Der Untergang

  • Directors: Oliver Hirschbiegel
  • Producers: Bernd Eichinger
  • Writers: Joachim Fest, Bernd Eichinger, Traudl Junge
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara

The film begins with a clip from the documentary Im toten Winkel, where the real-life Traudl Junge wonders why she decided to work for Hitler. The narrative then starts in 1942, in Rastenburg, East Prussia, where Traudl Humps and four other applicants vie for the position of secretary to Hitler. Upon hearing Traudl comes from Munich, Hitler takes an immediate liking to her and tests her dictation skills. Portrayed as a kindly employer who loves his dog, he overlooks Junge’s nervous errors and hires her.

The narrative moves to Hitler’s 56th birthday on April 20, 1945. Traudl, now Traudl Junge, resides in the FГјhrerbunker with Gerda Christian and Constanze Manziarly, another secretary and private cook, respectively. Generals Wilhelm Burgdorf and Karl Koller indicate the Soviets are only 12 kilometres from the city center. Hitler is now visibly aged, shaking, and in poor humor. At his birthday reception, Heinrich Himmler, his adjutant Hermann Fegelein, party leader Martin Bormann and Walther Hewel of the foreign ministry are present. Hitler resolves to stay in Berlin. By contrast, Fegelein wishes to leave. Hewel and Himmler urge Hitler to try a diplomatic solution, which Hitler rejects. Albert Speer and Eva Braun later arrive, and reject Fegelein’s advice to leave for Bavaria.

The film ends with Traudl and Peter escaping Berlin by bicycle. An epilogue details the final fates of many of the film’s historical characters. Another interview excerpt with the elderly Traudl Junge is shown. While the Nuremberg Trials made her aware of the horrors of the Holocaust, she had excused herself because of her youth, ignorance, and lack of personal guilty acts. After seeing the memorial to Sophie Scholl, who was of her own age and executed for resisting the Nazis, Junge realized that she could have acted differently.

Raging Bull

  • Directors: Martin Scorsese
  • Producers: Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Book, Jake LaMotta, Joseph Carter, Peter Savage, Screenplay, Paul Schrader, Mardik Martin
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, Sport
  • Actors: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty

Beginning in 1964, where an older and fatter Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) practices his stand-up comic routine, a flashback shifts to his boxing career in 1941 against his opponent, Jimmy Reeves, in the infamous Cleveland bout. Losing the fight by a fixed result causes a fight to break out at the end of the match.[1] His brother Joey LaMotta (Joe Pesci) is not only a sparring partner to him but also responsible for organizing his fights. Joey discusses a potential shot for the title with one of his mob connections, Salvy Batts (Frank Vincent), on the way to his brother’s house in their neighborhood in the Bronx. When they are finally settled in the house, Jake admits that he does not have much faith in his own abilities.[1] Accompanied by his brother to the local open-air swimming pool, a restless Jake spots a 15-year-old girl named Vickie at the edge of the pool (Cathy Moriarty). Although he has to be reminded by his brother he is already married, the opportunity to invite her out for the day very soon comes true when Joey gives in.[1]

Jake has two fights with Sugar Ray Robinson, set two years apart, and Jake loses the second when the judges rule in favor of Sugar Ray because he was leaving the sport temporarily for US ARMY conscription.[1] This does not deter Jake from winning six straight fights, but as his fears grow about his wife, Vickie, having feelings for other men, particularly Tony Janiro, the opponent for his forthcoming fight, he is keen enough to show off his sexual jealously when he beats him in front of the local Mob boss, Tommy Como (Nicholas Colosanto) and Vickie.[1] The recent triumph over Janiro is touted as a major boost for the belt as Joey discusses this with journalists, though Joey is briefly distracted by seeing Vickie approach a table with Salvy and his crew. Joey has a word with Vickie, who says she is giving up on his brother. Blaming Salvy, Joey viciously attacks him in a fight that spills outside of the club.[2] When Tommy Como hears that the two of them rose fists in a public place, he orders them to apologize and tells Joey that he means business. At the swimming pool, Joey tells Jake that if he really wants a shot, he will have to take a dive first.[2] In the fight against Billy Fox, Jake does not even bother to put up a fight. Jake is suspended from the board on suspicion of throwing the fight, though he realizes the error of his judgment when it is too late.[2] This does little to harm his career, when he finally wins the title against Marcel Cerdan at the open air Briggs Stadium.

Going back to the beginning sequence, Jake refers to the “I shoulda have been a contender” scene from On the Waterfront complaining that his brother should have been there for him but is also keen enough to give himself some slack. Darting across the room at the information of the crowded auditorium by the stage hand, the camera remains pivoted on the mirror. The film ends on an ambiguous note with a biblical quote and a dedication to the director’s film mentor at New York University, Haig P. Moonigan, who died of a heart attack before the film was released.[2][3][4]

The Pianist

  • Directors: Roman Polanski
  • Producers: Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde, Gene Gutowski
  • Writers: Ronald Harwood
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, Music, War
  • Actors: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann

Wladyslaw Szpilman, a famous Polish Jewish pianist working for Warsaw Radio, sees his whole world collapse with the outbreak of World War II and the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. After the radio station is rocked by explosions from German bombing, Szpilman goes home and learns that Great Britain and France have declared war on Nazi Germany. He and his family rejoice, believing the war will end quickly.

