Good Bye, Lenin!

7.72 h 1 min2004R
When his Socialist mom comes out of a coma, Alex Kerner does everything he can to convince her thatthe Berlin Wall hasn't fallen. But the only thing he knows about the Party - is how to throw one.
Wolfgang Becker
Andreas ThieckKathrin SassDaniel Bruhl
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Maria SimonChulpan KhamatovaFlorian Lukas
Stefan Arndt
Sony Pictures Classics
R (Restricted)
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4.5 out of 5 stars

1400 global ratings

  1. 72% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 14% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 9% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

muzzle_velocityReviewed in the United States on May 8, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
A light heart'ed comedy that plays against the collapse of communism in East Germany
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My first recollection watching this, as someone who grew up as a kid in East Berlin, is that in communism people did not use to share their inner thoughts and feelings, certainly not publicly but also not with their families either. It truly was like growing up inside a jail. Heart to heart talk could hurt you. As such, sometimes you just had to best-guess the mind of your spouse, child, or friend. If you had higher hopes for your life, then you had to better hide them; paranoia was a useful method to shield your sanity from the surreal world around you. Socialism collapsed while the kid's mother was in the hospital. Believing that his mother had been a true believer in socialism, and afraid that she will have a mortal shock if she woke up to find out that her beloved East Germany had vanished, went to great lengths to protect her emotions by hiding the truth about the momentous events. He went to devise an elaborate plan to carry on a cathartic lifestyle inside the apartment during her recovery. Knowing that his mother's only connection to the outside world during her recovery would be thru the TV set, he set up a makeshift news studio at a friend's home to record fake news reels on VHS tapes with his friend playing the anchor part; the news turned out very realistic, bland, boring, colorless, touting agricultural and industrial successes under the leadership of the communist party, but it sometimes required imagination, in a silly sort of way, to explain to his confused mother why a Coca-Cola advertisement appeared on the side of a neighboring apartment building that his mother could see from her bedside - in Communism there was no such thing as commercial billboard advertisements, and certainly not of Western products. Son "explains" that somehow Coca-Cola was invented in East Germany. In the end, to her son's surprise (and of the viewers') it is revealed that is for the best part of her life, his mother harbored thoughts of defection out of East Germany, in spite of the fact that she appeared to be the picture-perfect image of a faithful socialist woman. Following her husband's defection to West Germany a few years back, she publicly condemned his defection and thus she became a darling of the communist government, by proving that her faith in socialism was stronger than her family ties. However, fully recovered now, she confides to her son that all that was a lie, and that she was no different than anyone else living inside the big socialist pretense. The truth was that both his parents had wanted all along to defect out of East Germany until the opportunity arrived for the father to leave to West Germany on official travel; we find out that the plan was that following his defection, he would somehow establish himself financially, then the rest of the family would go on to formally request leaving East Germany on "family reunification" grounds. The viewer may not know that the "fee" for officially departing the East was significant, on average about DM10,000, several times that in East German Marks (about one year's income of a well-to-do), but the most difficult part of this process was the fact that putting in the request to leave the country would automatically make you a pariah in the society, at work, shun by the neighbors and friends too afraid to be seen associating themselves with you, interrogations by the Stasi, the pressure was enormous and it could have taken many years. A family I know waited over 20 years for their visa. Thus, a mother had to balance what was best for her son; take her chances to start a new life, which may take years of persecution by the state, or play along for the sake of relative safety. It was a common dilemma and his mother chose a common solution during those days. Having second thoughts under peer pressure, fear of the unknown, a sense of duty, the newly found popularity with the government, which afforded her (and her son) some perks, all contributed to her change of mind and she chose the relative safety of the socialist road and stayed behind. Risk aversion has been the rationalization of millions who were taken hostage to socialism. There is no sadder thing in life other than a bird which decides not to take the chance at flying. Therefore, my personal experiences will never allow me to lay back and enjoy the "tender love" of a son towards his mother. Lying for the sake of Love; to lie to someone to keep them alive, or to kill someone by speaking the truth; some choices! What if she would not have recovered from her heart attack? Would you rather die not knowing? You decide. To me, a day of freedom is worth more than a lifetime of lies. I just see one more of the many fading ripples that the Soviet communist era left behind.
This movie it's artful; it excites and incites personal emotions, which what art is supposed to do. We are all different to some degree. My moral takeaway from this story is not to let the small crumbs of survival thrown at you in life like peanuts to a monkey, sway you from going after the harder to reach, bigger dreams, and maybe in the process try to rely a little less on what you see or hear on TV.
5 people found this helpful
Virginia ReaderReviewed in the United States on February 4, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
East Germany ends with a wonderfully staged and filmed Whimper!
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Such a wonderfully funny and touching movie about the last days of the East German government, the 1989 opening of the Berlin Wall, and the months leading up to and just beyond the actual unification of the two German states! While we in the USA probably saw nothing admirable in that smothered Communist land, in fact many of its people did -- the general social consciousness of the people, the determination to provide a social safety net, and for all those not in the governing classes a sense of equality and mutual caring.

