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Wings of Desire (1987)

Wings of Desire


Average Rating: 8.6/10
Reviews Counted: 46
Fresh: 45
Rotten: 1

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 7.5/10
Reviews Counted: 9
Fresh: 8
Rotten: 1

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 4.4/5
User Ratings: 32,921


Movie Info

This highly original French/German fantasy film stars Bruno Ganz and Otto Sanver as a pair of well-meaning angels. It is their celestial assignment to provide comfort for the troubled souls of Berlin--a task at which they are profoundly ineffective. Both angels envy the living for being able to enjoy nature and creature comforts. When Ganz falls in love with beautiful circus aerialist Solveig Dommartin (who dresses in angel's wings and robes for her act), he is allowed to "go mortal". After a … More

Drama , Romance , Art House & International , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
Wim Wenders , Peter Handke
In Theaters:
Jul 1, 2003
Criterion Collection


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Critic Reviews for Wings of Desire

All Critics (46) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (45) | Rotten (1) | DVD (15)

A fantasy that... goes right in spite of its solemn style.

Full Review… | November 27, 2012
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic

A sublimely beautiful, deeply romantic film for our times.

Full Review… | November 27, 2012
Top Critic

Wings of Desire is one of Wenders's most stunning achievements.

Full Review… | July 9, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Few films are so rich, so intriguing, or so ambitious.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

One of the few truly great movies to come out of the '80s.

August 5, 2003
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

Startlingly original at first, Wings of Desire is in the end damagingly overloaded.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Wings of Desire has an ingenuousness, a sweetness of spirit, that triumphs over the conventional rigidities of its calculation.

Full Review… | November 27, 2012
The Nation

This story of angels is really an examination of what it means to be human -- in the most profound sense but via the smallest, most trivial details.

Full Review… | November 27, 2012
Paste Magazine

A beautiful, literate and romantic piece of cinema.

Full Review… | November 27, 2012
Empire Magazine

How brilliant is Wings of Desire? Understand that Peter Falk is playing himself - that is to say, he's playing actor Peter Falk, who happened to be an angel himself until he elected to become human decades earlier.

Full Review… | June 25, 2011
Creative Loafing

Demands to be seen by cinema lovers.

Full Review… | March 23, 2011
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The cinematography by Henri Alekan is simply astonishing in its spare yet lyrical quality.

Full Review… | November 29, 2010
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

How much Eurobabble are you willing to endure in exchange for a look at one of the cinema's most ravishing and compassionate screen visions?

Full Review… | January 26, 2010

a film of sheer visual poetry and deep emotional resonance

Full Review… | November 8, 2009
Q Network Film Desk

It's hard to think of another movie of its era that makes the viewer so fully feel like a denizen of its setting; the roving, dollying, craning camera makes angels of us all.

Full Review… | November 2, 2009
Slant Magazine

A gorgeous and heartbreaking look at angels in Berlin.

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
Combustible Celluloid

A unique and enriching film. A film worth spending time getting to know.

Full Review… | October 22, 2005
Film Threat

Depending on your tastes, you'll find the film either a beautiful, moving experience, or a slow and pretentious one.

Full Review… | July 20, 2005
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Wings of Desire enthralls me, and it sends me back to my life a richer person, glad to be alive, looking about at the mundane and the everyday with new appreciation.

Full Review… | January 15, 2005
Looking Closer

Wings of Desire is the most optimistic of films, finding freedom and potential in the quotidian privileges most of us take for granted.

Full Review… | November 1, 2003

What Wim Wenders has done in his most transcendent film is not merely praise assenting angels, but embrace descending ones - we humans - as well.

Full Review… | October 29, 2003
Apollo Guide

While it takes a little getting used to, Wenders' look at Heaven and Earth and the tug between living an experience instead of merely observing is pleasantly haunting.

