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Italy, Germany, Austria
Drama, Biography, History, War
IMDB rating:
Oliver Hirschbiegel


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Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler
Alexandra Maria Lara as Traudl Junge
Corinna Harfouch as Magda Goebbels
Ulrich Matthes as Joseph Goebbels
Juliane Köhler as Eva Braun
Heino Ferch as Albert Speer
Christian Berkel as Prof. Dr. Ernst-Günter Schenck
Matthias Habich as Prof. Dr. Werner Haase
Thomas Kretschmann as SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein
Michael Mendl as General der Artillerie Helmuth Weidling
André Hennicke as SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke
Ulrich Noethen as Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler
Birgit Minichmayr as Gerda Christian
Rolf Kanies as General der Infanterie Hans Krebs
Downfall Storyline: Traudl Junge, the final secretary for Adolf Hitler, tells of the Nazi dictator's final days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII.
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Truth Stranger Than Drama
I think that in a thousand years of Western History, there has not been a more dramatic saga than that of the rise and fall of the Third Reich. No screenwriter could come up with a harder hitting tale than the rise of a man like Hitler and his eventual demise. It seems too incredible in an era of constant entertainment that this actually took place, but what makes it even more amazing is the way the whole story ended.

The whole history really took place in an astonishingly short time period: Hitler rises up out of epic conflict, spreads his evil message to his villainous followers, people join in his evil plots for their own self interests and lust for power, they spread misery and destruction over the world with their fantastic destructive weapons, and finally they are vanquished and driven by their enemies underground where they die at their own hands, while their country is destroyed around them...No wonder fiction writers have been working on this same basic premise for more than sixty years.

This story is not fictitious. This is one of those rare movies where the real events could only have differed only slightly from what is depicted on screen. This is an amazing decision on the filmmaker's part, to unfold the events in a semi-documentary fashion, to avoid dramatic overacting, which is too easy to do in depicting these types of people, and provide an unbiased look at the events of the end of the war.

There have been a lot of movies made about Hitler's last days, but I think the reason this one stands out is that it unfolds at such a calm and steady pace. Certainly here is the best depiction of Hitler on-screen. Too human? Maybe, but that makes him all the more disturbing. Viewers might question how far each evil Nazi officer is removed from each one of us, and whether we might have the guts to take a higher path when it comes down to it.

I would have liked to have seen a few more battle scenes featuring individual combat, but the movie squeezes a lot of info and characters into its running time, and not a shot is wasted. Among war movies it's most similar to "The Longest Day", and like that film it works because it stays away from nationalist sentimentality. Very disturbing, but entertaining and fascinating all at the same time.
my top 5
I am just laughing to the comment I've just read: "terribly boring, full of clichés". I can't believe that Kill Bill and similar movies entered top 250. Who the hell voted for Kill Bill?! I guess movies with Will Smith and Meg Ryan take big money because people like this. This movie has great aspect of view on WWII. Every time I watch good movie about WWII I change my mood in depressive or something like that. After watching it I spent few hours thinking about that maybe most important period in history. But this is the best movie on that topic. Definitely better than Saving Private Ryan, that is, I would say a bit pro American ( I mean, American were not the only victims of WWII), though I never watched Cross of Iron.
Probably the most accurate WW II movie I have ever seen
A lot of war movies have a sense of patriotism or commercialism, but Der Untergang feels like it is just giving you the cold hard facts of the last ten days of the Third Reich. I have to commend the filmmakers for not using black and white or filtering the color, like many other WW II movies today. It is becoming a cliché. The film is based on Traudl Junge's recollections of the last ten days she spent in Hitler's Bunker. It takes place entirely in the Bunker, which gives the film a very claustrophobic feel. As the outcome of the war becomes clearer, the Bunker becomes a cesspool of drunkenness, denial, and even death.

Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge has a strange relationship with him. She stays with him out of sympathy and loyalty, but she is often horrified by his cruelty and inhumanity. This might be difficult to understand but I believe this makes the movie all the more realistic. She can recognize cruelty when she sees it but Hitler is the Fuhrer, a man who is practically worshiped. Hitler is shown to have elements of humanity. He despises smoking, loves his dog Blondi, and genuinely seems to care for his secretaries and Dr. Goebbel's children. We can feel his sorrow as the Russians advance toward Berlin. His dream of a German Empire had been lost and it breaks his soul. One of my favorite shots in the film is that of Hitler staring silently at a picture of Frederick the Great, seemingly thinking about his failures.

This is not to say Der Untergang is pro Nazi. I believe that by portraying Hitler's humanity the film makes his crimes all the more terrible. If he was just a one dimensional monster that would be his excuse. The inhumanity of the Third Reich does emerge throughout the film. Hitler blames the German people for the defeat of the military, calling them cowards and saying they deserve their fate. Joseph Goebbels expresses similar sentiments. Magda Goebbels says she cannot live in a world without National Socialism, and poisons her children before committing suicide with her husband.

The film perfectly captures an aura of hopelessness and denial. Eva Braun throws a party in the middle of the Russian bombing, trying to get her mind off Germany's impending defeat. She does anything and everything to keep her mind off the war. Hitler orders his Generals to move Tank divisions that do not exist or are too crippled to be of any use. He blames his Generals for Germany's defeat and not himself, which he usually did in real life. People around Hitler are aware that the situation is hopeless and betray him to save their own skin.

In the midst of all the madness, some people have retained their sanity. Professor Schenck, a German Doctor, tries to help the wounded soldiers and civilians when his own government abandons them. Berlin is in ruins and people are left to fend for themselves. An old man tries to convince soldiers who are no more than thirteen that there is no point in fighting, but to no avail. Eva Braun's brother-in-law Fegelein tries to convince Braun to leave Berlin, but she cannot leave the Fuhrer. We sympathize with these people, and they only show how insane the Third Reich was. People commit suicide out of devotion to the Fuhrer.

Corinna Harfouch plays a chilling Magda Goebbels; the scene where she pleads with Hitler not to kill himself was outstanding. The star of this movie though, is Bruno Ganz. His performance as Hitler feels so authentic it is frightening. If I ever had to recommend a movie just to see one performance, this would be one of them. Hitler has been played by great actors like Anthony Hopkins and Alec Guinness, but Ganz has received the most praise. I will seek out more of Ganz's movies based on this performance.

At the end of the film, an excerpt from an interview with the real Traudl Junge is shown. She says that at the time of the Nuremberg trials she was shocked by what had happened in the Concentration Camps but did not consider herself responsible. Now she admits that she had no excuse. I would imagine this is how many Germans from her generation feel. I highly recommend Der Untergang to anyone who is interested in The Third Reich or anyone who appreciates good film making.
Great movie.
This movie probably provides the best dramatic treatment of Adolf Hitler. Unlike other movies that tend to present Hitler as a caricature, this movie opts to portray Hitler as a historical person and not as a clown. Although it is easy to reduce Hitler to a subject for mockery, this movie avoids that temptation and instead presents an Adolf Hitler the person whose actions are made even more sinister, baffling and amazing by the sheer banality of his existence. In this movie Hitler is shown not as a hysteric, not as the bombastic political actor, leader and rabble rouser familiar in all too many documentaries, but as a frail, broken, disillusioned man whose dreams have been shattered and whose closest advisers have all but abandoned him. Yet, even as Hitler himself realizes that his demise is all but inevitable, the movie shows how the cohort of secretaries, clerks and party flunkies who formed Hitler's personal staff refused to leave him and opted to stay with the Fuhrer to the bitter end. This level of devotion to a failed and doomed head of state is perhaps unprecedented in history. While the Third Reich was crumbling they stayed with the man who was responsible for the destruction of their country. Yet the same man who was capable of ordering the conquest of entire countries and the extermination of entire peoples was also capable of individual acts of kindness that makes his career all the more baffling to the audience. Can the personality and career of Adolf Hitler ever be fully explained? Maybe not, but this excellent movie at least provides a plausible glimpse of what Hitler may have been about and how his dreams of new world order came crashing down.

