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I want to practice my listening comprehension and build up my grammar and vocabulary.

I find movies to be a good way to do this as it is full of dialogue by native German speakers talking at normal real-life speed, and if I get really stuck I can turn on subtitles.

Things I'm looking for:

  • Dialogue that is clear and close to High German or at least isn't full of strong regional dialect.
  • If it teaches something about German life or culture that would be good (e.g. Goodbye Lenin).
  • I'd also prefer films that are enjoyable to watch in their own right.
  • Should be easily available on DVD (preferably in the UK or through sites like amazon.de).
  • Should have (optional) English subtitles.

What are some recommendations for movies that learners will find beneficial?

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There are lots and lots of movies that would fit your description (especially since German cinema is known for its extensive dialogs) - can you name any constraints as to what you're looking for? –  Jan May 27 '11 at 9:20
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Too bad no dialect is allowed, that actually excludes some of the best movies. We might start a communitiy wiki of those as well. ^^ –  ladybug May 27 '11 at 12:51
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@ladybug I'm not opposed to dialect. I just thought it would probably teach learners phrases that couldn't use in post situations. What do you think? –  Twelve47 May 27 '11 at 12:54
    
Of course you are absolutely right. It wasn't meant as criticism at all. Only the first 3 movies that came to my head all were strong dialect ones. :) –  ladybug May 27 '11 at 12:57
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I'd try Soap Operas, althoug comedy would be more fun it's often full of dialect –  mbx May 27 '11 at 19:05
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26 Answers

I recommend Good Bye Lenin! (2003), one of my favorite German movies. It's an entertaining film that deals with with the sudden reality when Eastern Germany merged with Western Germany. You can learn a lot about both parts of Germany and their recent history.

In 1990, to protect his fragile mother from a fatal shock after a long coma, a young man must keep her from learning that her beloved nation of East Germany as she knew it has disappeared.

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I was studying German, German history and the whole question of Wiedervereinigung during 1989-1990, so this film really resonates with me. Also, the exterior scene with the helicopter and Lenin is cinematic gold. –  Nick Dixon Jun 1 '11 at 11:34
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Das Leben der Anderen (2006) is another great (and Oscar-winning) movie dealing with German history.

Wikipedia:

The film involves the monitoring of the cultural scene of East Berlin by agents of the Stasi, the GDR's secret police.

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That is one you really should have seen! :) –  ladybug May 27 '11 at 11:01
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If you're a geek and grew up in the 1980s (or are interested in the European 1980s):

23 - Nichts ist so wie es scheint (1998)

The movie's plot is based on the true story of a group of young computer hackers from Hannover, Germany

From Heike Angermaier's review:

Ein intelligentes und vielschichtiges Drama über das Erwachsenwerden, das Regisseur und Ko-Autor Hans-Christian Schmid auch in Nach fünf im Urwald und in Crazy eindringlich schildert. Hier nahm er sich den realen Hacker- und Industriespionage-Fall von Karl Koch als Vorbild, der in den 80er Jahren von den Medien aufgekocht wurde.

Mit Autor Michael Gutmann recherchierte er den Fall sehr ausführlich, bemühte sich aber vor allem dem Menschen Karl gerecht zu werden. Sehr schön gefilmt (einschließlich Archivmaterial aus Fernsehnachrichten der Zeit) und mit gutem Soundtrack bestückt, funktioniert der erwachsene Film, mit etwas über 680.000 Zuschauern übrigens einer der erfolgreichsten deutschen Filme des Jahres 1999, auch als spannender Politkrimi.

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I'd never heard of this. It sounds like a really interesting film, but I can't find a copy with english subtitles. –  Twelve47 May 27 '11 at 12:27
    
I think is the case cracked by Clifford Stoll that he wrote about in his book The Cuckoo's Egg. –  Eugene Seidel May 21 '13 at 11:22
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Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (2004) is a very good movie about the younger generations of Germany. Not yet grown up but neither children, these youngsters are rebelling against "the system", eventually making a very big mistake.

I think it's a very good movie to get a grab about how "not so old but not so young" people in Germany feel and of course talk.

