19 Best Movies to Watch From Austria

Staff & contributors

Based on the Austrian novel, The Piano Teacher is as brilliant and as disturbed as its protagonist. The film follows Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert), the repressed masochist in question, and the trainwreck of a relationship that she develops with her student Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel). Their dynamic is undeniably toxic. Austrian auteur Michael Haneke frames each scene with clinical detachment, but it is absolutely brutal how the two characters try to assert control over each other, engage in sadomasochism, and repeatedly violate each other’s boundaries. Huppert’s heartrending performance fully commits to the merciless treatment Erika receives. But more tragic is the way Erika’s unusual relationship could’ve freed her, could’ve helped her process her abuse, and instead, reinforces her repression. It’s scary to make yourself vulnerable by admitting your desires, only for them to be used against you.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Anna Sigalevitch, Annemarie Schleinzer, Annie Girardot, Benoit Magimel, Cornelia Köndgen, Dieter Berner, Eva Green, Gabriele Schuchter, Georg Friedrich, Gerti Drassl, Isabelle Huppert, Karoline Zeisler, Klaus Händl, Liliana Nelska, Luz Leskowitz, Martina Resetarits, Michael Schottenberg, Petra Reichel, Philipp Heiss, Rudolf Melichar, Susanne Lothar, Thomas Auner, Thomas Weinhappel, Udo Samel, Vivian Bartsch, William Mang

Director: Michael Haneke

Rating: R

This Oscar-nominated drama tells the story of the events leading up to the Srebrenica massacre, in which 8372 Bosnian Muslims were killed. It focuses on one U.N. worker who was caught between trying to protect her family, herself, and helping people in need.

The film is as horrific as it is relevant: up until the actual killing starts, people are constantly being assured that everything is under control and that there is no reason to panic. This gives an eerie feeling of resemblance to the tone many minorities in distress receive nowadays.

Still, Quo Vadis, Aida? stops at depicting any of the acts that were committed that day. Instead, it focuses on Aida’s unrelenting race against the clock to save whatever she can.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Alban Ukaj, Boris Isaković, Boris Ler, Dino Bajrović, Dražen Pavlović, Emina Muftić, Emir Hadžihafizbegović, Ermin Bravo, Ermin Sijamija, Izudin Bajrović, Jasna Đuričić, Job Raaijmakers, Joes Brauers, Johan Heldenbergh, Juda Goslinga, Micha Hulshof, Raymond Thiry, Reinout Bussemaker, Rijad Gvozden, Sanne den Hartogh, Sol Vinken, Teun Luijkx

Director: Jasmila Žbanić

Good movies usually aren't lengthy movies, unless we're talking about cases like Toni Erdmann. It's a supremely smart German-Austrian comedy that depicts the story of a Father-Daughter tandem in light of life’s weirdest, most inconvenient moments. Deciding to visit his daughter on a whim after his dog dies, Winfried (Peter Simonischek)—a man known for his outrageous pranks and many a disguise—flies to Bucharest. Ines (Sandra Huller), the daughter, buzzing with work to the brim in a very challenging job, to say the least, isn’t impressed. This leads to even more uncomfortable encounters as the estranged father poses as the title character, life coach to the disapproving daughter’s boss. On top of being a shrewdly observed and relevant movie, the brilliant writing by Maren Ade crafts something thoroughly enjoyable and heartfelt here, highlighting the importance of family bond in an oddly sweet way, and criticizing modern-day work ethic and the toll its taking on us. The beginning is a bit slow, but if you're a bit patient you will be surprised how much this movie will reward you.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexandru Papadopol, Andrei Mateiu, Bryan Jardine, Cezara Dafinescu, Cosmin Pădureanu, Dana Marineci, Daniel Filipescu, Hadewych Minis, Hans Löw, Hartmut Stanke, Ingrid Bisu, Ingrid Burkhard, Irene Rindje, John Keogh, Julischka Eichel, Jürg Löw, Klara Höfels, Luana Stoica, Lucy Russell, Manu Sabo, Manuela Ciucur, Michael Wittenborn, Miriam Rizea, Nicolas Wackerbarth, Niels Bormann, Ozana Oancea, Peter Simonischek, Radu Bânzaru, Ruth Reinecke, Sandra Hüller, Sava Lolov, Thomas Loibl, Trystan Putter, Ursula Renneke, Valentin Popescu, Victoria Cocias, Victoria Malektorovych, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Maren Ade

