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The Lives of Others (2006)


Average Rating: 8.3/10
Reviews Counted: 153
Fresh: 143
Rotten: 10

Critics Consensus: Unlike more traditional spy films, The Lives of Others doesn't sacrifice character for cloak and dagger chases, and the performances (notably that by the late Ulrich Muhe) stay with you.

Average Rating: 8.3/10
Reviews Counted: 51
Fresh: 47
Rotten: 4

Critics Consensus: Unlike more traditional spy films, The Lives of Others doesn't sacrifice character for cloak and dagger chases, and the performances (notably that by the late Ulrich Muhe) stay with you.


Average Rating: 4.4/5
User Ratings: 119,295


Movie Info

A man who has devoted his life to ferreting out "dangerous" characters is thrown into a quandary when he investigates a man who poses no threat in this drama, the first feature from German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It's 1984, and Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is an agent of the Stasi, the East German Secret Police. Weisler carefully and dispassionately investigates people who might be deemed some sort of threat to the state. Shortly after Weisler's former classmate, Lt. Col. … More

R (for some sexuality/nudity)
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
In Theaters:
Aug 21, 2007
Box Office:
Sony Pictures Classics - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Lives of Others

All Critics (158) | Top Critics (53) | Fresh (143) | Rotten (10) | DVD (16)

The Lives of Others is a powerful but quiet film, constructed of hidden thoughts and secret desires.

Full Review… | September 21, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film is a melodrama in a minor key, quietly affecting, quietly chilling, quietly quiet. It captures the drab architecture of totalitarianism, the soul-dead buildings of a soul-dead state.

Full Review… | March 16, 2007
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

Its suspense builds on the fragile and nuanced business of emotional rebirth.

Full Review… | March 2, 2007
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

A political thriller that's consistently as inventive as it is creepy.

Full Review… | March 2, 2007
Detroit News
Top Critic

Few would deny that The Lives of Others is true to its self, and in its depiction of human nature -- and human spirit.

Full Review… | March 2, 2007
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic

Poised between Kafka and Tom Cruise, The Lives of Others is the sort of movie that constantly engages you. You never know what's going to happen next, and it's all done with a precision and intelligence that's rare in movies these days.

Full Review… | March 1, 2007
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic

Reopens our eyes to the cruelties and soul assassinations that were carried out daily in the name of state socialism.

Full Review… | September 26, 2014
Daily Telegraph

The scope is especially impressive given that the movie is about a society obsessively focused on the tiniest of details.

Full Review… | August 5, 2011

Activism proves tough on people who've thrived at their political patrons' blessings, and one character cruelly chooses a path of least resistance when the chips are down. A cataclysmic conclusion depicts political clamps on expression and emotion.

Full Review… | September 19, 2010

If the filmmaker commits a crime, it's in pushing the [Stasi] character's rehabilitation slightly too far--about as much as the weight of a teardrop.

Full Review… | August 24, 2009

A truly unforgettable movie.

Full Review… | June 24, 2008

Although Henckel von Donnersmarck has a number of genuinely good ideas ... the film is marred by redundancy, indecision and clumsiness.

Full Review… | June 9, 2008
Paste Magazine

Not since Francis Ford Coppola's masterful The Conversation has there been a thriller quite like this.

Full Review… | February 28, 2008

The best foreign language film of the year is also one of the year's best overall.

Full Review… | January 21, 2008
Laramie Movie Scope

A multi-layered and surprisingly touching dramatic thriller.

Full Review… | December 30, 2007

... The Lives of Others illustrates, with only a dash of sentimentality, the truth that integrity leads to vulnerability and sacrifice.

September 12, 2007
Looking Closer

The Lives Of Others' obedient, obsessed spy in an exceedingly odd sense may have much more of a handle on the lives of others than, say, the filmmaker, who himself was around six years old at that time period of the former GDR.

Full Review… | September 11, 2007
WBAI Web Radio

The Lives of Others aims to flatter its audience - a quality typical for a film whose emotional posturing is only skin deep.

Full Review… | August 28, 2007
Projection Booth

Actually one of the most optimistic stories I've watched in a long while.

