Critics have praised German films since the beginning of cinema, and the most famous German movies remain popular through the test of time. German Expressionism started a genre of films that helped invent the horror and Film Noir genres through its mechanisms. Over time, German films have helped set the standard for other films that followed.
- “Nosferatu” – Made in 1922, “Nosferatu” was the first true adaptation of the story of “Dracula.” Because the Bram Stoker estate did not give the filmmakers the rights to the story, the name of the vampire changed. John Malkovich starred in a fiction film in 2000 based around the making of this famous German movie.
- “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” – Robert Wiene’s seminal film helped birth the genre of German Expressionist films in 1920. This horror film, one of the most famous German movies of all time, tells the story of a somnambulist whom an evil man manipulates into killing for him.
- “Metropolis” – In 1927, Fritz Lang created this early science fiction masterpiece, and one of the most famous German movies of all time. The story is of a futuristic society that split down the middle, separating the working class from the city planners. One member of the working class predicts a future where a savior comes to settle their differences.
- “M” - “M” is one of Fritz Lang’s final famous German movies before fleeing Nazi Germany for his own safety. The movie is classic Film Noir, telling the story of a child murderer who finds himself hunted down by the city’s criminals when the police crackdown on all illegal activities while he is running free.
- “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” – Werner Herzog directs this 1972 addition to the list of famous German movies. The movie tells the story of a Spanish soldier in search of El Dorado, the legendary city of gold. This is the first film that paired Herzog with his muse Klaus Kinski, the first of five collaborations between the two men.
- “The Tin Drum” – “The Tin Drum” is not only one of the most famous German movies but also one of the most infamous. Oklahoma City banned the film in 1979 when a judge deemed it child pornography. Film scholar Gary Don Rhodes examined the controversy in his documentary “Banned in Oklahoma.”
- “Das Boot” - Wolfgang Peterson received critical acclaim when he released his submarine war epic, “Das Boot,” one of the most famous German movies, in 1981. The movie also received a director’s cut re-release in 1997. The movie examines life aboard a U-Boat during World War II.
- “Run Lola Run” – Tom Tykwer directed this famous German movie in 1998, an experimental film starring Franka Potente (“The Bourne Identity”). The movie shows a woman who sets out to save her boyfriend and displays three different resolutions to her predicament.
- “Downfall” – This 2004 Academy Award nominee retells the story of Adolph Hitler’s final days in the bunkers at the end of World War II. It remains controversial thanks to its tendency to show Adolph Hitler as a man, instead of a monster, helping it rise to the ranks of most famous German movies.
- “The Lives of Others” – “The Lives of Others” won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film at the 2007 Academy Awards helping ,it become one of the most famous German movies. The movie shows a member of the German secret police who spies on a couple and becomes entangled in their life.
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