German Expressionism

German Expressionism

12 Episodes

Physical reality warps and bends to fit the twisted psychological states on display in the cinema of the German expressionist movement of the 1920s. With their emphasis on exaggerated shadows, off-kilter camera angles, dreamlike sets, and macabre story lines, these movies paved the way for the aesthetics of both horror cinema and film noir, genres in which mood and atmosphere take precedence over realism. This selection of some of the movement’s key works includes the quintessential example of the style, the delirious nightmare THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI; F. W. Murnau’s shivery vampire classic NOSFERATU; and several masterpieces by Fritz Lang, who, following the success of works like METROPOLIS and M, would go on to become instrumental in importing expressionist aesthetics to the Hollywood of the 1930s and ’40s.

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German Expressionism
  • German Expressionism Teaser

    Episode 1

  • Introducing German Expressionism

    Episode 2

    The following introduction by film scholar Richard Peña was recorded in 2020.

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

    Episode 3

    Directed by Robert Wiene • 1920 • Germany
    Starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher

    In 1920, one groundbreaking film jolted postwar audiences and catapulted the movement known as German Expressionism to international attention. The macabre story of a demented doctor (Werner Krauss) w...

  • The Golem

    Episode 4

    Directed by Carl Boese and Paul Wegener • 1920 • Germany
    Starring Paul Wegener, Albert Steinrück, Lyda Salmonova

    The ancient Hebrew legend of the Golem—widely recognized as the source of the Frankenstein myth—provided actor-director Paul Wegener with the substance for one of the most adventurous...

  • Destiny
    Episode 5


    Episode 5

    Directed by Fritz Lang • 1921 • Germany
    Starring Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Wilhelm Diegelmann, Lil Dagover

    In Fritz Lang's spellbinding romantic fantasy, inspired by the Indian folktale of Savitri, a young woman (Lil Dagover) confronts the personification of Death (Bernhard Goetzke) in an effort to sa...

  • Nosferatu

    Episode 6

    Directed by F. W. Murnau • 1922 • Germany
    Starring Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder

    A landmark in the evolution of horror cinema, F. W. Murnau's hauntingly atmospheric adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" stars an iconic Max Schreck as Count Orlok, a nightmarish, spidery creat...

  • Dr. Mabuse the Gambler

    Episode 7

    Directed by Fritz Lang • 1922 • Germany
    Starring Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Aud Egede-Nissen, Gertrude Welcker

    This legendary silent thriller introduced the world to the archfiend Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), a gambler, hypnotist, master of disguises, and all-around supervillain, whom director Frit...

  • The Hands of Orlac

    Episode 8

    Directed by Robert Wiene • 1924 • Austria
    Starring Conrad Veidt, Alexandra Sorina, Fritz Kortner

    Reuniting the star and director of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, THE HANDS OF ORLAC is a deliriously twisted thriller that blends Grand Guignol chills with the visual and performance styles of German ...

  • Varieté

    Episode 9

    Directed by Ewald André Dupont • 1925 • Germany
    Starring Emil Jannings, Lya de Putti, Maly Delschaft

    Unfolding in a kaleidoscopic riot of dizzying expressionist imagery, this backstage carnival melodrama is one of the most visually astounding achievements of the silent era. The great Emil Jannin...

  • Metropolis

    Episode 10

    Directed by Fritz Lang • 1927 • Germany
    Starring Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Brigitte Helm

    Among the most visually dazzling and influential of all silent films, Fritz Lang's towering science-fiction landmark unfolds in a stunningly imagined future in which the populace is divided between worke...

  • M
    Episode 11


    Episode 11

    Directed by Fritz Lang • 1931 • Germany

    A simple, haunting musical phrase whistled offscreen tells us that a young girl will be killed. "Who Is the Murderer?" pleads a nearby placard as serial killer Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) closes in on little Elsie Beckmann... In his harrowing masterwork M, ...

  • The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

    Episode 12

    Directed by Fritz Lang • 1933 • Germany
    Starring Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Otto Wernicke, Oskar Beregi, Sr.

    Locked away in an asylum for a decade and teetering between life and death, the criminal mastermind Doctor Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) has scribbled his last will and testament: a manifesto esta...