Full Review… | August 24, 2007
Window to the Movies

A beautifully mounted movie that's difficult to shake.

Full Review… | August 19, 2007
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

a mesmerizing, heartbreaking thriller

Full Review… | July 29, 2007
Kalamazoo Gazette

How surprising that a new German film would teach Americans about human faith at a time when acclaimed movies like Borat lack faith.

Full Review… | July 11, 2007
New York Press

a finely nuanced screenplay into whose naturalistic dialogue an intricate array of suggestive symbols and recurring motifs are subtly folded.

Full Review… | July 10, 2007
Eye for Film

Una notable mirada a la vida bajo un régimen opresivo, en este caso la RDA de 1984. Sorprendente debut del director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, con excelente elenco y calidad narrativa.

Full Review… | May 14, 2007
Uruguay Total

Von Donnersmarck moves certain sequences too slowly, but matches his tightest suspense with human intrigue.

Full Review… | April 25, 2007

Audience Reviews for The Lives of Others

Reminded me of Terry Gilliams's Brazil but with none of the the fantasy elements. And a lot more somber. Somberer. (?)

Any one else get that?

Also, one of the best last lines ever.

Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer


Before going Hollywood with The Tourist, writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck delivered the goods with this stellar Cold War drama.

The time is 1984. The place is East Germany. Our protagonist is a member of the Stasi, or State Secret Police. His job is to constantly monitor the activities of whoever he is told to. And he does, being the consummate professional that he is. Things start to get iffy though when he is assigned to monitor a playright who has a reputation for being a staunch pro-Communist...especially when the revelations he uncovers have major consequences for lots of people, including himself.

I really loved this one. It's weird for me to say that too, because surveillance and bugging, and all of that creeps me out. The world of paranoia and secrecy is quite fascinating though, especially here since this is a period piece rooted in interesting history.

The film is subtle, quiet, intelligent, and really rewarding for the patient. It's also gorgeous in its look, mood, tone, atmosphere, and art direction/set design. It is a thriller, bbut not the slam bang wall -to-wall action type, and that's what I liked about it. Yeah, there's some development lacking with some of the characters, but overall this is still a marvelous piece of work with some tremendous acting, good ideas, and great subject matter.

Definitely give this one a look. It's not going to be for all tastes, but if you enjoyed something like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, then you'll probably enjoy this one as well.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


A member of the East German secret police who is investigating a famous playwright and suspected subversive grows ever more sympathetic towards the people he is spying upon when faced with the everyday pressures of the oppressive regime he represents. Although touted as a "thriller", anyone expecting car chases and shoot-outs from The Lives Of Others will be gravely disappointed. It's a far more intellectual exercise that examines the meaning of freedom and its intimate link with personal privacy, something violated with impunity by The Stasi in the post war years of communist Germany. The story begins showing Ulrich Mühe's character as not an evil man, but a joyless, officious bureaucrat who truly believes in what he is doing. It is only when he is faced with the reality of the invasive system he is a part of that he begins to question the validity of his activities; especially when it becomes obvious that the accusations were made by a corrupt superior out of sexual jealousy and a colleague who sees the ruination of an obviously decent couple as a mere means to furthering his own career. Very nicely shot and performed, It's a thoughtful and beautifully crafted story that exercises the brain rather than the adrenaline gland and is all the more rewarding for it.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

Chilling and powerful. Yes -- it's in German. Get over it.

Christian C

Super Reviewer

The Lives of Others Quotes

Want it gift-wrapped?
Captain Gerd Wiesler:
No, it's for me.
– Submitted by Briain d (19 months ago)
Georg Dreyman:
The state office for statistics on Hans-Beimler street counts everything; knows everything: how many pairs of shoes I buy a year: 2.3, how many books I read a year: 3.2 and how many students graduate with perfect marks: 6,347. But there's one statistic that isn't collected there, perhaps because such numbers cause even paper-pushers pain: and that is the suicide rate.
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
Captain Gerd Wiesler:
An innocent prisoner will become more angry by the hour due to the injustice suffered. He will shout and rage. A guilty prisoner becomes more calm and quiet. Or he cries. He knows he's there for a reason. The best way to establish guilt or innocence is non-stop interrogation.
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)

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