Germany, Year Zero (1949) - Rotten Tomatoes

Germany, Year Zero1949

Germany, Year Zero (1949)



Critic Consensus: An early masterpiece from director Roberto Rossellini, Germany Year Zero plunges viewers into real-life horror.

Germany, Year Zero Photos

Movie Info

In the third and final film of Rossellini's WWII trilogy, the director shifts his focus from his native Italy to the bombed-out ruins of Berlin, where 12-year-old Edmund Koehler struggles for survival. Among the nine people he lives with are: a father, who is suffering from malnutrition and a fatal illness; a brother, who is a former Nazi soldier hiding to avoid arrest; and a sister, who has turned to prostitution. Scouring the rubble-strewn city for food, money, and cigarettes, he comes upon a former teacher, Herr Enning (Erich Guhne), who evinces a barely restrained sexual attraction to the boy while providing him with records of Hitler's speeches that can be bartered on the black market. He also drums into the boy a classic piece of Nazi propaganda about the importance of having the courage to let the weak be destroyed. Under his influence, the confused young protagonist heads down a tragic path.


Edmund Meschke
as Edmund Koehler
Ingetraude Hinze
as Eva Koehier
Franz Kruger
as Karl-Heinz
Barbara Hintz
as Eva Koehler
Werner Pittschau
as Karlheinz Koehler
Alexandra Manys
as Eva's Friend
Baby Reckvell
as Rademacher's Daughter
Hans Sange
as Mr. Rademacher
Franz von Treuberg
as General von Laubniz
Hedi Blankner
as Mrs. Rademacher
Karl Kauger
as The Doctor
View All

Critic Reviews for Germany, Year Zero

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (5)

The colossal rubble of Berlin is not just an analogue to the collapse of the social order but an amazing sight, and the movie makes you feel the weight of every smashed façade and fallen stone.

May 20, 2014 | Full Review…

Pic isn't acted but 'lived.' Pro and non-pro cast play it with uniform sincerity. Edmund Meschke is the most impressive of the lot, delivering a poignant, believable portrayal as the young disgraced hero.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

A horror movie that declines to tease.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…

The sum effect of the presentation is a sense of bleak discomfort and despair, unrelieved by any purge of the emotions.

March 25, 2006 | Full Review…

To the critics of the time, it seemed that Rossellini had betrayed the tenets of neorealism...It now appears as Rossellini's first mature work, pointing to his masterpieces of the 50s.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

An unrelenting searchlight and a humane act of commiseration

August 11, 2014 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Germany, Year Zero

Even if it tends to diverge a bit from neorealism into melodrama, especially in its last moments, this is a gut-wrenching tale set against the wreckage of a post-war Berlin, about a tragic boy who embodies the pain of a collapsed society struggling to survive.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

the bombed out ruins of berlin are used to great effect here. a really hard hitting film for 1947

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

While many argue that "Germany Year Zero" is just misery stacked upon misery with nothing else, sometimes that's life and is reality for people. This is the third and final film in Rossellini's War Trilogy and is by far the shortest and to the point, running at 73 minutes while the others are closer to 120 minutes. In no way does the run time hinder the message of the film, rather it makes the message clear and hard. The film's protagonist is a twelve year old boy named Edmund Koehler who along with his brother and sister must care for their weak and dying father. Edmund's older brother was in the German army and thus is in hiding due to the allied forces being in power at the end of WWII. This means that there are four people trying to surviving on three rations, leading them all to struggle day to day. Edmund helps in any way he can, often making mistakes and being taken advantage of in many ways but It's clear his intentions are heroic and noble. After helping an old teacher sell items and make a little money, Edmund begins to get brain washed by the teacher who constantly speaks of being brave and letting the weak die and the strong live. It's due to this that Edmund proceeds down a rough and ultimately fatal downwards spiral. The film itself is a lonely and dark coming of age film in wore torn Germany and is almost a horror film for the neo-realist genre.

Chris Browning
Chris Browning

Super Reviewer

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