Germany, a nation renowned for its contributions to the world of cinema, has a long and storied history of producing remarkable short films. German cinema has a rich and diverse history, with a legacy that spans over a century. From expressionist classics to contemporary masterpieces, German filmmakers have consistently delivered thought-provoking, visually stunning, and emotionally resonant films. These succinct, captivating works of cinematic art offer a unique perspective on German culture, history, and society. From early experimental films to contemporary masterpieces, German short films have made a lasting impact on the global film landscape. In this article, we will embark on a journey through the world of German short films, spanning from the silent era to the digital age, exploring the evolution of this captivating medium and its influence on international cinema.
However, Germany has also embraced the digital age to produce a wide array of exceptional short films. The Oberhausen Short Film Festival, one of the most renowned events for short film enthusiasts, has continued to be a platform for emerging talent and innovative storytelling. Many contemporary German filmmakers have made a name for themselves by presenting their short films at Oberhausen.
In this article, we will embark on a cinematic journey through the top 20 must-see German films that have left an indelible mark on world cinema.
The Present (2014): The Present is a tear-jerking animation that did very well by Jacob Frey on the festival circuit. It was Frey's graduation film from the famous Baden-Wurttemberg Film Academy in Germany, and is based on a comic strip by Brazilian artist Fabio Coala Cavalcanti.
Black Rider (1993): Black Rider is a short German drama (with a large dose of black comedy) written and directed by the filmmaker Pepe Danquart and proving that some Germans do indeed have a sense of humor. Filmed in black & white, there is a definite European feel to it but this didn't stop Black Rider winning the Oscar for Best Short Film in 1994. It is a simple story of bigotry and comical revenge.
Delivery (2005): Delivery, made by Till Nowak while he was still a student, is a short animation that did very well on the international festival circuit, gaining a dozen awards along the way.
Balance (1989): One of those great short films that explore human nature, Balance is a classic Oscar winning animation from brothers Cristoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein.
High Maintenance (2006): A sci-fi short film and Sundance winner with a subtle. High Maintenance was written by Scot Simon Biggs and directed by American Philip Van, but produced in Germany.
The Raft (2004): The Raft (Das Floß), a stop-motion animation by Jan Thüring. This movie is about the flab that decided to eat a raft with people on it and then the movie ends, assuming that you already left.
Toyland (2007): Toyland is a German 2007 short film directed and co-written by Jochen Alexander Freydank. It won the 2009 Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film. The movie is based on 1942, during the Second World War, a German kid believes that his Jewish neighbours are travelling to Toyland. However, in reality, they are being transported to a Nazi concentration camp.
Heidi (2015): Heidi is a 2015 short film directed by Alain Gsponer. The main story is Heidi is an eight-year-old Swiss orphan whose aunt hands her off to her mountain-dwelling grandfather, then returns and takes her to live in the wealthy Sesemann household in Frankfurt, Germany as a companion to Klara, a sheltered girl in a wheelchair. Heidi is unhappy but makes the best of the situation, always longing for her grandfather.
Darth Maul: Apprentice (2016): Darth Maul: Apprentice is a short German Star Wars-based fan film, created by Shawn Bu and Vi-Dan Tran of the German-based film company, T7 Production. The film focuses around Darth Maul, a villain of the Star Wars franchise, in particular Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. As of January 2022, it has amassed over 30 million views.
Prora(2012): Prora is directed and written by Stéphane Riethauser. The story is a German teenager, spends his summer holidays with his friend Matthieu. After a frustrating night in the local club, the two boys decide to hang out on the beach at sunrise when Matthieu takes his friend along into the abandoned building, and provokes him by making fun of Germany's past. After a chase through Prora's endless hallways, Jan provokes Matthieu in return by suddenly kissing him on the lips. The two friends unexpectedly embark on an erotic game that puts their friendship at risk.
The Cricket And The Ant (2016): The movie is directed by Julia Ritschel. A forbidden relationship between a student and her french teacher shows how passionate and exciting but also how complicated and painful love can be.
The Red Jacket (2002): The Red Jacket short film directed by Florian Baxmeyer. It is set some time in the 1990s. A German man named Walter, seemingly a single father, is expecting his little son coming home. Tragedy strikes however when the boy is struck and killed by a car while crossing the street.
Facing Mecca (2017): The movie is directed by Jan-Eric Mack. The story is about a man whose name is Fareed; his wife's situation is criticaland she was admitted in hospital; the cancer has reached its terminal stage. Pensioner Roli comes to his help and takes him to see his wife who passes away shortly after.
The Colour Out of Space(2017): The movie is directed by Patrick Müller. A meteorite, strange vegetation, a colour an experimental take on H.P. Lovecraft's spiral into madness, shot with a vintage camera on truly unique LomoChrome 16mm film. This is a beautiful exercise in the surreal.
True (2004): True us directed by Tom Tykwer. The story is the phone rings, startling Tomas, who is seated in front of the computer. He feels for the telephone receiver. Tomas is blind. His girlfriend, Francine, tells him that it's all over and she's leaving him. The phone drops back onto the hook. Tomas' mind races back in a dizzying flurry of images to the moment they both met, to the couple's most intimate moments together and to the tiny careless mistakes that eventually lead to the end of their relationship.
Istina (2023): The movie is directed by Tamara Denic. The story is based on Belgrade, 2022: A photojournalist is threatened by right-wing extremist groups in her Serbian home and flees to Germany with her daughter. But then she also experiences increasing strong threats and attacks in her new home.
Maradona's Legs (2019): The movie is directed by Firas Khoury. The story is based on during the 1990 World Cup, two young Palestinian boys are looking for "Maradona's legs": the last missing sticker that they need in order to complete their world cup album and win a free Atari.
Balance (1989): The movie is directed and written by Christoph Lauenstein and Wolfgang Lauenstein. The main storyline of the movie is the setting is on a floating platform where a group of evenly and carefully placed men live. Each man is aware that the platform is not stable and in order not to fall to their deaths, they maintain a careful balance of weight to prevent the platform from tipping too far and cause them all to fall. This reasonably harmonious understanding is lost when one man pulls up a heavy trunk. In the ensuing struggle, balance is lost in more than one sense.
Umbilical Cord(2016): The film is directed by Eliza Petkova. The main story is about Todor who is in his early thirties. He still lives with his mother, who cooks for him every day, iron his shirts, bathes him and watches TV in the evening with him in her arms. She gives all the rules: The everyday life of the two is determined by rituals and pattern behavior. He works in an open plan office, his routine life works perfectly until the day he comes home late for the first time from a company party.
Freunde(2001): Directed by Jan Krüger and Oliver Schwabe. The story is about two sixteen year old boys, Marcos and Johannes, spend their days racing, wrestling, hanging out, watching videos and playing hide-and-seek at nights. A closeness develops between the two of them, which soon starts to become a calamity to their friendship.
German cinema has a rich and storied history, and these top 20 films represent just a fraction of the incredible work produced by German filmmakers. From the expressionist masterpieces of the silent era to contemporary tales of human experience, German cinema continues to inspire and captivate film audiences worldwide. Whether you are a cinephile or a casual moviegoer, these films offer a diverse and enriching cinematic experience that is not to be missed.