Also, special mention must be made of Bruno Ganz's uncanny resemblance to Adolf Hitler. Mr. Ganz gives what has to be the most outstanding cinematic portrayal of Adolf Hitlee. Mr. Ganz succeeds in portraying Hitler as a caricature and instead provides a credible and even-handed portrayal of a person whose actions have been the cause for the kind of scorn and mockery that obscures who Hitler was as a man.
Highly recommended
I'm not normally one to go for historic movies but, being of German origin and born 10 years after the end of the 2nd World War, I thought I'd have a look at it. And boy, did it knock my socks off! Having always been a dedicated anti-fascist with a left-wing past, I never imagined that I could be moved by the events and problems within the factions of Hitler's cronies, military personnel or ministers. But moved I was and I found it almost impossible to watch the last scene with Goebbels' children... The performance by Bruno Ganz as Hitler is awesome and would've deserved an Oscar in my opinion and the atmosphere created in the movie is haunting. No other movie has made such an impression on me in the last couple of decades. Highly recommended.
Important for our understanding of How It All Could Happen
This is an important film and absolutely a must for anyone who has ever pondered how WWII, the Holocaust and all that was at all possible.

Der Untergang has sometimes been criticized for making Hitler and the Nazis look sympathetic and human. I saw it like this: the most horrifying thing about Hitler and Nazis is that they WERE humans, not some caricature monsters of hell. The movie displays this very well, without sympathizing or underlining the evil of these human beings.

If you're a human being equipped with normal feelings, you ARE right in feeling slightly compassionate towards a crying Hitler. But at the same time, if you're a normal person, your compassion vanishes when you remember why he's crying. He's not regretting his inhuman deeds. He's not feeling remorse for the suffering of other people. He's crying because his horrible plans have failed, because he thinks the German people have failed him.

I also think Der Untergang points out an important thing about the Nazi ideology. It was and is evil because it is based on intense hate and the conscious rejection of compassion. People blinded by this kind of ideology are also blinded by hatred, and as we know this phenomenon is unfortunately alive and well in today's world, in the East and the West as well. Movies like Der Untergang give us an important lesson in understanding this dangerous way of thought and the utter madness and vanity of war. Go see this if you can.
One of the best WWII films ever made, brilliantly depicting the turmoil of the Third Reich's last days.
I admit that I only heard of this movie through watching Youtube spoofs of Hitler's tirade scene, but the film interested me so much that I had to see for myself. I only EVER give reviews to movies which I feel are either terrible or extraordinary. This movie was the latter. It is by far one of the best WWII films ever made, and the best made in the 21st century.

I was blown away when I finished the film, stunned by its visual effect quality, precise acting, and near perfect play-out of the plot. The film shows the tumultuous and rocky end of the Reich's last 12 days, as you witness the end of Hitler's empire in his very bunker. The screenplay gives marvelous insight into the inner conflict that the Fuhrer himself suffers as well as the conflict with his most loyal commanders and generals. Seeing the story from the eyes of Traudl Junge (played by the beautiful and talented Alexandra Maria Lara)is another special treat, as you see her own struggle between loyalty to the Reich and personal conscience.

The film is by far superior to many of its "end-of-the-Reich" predecessors. For its brilliant screenplay, superb acting, and intense storytelling, it gets a 10 from me.
One of the best foreign films of the year
Quite simply, the story of Downfall is of the final days of the third Reich, held up in a bunker in the center of Berlin, as Adolf Hitler and his closest minions go deeper into the hole they've dug for themselves (told through the perspective, for the most part, of Hitler's last secretary Traudl Junge). I'm not sure if it is a great film or not on a first viewing, as it is a highly emotional experience along with it being intellectual at times. It's a complex film with a specific look, and the documentary-style that borders sometimes on being too much (depending on the viewer).

