Ever since I started teaching myself languages, television has played a big role in my study routine. It’s not always the place where I actively learn a language through deliberate practice. Still, the ongoing exposure to my target language’s culture and sound keep me interested and allow me to test my learning progress by switching subtitles on and off.
And since I am a German teacher who also shares a home with a sporadic German learner, our cosy nights on the coach often feature TV shows in my native language, German.
In this article, I’ve listed 9 shows and films that we loved. These will offer you enough entertainment in German to keep you on the couch for weeks in German binge-mode. Los geht’s!
German TV Shows
More and more amazing shows are pulling in top writers and actors from Germany’s film industry, and there’s something for everyone.
If You Want Spy Drama and Retro Fashion by the Berlin Wall
The Same Sky is centred around the “Romeo” assignment of Lars, a young East German soldier in the 1970s. It’s called “Romeo” because his job is to befriend and seduce a female target who works in a military institution (played by The Bridge’s Sofia Helin!) and move her to reveal secret intel on who’s spying on the East German state.
As Lars embarks on his adventure in the “capitalist snake pit” of 1970s Berlin, a few secrets about his own past come to light.
With great acting, amazing shots of Berlin, and mind-boggling insights into the daily life of citizens in socialist East Germany, The Same Sky belongs on any German learner’s Netflix queue.
If You Wish There Was a German Telenovela
Guess what…there’s a German telenovela! It’s called Verliebt in Berlin (a pun meaning “in love in Berlin” and “in love with Berlin”). I don’t need to explain the plot in too much detail, but rest assured it involves young women and men, various love affairs, and at least one internship in fashion.
If You Wish There Was a German Telenovela for German Learners
German TV really has got it all! The series Jojo sucht das Glück is not a traditional TV show, but a programme developed by Deutsche Welle for German classrooms and learners all around the world.
As you watch the adventures of Jojo, a new student arriving to Cologne from Brazil, you can watch each episode with a full German transcript and follow it up with language exercises.
If You Want German Sci-Fi That is More Confusing Than the German Language
Dark is a gem and a rarity as a Netflix TV show produced by Germans and filmed entirely in German, to be released on the international market. And the gamble has paid off as the show became a fan favourite and won awards and top ratings across the board.
Dark is set in the small German town of Winden, where idyllic town life starts to go wrong as children start to disappear. The events are set in 2019, but very quickly the plot thickens when teenager Jonas discovers a portal that takes him back to Winden in 1986.
Can Jonas change the future? Did the disappeared children travel in time? And what’s the nuclear power station got to do with it all?
Dark is the perfect show for you if you enjoyed the otherworldly mysteries of shows likeStranger Things and don’t mind throwing time travel into the mix.
If You’re a Reality TV Junkie
Most of the big international TV hits have been produced in Germany as well as in other countries. For example, you can watch Das Große Backen if you love the happy world of home baking. Or if you’re an action junkie who wants to cheer on your favourite athlete, check out the German commentary on seasons 1 and 3 of Ultimate Beastmaster which is produced by Sylvester Stallone himself!
The German film scene is world class, and here are a few suggestions to get you started.
If You Want an Oscar-Nominated Portrait of Terrorism in Germany
The Baader-Meinhof Komplex. They’re oddly well-dressed for terrorists, aren’t they? This film tells the story of Germany’s notorious Rote Armee Fraktion, a domestic terrorist group that emerged from the 1960s student revolts.
Fired up by rebellion against a generation of parents who let fascism happen on their watch, the young students around Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader start to take action and things become increasingly violent.
This film is a must-see for anyone who wants to start getting an insight into the many ways Germany has had to face and deal with its Nazi past.
If You Think You’re Too Busy to Relax With a German Movie
Allow the bittersweet story of Toni Erdmann to change your mind. The film follows corporate consultant Ines, who is working double time to move her career forward. Her father Winfried misses their relationship and tries to win her attention through practical jokes.
Nothing works until Ines sets off on a company trip..just to find her father has decided to come along and style himself as her life coach. This film is funny and sweet with a genuinely sad undercurrent.
In Toni Erdmann you’ll discover the gentle, so absurd-it’s-serious style of humour that is so typical for Germany.
If You Are Ready to Feel the Heartbreak of Berlin’s Divided History
Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) is an Oscar-winning film about what happens when you work in audio surveillance and listen in on people so much that you end up caring about them.
Lonely Stasi man Gerd is played by Ulrich Mühe in one of his best performances ever. Watching the film, you will feel yourself drawn into his world and the conflicts he has to face between duty and integrity.
Want to Learn German With TV and Cut Out the Subtitles?
If you are an advanced learner and want to try watching without subtitles, don’t miss out on this episode of the Fluent Show with listening expert Cara Leopold.
Experience Germany for Yourself on a German Retreat
After watching so many shows and movies set in the most beautiful and historical parts of Germany, you may find yourself wanting to experience this country for yourself.
Challenge yourself to speak and practice the language for a whole week, you can join the Fluent German Retreat. This immersion vacation is focused on giving you an unforgettable experience while keeping you speaking German for 7-9 hours every day.
Still wondering how this all works together and why a Retreat is so much more amazing than your average trip to a target country?
What is Your Favourite German TV Show?
Comment below and tell me which show you cannot get enough of! I’m looking forward to adding it to my playlist.