With your memorial day hamburgers long digested, maybe you are wondering what movies you would have watched if the Germans won World War 2. Then again, maybe not. The history of military conflict aside, Germany has a long cinematic history, and among the best German war movies can certainly be found some of the best war movies ever made in any language. As might be expected, the best German war movies are largely devoted to the First and Second World Wars, but there are also few gems straying outside the confines of such a narrow historical band.
“Das Boot” (1981) is certainly the best submarine film ever made, and a must on any list of the best German war movies. It still holds the record for most Academy Award nominations for a German film with six. The claustrophobia and camaraderie of life in a World War II submarine are depicted with tremendous realism.
“Aguirre, The Wrath of God” (1972) is Werner Herzog‘s masterpiece, set in sixteenth century Amazonian Peru a few decades after the conquest of the Incas. An expedition by a band of ruthless Spanish conquistadores in search of fortune becomes a perilous river journey, deteriorating into power struggles among the soldiers. One of the few set outside the twentieth century, the story and themes almost require it to be classed among the best German war movies ever made.
“The Tin Drum” (1979) is an Academy Award winner based on a Gunter Grass novel by the same name. Oskar decides on his third birthday to refuse the world. His tin drum symbolizes his personal protest against the passive mentality of those around him, in Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II.
“The Lives of Others” (2006) is set during the height of the Cold War, in 1984 in East Berlin. This thriller tells the story of a couple of dramatic and intellectual stars in the socialist state, and a Stasi (secret service) agent who observes and records the couple, as they go about their lives. Suddenly every day activities become more interesting than one would think.
“Comrades of 1918″ (1930) is German filmmaker G. W. Pabst’s first “talkie”. It is a decidedly anti-war film about the futility of trench warfare on the Western Front in World War I. It is one of the earliest, and still one of the best German war movies ever.
“Downfall” (2004), “Der Untergang”, explores the final days of Nazi Germany. In the spring of 1945, Adolf Hitler and his remaining staff are holed up in a large bunker complex in the center of Berlin. Hitler is portrayed as a paranoid, moody man, fluctuating from optimism to suicidal depression. Don’t let the fact that this film turned Hitler into an internet meme take away from this future masterpiece.