One aspect of the film right off that fascinated me was the look. Director Hirschbiegel and DP Rainer Klaussman give scenes (I'm not certain all of them) a certain yellow-greenish tint. Perhaps this world we are seeing is meant to look like a sort of death, in a sickly kind of hue inside and outside the bunker. Or, this is just part of the style of the camera, which is often hand-held, and meant to have a Saving Private Ryan approach to the horrors of warfare. The details of most of the victims (many of which not innocent) of battle wounds or suicides are not sugar-coated with any kind of hyper-kinetic style. It's very straightforward, and all the more shocking. When Hirschbiegel shoots a pan across people (sometimes Children) that are already dead, it's certainly far more jarring than could be expected. Spielberg may try for the gritty, 'no-holds-barred' direction of the horrors of war and Nazism, a filmmaker from the country of its origin has a certain advantage.

The story that unfolds in Downfall is of course a doomed one at the start (doomed for everyone in the story, the Nazis and the un-seen millions of victims of Europe included). It would be one thing for the filmmakers to punch up the story of Hitler's demise with melodrama, however an aspect to the film that doesn't cheat the audience (German, American, or otherwise) is that the story is somehow objective on one level, and on another tries to find someone to connect with. Hitler (played by Wim Wenders regular Bruno Ganz) is the key character to the story, but by making the protagonist the secretary the story does have something of a portal for a viewer amid the lot of crazed, trapped characters.

Hitler is certainly the cold-blooded, Nietzsche-influenced Fuhrer of the lot, and others such as Eva Braun and the Goebbels are proof that what Hitler had in him was infectious not just with his nation at the outset, but also with his closest followers. His generals argue over what to do. The Russians are closing in. Eva throws a birthday party like it's nobody's business, despite bombs coming through the windows. Nazi commanders turn their backs on the Fuhrer one by one, adding to Hitler's ultimate hypocrisy. One brief exchange between two soldiers that caught my attention went as such, "Where should we go?" "I don't know; some place where we're needed."

Speaking of content, I must come to the point of the performances. While some actors in the soldier roles and female parts were well-cast and notable - Alexandra Maria Lara as Traudl is not too forced, though one may not always find her as sympathetic as the film tries to represent - if Downfall lacked a proper actor for Hitler, it could almost slip into farce (and not the classic kind found in Chaplin or the Three Stooges). Bruno Ganz does what I see only on occasion in based-on-life dramas: he goes so deep into character that one figures that no one else could have been this person in this film. Much like with his followers, when he is in the room in a scene, the attention is all on him, as if he was that most wretched of school-teachers who gained attention through the reptilian parts of your brain. Ganz is never over-doing it when the Fuhrer flips out, and he never makes him seem too unbelievable. In other words every look that gets accentuated in a close-up or in the darkness of a room adds to the tension and horror of the whole situation.

When one sees the film upon a first viewing, the story of the Goebbles is likely the most disturbing for any viewer. While Mr. and Mrs. Goebbles' fates are well-documented along with the other monsters, their children's fates make for scenes that bring full circle the insanity of Hitler's own messages- the collapse of compassion, the facade of loyalty and honor, the un-stoppable hatred of Jews and anyone not of 'their' creed, all wrapped together in the climax of the picture.

