Berlin is one of those places that you might want to prepare yourself for, and indeed, many people ask us about our recommendations. If you're planning your trip and reading our website now, you'd probably not have much time for books, but you might be able to squeeze a film or two into your calendar.
There are so many films about Berlin, so we'll focus here on the classics that you can get with English subtitles in English speaking countries (Netflix or Amazon Prime):
Downfall (2004): This thoroughly researched German production is not easy to watch, but it can really help us imagine how it must have been in Hitler's bunker during the last ten days of the war (yes, we can see the original location!).
Aimée & Jaguar (1999): Felice is a so-called U-Boot or "submarine", a Jewish person living illegally in Nazi Berlin, trying to survive underground. She falls in love with Lilly, a German mother craving for love, that could either be Felice's doom or her salvation (based on a true story).
The Lives of Others (2006): Gerd Wiesler is an agent of East-Germany / the GDR's state security service - the notorious Staatssicherheit, a.k.a. "Stasi". But he's not a robot in this very poetic and touching film that really grants some insights into life behind the Wall (some of the locations in Berlin are authentic and can be visited).
The Tunnel (2001): The fascinating story of some courageous refugees from East-Berlin, who live in West-Berlin after the creation of the Wall. In an attempt to help and rescue their loved ones and friends, they dig a tunnel back into the Soviet zone, leading right underneath the Death Strip. This movie is based on the true story about a real tunnel in Berlin, through which 29 people escaped in 1962.
Sun Alley (1999): Sun Alley - or in German: Sonnenallee, which actually means "Sun avenue" and not an "alley" - is a street that begins in West-Berlin and ends in the city's Eastern side. After the creation of the Berlin Wall, beginning in 1961, the last and short part of the street found itself disconnected from its main, longer section. Between the two parts, in the middle of the street, was one of the checkpoints for local citizens. This touching, funny movie tells the story of a bunch of children and teenagers, who grow up on the wrong side of the street, behind this checkpoint.
Good Bye Lenin (2003): Even though we all support the struggle of the oppressed for freedom, the actual path these people had to go through in those days of rapid change from Socialism to Capitalism was not always easy. This movie tells us the story of a son who'll do just about anything to prevent his emotionally instable mother from realizing that the Wall has come down and Germany is reunified (includes some authentic locations).
Berlin is in Germany (2001): Reunification on a very personal level, namely through the difficult, slow-paced and finely told story of Martin, who was locked up in an East German prison in 1989, before the Wall came down, and is released 11 years later into a totally different society.
Go for Zucker (2004): The two parts of one Jewish family, from East and West, are forced to reunite in Berlin following the mother's death and her last will, which they have to fulfill to get their inheritance... Personally, we didn't find it so hilarious, but it will give you a good understanding of how "exotic" Jews still are in Germany (this movie was made, by the way, by the Jewish director Dani Levy).