Top 8 German Television Shows and German Cinema – Your New To-Watch List 

With German television and German cinema, you are stepping into a world where time loops are the new normal, the Roaring Twenties never ended, and selling drugs online is just another teen angst phase.

Forget everything you thought you knew about binge-worthy viewing. We’re not just talking about another crime series with a moody detective or a rom-com with predictable airport chases. 

Oh no. 

We’re diving headfirst into a different realm all-together.

From eerie forests shrouded in mystery to the decadent cabarets of Berlin, these German masterpieces are like a finely brewed beer – rich, immersive, and with a kick that leaves you wanting more. So why settle for the same old sitcom reruns when you can explore the depths of human nature with a side of schnitzel?

What Really Sets German Television and German Cinema Apart?

  • Innovative Storytelling: German television creators often venture beyond conventional narratives, embracing complex plots and deep psychological explorations. Shows like Dark exemplify this with their intricate time-travel storylines and rich character development.
  • Historical Depth: Germany’s tumultuous history, from the Weimar Republic to the Cold War, provides a rich backdrop for storytelling. Babylon Berlin and Deutschland 83 skillfully weave historical events into engaging narratives, offering viewers a glimpse into Germany’s past.
  • Cultural Nuance: German television productions excel in capturing the essence of German life and culture, providing international audiences with an authentic glimpse into the country’s social fabric, traditions, and contemporary issues.
  • Technical Excellence: German cinema is known for its high production values, including outstanding cinematography, meticulous set designs, and cutting-edge special effects, which contribute to the immersive viewing experience.
  • Global Themes, Local Flavors: While tackling universal themes like love, betrayal, and ambition, German television shows maintain a distinct local flavor, grounding their stories in specific German settings and societal contexts.
  • Character Complexity: German characters often display a depth and complexity that drives the narrative forward, making even the most fantastical plots seem relatable and human.

4 German Television Shows Worth Watching

The world of German television provides a unique glimpse into the country’s culture, humor, and storytelling prowess, may it be from gripping dramas to insightful documentaries. Here are some of our absolute favourites. 

#1 Dark

German television shows - Dark

Dark is not just a show; it’s a mind-bending journey through the tangled web of time in the small, seemingly tranquil town of Winden, Germany. This supernatural thriller unravels a complex story that spans multiple generations, revealing how the fates of four interconnected families are irrevocably tied to the town’s mysterious cave system. 

As the series unfolds, Dark masterfully navigates through different timelines, challenging viewers to piece together the puzzle of Winden’s dark past and even darker future.

Why do we love it?

  • Intricate Plot: Dark takes the concept of time travel and turns it into a labyrinthine narrative that demands and rewards the viewer’s full attention.
  • Deep Characters: Each character is meticulously crafted, with their motivations, fears, and secrets gradually unveiled, adding rich layers to the story.
  • Visual Mastery: The show’s cinematography captures the eerie beauty of Winden, creating an atmosphere that’s both haunting and captivating.
  • Philosophical Depth: Beyond the suspense, Dark delves into profound themes of fate, free will, and the intricate nature of human relationships.

Where to watch: Netflix

Make sure to read: Learning to Love German Winters: 5 Places to Visit in the Winter

#2 Babylon Berlin 

German television shows - Babylon Berlin

Step into the intoxicating chaos of late 1920s Berlin with Babylon Berlin, a show that revives the tumultuous era of the Weimar Republic with astonishing clarity and flair. Set against the backdrop of a city caught between extravagant hedonism and political upheaval, this gripping series follows Inspector Gereon Rath as he navigates a complex web of crime, corruption, and espionage. 

Why do we love it?

  • Historical Vividness: The show’s painstaking attention to historical detail resurrects 1920s Berlin in all its decadent glory, offering a visual feast and an immersive experience.
  • Complex Narratives: Woven with intrigue and suspense, the series masterfully balances multiple storylines, keeping viewers on their toes.
  • Rich Characterization: Characters in Babylon Berlin are deeply developed, with their personal dramas set against the larger historical canvas, adding emotional depth to the political and social turmoil.
  • Cinematic Quality: With its high production values, the series boasts a cinematic quality that brings the roaring twenties to life with stunning costumes, sets, and cinematography.

