The 16 Most Promising Berlinale Movies of 2019

Berlin is kind of a tough city for cinephiles, especially for those of us that (still!) don’t speak German. American films usually come out months later in Germany, and foreign films are either dubbed or subtitled in German. The biggest movies of the year usually come out in December, meaning that some titles still aren’t available in Berlin until February, March or even later, well after the awards have been given. And forget about downloading them (unless you have a VPN)!

But there is a bright side: the Berlinale is one of the film industry’s most prestigious festivals, and it’s actually the largest one in the world, based on annual attendance. Our international community is in luck because all the films are subtitled in English (and German too, sometimes). Instead of being late to the party, the party actually kicks off here: many of these are world premieres, without distribution deals even. So it really is a treat to attend a Berlinale screening.

The main problem is that it’s quite daunting to figure out which movies to go see. I’m still putting together my list for 2018 releases to catch up on, and now it’s time to study films I’ve certainly never heard of. But that’s part of the fun and excitement 🙂 The selection is overwhelming and the tickets are limited… The biggest ones (with celebrities attached) are likely to sell out fast, even minutes after becoming available. That said, it’s still worth a chance. Here’s a list of movies I’ll definitely be trying to purchase as soon as they go on sale (usually three days in advance of the screening, at 10 am, on the Berlinale website). Sales start on February 4th!


From the Berlinale website: “Seven women and men between the ages of 25 and 45 in search of sensual fulfillment and emotional security. Being the architect of one’s own destiny can be a pleasure and a burden at the same time. An ensemble film that merges documentary and fiction.” This is so Berlin.



Here’s an American film I’ve been super excited about. Adam McKay (director of Anchorman and The Big Short) aims his political wit at perhaps America’s most villainous vice president ever. Christian Bale is always phenomenal, and this might be his most radical role yet. It’s sure to be both fascinating and amusing. It’ll screen five times during the Berlinale, and will be released throughout the country 21 February, in case you miss it.

Credit: Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures



This is a film from South Africa. It’s described as “a fast-paced road movie about female self-empowerment and a divided country.” The plot involves a murder case; I’m imagining something like Thelma & Louise, combined with the controversial politics of contemporary South Africa, which is experiencing something like Stalinist insurrection these days. Having just visited, I’m especially curious.



For those of us familiar with this face, and followers of the Instagram BerlinClubMemes, this might qualify as a must-see. Sven Marquardt is one of three club bouncers profiled in this quintessentially Berlin doc. (Sven’s photography career, btw, is the subject of yet another film at this year’s festival.)



This is officially the biggest film of the festival, as it’s the opening ceremony screening. (Tickets aren’t available to the public for that one, but it screens a few more times after that.) It aims to be an artistically ambitious and dramatic tour de force. It has no release date set, even in the US, so this is definitely a major viewing opportunity. Good luck getting a seat!



This German movie is explained like this: “When the Devil’s daughter Lilith is bored with life in hell, her father sends her to earth with the mission to convert one good person to evil.” The English title is HOW TO BE REALLY BAD. Um, YES PLEASE!



Part of the Generation14Plus series, this world premiere is a documentary on the political upheaval of modern Brazil, focusing on the riled students in opposition to the newly elected right-wing government. Aimed at the political dissident in all of us.



Germany has a strong social safety net, a competent system for people that fall through the cracks. But some people crash that system. Such is this story of a girl who just wants to be with her mom again. This should be a satisfying and heartfelt drama.



This is a post-apocalyptic film set in a world without women. Starring and directed by Casey Affleck. Do go on…!



This is a day-in-the-life film about a group of 30-somethings on one of their birthdays. They live in Neukölln. One is a writer experiencing writer’s block. Don’t you get the feeling that some things are just a tad too on the nose? Art imitates life I guess.



There’s a homeless man on my street that I pass by all the time, and I always wonder about what his life must be like. This documentary thinks the same thing. It documents four men without houses in Germany. A big dose of compassion comes with this screening, surely.



One more super-Berlin entry: A couple decides to invite a third into their love affair; for one glorious summer, they live life to the fullest. Tongue-in-cheek eye-roll!



This film is the actual document of an escape from Taliban-ravaged Afghanistan, made by literal refugee filmmakers. Full of both cinematic philosophy and urgent real-world strife, I’m guessing this will win the award for best documentary. I’m definitely intrigued!



This is an Italian film about a girl from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, who, according to cultural custom, must gain a lot of weight in order to be married to her husband. Soul-searching ensues. I’m very curious how this topic is handled.



French darling Juliette Binoche stars in a story about an online romance. I’m sensing someone gets catfished! I think this solidifies Facebook as a primarily boomer gen platform at this point.



The English translation of this German film is: Happiness Sucks. Enough said!

Which Berlinale films are you most looking forwad to this year?

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<a href="" target="_self">Keith</a>