Rating: R

, 2012

Amour is about Anne and Georges, an elderly couple who face challenges in their relationship after Anne suffers a debilitating stroke. They're portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant in what can only be described as a masterclass in acting. It's a challenging story but it's a realistic portrayal of love later in life and in the face of time. Directed by Michael Haneke, the movie was met with widespread acclaim from critics when it came out in 2012, winning the Palme d'Or as well as the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexandre Tharaud, Carole Franck, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Ramón Agirre, Rita Blanco, William Shimell

Director: Michael Haneke

Rating: PG-13

From countries like Finland to North Korea, this amazing documentary explores the most fascinating active volcanoes on our planet. But as it unfolds you realize that Into the Inferno is a movie as much about volcanoes as it is about the people obsessed with them. And who can be called obsessive more than the film’s own director, Werner Herzog, who, with such an explosive career had to eventually make a film about volcanos (bad pun intended). Beautiful scenery, interesting interviews, and Werner’s majestic delivery all make Into the Inferno both an interesting and satisfying documentary.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Clive Oppenheimer, Kampiro Kayrento, Katia Krafft, Mael Moses, Maurice Krafft, Werner Herzog

Director: Werner Herzog

Rating: N/A, Not Rated

This 2009 Palme d'Or winner is filmed beautifully in black and white by Michael Haneke. In equal parts mysterious and disturbing, it is set in a northern German village in between 1913 and 1914 where strange events start to happen seemingly on their own. The people of the village, who feel as if they were punished, try to investigate it as the events start affecting them one by one. As they speculate on who is behind the acts that never stop, the film unfolds its slow but captivating plot. A brilliant and unique movie.

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Aaron Denkel, Anne-Kathrin Gummich, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, Birgit Minichmayr, Branko Samarovski, Burghart Klaußner, Burghart Klaussner, Carmen-Maja Antoni, Christian Friedel, Detlev Buck, Enno Trebs, Ernst Jacobi, Fion Mutert, Gabriela Maria Schmeide, Hanuš Polak jr., Janina Fautz, Jonas Jennerjahn, Josef Bierbichler, Kai-Peter Malina, Klaus Manchen, Krzysztof Zarzecki, Leonard Boes, Leonard Proxauf, Leonie Benesch, Levin Henning, Lilli Fichtner, Luzie Ahrens, Malin Steffen, Marcin Tyrol, Maria Dragus, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Marisa Growaldt, Mercedes Jadea Diaz, Michael Kranz, Michael Schenk, Miljan Chatelain, Paraschiva Dragus, Paula Kalinski, Rainer Bock, Roxane Duran, Sebastian Badurek, Sebastian Hülk, Sebastian Łach, Sebastian Pawlak, Simon Pawlowsky, Steffi Kuhnert, Stephanie Amarell, Susanne Lothar, Theo Trebs, Thibault Sérié, Ulrich Tukur, Ursina Lardi, Vincent Krüger

Director: Michael Haneke

Rating: R

Meditative, slow, and peppered with mysticism and subtle humour, Syndromes and a Century is a truly unique Thai drama. With a male and female doctor as the central protagonists, the story is split into two settings, in different hospitals and 40 years apart. This is not a plot-driven movie by any means. Patiently paced scenes weave together the protagonists’ memories with their current lives, in a hypnotic thread that touches on Buddhist themes as it explores the timeless human experiences of love, relationships, illness, and death.

The movie was originally intended to be a tribute to the parents of writer and director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, himself the son of physicians who worked in a hospital. Though he went on to claim that the movie took a different path eventually, it does recall the enigmatic spirit and ethereal quality of childhood memories. Despite—or maybe thanks to—the absence of narrative, Syndromes and a Century remains a beguiling watch from start to finish.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Jaruchai Iamaram, Jenjira Pongpas, Nantarat Sawaddikul, Sakda Kaewbuadee, Sophon Pukanok

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Great Freedom is not an easy watch. Apart from the quiet stretches of time and the claustrophobic confines of its prison setting, it also has its lead, Hans Hoffman (played with delicate force by Franz Rogowski) imprisoned again and again and again, unjustly treated like dirt by both his warden and fellow inmates.

But as a Jewish gay man who has lived through the war, Hans is no stranger to these trappings. As such, he takes each day as it comes, open to love, pleasure, and friendship, or at least the potential of these, despite the circumstances. And so Great Freedom is also hopeful and romantic, glimmering with the human tendency to not just survive but to live. Slow but compelling, subdued but powerful, Great Freedom is an affecting balancing act that's well worth watching. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, War

Actor: Andreas Patton, Anton von Lucke, Fabian Stumm, Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Thomas Prenn, Thomas Stecher