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One of my favourite German movies is Das merkwürdige Verhalten geschlechtsreifer Großstädter zur Paarungszeit (1998).

It's light-hearted, entertaining and contains a lot of dialogue.

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Great movie. I've watched this on a school trip to Berlin. OMG. That was thirteen years ago. Now I also feel old. –  OregonGhost May 27 '11 at 12:33
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Oooh, Christoph Waltz. Hmm. Which reminds me: Would Inglourious Basterds qualify in this context? A substantial portion of the dialogs are German, after all. –  Konrad Rudolph May 27 '11 at 12:59
    
@ladybug do you know if it is available with English subtitles? The version I've found on amazon.de doesn't list any. –  Twelve47 May 27 '11 at 13:01
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@Twelve47: I am not sure, but probably there aren't English subtitles. However, as a general idea: have you tried watching German movies with German subtitles? I found this very useful for learning English and it's still my preferred way of watching English movies today. This is even proved to be the most efficient way to learn: spiegel.de/wissenschaft/mensch/0,1518,660578,00.html –  ladybug May 27 '11 at 13:04
    
@ladybug I watched a few films where I've understood the odd scene, and I've failed to understand big chunks. I found watching film with subtitles once lets me work out what the story and each scene is about, then it's easier to go back and watch without subtitles. –  Twelve47 May 27 '11 at 17:04
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Das Boot (1981): about the crew of a german submarine (2nd World War)

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Knocking on Heaven's Door (1997) is a nice comedy-drama with Til Schweiger and Jan-Josef Liefers (who btw is hilarious in the Tatort TV series), both very good German actors.

Mr. Schweiger is a bit of a mumbler though, but you'll manage :-)

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Definitely +1 for this movie. I also liked later Til Schweiger films though, like Keinohrhasen or Wo ist Fred?. –  OregonGhost May 27 '11 at 10:10
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Keinohrhasen was great - Zweiohrküken was disappointing though... –  Jan May 27 '11 at 10:51
    
I still liked it. But that's why I didn't mention it ;) –  OregonGhost May 27 '11 at 10:54
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Next to "Good Bye Lenin" another good film that tells about life in Eastern Berlin is Sonnenallee.

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Soul kitchen (2009)

In Hamburg, German-Greek chef Zinos unknowingly disturbs the peace in his locals-only restaurant by hiring a more talented chef.

A comedy which avoids slapstick humor by simply telling a good story with charming characters and which highlights some curious parts of German culture by portraying them through the eyes of an immigrant.

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Sounds fascinating! –  Mark C Jul 8 '11 at 22:08
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On the not-so-light-hearted, but historically interesting side is Napola (2004). Covers a rarely adressed topic from the NS time.

-- originally suggested by ladybug

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thanks for tidying up :) –  ladybug Jul 8 '11 at 8:22
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Free Rainer - Dein Fernseher lügt (2007): fictional, about TV and manipulating viewer levels

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If you wrote the suggestions as separate answers, it would be easier to upvote specific movies. –  Tim N May 27 '11 at 21:16
    
@Tim I forgot this is a community wiki question –  mbx May 27 '11 at 21:20
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Europa Europa / Hitlerjunge Salomon

A Jewish boy separated from his family in the early days of WWII poses as a German orphan and is taken into the heart of the Nazi world as a 'war hero' and eventually becomes a Hitler Youth.

This one is historical, funny, improbable (though apparently based on a true story) and most of the dialogue is fairly clear.

There's some Russian dialogue in there too.

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Das Experiment (2001): about the infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment".

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Great film, absolute must! –  Ingo Dec 16 '13 at 14:46
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There is Herr Lehmann which is about life in West Berlin just prior to the fall of the Wall (although the film doesn't pay that much attention to that fact, it's more or less bolted on).

-- originally suggested by musiKk

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If you want to learn about an important part of history of Western Germany there is Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, which sheds some light on infamous terrorism organization Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF).

