Stream 48 Classic & Contemporary German Films Free Online: From Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt

If you’re read­ing this, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Ger­man Expres­sion­ist clas­sic The Cab­i­net of Dr. Cali­gari. As soon as Robert Weine’s 1920 film came out, it was described as essen­tial. Or as one review­er wrote, “so-called cul­tured peo­ple who fail to see it are neglect­ing their edu­ca­tion.” There are dozens more Ger­man films to which that sen­tence might apply. Films from the country’s explo­sive Weimar moment—which also pro­duced Metrop­o­lis, Nos­fer­atu, M, Faust, etc.—to those of the New Ger­man Cin­e­ma move­ment of the 1960s and 70s, which gave the world such enfants ter­ri­bles as Wim Wen­ders, Mar­garethe von Trot­ta, Wern­er Her­zog, and Rain­er Maria Fass­binder. The furi­ous­ly pro­lif­ic Fass­binder died in 1982 at 37, but the for­mer three direc­tors have con­tin­ued to make inter­na­tion­al­ly-known films into the 21st cen­tu­ry.

You may have seen Von Trotta’s Han­nah Arendt (trail­er above), which won mul­ti­ple awards in 2012. Or per­haps you caught Car­o­line Link’s WWII-themed Nowhere in Africa, which won an Oscar that same year. The Nazi era may have laid waste to the Ger­man film industry—whose biggest tal­ents end­ed up exiled in Hol­ly­wood—and the post­war years are often thought of as a “lost decade” (wrong­ly, it seems). But on the whole, Ger­man film­mak­ers have pro­duced some of the most visu­al­ly dis­tinc­tive, nar­ra­tive­ly thrilling, and emo­tion­al­ly raw films in world cin­e­ma since its begin­nings.


Germany’s cul­tur­al insti­tute, the Goethe Insti­tut, is hon­or­ing the lega­cy of Ger­man film, from its clas­sic to its con­tem­po­rary peri­ods, with 48 films free to stream on Kanopy. (The films include sub­ti­tles in Eng­lish.) The ini­tia­tive is just one part of Wun­der­bar, a cel­e­bra­tion that includes “Goethe Pop Ups in the US,” with film screen­ings, fes­ti­vals, appear­ances by Ger­man film­mak­ers, and an online series of crit­i­cal arti­cles by Ger­man and Amer­i­can experts.

If you haven’t seen Dr. Cali­gari, Nos­fer­atuMetrop­o­lis, or Faust, you can stream them now at the Goethe Institut’s Kanopy. You can also see Han­nah Arendt, Nowhere in Africa, and oth­er acclaimed con­tem­po­rary films. Herzog’s 1971 Aguirre, the Wrath of God is in the col­lec­tion, as is Frank Beyer’s far more obscure Trace of Stones from 1966, a film banned for 25 years by East Ger­man offi­cials after its release.

There are doc­u­men­taries on artists like Joseph Beuys and Ger­hard Richter, on Mar­lene Diet­rich and, nat­u­ral­ly, Ger­man beer. Films by direc­tors Anne Birken­stock, Chris­t­ian Pet­zold, and Tom Tyk­w­er. Berlin Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val nom­i­nee Beloved Sis­ters appears. There are films that “so-called cul­tured peo­ple” are expect­ed to have seen, and many more unlike­ly to show up on the syl­labus of a sur­vey course.

Per­haps only one of these movies has been specif­i­cal­ly cred­it­ed with grim­ly pre­dict­ing the future—as Siegfried Kra­cauer alleged in his book Cali­gari to Hitler. But all of these are films that deserve a wide audi­ence out­side their nation­al bor­ders. To view the Goethe Institut’s selec­tion of 48 films, you’ll need to sign up for a free Kanopy account, which you can do with your Google or Face­book logins or with an email address. Then sim­ply set your home library as “Goethe-Insti­tut” and you can stream any or all of the films in the col­lec­tion, from 1920’s Cali­gari to 2017’s Axolotl Overkill, on IOS and Android devices, Apple TV, Roku, Chrome­cast, or your com­put­er.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

10 Great Ger­man Expres­sion­ist Films: From Nos­fer­atu to The Cab­i­net of Dr. Cali­gari

Watch Wern­er Herzog’s Very First Film, Her­ak­les, Made When He Was Only 19-Years-Old (1962)

Film­mak­er Wim Wen­ders Explains How Mobile Phones Have Killed Pho­tog­ra­phy

The Top 100 For­eign-Lan­guage Films of All-Time, Accord­ing to 209 Crit­ics from 43 Coun­tries

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.