes this show captivating is its depiction of the period. It has the 1940s on point from the costume, the dialogues, and even the medical terminologies used during the time. Archival film footage adds a nice touch and sets the tone and mood to take you back in time.
Directors: Sönke Wortmann, Anno Saul – Screenplay: Dorothee Schön –Cast: Mala Emde, Ulrich Noethen, Jannik Schümann, Artjom Gilz, Luise Wolfram, Jacob Matschenz, Frida-Lovisa Hamann, Lukas, Miko, Susanne Böwe – Run Time: 50 min
Parfum/Perfume (2018 - )
Based on the novel of the same name by Patrick Süskind, this thrilling series is set in the modern day and follows a murder mystery premise. A woman’s corpse sets off an investigation that puts five former boarding school boys into question.
The condition the woman’s body is found (her scent glands removed, she is missing her pubic and axillary hair, and her red hair) stirs suspicions on the group of friends because they once knew the victim. They also experimented on human scents back in their boarding school days.
Meanwhile, as the investigation continues so do the murders. The bodies continue to pile up and each bears the same mutilations as the first victim.
This series has an intriguing storyline and one that keeps you on your toes every time. You never know just who the killer is as each character has its own dysfunctional mindset. If you’re a fan of fast police shows with lots of action and of predictable plots, then Parfum is not for you. It requires deep thinking and analysis, a quality that should be present in a great murder mystery.
Director: Philipp Kadelbach – Screenplay: Eva Kranenburg, Patrick Süskind – Cast: Friederike Becht, Natalia Belitski, Oskar Belton, Leon Lukas Blaschke – Run Time: 45 min
The Lives of Others (2006)
Five years before Glasnost and prior to the fall of the Berlin wall, East Germany’s secret agents monitored the human population through the most invasive way possible. They tap into people’s conversations to get a glimpse into their private lives. They hire a special agent to monitor their movements.
Such is the case in this Oscar-winning political thriller. Set in 1984, the story follows a police agent who becomes increasingly absorbed by the lives of the people under his surveillance: a playwright and his lover.
The more time he listens in on them, the more he wants to intervene, especially when he learns the truth about his assignment. He eventually puts his life and job on the line when he starts to care for his subjects.
This film boasts superb acting from a stellar cast, great cinematography and background score, and memorable visual experience. Aside from its thrilling and intriguing story, the film gives viewers a glimpse of life in East Germany during such time when the communist-led country violates basic human rights and its people live in constant fear.
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck – Screenplay: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck –Cast: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur – Run Time: 2h 17min
Dark Season 2 (2019)
If you think Season 1 of this Netflix original series was intense, wait until you’ve seen the entirety of Season 2. The show just gets more complicated, confusing, yet utterly satisfying and addicting. Despite the many twists and turns, the countless surprises, you end up highly intrigued and invested in the characters’ individual story.
The second season further explores the lives and history of the people of Winden. It unravels their dark past and reveals more secrets.
There are also new characters introduced as the context of time travel becomes a major influence in the storytelling. Whereas Season 1 only explored the past in relation to the present, the sequel now includes the future to better explain events that happen in the present and in the past. Suffice to say, that all three timelines are now connected, one way or another, as the existence of the wormhole in the cave becomes free knowledge.
All these may sound confusing. However, don’t get yourself lost in the journey. As you watch through the series, it’s best to keep in mind the names of the characters and their relationships to one another. This helps lessen (if possible) the confusion.
Director: Baran bo Odar – Screenplay: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese – Cast: Karoline Eichhorn, Louis Hofmann, Jördis Triebel, Maja Schöne, Oliver Masucci, Moritz Jahn – Run Time: 60m