But now we know that was a sham, a lie, concealing one of the most brutal surveillance states since Stalin's death. Want proof, get the even more powerful film, "The Lives of Others," which shows how lovers, friends, married couples, colleagues and even children were forced to spy on their closest and dearest friends and relatives. Watch the presence of the secret policeman in the basement taping the protagonist and his friends and family. Look carefully and you will see the infamous sealed Mason jars, the ones known as scent jars, in which the Stasi sealed articles of clothing, skin swipes, and more. Should they have to send the bloodhounds on the trail of an "enemy of the state", they didn't have to look far to give the dog a sniff of his target!

In both movies the office of Erich Mielke, the head of the Stasi is accurate to the last detail. I know; I've been to the Normannenstrasse Stasi HQ (now a museum), sat in the monster's chair, and even taken coffee and a pastry in the senior officers' canteen. If you want to see the face of tyranny, by all means watch both movies. It's a more worthwhile evening binge than any fiction.

For sheer fun mixed with a lot of visual history, watch "Good Bye Lenin!" Without fail! For the required antidote, get "Lives of Others" immediately after.

The production values of both films are excellent. The mixing of actual footage with that shot for the films themselves is top notch. And for a more historical viewpoint, "Bridge of Spies" should be on your must-watch list. All three will give you spellbound evenings. And you will laugh and cry through "Good bye Lenin."

Goodness. I forgot to give a plot summary of GBL. The mother of a small family is stricken with a heart attack just before the Wall opens. Her surgeons and cardiologists caution her children that she must never again receive a psychological shock. By the time she comes out of her coma, East Germany has been bought byWest Germany, East products, including her favorite pickles are no longer available, EasternTV is gone so the family has to produce daily Ossi TV with stories about new tractors and meeting potato growing quotas, and weather reports which stop at the old border. The need to make East German sausages in fake packages, along with the pickles and the need to round up dozens of Trabants so Mama hears and smells the old traffic. But finally Mama gets bored being kept in bed, and demands outings, and Therein lies the unraveling of the whole thing. To tell even more would be to introduce too too many spoilers.

I loved all three movies I've mentioned above. But I'm weird because I've walked most of the streets portrayed, had a micro-hand in ending the Wall, and count Berlin as one of the world's most exciting cities.
27 people found this helpful
La ManchaReviewed in the United States on July 20, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Tremendous movie, great history lesson
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I adore this movie (I'm not ordinarily a "movie person"). It's a charming, instructional story. I've sent many copies as gifts. for people who want a lesson in life in East Germany in the late 1980s and an understanding of the multi-faceted stages and consequences of transitioning from Copmmunist DDR into an open Western society. If that's your goal, this is your film. A sweet story, a bit contrived, but effective. And you can see, too, the effects of the sudden influx of Western products, Western values into a society (East Germany) that had many horrors to tell, without question, but also many virtues that went unrecognized and not valued at the time of the, understandably, enthusiast embrace of "The West." Today, there is much reflection on that period, with a desire to reclaim certain good values, qualities, that were lost in the rush to change--all bundled under the rubric Ostalgia. BUT, of course, none of that changes the horrors of the Stasi, the massive spying within communities, schools, churches, families, the terrible persecutions by Stasi, all of that remains true. Get the movie--it's a good start. And you'll want to try some Spreewald pickles!
Castle ReviewsReviewed in the United States on August 6, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
What Would Lenin Have Thought..A Comedy About the Demise of Communism?
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I came across the super comedy a number of years ago when I was staying in Germany. I have a number of friends from Rostock Eastern Germany and as a lecturer in International Relations in the USA, have talked endlessly about life in the former Warsaw Pact countries with Czech, Polish and German friends. This film looks at the collapse of the GDR from one family's perspective in a way that mirrors what I was told happened by my friends.

