Streaming in Australia
The best German-language films and TV shows currently available to stream
Gone are the days when watching a German film meant waiting for rare cinema releases or trawling through video store shelves. Gone, with them, is making a date with a German-language television show whenever it happened to be airing. All of the above remain as viewing options, but thanks to the emergence of streaming, more German-language movies and programs are now available at the press of a button.
By Sarah Ward
From retro-set series to classic film standouts, here is the best German-language fare that is currently available to stream — and a few other German-relevant titles as well:
Exploring unexplained happenings in a rural German town across three time periods, Dark became Netflix’s first German-language television series when it debuted back in 2017. Getting immersed in its mysteries is easy, all thanks to a twisty, engrossing show that follows in both Stranger Things and Twin Peaks’ footsteps. A second season started shooting last year, so watch out for it later in 2019.
Dogs of Berlin
Netflix’s second German-language series swaps spooky thrills for gritty crime, following two cops investigating the murder of a German-Turkish football star. There’s a grim air that often comes with European crime fare — the same air that’s made Scandi-noir such a success — and it’s evident in this watchable show’s thorny ten-episode first season.
Initially airing on Sky Deutschland, Babylon Berlin journeys back to 1929, the days of the Weimar Republic, and a city gripped by an extortion ring. Reportedly the most expensive German television series ever made, it’s based on the crime novels of author Volker Kutscher — and was co-created, written, directed and produced by Tom Tykwer.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer ranks among Netflix’s German series highlights, although it’s filmed in German, French and English. A murderous tale of sensory — specifically olfactory — obsession taken to the extreme, it’s a visually striking adaptation of Patrick Süskind's 1985 novel, with a cast led by English and American stars such as Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffman.
Nearly 40 years on, Wolfgang Petersen’s breakout film remains a powerhouse of German cinema — a status solidified by its six Oscar nominations, but proven by its tense, impressively staged war tale. Multiple versions exist, including a five-hour run; however Netflix is screening the original theatrical cut which clocks in at two-and-a-half hours.
The late, great Swiss actor Bruno Ganz played an instrumental part in many of Germany’s best films, and in Downfall he plays a notorious role as well. With Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Oscar nominee exploring Hitler’s last days, the inimitable Ganz steps into the Nazi leader’s shoes. The film that spawned many a meme and parody, it’s an engrossing drama that’s both meticulous and thoughtful.
STANWim Wenders’ Road Movie Trilogy
Wenders’ filmography is filled with highlights, from dramas such as Wings of Desire to documentaries like Buena Vista Social Club. Stan’s foray into his resume features three of his early films — his fourth, fifth and sixth directorial efforts, in fact — with Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move and Kings of the Road taking to the West German streets.
The Deutschland series will soon receive a third instalment, Deutschland 89, but for now, both Deutschland 83 and Deutschland 86 take TV fans into the Stasi’s spy operations three decades ago. Set in their titular years, each season charts the exploits of an East Germany border guard turned undercover operative in West Germany — from his first instructions from his aunt to an international smuggling operation.
Based on the 2011 movie of the same name, Hanna once again focuses on a young girl who’s trained by her ex-soldier father and pursued by the CIA. The film starred Saorise Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett, and while they’ve been replaced by Esme Creed-Miles, Joel Kinnaman, and Mireille Enos, the European-set largely English-language eight-part series also endeavours to expand its story and world.
SBS ON DEMAND
It’s a tried-and-tested formula: a body is found near the border of two nations, and law enforcement from both countries must work together to solve the case. Following in the footsteps of the Scandinavian and US versions of The Bridge, Pagan Peak hones in on a crime that straddles Germany and Austria — and as the name suggests, linking to both the alpine region and occult rituals.
Ku’Damm 56 and 59
Enormous TV hits when they first aired in Germany, Ku’Damm 56 and its sequel Ku’Damm 59 both head to Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, and to the 1950s dance school inhabited by a strict matriarch and her three daughters. Central to the paired three-part series is the struggle for a generation coming-of-age in such changed, post-war times, a theme that inspires much dramatic fodder.
The Tin Drum
Volker Schlöndorff’s 1979 film earned two significant honours: the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Based on Günter Grass’ novel, its narrative is as attention-grabbing as its achievements, with the story centring on a boy who received a tin drum during the rise of the Nazi party and decides never to grow up
The Baader-Meinhof Complex
This Oscar-nominated drama delves into the far-left group also known as the Red Army Faction, tracking their increasingly violent activities during the late 1960s to mid 1970s. Moritz Bleibtreu, Martina Gedeck and Johanna Wokalek put in memorable performances as the outfit’s central trio, in a film that looks the period part and offers an engrossing exploration of the situation for audiences both familiar and new to its events.
This version of Das Boot follows on from the 1981 film of the same name, using both Lothar-Günther Buchheim's 1973 book and his 1995 sequel as source material. A high-profile cast features, including Vicky Krieps, Lizzy Caplan, James D'Arcy and Vincent Kartheiser, with the eight-part series once again stepping aboard a German submarine and exploring life in its claustrophobic confines.
DOCPLAYCathedrals of Culture
The six-part series set six directors a task: to step inside six of the world’s iconic structures and tell their stories. Wim Wenders is one of the filmmakers, and the Berlin Philharmonic building is his chosen place. Like many of Wenders’ documentaries, the end result isn’t in German — this time, the entire show is in English — but it’s still a fascinating look at a German institution.