See it in the Original: English-Language Movies in Germany

Even if you’ve been living in German for 30 years and haven’t spoken a word of English in 20, it still feels good to catch a non-dubbed version of a recent release in the theater. Fortunately for us Anglophones, most cities have at least one city that screens some of their movies in the original version. 

Because most of their lineup comes from abroad, dubbing is standard in most German theaters. Most of this is high quality, to the point where you hardly notice Denzel Washington’s strange German accent, but often the message sometimes can sometimes get lost in translation, with hilarious results. As an aside, my favorite examples of bad German dubbing come from the German version of Seinfeld, a show that is so of its place and time that it's hard to believe someone thought it was a good idea to translate it.

Which is to say that, although most dubbing is first rate, it's still not perfect. We've all grown up seeing Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis on screen, and a big part of why we enjoy their performances comes down to their line delivery. And when you take their voices out of the equation, the result is often not pretty.

So, what can we do to find the original version of English-language films in Germany? How do we dodge the dub? Well, the first option is art houses. Every major city in German has at least one art house cinema that plays limited-run movies. Sometimes, these smaller theaters will also play bigger movies, but the better option is to go to the list of theaters in your area and look for three acronyms:

  • OV means that the movie is being screened with the original audio (Originalverfassung).
  • OmU means that the movie is being screened with the original audio and German subtitles (Original mit Untertiteln).
  • OmenglU means that the movie is being screened with the original audio and English subtitles (Original mit englischen Untertiteln).

Most cities have one or two theaters that are known for showing movies in English. You can find a fairly comprehensive list here, but if you live in a city not included on this list, here are some additional links for cities around Germany.