Critics Consensus

Tense, complex, and drenched in atmosphere, Phoenix is a well-acted, smartly crafted war drama that finds writer-director Christian Petzold working at peak power.



Reviews Counted: 122

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User Ratings: 12,898


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.9/5

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Movie Info

A spellbinding mystery of identity, illusion, and deception unfolds against the turmoil of post-World War II Germany in the stunning new film from acclaimed director Christian Petzold (Barbara, Jerichow). Nelly (Nina Hoss), a German-Jewish nightclub singer, has survived a concentration camp, but with her face disfigured by a bullet wound. After undergoing reconstructive surgery, Nelly emerges with a new face, one similar but different enough that her former husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), doesn't recognize her. Rather than reveal herself, Nelly walks into a dangerous game of duplicity and disguise as she tries to figure out if the man she loves may have been the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. Evoking the shadows and haunted mood of post-war Berlin, Phoenix weaves a complex tale of a nation's tragedy and a woman's search for answers as it builds towards an unforgettable, heart-stopping climax. (C) IFC Films

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Nina Hoss
as Nelly Lenz
Ronald Zehrfeld
as Johannes "Johnny"
Nina Kunzendorf
as Lene Winter
Imogen Kogge
as Elisabeth
Trystan Pütter
as Soldier On Bridge
Felix Romer
as Violinist
Uwe Preuss
as Club Owner
Eva Bay
as Dancer
Jeff Burrell
as Soldier in Club
Nikola Kastner
as Young Woman
Megan Gay
as Central Office Staff Member
Claudia Geisler
as Frederike
Tim Lorenz
as Phoenix Club Band (Drums)
Paul Kleber
as Phoenix Club Band (Double Bass)
Ralf Denker
as Phoenix Club Band (Guitar)
Valentin Gregor
as Phoenix Club Band (Violin)
Stefan Will
as Phonix Club Band (Piano)
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News & Interviews for Phoenix

Critic Reviews for Phoenix

All Critics (122) | Top Critics (32)

  • Both a powerful allegory for post-war regeneration and a rich Hitchcockian tale of mistaken identity.

    Dec 14, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Life is a bombed-out, soulless cabaret in Christian Petzold's Phoenix, a haunting portrait of identity, loss and the search for answers in post-WWII Berlin.

    Dec 14, 2015 | Full Review…

    Scott Foundas

    Top Critic
  • Everything in Phoenix is designed to prepare us for the knockout ending, which couldn't be simpler in itself, but has the force of a long-delayed emotional release.

    Dec 9, 2015 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Sometimes implausible and always engrossing, "Phoenix" takes us to postwar Berlin, a shell of a city where concentration camp survivor Nelly is a shell of herself.

    Aug 20, 2015 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • You may not buy all the story twists, but perhaps the script is not meant to be taken literally.

    Aug 13, 2015 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • There is intrigue. There is suspense. Guilt -- a man's guilt, a nation's -- hangs heavy in the air.

    Aug 12, 2015 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Phoenix

The plot is so nuanced, the characters so keenly observed and realized that it's shocking that the movie is also so economical . . . No moment is wasted as the film builds to what I can only describe as a perfect ending.

Alec Barniskis
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer


A very moving story of a woman who has been betrayed to the Nazis and returns to her home town to reconcile with her husband despite having a new face. The final scene remains long after the film has ended.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


There's a lot of ambiguity here. Pale and thin, she has returned like a ghost in search of her past. She visits the bombed out rubble of her bygone home like a specter floating over the ruins. Nina was a singer before the war. Her husband, a pianist. As a Holocaust survivor, Nelly has risen from the ashes of the past. Phoenix symbolically describes her progress, but it's also the name of the club at which she finds her husband working. Kurt Weill's melody, "Speak Low" is a recurring score that pops up here and there. The tone of the drama is pensive and atmospherically haunting, but it's very vague. The way these two souls interact is a long drawn out game of deception and remembrance. You'll have lots of questions as the narrative unfolds. What exactly are these people thinking? Their tentative relationship is based on cryptic intentions. Director Christian Petzold keeps all of these questions unanswered on purpose as Nina goes in search of her former self and for truth. Just simmer for awhile in the pensive mood. The mystery ultimately builds to a perfectly constructed moment of clarity.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

Nina Hoss delivers perhaps the very best and most challenging performance of her career in this gripping film about what it is like to become a stranger to the person you love (and vice versa) - even though the suicide of a certain character comes up as quite unnecessary.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

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