Where to watch: Netflix

#3 How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)

German television shows - How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)

In the age where digital innovation meets teenage rebellion, How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) emerges as a daringly humorous take on the lengths a teenager will go to win back his ex-girlfriend. This German television series follows Moritz, a high school student who, in an attempt to impress his ex-girlfriend and assert his independence, turns to selling ecstasy online. What starts as a small venture quickly spirals into a vast and uncontrollable online drug business. 

Why do we love it?

  • Relatable Protagonist: Moritz’s journey from a lovelorn teenager to an unexpected drug kingpin is both absurd and oddly relatable, making for a compelling watch.
  • Witty Humor: The show’s sharp, witty humor provides a fresh perspective on the serious subjects it tackles, from the dark web to the impact of technology on relationships.
  • Cultural Relevance: It captures the zeitgeist of the digital age, addressing the opportunities and pitfalls of the internet with a nuanced understanding.
  • Dynamic Storytelling: Fast-paced and filled with twists, the narrative keeps viewers engaged with its blend of comedy, drama, and suspense.

Where to watch: Netflix 

Also read: How to Open Your First German Bank Account?

#4 Deutschland 83

German television shows - Deutschland 83

Deutschland 83 is a gripping foray into the heart of the Cold War, told through the eyes of a young East German soldier, Martin Rauch, who is sent undercover to spy on West Germany. This critically acclaimed series deftly combines the personal with the political, as Martin navigates the perilous waters of espionage while grappling with his own identity and loyalties. 

Set against the tense backdrop of the 1980s, the show offers a vivid portrayal of a divided Germany, where the threat of nuclear conflict looms large and the Berlin Wall stands as a stark symbol of ideological divide.

Why do we love it?

  • Authentic Cold War Atmosphere: The series masterfully recreates the tension and paranoia of the 1980s, offering a compelling glimpse into a pivotal period in history.
  • Complex Protagonist: Martin’s journey from a loyal East German soldier to a conflicted spy is deeply engaging, showcasing the human side of espionage.
  • Thrilling Espionage: With its suspenseful plot and meticulous attention to detail, Deutschland 83 keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with authentic espionage tactics and political intrigue.
  • Cultural Nostalgia: The show is imbued with 80s culture, from the soundtrack to the fashion, adding a layer of nostalgia that enriches the viewing experience.

Where to watch: Hulu 

4 Best German Movies You Need to Add to Your To-Watch List 

German cinema is the epitome of storytelling finesse and prowess with their complex, intricate narratives and equally spellbinding visuals. There is definitely something for everyone there! 

#1 All Quiet on the Western Front 

German cinema - All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front is a powerful adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war masterpiece. It plunges viewers into the harrowing experiences of Paul Bäumer, a young German soldier disillusioned by the brutal realities of World War I.

The film doesn’t shy away from portraying the physical and psychological trauma inflicted on soldiers. It explores themes of lost innocence, the futility of war, and the dehumanization caused by constant violence. The audience witnesses Paul’s transformation from an idealistic youth to a shell of his former self, haunted by death and yearning for peace.

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Why do we love it?

  • Unflinching Realism: The film pulls no punches in depicting the brutal realities of trench warfare in World War I. From the mud and despair to the graphic violence and constant threat of death, director Lewis Milestone crafts a harrowing experience that throws viewers into the heart of the conflict.
  • Focus on Young Soldiers: The film follows Paul Bäumer and his classmates, young men lured into war by patriotic fervor and soon stripped of their innocence. 
  • Anti-War Message: While not explicitly accusatory, the film’s powerful imagery and narrative paint a clear picture of the senselessness and dehumanization inherent in war.

Where to watch: Netflix 

#2 The Corsage 

German cinema - The Corsage

More than just a lavish period drama, The Corsage delves into the complexities of royal life, the yearning for personal freedom, and the stifling grip of societal expectations. Confined by the rigid expectations of royal life and suffocated by her infamous corset, Elisabeth embarks on a journey of self-discovery. 

