The 2024 Berlin Film Festival is approaching! We made a list of 20 films to watch at the Berlinale, from anticipated movies to promising premieres, debuts and new releases, recommended by our staff!
The 2024 Berlin Film Festival is about to begin, and if you’re looking for recommendations of movies to watch there, we have you covered! The Berlinale is happening on February 15-25, at different venues in the city, and we made a list of 20 films to watch! They are recommended by our staff writers Georgi Petkov, Serena Seghedoni, and Will Stottor, who’ll be at the festival this year. Find all the films below, from the biggest red carpet premieres to great debuts and anticipated hidden gems, in alphabetical order.
Don’t forget to follow us on our socials for our live tweets and posts from Berlin, and scroll till the end for even more recommendations! Come back soon for our reviews, and most of all… Enjoy the festival!
20 FILMS YOU SHOULD WATCH AT THE 2024 BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL
A DIFFERENT MAN
Director: Aaron Schimberg
Starring: Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve, Adam Pearson
Full Review: A Different Man Film Review
Another Sundance highlight and one of our most anticipated films of Berlin Film Festival 2024 is A Different Man, another promisingly dark film from A24. Edward (Sebastian Stan) is an ambitious actor and undergoes a surgical procedure to transform his appearance. Things change in his life, but also remain disturbingly the same. His dream quickly turns into a nightmare.
A Different Man seems to be the kind of film where the less you know about its plot, the better. It is a psychological thriller that promises to be continually thought-provoking with a devilish blend of wit and danger, sure to delve into the muddy arena between self-perception and how others perceive us. (W.S.)
ABIDING NOWHERE (Wu Suo Zhu)
Director: Tsai Ming-liang
Starring: Lee Kang-Sheng, Anong Houngheuangsy
Country: Taiwan & USA
A new Tsai Ming-liang film featuring longtime collaborator Lee Kang-sheng is always something to get excited about. The Taiwanese auteur continues to push the boundaries of film, consistently developing and invigorating the medium and subverting preconceptions we have. He makes us look at the world around us in new and special ways. Tsai is no stranger to the Berlin Film Festival, screening his debut feature Rebels of the Neon God there in 1992 and winning the Silver Bear in 1997 for The River.
The dialogue-free Wu Suo Zhu (Abiding Nowhere) is the tenth film in Tsai’s ‘Walker’ series, which first started in 2011. Lee, who acted in every Tsai film so far, is the titular walker, inspired by a Tang Dynasty Buddhist monk and who walks slowly through Washington DC. It is unclear if another stranger, played by Anong Houngheuangsy, is following Lee’s character or not. Tsai’s cinema can be challenging—he would even surely welcome this moniker—but immensely rewarding and eye-opening. (W.S.)
Director: Piero Messina
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Renate Reinsve, Bérénice Bejo, Olivia Williams, Pal Aron
What if you lost the love of your lift and had a way to get them back for a little while? That’s the choice the protagonist of Another End faces, as Sal (Gael García Bernal, of Cassandro) lives in a world where the titular technology can briefly bring back the consciousness of the people we lost. That’s how Sal finds Zoe (Renate Reinsve, of The Worst Person in the World) again, and even if she’s in the body of another woman (Bérénice Bejo’s Ebe), he can still recognize her. But how happy can you be, if a reunion’s only purpose is saying goodbye to a loved one? And so, Sal takes matters into his own hands, determined to keep Zoe in his life.
Pietro Messina’s latest deals with a lot of timely themes, and the blend of sci-fi and psychological drama seems a particularly appropriate genre to tell this specific story. Gael García Bernal is absolutely perfect to play Another End‘s protagonist, and Renate Reinsve and Bérénice Bejo joining him makes this one of our most anticipated movies at the 2024 Berlin Film Festival. (S.S.)
Director: Yorgos Zois
Starring: Vangelis Mourikis, Angeliki Papoulia, Elena Topalidou, Nikolas Papagiannis, Vagelis Evangelinos
Country: Greece, Bulgaria & USA
A neurologist and a retired doctor are on their way to a seaside resort, but they aren’t as happy as you’d expect them to be. The latter, Yannis, has just been asked to identify the victim of an accident in a small town, and when the former, Katerina, sees the victim’s body at the morgue, her worst fears come true. And so begins a puzzle of a story that slowly unfolds into a tale of love, loss, and coming to terms with one’s past. Director Yorgos Zois was behind acclaimed shorts Titloi Telous and Casus Belli and Cyprus Film Festival award winner Interruption, and we can’t wait to find out what he has in store for us in Arcadia. (S.S.)
Director: Abderrahmane Sissako
Starring: Nina Mélo, Chang Han, Wu Ke-Xi, Michael Chang
Country: Cote d’Ivoire, France, Mauritania, Luxembourg & Taiwan
The director of Cannes gems Bamako (2006), Timbuktu (2014) and Waiting for Happiness (2022) brings his new film to Berlin, and it’s another extremely promising watch. Black Tea is the story of an Ivorian woman named Aya (Nina Mélo) who dares say “no” on her wedding day. She then moves to China to begin a new chapter of her life, and she starts working in a tea boutique owned by 45-year-old Chinese man Cai (Chang Han). As their knowledge of their respective cultures grows, so does their relationship. But it’s not so easy, when each of them carries so much trauma from their pasts. Black Tea feels like the story we need now more than ever, and it’s an absolute must watch at the festival. (S.S.)