-- originally suggested by musiKk

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Stalingrad (1993): about the encirclement of the 6th army (2nd World War)

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-1 One of the (unforunately for German cinema) few examples where some characters do not speak Hochdeutsch, but fake dialect. –  Residuum Jul 14 '11 at 22:58
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There is Edgar Reitz's chilling Heimat (Film-Trilogie), covering the period 1919 - 2000.

The first of the three is not exactly free of dialect, but in the second one (Die zweite Heimat – Chronik einer Jugend) one of the main characters learns High German and there should not be too many problems in the third. Of particular mention in the second are the two episodes Zeit des Schweigens and Die Zeit der vielen Worte.

It is available from Amazon (I bought it from the German Amazon).

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In Germany, movies are generally dubbed. Therefore you can get a lot of DVDs with German and original dialogue. For beginners, it might be a good idea to choose movies that they've already watched in a more familiar language. This way the brain can fill in the blanks.

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Please correct my English. –  bjoernz Jun 2 '11 at 7:11
    
What do you mean by "movies that they an understand in their native language"? Movies about simple subjects? –  Tim N Jun 2 '11 at 10:41
    
I mean movies that they have watched before in a more familiar language. This way the brain can fill in the blanks. –  bjoernz Jun 2 '11 at 11:24
    
Ok, I've added that wording to the question. –  Tim N Jun 2 '11 at 11:28
    
@Tim thanks, I have trouble articulating myself (esp. today) –  bjoernz Jun 2 '11 at 11:34
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Die Welle (2008) - The best movie about coping with the history of germany and how young people are trying to find their identity in the modern Germany (Of course, the original played in the US, but I think Germany's a much better place for such a movie due to history). Extremely well written script and very nice dialogues and arguments.

I can't imagine why nobody brought that one up until now...

-- originally suggested by ApoY2k

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Here are some I've watched on streaming Netflix. All of these have the original German soundtrack, with English subtitles:

The Edukators (Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei) -- An entertaining, 'Oops, we're sorry we kidnapped you' kind of story.

Requiem -- Contemporary story about a young woman, her mental illness, and religion.

Vision (Aus dem Leben der Hildegard von Bingen) -- Roughly the same premise as the preceding, set in an era when mental illness and religion were the same thing. I suspect the dialog was (intentionally) archaic.

Gentlemen in White Vests (Die Herren mit der weißen Weste) -- Very amusing 1970's-era Robin Hood-ish story.

The Seven Dwarfs (7 Zwerge) -- Funny and ridiculous, lots of good dialog.

The Forest for the Trees (Der Wald vor lauter Bäumen) -- Sad story of a socially awkward young school teacher. German dialects seem to play a role in this movie, but the subtleties were lost on me.

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I'd recommend Die Architekten which is a relatively little-known film, made in the GDR and released after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it must have seemed completely irrelevant at that time, but now it's a fascinating insight.

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+1 I really enjoyed Die Architekten. It gave me an amazing insight into the struggles people doing creative jobs people must have faced under the DDR. The liner notes in the UK DVD provide an talk about the difficulties the DEFA had getting the film into production (before the Wall fell) which mirror the themes in the movie. –  Twelve47 May 27 '11 at 17:01
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I enjoyed "Russendisko", a film adaptation of the popular novel of the same title by Vladimir Kaminer, in which he recounts the adventure of arriving in Berlin as a Russian immigrant around the time of the fall of the DDR. It's a fun movie and the dialog is not too hard to understand.

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I quite like Männer wie wir (de) / Balls (uk) / Guys and Balls (us).

Ecki is a young man who works in a bakery in Dortmund and plays soccer on his local team. Already under pressure for playing badly, his homophobic team-members find out that he is gay and throw him off the team. With the help of his sister and a cranky former soccer star, he tries to form an all-gay football team to challenge his old team in a grudge match.

The story is entertaining and fairly simple, so it is still reasonably easy to follow if even you don't understand everyline of dialog. As one of the main themes is football, there is a lot of football related vocab you can pick up from too.

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Todesspiel also shed some light on infamous terrorism organization Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF), an important part of the history of Western Germany.

-- originally suggested by musiKk

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