Top Ten Movies Whose Reception Was Different in the USA Than Germany

With most movies, the world has a common critical reception. Although individual opinions may differ, by and large we agree what films are absolute masterpieces, what movies are controversial and polarizing, and what are failures, there still are a few movies who were seen widely different in the USA and Germany. Some of these are due to a different taste in entertainment: there's a very different sense of humor - I'd say Germans like subtle humor less than slapstick, while in the US it's the other way around - and what kind of action and thrill we like. But it gets most different when it comes to war movies and religious movies. German movie fans hate when the movies take stand for one side or when religion isn't questioned, American critics are more emotionally driven when reviewing such movies and rather judge how moving and touching the pictures are. Another thing is that the German critics' consensus don't always resembles that of German movie fans and cinephiles, American critics are often more similar to the public's opinion.

The Top Ten

1 American Sniper

To understand how it came that this movie was nominated for six Academy Awards and was praised for its direction in the US and became by far the most panned movie of the year in Germany, you need to understand what the two countries see in souldiers: to many US Americans, soldiers are heroes who selflessly fight for something they believe in, and for their country. Now, Germans generally hate patriotism and usually don't trust their government, and view soldiers as murderers who kill others solely for leaders that aren't trustworthy to begin with - which, of course, has a lot to do with the country's past and the 180 degree turn of their political standing. A movie about a soldier who has killed 160 people is like watching a film about a mass murderer to Germans. Unlike Eastwood's previous war themed movies, "Sniper" is focuses solely on its main character, and doesn't show the different types of people at war, which was praised as differentiated. So, to Americans "American Sniper" ...more - Martin_Canine

A lot of people I know hate this movie, and they ain't german - djpenquin999

Wow. - Not_A_Weeaboo

My opinion:
Unlike most German reviewers I don't think that Clint Eastwood intended "American Sniper" to be a patriotic glorification. They forget this man directed "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwa Jima", two of the most differentiated, unbiased and intelligent anti-war movies that dig into the sentiment of two nations at war, showing that both have war-crazed psychopaths, peaceful people, patriots, people who couldn't care less and both heroes and villains. In the end, war is terrible for both. However, "American Sniper"'s screenplay is horribly executed. My guess is the movie tries to stay neutral without judging, but by focusing on a soldier only, the movie comes across as teaming up with him and what he did. He killed 160 people, and this shouldn't be something to be proud of. At best, it was necessary to save someone else, but it is never good. I believe Eastwood that it's intended as an anti-war movie. But it would have helped to depict at least one of the many ...more - Martin_Canine

2 Suspiria

My opinion:
Like almost all Dario Argento movies, "Suspiria" lives entirely from being an audiovisual experience you'll never forget. The rooms look bizarre and surreal, often as illogical as something you'd dream rather than actually see. The music is haunting and avant garde, sometimes centering around a childlike music box melody, sometimes consisting of distorted drumming and noise. The images are nightmarish and unlike anything you'll see anywhere else, and they occur so unpredictable, bending space and time, so that they surely get through to us by not preparing us like other movies do. Anything can happen at any time.
The only flaw lies in the script when one character holds back information for no apparent reason other than making the movie longer. But you could as well cut this 1 minute scene and have a perfect movie, so I won't be too picky.

9 out of 10. - Martin_Canine

If you look at modern reviews of "Suspiria", you'd see that both American and German critics agree it's a good film, but still, the content of their reviews is widely different. Americand have always considered "Suspiria" a horror film that has its flaws in its screenplay, while being very effective in its atmosphere, thrill and shock value. Initial German reviews also viewed "Suspiria" as a horror film, but panned it as a horrible mess with no focus and sloppy build up. But over the years, the reception changed significantly, and in a direction that's entirely different. In recent years, Dario Argento is seen as a European art director, similar to Lars von Trier or Michael Haneke. Modern reviewers interpret his movies as a perfectly composed surreal piece of cinematic aesthetics, and its content as dream like and Freudian. The composition of colors and shapes has been widely noted as outstanding and visionary in that it beautifully captures the fevery feeling of a dream. In many ...more - Martin_Canine

3 The Passion of the Christ

My opinion:
I am not religious, and to me, it doesn't mean much that the movie is about Jesus. It could be about any man from that time who said the right thing in the wrong time and it would have the same impact on me. The movie's gruesome violence and extended torture scene is not there to entertain, or to exploit the suffering of this man, it is there to create an authentic and realistic impression of the gruesome punishment that was executed in this era, and mostly on people we would call innocent these days. It is heartbreaking for this very fact: this man goes through a great deal of pain simply for having beliefs that didn't fit the politics of his time - with his mother having to witness all of this. Not only the violence is that authentic, also the customes, setting and the fact that the movie is entirely subtitled add to its accuracy.
We need to be reminded of what horrible things we have done in the past. It prevents us from slowly getting back there. And at best it's ...more - Martin_Canine

