4 Best Movies to Watch by Sebastian Koch

Staff & contributors

It's impossible to describe this incredible movie as one thing or the other. It's an epic three-hour saga that takes you through the Nazi era, the communist era, the rise of capitalism, and the East and West German divide. But more than its historic value, it's a coming-of-age story, one that is based on the experiences of famed German artist Gerhard Richter. It's also a romance, following his experiences finding love and being hit with loss (in no particular order). If you liked the director's other work, the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others, you're sure to love this too.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Andreas Nickl, Anton Rubtsov, Bastian Trost, Ben Becker, Bruno F. Apitz, Cai Cohrs, Chris Theisinger, David Schütter, Evgeniy Sidikhin, Florian Bartholomäi, Franz Pätzold, Hannes Hellmann, Hanno Koffler, Hans-Uwe Bauer, Hinnerk Schönemann, Ina Weisse, Jörg Schüttauf, Jacob Matschenz, Jeanette Hain, Johanna Gastdorf, Johannes Allmayer, Jonas Dassler, Jorg Schuttauf, Lars Eidinger, Luc Feit, Lutz Blochberger, Manfred Möck, Mark Zak, Martin Bruchman, Martin Bruchmann, Michaela Caspar, Oliver Masucci, Paula Beer, Pit Bukowski, Rainer Bock, Rainer Reiners, Saskia Rosendahl, Sebastian Koch, Stefan Mehren, Tom Schilling, Ulrike C. Tscharre

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Rating: R

Tied together by a song that seems to drive people to end their own lives, Gloomy Sunday's tale of polyamorous love torn apart by the advent of the Second World War is one that doesn't operate according to your usual narrative structure. Its stranger elements might not always work with the very real horrors of the Nazis' invasion of Hungary, but the film still expresses this horror in a unique way. Even long before the war begins, this song that joins our three lovers together seems to touch on a sense of doom everybody is feeling—warning signs of Hitler's rise to power that ordinary people seem to have been powerless to stop in time. It's certainly unique for a non-action-driven war film, bathed in tragedy and bitter irony.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance, War

Actor: András Bálint, Anna Ráckevei, Áron Sipos, Ben Becker, Denis Moschitto, Dorka Gryllus, Erika Marozsán, Ernst Kahl, Ferenc Bács, Ferenc Némethy, Ilse Zielstorff, István Kanizsay, István Mikó, Joachim Krol, Jörg Gillner, Karl Fischer, László I. Kish, Markus Hering, Márta Bakó, Michael Gampe, Rolf Becker, Sebastian Koch, Stefan Weinert, Stefano Dionisi, Tibor Kenderesi, Ulrike Grote, Veit Stübner, Wanja Mues, Zsuzsa Mányai

Director: Rolf Schübel

Of course, with wartime spy romances, it’s expected to have conflicted desire, twisty betrayals, and the internal war between personal love and national duty. Black Book delivers this in spades, infusing the drama with writer-director Paul Verhoeven’s propensity for sex and violence, which he brings back to his homeland after two decades apart. The drama is well-made, especially with the talented Carice van Houten as a survival-first composite spy character inspired by several resistance members, but the familiar plot, the melodrama, and the pacing can make the 2 and a half hour runtime feel a bit tedious for some viewers. Still, for fans of the genre, Black Book isn’t a terrible choice to watch.

Genre: Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Bert Luppes, Carice van Houten, Christian Berkel, Derek de Lint, Diana Dobbelman, Dolf de Vries, Frank Lammers, Garrick Hagon, Gijs Naber, Halina Reijn, Hugo Metsers, Johnny de Mol, Marcel Musters, Marisa van Eyle, Matthias Schoenaerts, Menno van Beekum, Merel Pauw, Michiel Huisman, Mike Reus, Nolan Hemmings, Peter Blok, Pieter Tiddens, Ronald Armbrust, Sebastian Koch, Theo Maassen, Thom Hoffman, Timothy Deenihan, Waldemar Kobus, Xander Straat

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Rating: R

The late German actor Ulrich Mühe plays Gerd Wiesler, a merciless Stasi officer who has doubts about the loyalty of a famous playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his wife Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck) to the communist party. To say he spies on the artist couple is an understatement: in true Stasi fashion, he watches them day and night, listens in on their conservations, reads their mail, and watches them have sex. However, it turns out this was a tad too close, because Wiesler becomes increasingly absorbed in them and is forced to question his obedience as a Stasi officer. In his feature film debut, German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck delivers a quietly chilling melodrama on a topic that still affects the lives of many East Germans and was deserving of more attention. It is also a telling piece on the inhumane nature of totalitarianism and the humanity of individuals that are forced to live with it. A special film that will stay with you for a long time.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Anabelle D. Munro, Bastian Trost, Charly Hubner, Fabian von Klitzing, Gabi Fleming, Gitta Schweighöfer, Hans-Uwe Bauer, Harald Polzin, Herbert Knaup, Hildegard Schroedter, Hinnerk Schönemann, Hubertus Hartmann, Inga Birkenfeld, Jens Wassermann, Kai Ivo Baulitz, Klaus Münster, Ludwig Blochberger, Marie Gruber, Martin Brambach, Martina Gedeck, Matthias Brenner, Michael Gerber, Paul Faßnacht, Paul Maximilian Schüller, Sebastian Koch, Sheri Hagen, Susanna Kraus, Thomas Arnold, Thomas Thieme, Ulrich Mühe, Ulrich Tukur, Volker Michalowski, Volkmar Kleinert, Werner Daehn

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Rating: R