I really was not sure what to expect from a film like this. I wasn't sure if the filmmakers would try and make Hitler seem the least bit sympathetic. They did not. I left the theater with a hatred that possibly spread further, as I take umbrage to his perversion of Nietzsche, and his ironic taste in food (vegetarian dictator, who knew). And one flaw I saw in the film was that even with being open-minded for the aspect of the 'other', from the German's perspective, there were some people and characters presented that I could not find acceptable under the writing and direction (in other words, in a few bits, the stark realism vanished). If there is anything worthy to find in the film though is it's brutally honest about the nature of fascism, and the outcome of the effects it has on a war machine like the one that unfolded with WW2. History may or may not be fogged as to what precisely happened in that bunker, but in a dramatic style not too far of a stretch from Rossellini's own Germany Year-Zero, it's definitely worth a viewing (that is, in the right frame of mind).
60 years ago
It has been months since Der Untergang first premiered. For one reason or another, I kept postponing it, month after month, country after country. Luck dictated I should see it on May 9th 2005, in Hannover, Germany. The 60th anniversary of the Armistice in Europe. The day we celebrate an united Europe (that same Europe that Robert Schumman kicked-off in the 50s and still works in preventing further wars). To make it clear: I am not German. Yet, for more than a few reasons, the history of the Second World War always touched me in a particular way. Not that it was any different from so many other wars. Except for the numbers. Never did human cruelty climbed to such levels. Never did we realize as then, how easy can society mutate into a monster. This was a highly intense movie to watch. Bruno Ganz will for ever be remembered as the magisterial actor that played Hitler - as Ben Kingsley is remembered for Gandhi. We see him in this film as a madman. There is no other way to describe it. He was insane. An insane man led the world to collapse, brought Humanity to its knees, and did so unquestioned. Der Untergang is full of strong imagery - it shouldn't matter if those in the streets were German or not. The human misery is total. I could not contain my tears in many occasions (not titanic tears, rather those that come from the depth, those that imply something beyond the screen. tears of History). In others, I simply had to close or cover my eyes, so brutal were the scenes. And as we come to an end, I am, as viewer, left with a sense of emptiness. The credits came, ran for 10 minutes, and I just sat there, crying compulsively for 10 minutes. Not due to the film, but to all that is behind it.

As I exited the theatre, I noticed a few other people drying their faces. Outside, the cold had returned. The wind blew strong and icy, some rain drops fell on me. And I walked. I wandered in the cold rain for one hour. I can only think of two other films that left me this disoriented, this helpless.

It should never happen again. Never.
Straightforward But Very Powerful
There's nothing particularly earth-shattering from a historical perspective here. It's simply the faithfully recounted story of the last 10 days of Adolf Hitler's life in the Bunker beneath the Chancellery. The basic story has been told before in 1981's "The Bunker" which starred Anthony Hopkins as Hitler, but although I thought that was well done, this is far superior, primarily because of the frighteningly superb performance of Bruno Ganz as Hitler. He became "der Fuhrer" in this movie. He was completely convincing, and offered a more complex portrayal than Hopkins' version. In this movie Hitler shifts between being a charming boss to his secretaries, even sometimes being self-deprecating with them (he says to a nervous Traudl Junge on her first day "I make a lot of mistakes; you won't make as many as I do") to being maniacal and out-of control, raging against the betrayals of his colleagues and the failures (in his eyes) of his generals. Brilliant. Alexandra Maria Lara was almost as convincing as Junge. Her character seems to be what ties the movie together (and the movie begins and ends with actual footage of the real Junge being interviewed for the also fascinating documentary "Im Totem Winkel.") There was also an interesting portrayal of the Goebbels, and especially Magda Goebbels (Corinna Harfounch) as she struggles with her conscience at the decision to murder her five children. The setting was realistic; the atmosphere totally believable. I appreciated as well that the movie painted a pretty good picture of what life was like outside the bunker, as we see street-fighting against the Russians, largely involving the Hitler Youth, who were the only ones left to defend the city after the collapse of Germany's armies. The cowardice of Hitler's generals and other officers was clearly shown as well. They obviously know that the war is over and Germany defeated, yet to the end they won't stand up to their demonic leader. This is truly one of the most powerful movies I've seen in a long time. 9/10
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