While in both countries, this movie was controversial and had huge media coverage, the critical consensus was opposite. American critics tended to praise the movie's direction as extremely moving and saddening to see, and thought of it as a heartfelt piece of cinema. German critics hated the exact same scenes, calling the movie manipulative, unnecessarily violent and close to torture porn. It was furthermore hated that the movie spreads conservative religious ideas. - Martin_Canine

4 The Nutty Professor

My opinion:
Meeh... I don't think toilet humor is that funny. Don't get me wrong: I love politically incorrect humor, I like sexual humor and I like slapstick, as long as it is either intelligent or really funny. But toilet humor is always so in-your-face. And "The Nutty Professor" has a lot of it. And most of the other gags don't really come across as hilarious, and are too tame and slow paced. In between, it teaches a sweet lesson, but if the message is all a movie has to offer, that's not as great. For a movie that teaches the same lesson but makes me laugh out loud: check out "Shallow Hal", which is a funny ride full of slapstick and self irony, but has real heart.
Also Jerry Lewis' original movie has a lot more humor, and to me, the overall better filmmaking, which you'll rarely hear me say about Lewis as a writer-director.

I haven't seen it in a long time, but from what I remember:
4 out of 10. - Martin_Canine

Wow..I didn't know any of these cool facts... - Ananya

American critics commented positively on the mix of emotion and crass humour, and did like the many different performances by Eddie Murphy. Many said the movie was very heartfelt and an improvement over the original.
German critics hated the movie, thought of its gags as dumb and childish, and didn't really like the sentimental mood. It was seen as a weak remake of a great classic. - Martin_Canine

5 Lucky Number Slevin

American reception of the movie was lukewarm. Many felt it tries too hard to be Tarantino-like, and it is overwritten with too many twists and plots.
German critics praised the movie for its great writing, how carefully it is build up and how well the twists work out. The cast and direction received massive acclaim. - Martin_Canine

My opinion:
This must be one of the greatest films I have ever seen, and I've seen thousands. Yes, there surely are some similarities between Tarantino and this film, but that's not in the slightest enough to call it a ripoff. It's a gangster film focusing on darkly humorous dialogue, but it's still a lot quirkier than Tarantino's movies that are cooler and more stylized in nature. Throughout much of the movie, we get the impression of viewing a light hearted dark comedy that also introduces interesting conflicts and a sweet love story. But it fools you. And it fools you so extremely well and in such clever ways that you could never guess the solution to this puzzle. Much more importantly: the twists PERFECTLY interpolate everything we have witnessed before. Sometimes movies with twists ignore what happened before, but in "Lucky Number Slevin", the screenplay has a carefully crafted plan why it shows us what it shows.

10 out of 10. - Martin_Canine

6 Wetlands

The 2008 novel "Wetlands" sparked a nationwide controversy. Not necessarily because of its sexual content but because of how they felt it was purely written to be a scandal. The novel tries to be as shocking as possible with nothing important to offer, especially by detailedly descibing the lack of the protagonist's body hygiene and how it turns her on - like rubbing her lower regions against a dirty brown toilet seat. Although leading actress Carla Juri was praised and the movie was generally considered better than the novel, it still received much of the same hate as the book.
However, when the German movie aired on American film festivals, the American critics surprisingly liked it. Although they also noted the sexual aspects (much less the many instances of literal dirtiness), they rather saw that the movie actually tells a heartbreaking story about a psychically unstable woman who never experienced much love. The US critics were more captivated by the protagonist's inner ...more - Martin_Canine

My opinion:
"Wetlands" is a massive piece of art, both as a book and as a movie. Charlotte Roche, writer of the novel, states it to be 70% autobiographical. And this knowledge only adds to the emotional intensity. Tomboyish Helen Memel, the protagonist, is the definition of Nietzsche's Übermensch. She does not care about social conventions to an extent that she lives her hyper-sexual, hyper-atheistic and dirt-loving lifestyle with outstanding casualness. It is this casualness that maked her such a controversial person towards both the other characters and the viewers. She is also very intelligent, has the ability to deconstruct herself, is always critical towards what everyone else thinks and questions social expetations. She's also disturbed, having received little love from her distant father and her psychically VERY instable mother. Memel is a very complex character, most likely because she's the fictionalized version of a real person. She's just too much to handle for people ...more - Martin_Canine

7 The Boondock Saints

My opinion:
Glorifying or not glorifying - that's the question. Not for me. While throughout much of the movie the answer is yes, what happens during the credits completely deconstructs it.
Anyways, this movie is all about the filmmaking anyways: the action is always exciting, the humor is so terribly dark it's just hilarious and when it takes itself seriously, it succeeds. There are scenes in it that have such a strong sense of style that it feels like everything that's good from its decade was thrown together and talentedly mixed into this flick. I adore the scene where Willem Dafoe's reconstruction of what happened at a scene of crime interfers with the actual flashback, showing where he's right and where he isn't. It's a goosebumps scene. That it raises moral questions only adds to the experience. Also: Willem Dafoe is brillkamt in every scene he's in, which are quite a lot. It's one of the films I've seen most often.