The plot is simple but intriguing. It begins in the closing days of the GDR. The narrative is given by Alexander (Daniel Bruhl), who is an unhappy young man living in a claustrophobic system, which he feels is oppressing him. He lives with his mother, a devout communist since her husband fled to the West and sister in a small communist flat in East Berlin. Alexander is involved in a demonstration and gets arrested in front of his mother. The shock of his arrest brings on a heart attack which leaves her in a comma for a number of months. Whilst the mother is in the comma the GDR collapses, the wall comes down, western goods and eventually money flood into the East, the sister finds a West German boyfriend, the family flat gets a western make over and many peoples lives change. When the mother awakens, the doctors are afraid a shock may kill her, so being a devout communist and fearing finding out there is no GDR any more, Alexander decides to keep what has happened secret from his mother, with hysterical consequences.

Whilst the film is humorous it is also quite a sad and reflective film. It shows that not everything changed for the best and all things western had their personal and societal costs. The tension between East and West Germans, which I felt when I lived in Wurzburg in 1990 and Luneburg in 1992, comes across brilliantly. The characterisations used in the film are all sublime. The cost to East German society is left wide open so all can see in terms of, unemployment, alcoholism and the consequences for the family of an escapee to the West. I actually use this film in my USA International Relations classes, to show students that not everything was bad behind the Iron Curtain and that there was a severe societal cost to the wall coming down and the westernisation process.

I think this film is sublime representation on life in an Eastern Bloc country and how the country changed due to westernisation. It is a comedy but it also shows the negative side to all the changes that happened in 1989 and 1990. I think this is the best German comedy I have seen in many years. My version had great English subtitles.

Highly recommended.
6 people found this helpful
j cReviewed in the United States on October 2, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Amazing even in 2020
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October 3, 2020 -- 30 years since the reunification of Germany. More than just ostalgia when watching this film, it is amazing to see how far we have come since then. And if anything, covid-19 and the knock-on effects in this crazy year of 2020 remind us not to take history for granted. This light-hearted take of a movie -- but with serious themes set in a political backdrop that is now just a generation ago -- should be rewatched time and again.
Allan M. LeesReviewed in the United States on March 9, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
Light Hearted But Insightful
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If you know anything at all about the Soviet period and in particular about the partition of Germany, this is a delightful movie. It's especially good on the nostalgia factor, which is as rich as the plot line itself. Add in some good acting and deft direction and you have a lighthearted examination of the lure of the old communist world for a few of its more idealistic inhabitants.

If you're interested in the period and the location, it's worth watching this movie and then going to The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) which is absolutely superb and provides a much darker but equally revealing view into a world that vanished overnight, leaving behind two societies (Ossies and Wessies) who even twenty years later struggle to reconcile and deal with the present.
4 people found this helpful
michael k. cornellReviewed in the United States on June 7, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Great film for those who want to understand Germany
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I lived in West Germany as a U.S Army brat in the 1970s. I was on a swim team and we travelled to West Berlin for a meet. West Berlin was like a mini-Times Square. I looked over the wall and saw East Berlin. It was like pictures I saw of America during the Great Depression of the 1930s. "Goodbye Lenin" well depicts the cultural reality of late 80s East Germany. As bad as the economic situation was for the folks suffering under Communism, there was a weird, almost spiritual solidarity gained through shared deprivation. Everyone was pretty much equally miserable. There was a feeling that any seemingly incremental improvement in the lives of people had an outsized importance. Then the East Germans were able to see how materially deprived they were compared with West Germans. Nothing defeats a dictatorship like the crisis of rising expectations. I loved how the film shows how one family---especially one mother and son---deals with this society wide change.
BradleyReviewed in the United States on August 30, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
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Ok, so you have to either understand German or read the subtitles, but the east west thing in Germany was a really, really big deal, and this is a really great excuse to understand a little on a personal level what happened. Parts of it had me in stitches. I showed this and "Bridge of Spies" to help them understand the cold war a little.
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