October 22, 2003
Nitrate Online

Audience Reviews for Wings of Desire

Dealing with the interconnectedness of the human existence as well as the ethereal quality of dreams and the world of angels, Wim Wenders provides his magnum opus with "Wings of Desire." The film has been lauded for its grasp of different foreign languages, veering from the macabre, and showing the romanticism of the relationship between Damiel and Marion. While a later adaptation dealt primarily with this relationship, "Wings of Desire," at its core, is a film about the experience of being human and not taking it for granted. The world is not shown as being exciting, but instead candid and often beatific. The angels' world is superimposed over the humans', but theirs is a dull gray and white landscape. The humans' is in color and they interact with one another, but in the angels' they can hear the people's thoughts. Oftentimes these thoughts are philosophical and heavy-handed, exactly what a person would think if they were alone. These thoughts are oftentimes sprawling narratives about their lives, their strife and worries about the future. The angels whisper into their ears, picking up their moods by implanting thoughts. One of these angels is named Damiel, who floats around a huge library where other angels nest, and also around the massive city of Berlin. He and his friend Cassiel remark on the virtues of being alive, and all the small things that we never notice in our daily lives. While at a circus Damiel sees a trapeze performer named Marion and follows her around, listening to her dense inner thoughts. She gives these long soliloquies about the state of the world and how she fits into it, which are charming and introspective. Between the amazing visuals, the bleak and yet interesting soliloquies from the people that the angels are listening to, the amazing cinematography, the great performance from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and the bleak Cold War landscape of Berlin, this film is unparalleled in beauty or simplicity. Peter Falk is also a great addition in a strange cameo where he plays himself, with a fictitious background as a fallen angel. Knowing someone is listening to your thoughts may seem terrifying, but when it comes to these guardians and their empathy towards humans, even in their times of need, it's an angelic effort all around.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Daniel and Cassiel are two angels who are assigned to watch over the city of Berlin. It is their job to monitor people and take note of all that occurs, and to help out those in need. Daniel (Bruno Ganz) eventually grows tired of this, and decides to give up immortality to become human so that, no only can he experience life to the fullest, but just life in general, including finding love with a profoundly lonely trapeze artist.

Hollywood bastardized this film as City of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan, but even then, that doesn't take away from the fact that this is one of the most beautiful, poetic, and profoundly moving films ever made. It is, basically, Wim Wenders's masterpiece.

It is a heavy film, with lots of spiritual and philosophical subtext, but despite being an art film, this deals with things that everyone can relate to, mostly, just trying to escape from an isolated life and make meaningful connections with others. The film is heavily stylized, using both criso momochromatic black and white and bright colors to represent the angelic and human worlds, respectively. The fact that it was also shot in Berlin while the Wall was still up also reinforces the divide between the humans and angels, and it is interesting to see the city from this perspective.

My only real complaint is that the film is kinda slow, and maybe a bit ponderous here and there, but overall, this is just a marvelous film, and I'm glad I finally saw it because I really feel like it truly is one of the best films ever made.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

My only criticism of Wings of Desire is that it has people playing themselves. It's a pet hate of mine but I'm really not too bothered as I love Peter Falk and I'm a big Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds & Crime and the city solution fan. I also love Berlin and so I think I was always going to love this film, although, I certainly don't always love Wim Wenders films. For me, he is either great or terrible, this is great though - probably my favourite of his although it is neck and neck with Paris, Texas. Every element of this film is sublime, the script, the imagery - I loved the way it was splashed with colour as the main character got closer to his dream of reality and feeling. This is some an awesome film and so beautifully filmed - a love letter to love almost!

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

A beautiful, haunting, atmospheric drama concerning two angels (Bruno Ganz and Otto Sandler) who wander amongst the streets of Berlin undetected, and how one of them (Ganz) falls in love with a trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) and starts to ponder about the opportunity of becoming human in order to be with her. This is simply a stunning piece of work by director Wim Wenders, as he creates a movie so full of life and mystery but is also able to show the flip-side of these moments of excitement by setting it in the bleak, depressed city of Berlin (with the Wall still standing - another layer of dread and sadness added in to the equation). While it is part social commentary on the state of Germany after WW2, it's actually more important a love story, and one that has a lot of weight to it surprisingly. Peter Falk's character is also a rarity - and the man nails it. While the movie really gets interesting in the last half hour, it is still intriguing during its first hour and thirty minutes, as Wenders seamlessly goes between a black-and-white scope with brief instances of color. A definite must-see just for the sheer atmosphere this movie possesses alone. Without question one of the best dramas ever created, with dialogue so rich it is impossible not to be in awe of it.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Wings of Desire Quotes

My heroes are no longer the warriors and kings.. but the things of peace, one equal to the other. The drying onions equal to the tree trunk crossing the marsh. But no one has so far succeeded in singing an epic of peace. What is wrong with peace that its inspiration doesn't endure.. and that its story is hardly told?
– Submitted by Ahmad F (2 years ago)
When the child was a child, it was the time for these questions: Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end?
– Submitted by Ahmad F (2 years ago)
Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end?
– Submitted by Melania R (3 years ago)
Last night... I dreamt of a stranger... of my man. Only with him could I be alone... open up to him... wholly open, wholly for him. Welcome him wholly into me... surround him with the labyrinth... of shared happiness. I know... it's you.
– Submitted by Allison Z (3 years ago)
You need me. You will need me. There's no greater story than ours... that of man and woman. It will be a story of giants... invisible... transposable... a story of new ancestors. Look. My eyes... they are the picture of necessity... of the future of everyone in the place.
– Submitted by Allison Z (3 years ago)
We are now the times. Not only the whole town... the whole world is taking part in our decision. We two are now more than us two. We incarnate something. We're representing the people now... And the whole place is full of those... who are dreaming the same dream. We are deciding everyone's game. I am ready. Now... it's your turn. You hold the game in your hand. Now... or never.
– Submitted by Allison Z (3 years ago)

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