Cancel your Friday night plans! Give your flash cards and Tandem Partner conversation practice a little rest and start putting holds on some of your library’s German movies. Not just any movies, though—we’re talking animation today.
Oh yes, you’ll be adding some truly fascinating stories to your shelf, alongside “Toy Story” and “Frozen.” Even if you thought you were way past your animated movie phase, it’s time to rewind the clock and get settled in for some refreshing cartoon time. There are plenty of reasons why watching German animated movies will help your language.
- Discover the wondrous German film industry. Disney and Pixar may be dominating the American screens, but Germany has its own fantastic animated movie industry too. Sure, you could always watch one of your Disney favorites dubbed into German, but aren’t you a tiny bit curious as to what the Germans are producing?
- Be swept away by fresh stories and interesting characters. Quite a few of their movies are based on local legends and fairy tales—stories you might never hear in America.
- Listen to clear German. Most animated movies use clear, understandable German. After all, they’re aimed at kids who might not be so good at the challenges of their own mother tongue just yet. Thanks to their simple sentences, easy vocab and clearly spoken dialogue, beginner and intermediate German learners will find they have no problem watching these movies.
How to Learn German with Animated MoviesIt can be easy to get lost in all the fun of the story and forget you actually wanted to use the movie as a language tool. So consider watching the movie once just to grasp the plot, then a few days later you can turn the same film into an active German exercise.
If you hear a word, but aren’t 100% on the meaning, you should quickly jot it down (or hit pause first). After the movie, check your list.
1st —did you spell every word correctly? If not, add it to your vocab list and keep returning to it every other day or so until you can spell it from memory.
2nd, when you look up a word’s spelling, also look up its meaning. Add this to your vocab list too, and keep reviewing it until you know the word inside out!
If you get a bit too stuck and don’t have a clue what’s going on, pause the German version and watch the previous 5 minutes in English just to refresh the story in your head. (Almost every DVD will have an English version. If yours doesn’t, YouTube is your friend.)
If you manage to watch the full movie in German the first time, well done you! It can also be a good idea to rewatch in English, just to make sure you really did understand everything.
You can expect that watching these excellent animated movies will inspire your creative side in unique ways.
All right, now let’s get to the films!
10 Must-see German Animated Movies You’ll Absolutely Love
1. “Der Mondmann” (The Man on The Moon) is a beautifully animated movie that was released in Germany in 2012. It tells the tale of the man on the moon. One day he becomes bored of being alone up in space, so he decides to head out on an adventure to Earth. The movie then follows him on his various adventures on our planet with all the friends he meets.
2. “Felidae” This 1994 cartoon may look like a German version of “The Aristocats,” but it’s actually far from it. In fact, this is the only animated movie on this list that isn’t aimed at kids. It’s a neo-noir horror-thriller, so if you’re not too keen on going back to kids’ films, this is the one for you. It follows the eponymous Felidae as he goes around his neighborhood trying to solve a string of mysterious feline murders.
3. “Lissi und der wilde Kaiser” (Lissi and the Wild Emporer) is an enchanting animation suitable for the whole family. It’s a parody of the famous Sissi movies, which were popular in Austria and went on to become the most successful German-speaking film trilogy ever. With such a solid base, it’s no surprise that “Lissi” is such a great film!After a yeti makes a pact with the devil, he must go and kidnap the prettiest girl in the world—enter our heroine Princess Lissi! The movie follows her adventure with the yeti and her subsequent romance.
4. “Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed” (The Adventure of Prince Achmed) Released in 1926, this is the earliest surviving animation movie in the world, so there’s plenty of reason to watch this classic, even if you don’t need any German listening practice! The movie was made by various famous avant-garde animators of the time including Walter Ruttman and Berthold Bartosh. The plot is based on different parts of the “One Thousand and One Nights“ folk tales from the Middle East.
5. “Die Abenteuer von Pico und Columbus” (The Adventure of Pico and Columbus) You might recognize “Die Abenteuer von Pico und Columbus,” as it was dubbed into English and released throughout America and Canada after its German release. The story follows the famous explorer Christopher Columbus on his fearless journey across the waves. He befriends a woodworm, and together the pair have to rescue a magical firefly from her despicable captor.
6. “Ritter Rost” (Knight Rusty) ... is a knight who, along with his trusty dragon, Cole, lives in the kingdom of Scrapland. After winning the great knight tournament, Rost runs into trouble after his horse’s engine is stolen (everything in Scrapland is made out of scrap metal, you see…). Rost must then set out on an adventure to regain his honor and save the kingdom from the evil Prince Novel.
7. “Sandmännchen” (Little Sandman) How cute is the little Sandmännchen?! This über-charming stop-motion animation comes from the GDR and is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s Ole Lukøje character. -- Now, technically, it isn’t a movie, it’s a very popular children’s TV series, but it’s too much of a German classic to leave off an animation list. Many German children grow up watching the adorable Sandmännchen before going to bed.
8. “Lauras Stern” (Laura's Star) is a children’s book and was made into a feature film in 2004. When Laura moves to a new city, she ends up making friends with a small star who has fallen to Earth. After Laura mends one of the star’s broken limbs with a band-aid, they—along with Laura’s brother—go off on various adventures.
9. “Der 7bte Zwerge” (The 7th Dwarf), a lively 2014 animation, was released in the cinemas as 3D, and is a sequel to the two live action films “7 Zwerge – Männer allein im Wand” and “7 Zwerge – Der Wald ist night Genug.” The plot takes inspiration from both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, and follows Bubi—the titular seventh dwarf—as he tries to help the princess to find Prince Charming.
10. “Die sieben Raben” (The Seven Ravens) is an animated puppet film from the 1930s. Based on one of the fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm collection, it tells the tale of a peasant whose daughter is born very ill. He sends his seven sons off to fetch water. They end up dropping their bucket into the well, and when they do not return, the father believes they have gone off to play. Cursing them, he turns them into witches. Once the sister has grown, she goes out to find her brothers. After various adventures, her brothers are finally returned to her and transform back into human form. The puppetry in this old film can be pretty creepy at times, but you’ll soon be enchanted by the charming story.There are loads of other fab animated movies out there. Once you’re done with all the animated films from German-speaking countries, you can always watch the German dubbed versions of your favorite Disney and Pixar movies...
After studying German and Philosophy at The University of Nottingham, Laura Harker relocated to Berlin in 2012. She now works as a freelance writer and is also assistant editor at Slow Travel Berlin.