With only two exceptions, all the films below were produced in the immediate postwar years. Imagine it — shortages of everything from light bulbs to film, such limited resources that sometimes lay actors were used. This is why the German films in particular may look pared down. But the footage of ruined cities, defeated Germans and hard working, hard playing allies is as authentic as it gets. If you have any other film suggestions, let me know and I’ll add them.
A Defeated People – 1946. A British documentary about the state of Germany and what had to be done to rebuild. An interesting look at the allied postwar dilemma. They were caught between feeling the Germans deserved what they got, and the humane and politically sensible view that the Germans must be helped.
A Foreign Affair — 1948. Billy Wilder. Enough said. Oh, I guess I should mention Jean Arthur and Marlene Dietrich are in it. Simply a classic comedy about love in ruined Berlin.
The Good German — 2006. I kind of liked the film for its black and white retro look, but Cate Blanchett doesn’t make a convincing German to me and I thought George Clooney’s character was a bit, I don’t know, naive, maybe. So I’ll just recommend the film for its atmosphere.
Judgement at Nuremberg — 1961. Because it has to be on any list about the postwar era. Maximilian Schell, who played the young German defense lawyer, recently passed away (2014).
The Third Man — 1949. Orson Welles’ crime drama set in Vienna. The four-power situation, the moral dilemmas and the film’s atmosphere is great for anyone interested in the postwar era.
This will be an alphabetical list starting with the second film below. The first film – Die Mörder sind unter uns — has to be first on a German list. It’s one of the most important postwar German films ever made (and this time, when I say postwar, I mean up to today).
Die Mörder sind unter uns — 1946. The very first German postwar film, from the eastern German DEFA (Deutsche Film AG, Potsdam-Babelsberg). A courageous film that deals with war crimes and personal guilt, two topics Germans of the time didn’t usually want to think about. It was first shown in the Soviet Sector of Berlin. It also stars future film star Hildegard Knef.
Berliner Ballade — 1948. A satirical look at life in Berlin after the war. The name of the main character made the term Otto Normalverbraucher (a bit like “average Joe” with an emphases on consumption/rationing) popular in German.
Deutschland im Jahre Null — 1948. An Italian-produced (Roberto Rossellini wrote and directed), German language film about a 12-year-old boy who provides for his family in ruined Berlin.
In Jenen Tagen — 1947. An episodic film that traces the stories of 7 previous owners of a junked car built in 1933.
Irgendwo in Berlin — 1946. Focuses on the Ruinenkinder, children of the ruins, in Berlin, and the apathy of the adults around them.
Und über uns der Himmel — 1947. Filmed in the American sector of Berlin. Not as dreary as so many other German films set in or dealing with the postwar era. It dared to give the main character, a middle aged German (played by Hans Albers) released from an American POW camp, an upbeat and humorous personality. I liked this contrast to the world he lived in.