Seeking freedom and personal expression, she defies societal norms through intellectual pursuits, horseback riding, and even loosening the very symbol of her constraint – the corset. This historical drama explores themes of personal freedom, societal expectations, and the yearning for authenticity amidst a life under constant scrutiny.

Why do we love it?

  • Subversive Portrayal of Royalty: The film goes beyond a typical royal biopic, offering a nuanced and complex portrayal of Empress Elisabeth. Instead of solely focusing on her beauty and elegance, it dives into her frustrations and rebellious spirit, challenging the expectations placed upon her. 
  • Exploration of Timely Themes: Although set in the 19th century, the film tackles themes of personal freedom, societal constraints, and the search for identity that remain relevant today. 
  • Fresh Take on Historical Drama: With its unconventional portrayal of royalty, exploration of contemporary themes, and potentially strong performances, The Corsage offers a fresh perspective on the historical drama genre. 

Where to watch: Hulu 

Don’t forget to read: How to Rent a Car in Germany?

#3 The Forger 

German cinema - The Forger

The Forger, based on the gripping true story of Cioma Schönhaus, dives deep into the heart of moral turmoil and desperate survival in the face of Nazi persecution. The film throws us into the shoes of Cioma, a gifted young Jewish artist who uses his forgery skills to not only save his own life but also orchestrate a daring rescue operation for hundreds of others.

Despite the bleak backdrop, The Forger celebrates the enduring power of human resilience. The film transcends mere entertainment by inviting viewers to engage in important ethical and historical discussions. It compels us to confront the complexities of survival in oppressive regimes, question the boundaries of morality, and ultimately celebrate the unwavering spirit of human resilience.

Why do we love it?

  • Gripping True Story: Based on the real-life tale of Cioma Schönhaus, the film offers a unique window into a lesser-known aspect of World War II history. The true story element adds authenticity and emotional weight, potentially resonating with audiences interested in historical narratives.
  • Complex Moral Dilemmas: The film doesn’t shy away from portraying the difficult choices Cioma faces as a Jewish forger forced to work for the Nazis. This exploration of moral ambiguity and gray areas adds depth and nuance, sparking viewer engagement and discussions about survival.
  • Strong Central Performance: Early reviews have praised the performance of Louis Hofmann as Cioma, highlighting his ability to convey the character’s internal struggles and complexities. 

Where to watch: Netflix

#4 Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush

German cinema - Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush

Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush transcends the legal drama label to become a powerful portrayal of a mother’s unwavering fight against injustice and the emotional depths it uncovers. The film throws us into the real-life battle of Rabiye Kurnaz, a Turkish housewife in Germany, who embarks on a seemingly impossible legal journey to free her son, Murat, wrongfully detained at Guantanamo Bay for years without charges.

Ultimately, Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush serves as a call to action. It prompts viewers to question systems of oppression, fight for individual rights, and celebrate the power of love and determination in overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Why do we love it? 

  • Emotional Depth Beyond Legal Battles: Although the legal fight drives the plot, the film delves deeply into Rabiye’s emotions, showcasing her fear, love, and unwavering determination. This emotional journey creates a strong connection with viewers, allowing them to share Rabiye’s experiences and understand the human cost of injustice.
  • Relevant Social Commentary: The film subtly critiques systemic injustices and raises questions about power dynamics, making it relevant to contemporary discussions about human rights and individual liberties. 
  • Unique Tone and Balance: Though dealing with a serious subject, the film reportedly incorporates humor and humanity, striking a balance between emotional weight and moments of hope and resilience.

Where to watch: MUBI

Your recommended post for the week: A Peek into a Day in German Life

And there you have it, a whirlwind of Germany’s most captivating cinematic landscapes! From time-bending mysteries in sleepy towns to the gritty streets of 1920s Berlin, and from the digital frontiers of the internet to the chilling front lines of World War I, these selections promise more than just entertainment. 

They offer a passport to worlds unknown, minds untangled, and emotions uncharted. So, pop some corn, dim the lights, and let Germany’s finest storytellers whisk you away. Who knew a staycation could take you through time, history, and the human psyche?

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