When the Nazis’ armed SS organization occupies Warsaw after the regular army passes on, living conditions for the Jewish population gradually deteriorate as their rights are slowly eroded: first they are allowed only a limited amount of money per family, then they must wear armbands imprinted with the blue Star of David to identify themselves, and eventually, late in 1940, they are all forced into the squalid Warsaw Ghetto. There, they face hunger, persecution and humiliation from the SS and the ever present fear of death or torture. The Nazis became increasingly sadistic and the family experiences and/or witnesses many horrors inflicted on their neighbours.

Before long, the family, along with thousands of others, are rounded up for deportation by train to the extermination facility at Treblinka. Szpilman sees his brother reading from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. He asks him to read aloud, and he reads: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Szpilman remarks that it is an appropriate play for their situation. His brother responds, “That’s why I brought it.” As the Jews are being forced onto cattle cars, Szpilman is saved at the last moment by one of the Jewish Ghetto Police, who happens to be a family friend.

As newly-freed prisoners of a concentration camp walk home, they pass a fenced-in enclosure of German prisoners of war, guarded by Soviet soldiers. A German prisoner, who turns out to be Hosenfeld, calls out to the passing ex-prisoners. Hosenfeld begs one of them, a violinist of Szpilman’s acquaintance, to contact Szpilman to free him. Szpilman, who has gone back to playing live on Warsaw Radio, arrives at the site too late; all the prisoners have been removed along with any trace of the stockade. In the film’s final scene, Szpilman triumphantly performs Chopin’s Grand Polonaise brillante in E flat major to a large audience in Warsaw. Title cards shown just before the end credits reveal that Szpilman continued to live in Warsaw and died in 2000, but that Hosenfeld died in 1952 in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp.

Lawrence of Arabia

  • Directors: David Lean
  • Producers: Sam Spiegel
  • Writers: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson
  • Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama, War
  • Actors: Peter O Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains

The film opens with Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) as a civilian, riding his motorcycle down a narrow English country road, only to be killed when he tries to avoid a collision with two boys who are bicycling on the wrong side of the road. At his memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral, reporters try to gain insights into this remarkable, but enigmatic, man from people who knew him, with little success.

The film then flashes back to Cairo during World War I, where Lawrence is a misfit army lieutenant, notable only for his insolence and knowledge of the Bedouin. Over the objections of a sceptical General Murray (Donald Wolfit), he is sent by Mr Dryden (Claude Rains) of the Arab Bureau to assess the prospects of Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) in his revolt against the Turks.

On the journey, his Bedouin guide is killed by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) for drinking from a well without permission. Near Feisal’s camp, he encounters his superior officer, Colonel Brighton (Anthony Quayle), who orders him to keep quiet, make his assessment, and then leave. He promptly ignores these commands when he meets Feisal. His fine intellect and outspokenness pique the prince’s interest.

The Arabs set up a council to administer the city, but they are tribesmen, not a nation. Unable to maintain the electricity, telephones, and waterworks, and clashing constantly with each other, they soon abandon most of Damascus to the British. Lawrence is promoted to colonel and then immediately relieved of his command and sent home, his usefulness at an end. The negotiations are left to Feisal and the British and French diplomats. A dejected Lawrence is driven away in a staff car.

Goodfellas

  • Directors: Martin Scorsese
  • Producers: Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Book, Nicholas Pileggi, Screenplay, Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese
  • Genres: Biography, Crime, Drama
  • Actors: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino

In the opening scene, main character Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) admits, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster,” referring to his idolizing the Lucchese crime family gangsters in his blue-collar, predominantly Italian neighborhood in East New York, Brooklyn in 1955. Feeling the connection of being a part of something, Henry quits school and goes to work for them. His father, knowing the true nature of the Mafia, tries to stop Henry after learning of his truancy, but the gangsters ensure that his parents no longer hear from the school by threatening the local postal carrier with dire consequences should he deliver any more letters from the school to Henry’s house.

Henry is soon taken under the wing of the local mob captain, Paul “Paulie” Cicero (Paul Sorvino, based on the actual Lucchese mobster Paul Vario) and Cicero’s close Irish associate Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro, based on Jimmy Burke). They help to cultivate Henry’s criminal career, and introduce Henry to the entire network of Paulie’s crime syndicate. Henry and his friends soon become successful, daring, and dangerous. Jimmy loves hijacking trucks, and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, based on Tommy DeSimone) is an aggressive psychopath with a hair-trigger temper. Henry commits the Air France Robbery and it marks his debut into the big time of organized crime. Enjoying the perks of their criminal activities, the friends spend most of their nights at the Copacabana night club with countless women. Around this time, Henry meets and later marries a no-nonsense Jewish girl from the Five Towns named Karen (Lorraine Bracco). Karen at first is troubled by Henry’s criminal activities, but when a neighbor assaults her for refusing his advances, Henry pistol-whips him in front of her, displaying all of the viciousness and confidence of proven gangsters. She feels vindicated, intrigued, and aroused by the fact, especially when Henry leaves her the gun he used on the culprit.

The film ends with title cards that tell us that Henry has been clean since 1987; Paul Cicero died in Fort Worth Prison of respiratory illness in 1988 at 73 and Jimmy is serving a 20-year-to-life sentence in a New York State prison, not being eligible for parole until 2004. (Jimmy died of lung cancer in 1996, but this was six years after the film was released and thus not listed.)