Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Berlin and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

One, Two, Three (1961)
Raucous, high-paced farce directed by Billy Wilder that takes place in Berlin days before the Wall goes up and takes potshots at everything from American arrogance to German boorishness and general Cold War madness.

Run Lola Run (1998)
Tom Tykwer’s cult movie follows Franka Potente in her manic race to find 100,000 Deutschmarks in 20 minutes to save the life of her boyfriend, Manni, in this 1990s Berlin spin on Bonnie & Clyde.

Wings of Desire (1987)
Wim Wenders’ tale of an angel in postwar Berlin who falls in love with a trapeze artist and decides to become mortal in order to pursue a life together with her.

Good Bye Lenin! (2003)
Wolfgang Becker directed this bittersweet international hit comedy about a loving son trying to restore the health of his socialist-believer mother who’s been in a coma and doesn’t yet know about the demise of the Berlin Wall.

The Lives of the Others (2006)
Florian von Donnersmarck’s Academy Award-winning story reveals the absurdity and repressiveness of the East German regime by tracing the process of humanization of one of its most hardcore surveillance agents.

The Downfall (2004)
Oliver Hirschbiegel’s gripping movie is a chilling account of Hitler’s last days while holed up in his Berlin bunker as the Soviets plough through the city.

Books

Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941, by William Shirer (1941)
Riveting eyewitness account of the Nazis’ rise to the power written by one of the greatest 20th-century journalists who spent the 1930s as a CBS radio reporter in Berlin.

The Innocent, by Ian McEwan (1990)
Intelligent, under-the-skin spy thriller set in 1950s Berlin follows a young Brit who loses both his sexual and political innocence when assigned to work on a top-secret tunnel the Americans were building to infiltrate Soviet communications.

Berlin Noir, by Philip Kerr (1994)
Highly readable trio of novels about Berlin seen through the eyes and predations of a world-weary private eye before, during, and after World War II; descriptions, characters, and wickedly clever turns of phrase that out-Chandler even Chandler himself.

Russian Disco, by Wladimir Kaminer (2000)
Breakthrough work by best-selling Russian-Jewish immigrant strings together dozens of smart and humorous vignettes about quirks, foibles, and characters in post-reunification Berlin.

Stasiland: True Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, by Anna Funder (2003)
The all-pervasive and destructive powers of the East German secret police—the Stasi—come vividly to life through interviews with both victims and perpetra

Music

Compilations:

Cabaret
Liza Minnelli stars as Sally Bowles in this Academy Award-winning 1972 musical by Bob Fosse set in 1931 Berlin during the tumultuous Weimar Republic period.

Heroes
David Bowie’s critically acclaimed album, recorded while living in Berlin in 1977, reflects the dark and brooding spirit of the Cold War era.

Achtung Baby!
On this Grammy-winning album, recorded in Berlin, Irish band U2 embraced a darker sound influenced by punk and electronica. Don’t miss the hit “Zoo Station.”

Lotte Lenya Sings Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera
Premiered in1928 Berlin; a collaboration with Bertolt Brecht and starring Weill’s wife, Lotte Lenya. “Mack the Knife” is his most famous song.

Comedian Harmonists Greatest Hits
This six-man Berlin-based singing group gained international fame with its flawless lyric harmony and such catchy tunes as “Veronika, der Lenz ist da.”

Classic Songs:
From cabaret singers to punk stars to Love Parade technoheads, many musicians have been inspired by Berlin. Here are some tunes to take you there:

  1. “Cabaret” by Liza Minnelli
  2. “There’ll be a Hot Time in the Town of Berlin” by Frank Sinatra
  3. “Zoo Station” by U2
  4. “Streets of Berlin” by Ute Lemper
  5. “Das ist die Berliner Luft” by Lizzi Waldmüller
  6. “99 Red Balloons” by Nena
  7. “Born To Die In Berlin” by Ramones
  8. “Sunshine” Dr. Motte and Westbam
  9. “Heroes” by David Bowie
  10. “Mack the Knife” by Kurt Weill

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