10 out of 10. - Martin_Canine

Infamously, the movie has ridiculously low ratings on every website that centers around American critics' opinions, and has high scores whenever it's about the public voting. American critics detested the movie as s wild and sloppy mix of violence, questionable moral and over-the-top stylization.
German critics however agree with the public opinion: the movie's screenplay is very darkly humorous, the plot has been executed excitingly, the topic can inspire moral discussions and the acting of Willem Dafoe is superb. It's a movie that manages to mix entertainment value with high quality film making. - Martin_Canine

8 Alien 3

While the first two installments of the "Alien" saga received universal acclaim and often rank among the greatest films ever made, the sequels did not live up to its predecessors - that's as far as the general consensus is in both America and Germany. But to what extent the sequel disappointed differs.

"Alien 3" was released to mostly negative reviews in the USA. It was seen as vile and overly nihilistic, with little to offer for entertainment value.
The German critics however admitted that the screenplay was not as inventive as before, but that the extremely gripping and atmospheric direction more than made up for that. They loved the dark tone and gave much praise to Sigourney Weaver's acting. Many felt that the character of Ellen Ripley had its strongest moments in this film. - Martin_Canine

9 Johnny English

My opinion:
The Johnny English movie is definitely greater than both of his attempts to bring Mr. Bean to cinemas. Maybe that's just because the short running Mr. Bean T.V. series has a massive cult following over here and the movies never in any way capture its spirit, while Johnny English was entirely unknown before the movies and so I could see it unspoiled by expectations. Fact is: Atkinson has the perfect timing for this kind of humor. The premise is that he has an ego as big as James Bond and likes to think of himself as such a skilled spy, but is actually a ridiculous and untalented clown without realizing this hinself. And the way he does it, it's really funny. And who needs a good plot in a parade of funny gags?

7 out of 10. - Martin_Canine

Rowan Atkinson is one of the more popular comedians in Germany, one that everybody seems to like and is able to laugh about. In the US, the British comedy actor isn't as highly regarded, and that's likely why the movie was seen differently. In the US, it was seen as a lame spoof with lazy writing and tiring gags, while German critics also admitted its writing flaws and unoriginal ideas, but nevertheless called the movie extremely funny and absolutely entertaining. - Martin_Canine

10 Lone Survivor

This is basically the same issue as with "American Sniper", but not on such a huge scale. It wasn't AS praised in the US, and wasn't AS hated in Germany. Therefore, the movie wasn't enough of a hit. "Sniper" was a huge movie, and everybody had a strong opinion on it. "Survivor" was more of a small hit. And American critics commented on it rather positively, while German critics generally disliked it. - Martin_Canine

My opinion:
There's one thing that "Lone Survivor" does that "American Sniper" doesn't, which makes it much less complicated for me to rate it on a moral level: it shows that there are good people in Afghanistan, namely the villagers that help the protagonist, while in "Sniper" it seems as if the entirely country of Iraq was evil - even though the latter may not be intentional. So all that matters to me is the filmmaking, which I consider to be fairly good, but not the greatest that we have seen in movies centering around war. It doesn't get me emotionally, and could have shown more of how little sense war makes, but it still does a solid job of giving a gripping impression of the battlefield.

7 out of 10. - Martin_Canine

The Contenders

11 The Errand Boy

My opinion:
The success of a Jerry Lewis movie depends on whether he manages to write a balanced screenplay with a story that plays straightforward. It works out well on "The Nutty Professor" and "The Family Jewels", two really funny and well structured movies with a heart on the right place. But in "Cinderfella" for example, at a certain point he ignores the story and goes for wild anarchy, and "The Errand Boy" is utter chaos. There are so many scenes that have no context, and appear at random and out of place that it's hard to follow and truly enjoy the movie, despite some fine slapstick and that touch of humanity and good-heartedness typical for Lewis.

4 out of 10. - Martin_Canine

This is a stand in for Jerry Lewis movies in general. I choose this because the reviews are especially clearly different on this one.

American critics disliked most of Lewis' solo efforts and saw him as annoying and unfunny, and completely inable to write and direct a movie that follows a clear structure. German critics however ignore this fact and highlight the humanity behind his work, and that each of the films he made has something for the heart and mind. Many use the clownish humor to teach a very kind and lovely message that needs to be appreciated. - Martin_Canine

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