Director: Sebastian Meise

, 2005

Beginning with a great opening shot of townhouse on a side street in Paris, only ti discovers that the shot is actually from a video sent to Anne and Georges Laurent (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil). The married couple who live in that house have no idea who sent the video. More videos appear and events unfold. I can't say much more about this film without ruining it, it's definitely one of those films better enjoyed if you go into it not knowing a lot. Directed by Michael Haneke who won the Cannes Best Director Award for it.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Aissa Maiga, Annie Girardot, Bernard Le Coq, Caroline Baehr, Christian Benedetti, Daniel Auteuil, Daniel Duval, Denis Podalydès, Diouc Koma, Dioucounda Koma, François Négret, Jean Teulé, Juliette Binoche, Laurent Suire, Lester Makedonsky, Loïc Brabant, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Marie Kremer, Marie-Christine Orry, Maurice Bénichou, Mazarine Pingeot, Nathalie Richard, Nicky Marbot, Paule Daré, Philippe Besson, Walid Afkir

Director: Michael Haneke

Rating: R

This earnest documentary is about filmmaker and actress Maryam Zaree's journey to unravel the truth about her birth. Her parents are part of a generation of Iranian revolutionaries who were jailed, many executed, and now have taken exile in Europe. The torture and difficult prison conditions they experienced are cause for so much trauma that Maryam, born in prison, has not been told anything about her birth. Her mom, now Germany's first foreign-born mayor, cannot get past tears to tell a story that Maryam is determined to know. 

Her mom is not the only one who is unable to tell the story, as Maryam's quest uncovers more silence. In the end, Born in Evin is as much about the question of "is the truth worth getting told?" as it is about the truth itself. It's a heartfelt exploration of trauma, both for the generation that experienced it and for the generation that follows.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Marya Sirous, Maryam Zaree, Soraya Zangbari

Director: Maryam Zaree

Rating: Not Rated

Whores’ Glory leads us through the hidden world of prostitution in three different countries. The lack of narration is an excellent choice here—all too often, it’s easy to accept preconceived notions about this type of work. Instead, what leads us through the film are words from the sex workers themselves and their clientele. In some ways, these words reveal their differences. The workers pray, worry about money, and share their troubles with each other, but it’s their employers and clientele who reveal their misogyny. Overall, while the Western soundtrack and glamorizing shots can be distracting, it’s clear that the film gives respect to sex workers and prioritizes their perspective.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Michael Glawogger

Rating: Not Rated

This realistic drama produced by the director of Toni Erdmann is about a group of German workers who are sent to the Bulgarian/Greek border to build a water pump.

Their arrogant leader harasses a local and flies a German flag, prompting a clash with the nearby village.

Unlike the reference of its title, Western doesn’t follow any format and is not interested in portraying violence. Instead, it’s a quiet look at how people handle social and cultural tensions.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Meinhard Neumann, Reinhardt Wetrek, Syuleyman Alilov Letifov

Director: Valeska Grisebach

Rating: Unrated

The lives of a single mother forced into prostitution and another woman who needs an operation to restore her virginity clash with the structure of Iran’s traditionally patriarchal society in Tehran Taboo.  The result is a story that sheds light on the double standards women face, especially surrounding sex and sexuality, and overall what it is like to be female in a society practically founded on institutional misogyny. 

To make up for not being able to shoot in Tehran, director Ali Soozandeh chose to use the method of rotoscope animation: an unconventional style of animation that involves first shooting live actors in a studio and then inserting extra sounds and backgrounds in the editing process. Tehran Taboo is fearless in its exploration of the social and sexual restrictions imposed in modern Iran.

Genre: Animation, Drama

Actor: Adem Karaduman, Aida Loos, Alireza Bayram, Arash Marandi, Elmira Rafizadeh, Gernot Polak, Hasan Ali Mete, Klaus Ofczarek, Morteza Tavakoli, Şiir Eloğlu, Thomas Nash, Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, Zar Amir Ebrahimi

Director: Ali Soozandeh

A crazy, high-speed movie about double-dealing crooks and thieves living along the Danube River in Serbia. Such a description probably makes this movie sound dark and menacing, trust me it is anything but. It is filled to the brim with delightful music, slapstick humor, bizarre contraptions, shotgun weddings -- with a sweet romantic caper at its center. If winter weather is getting you down, consider watching this film as a fun & sunny antidote.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Romance

Actor: Bajram Severdžan, Bajram Severdzan, Branka Katić, Branka Katic, Florijan Ajdini, Jasar Destani, Jashar Destani, Ljubica Adžović, Ljubica Adzovic, Miki Manojlović, Predrag Laković, Sabri Sulejmani, Salija Ibraimova, Srdjan 'Zika' Todorovic, Srdjan Todorovic, Srđan 'Žika' Todorović, Srđan Todorović, Zabit Memedov

Director: Emir Kusturica

Rating: R

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