From the onset of German Expressionism in the 1920s, which sought to showcase the inner feelings of an artist to the robust crop of actors and actresses whose moving performances resonate across the oceans, Germany has had a unique influence on cinema since its nascent birth at the end of the 19th century. While German actors were once confined to playing villains and megalomaniacs after WWII, American audiences have come to see them as capable of much more.
Over the past decades, the contribution of German performers cannot be underestimated. From the tireless German actress Marlene Dietrich, who shaped the founding of Tinsel Town in the 1930s, to the Austrian-German actor Christoph Waltz, who won some of his biggest accolades in the 2000s, these performers and their movies continue to have a shelf life. impact on cinema.
ten Marlene Dietrich – The Blue Angel
With her distinct fashion sense, hoarse voice, and abundant sex appeal, it was no wonder that Marlene Dietrich became one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses in the 1930s and 1940s. Dietrich stunned the audience with their empathetic, poignant and courageous characters, but none are as important asThe Blue Angel.
Dietrich’s character is courted by a man who becomes obsessed with her, and while their love is passionate, it depends entirely on her being the unique and fascinating muse of his completely straightforward milquetoast tourist. She pioneered the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope seen in so many romantic comedies that are used to make boring male characters – and their lives – more interesting, often to the detriment of their agency.
9 Michael Fassbender – Inglourious Basterds, Hunger
While some fans may not be aware that Fassbender was born in Germany, or that he can speak German (if he’s a bit rusty inInglourious Basterds),it is his Irish heritage (he enjoys dual nationality) that is part of one of his most important films,Hunger.
The film is about the hunger strikes involving Republican prisoners that took place in 1981 in Northern Ireland. Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, the first man to starve on purpose for Margaret Thatcher to recognize “criminals” as political prisoners. In order to properly represent the real Sands, Fassbender went from 170 pounds to 132 pounds.
8 Diane Kruger – Troy, Inglorious Basterds
Find fame in sprawling ensemble films likeTroyand appearing alongside several soon-to-be famous German actors inInglorious Basterds,Diane Kruger has succeeded in becoming one of the leading women in America as well as in her native Germany.
In the early 2000s, she starred as Dr. Abigail Chase in the hugely popularNational treasureseries alongside Nicolas Cage, in which she helped him steal the Declaration of Independence and later track down John Wilkes Booth’s diary. There was even talk of a third movie in the trilogy, which Kruger would most likely star in.
7 Klaus Kinski – Nosferatu The Vampyre, Fitzarraldo
Certainly one of Germany’s most prolific actors, Klaus Kinski has over 130 film credits to his name. He is most often associated with the famous German director Werner Herzog, who made Kinski a household name in films like Aguirre, Wrath of God, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Woyzeck, Cobra Verde,andFitzcarraldo.
Known for his explosive performances and maniacal characters, Kinski was a force of nature on andHerzog even made a documentary about his longtime friend and collaborator aptly titledMy best demon,showcasing the volatile nature of mad genius.
6 Franka Potente – Run Lola Run, Bourne Identity / Supremacy
With her shiny red hair and bottomless perseverance, Franka Potente captured audiences everywhere in the arthouse film.Lola Run course,in which she spent most of the movie literally running around in an attempt to help her boyfriend find a large amount of lost money.
The German actress became best known to the American general public for playing Marie Kreutz in the two Bourne identity and Bourne Supremacy,who capitalized on both his physical dynamism and his chemistry with Jason Bourne as a romantic interest.
5 Daniel Brhl – Captain America: Civil War, Inglourious Basterds, Rush
Like Christoph Waltz, Daniel Brhl made his big success in the United States byInglorious Basterds,and later in a small role inCaptain America: Civil Waras Baron Zemo, but that would be his role in the sports filmTo rush,the biopic centered around the rivalry between two Formula 1 drivers, which gave him the attention he deserved in a leading performance.
As Niki Lauda, one of the most famous drivers of the 1976 Formula 1 season alongside British driver James Hunt, Brhl has been widely acclaimed by critics and the public, adding to the authenticity of the frenzied image directed by Ron Howard.
4 Jrgen Prochnow – Das Boot, Beverly Hills Cop II
The famous West German war film directed by Wolfgang Peterssen, The boatbecame an international sensation upon its release and is considered one of the best WWII films ever made, it is set almost entirely on a German submarine during conflicts in the Atlantic Ocean during WWII global.
As a war correspondent recounts the daytime torpor on board, he observes the struggles of the grizzled U-boat captain, authentically played by Prochnow. Despite the intense violence of battles and storms, combined with declining morale and supplies, the captain must keep the motivation of the men alive. Even given this sympathetic role, many American audiences most closely associate Prochnow with playing the villain inBeverly Hills Cop II,Maxwell Dent.
3 Nina Hoss – Barbara
An accomplished actress despite her young years, Nina Hoss gained notoriety in America for having played inBarbara,a Soviet-era film that reveals what life was like behind the Iron Curtain in 1980, especially for a doctor who attempted to apply for an exit visa and found herself exiled to the provinces.
Barbara just wants to escape the Communist German Democratic Republic and live in America, but under constant surveillance by the GDR secret police and subjected to humiliating strip searches, she begins to lose hope. Even those with whom she befriends in the village are either GDR staff or informants.
2 Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained
Christoph Waltz exploded into global consciousness when he played a menacing Nazi officer inInglorious Basterds,which included several other notable German actors including Michael Fassbender and Diane Kruger. Since the Austro-German actor suddenly appeared on the US radar in 2009, he has already won two Oscars, one of which was for playing SS-Standartenfhrer Hans Landa.
Part of the reason Quentin Tarantino’s film received such acclaim was that it applied a revisionist lens to the story, turning tragedy into something inspiring by allowing Jewish soldiers to take cathartic revenge. The other part was Waltz, whose villain was so courteous that he made his senseless acts of senseless violence all the more terrifying. He followed this film with TarantinoDjango Unchained,in which he played a heroic and generous dentist who becomes a bounty hunter.
1 Max Riemelt – Before the fall
While he was recently celebrated for the cult Netflix seriesSense8,Max Riemelt has wowed audiences for nearly two decades. One of his most popular films was from 2004Before the fall,which earned him international fame for playing Friedrich Weimer, a young boxer whose skills earned him a scholarship to the Strict National Political Academy.
There, he encounters incredibly cruel hazing and even death at a high school renowned for producing members of the Nazi elite. His battles in the ring, as well as in his mind as he struggles to combat the pervasiveness of Hitler’s ideology in 1942, made the film a particularly brutal but necessary watch.
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