Looking for the 5 best German war films? It’s difficult to make war movies if your country started two world wars and lost both of them, not to mention the fact that some unspeakable atrocities were committed by your nation in one of them. That’s the predicament that German filmmakers have found themselves in over the years. However, there have been more than a few fine war movies that were produced and shot in Germany which tell stories from their perspective. With that said, what are the five best German war films?
“Das Boot” (1981) – This fantastic movie should top just about any list of best German war films. In German, it simply means “The Boat,” and it tells the fictional story of a Germa submarine, U-96, on single patrol during World War II. Nominated for six Oscars and directed by legendary German filmmaker Wolfgang Peterson, this movie displays the claustrophobic life aboard a WW II German U-boat and includes everything from the boredom and daily tedium of serving aboard one of these submerged tin cans to the sheer terror and excitement of battle. This really is a must-see film.
“Stalingrad” (1993) – German director Joseph Vilsmaier depicts the turning-point battle on the Eastern Front of World War II with brutal realism. Raw, gritty and bleak, it portrays the battle for Stalingrad from the German perspective and doesn’t glorify or demonize the German army.
“Downfall” (2004), “Der Untergang” (German title) – This film portrays the final ten days of Adolf Hitler’s life in a Berlin bunker as seen through the eyes of his young personal secretary, Traudl Junge. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s deft direction and Bruno Ganz’s utterly memorable performance as Adolf Hitler earned this film an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film for its compelling study of Hitler’s last days.
“Cross of Iron” (1976) - Think of this Sam Peckinpaugh film as a precursor to Oliver Stone’s “Platoon.” It’s the tale of two rival German soldiers; newly-arrived Prussian Captain Stransky, who desires nothing more than to win the elite war medal, the Iron Cross, and Sergeant Steiner, who is a battle-hardened veteran of the Eastern Front whose chief concern is his men and avoiding being caught up in Steiner’s quest for personal glory. It’s a chilling war movie and one that deserves to be watched.
“Europa, Europa” (1991) – This is the harrowing true story of a Jewish boy named Solomen Perel, who is separated from his family, and of his ensuing nomadic journey that takes him from Germany to Poland to a Soviet orphanage then finally back to Germany where he fakes being of Aryan descent and joins, of all things, the Hitler Youth! This movie was a Golden Globe winner and an Academy Award nominee.