BRIEF HISTORY OF A FAMILY (Jia ting jian shi)
Director: Jianjie Lin
Starring: Zu Feng, Guo Keyu, Sun Xilun, Lin Muran
Country: China, France, Denmark & Qatar
Full Review: Brief History of a Family Film Review
Jianjie Lin makes his feature film directorial debut with Brief History of a Family, a drama unfolding due to the ever-present plaguing influence of China’s controversial one-child policy. The film gathered impressive responses from its premiere at Sundance and is now making its way to an international audience.
Lin’s familial drama is a visually imaginative and thematically interesting journey into the physical and deeply emotional interior of a middle-class household, threatening to come undone after the parents take in their son Wei’s new friend, Shuo. The family dynamics are examined through the film’s carefully observant nature, which always lingers subtly in every corner of this luxurious Chinese home. (G.P.)
Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Starring: Mutsuo Yoshioka, Tomoko Tabata, Ikkei Watanabe
Cult Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Tokyo Sonata) is bringing his new film to the Berlinale this year! Just like his previous one before it (2022’s Actually…), it’s a short film, as it’s only 45 minutes long. But the upside of that is that it’ll be screened with another Japanese short film, Riho Kudo’s August My Heaven, which sounds just as promising. Chime‘s premise is incredibly fascinating, as it revolves around a teacher at a culinary school and a student of his named Tashiro (Mutsuo Yoshioka), whom people seem to think is “a little strange”. One day, Tashiro starts hearing strange noises, like a chime, and thinks it’s someone who’s sending hm a message.
Soon, Tashiro announces that half of his brain was replaced by a machine, and makes it his mission to prove it. Both the other students – particularly a girl named Akemi (Tomoko Tabata) – and the teacher, Matsuoka (Ikkei Watanabe) start feeling a sense of unease, and finding that they’re not enjoying working with food anymore. Matsuoka’s life in particular significantly changes, becoming an unescapable nightmare that follows him anywhere. We cannot wait to experience this eerie horror film ourselves. (S.S.)
Director: Juliana Rojas
Starring: Fernanda Vianna, Mirella Façanha, Bruna Linzmeyer, Kalleb Oliveira, Andrea Marquee
Country: Brazil, France & Germany
Many of the movies at this year’s Berlin Film Festival tell stories about migrants. Brazilian filmmaker and screenwriter Juliana Rojas, who directed 2017 gem Good Manners and the Cannes-winning Doppelgänger, brings us the most promising one. Like most of her previous works, Cidade; Campo takes place in São Paulo, where rural worker Joana moves to be close to her sister Tania and her grandson Jaime. But life in the big city isn’t as easy for someone who’s used to living in the countryside, and a new job as a cleaner gives Joana the chance to bond with her colleagues, who all face the same struggles and are looking for meaning in their lives. At the same time, Joana becomes closer to Jaime, and that awakens past trauma she thought she had left behind.
The second part of the film tells a different story that explores the same themes with the opposite premise. A woman moves to her estranged father’s farm after his death, joined by her wife. Together, they try to adapt to the wilderness, and they also discover aspects about the man’s life that they didn’t know about. Is there a dangerous presence in the woods, all around them? Painful memories become literal ghosts in another absolute must-watch Berlinale film. (S.S.)
Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Starring: Raúl Briones Carmona, Rooney Mara, Anna Diaz, Motell Foster, Oded Fehr
Country: Mexico & USA
Rooney Mara’s first film since Women Talking is La Cocina, from Mexican director Alonso Ruizpalacios. The film revolves around a busy restaurant in New York. It’s lunchtime, and it has never been so busy at The Grill. But customers aren’t the only thing worrying the workers, as money has gone missing from the till, and they’re all being questioned. On top of that, most of them are illegal immigrants, and their actual jobs are on the line. And those jobs are what keep them going and give them meaning, as it’s only in the kitchen that they feel in control, managing the many demands of their clients and keeping the dishes coming.
Throughout the film, we get to know some of these workers – mainly, young Mexican dreamer Pedro (Raúl Briones Carmona), whose American love interest, co-worker Julia (Mara), cannot commit to a relationship with him knowing he’s undocumented. Needless to say, Pedro is accused of stealing the money, and things become even more complicated when he discovers a secret about Julia. And as all of that happens, the kitchen needs to keep going. If it sounds like a theatre play, it’s because it comes from a very popular one: Arnold Wesker’s “The Kitchen,” which the Berlinale describes as “a tragic and comic tribute to the invisible people who prepare our food.” If you’re a fan of The Bear and Boiling Point, don’t miss it. (S.S.)
Director: Levan Akin
Starring: Mzia Arabuli, Lucas Kankava, Deniz Dumanlı
Country: Sweden, Denmark, France, Turkey & Georgia
Opening the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival 2024 is Levan Akin’s Crossing. Akin’s previous feature, And Then We Danced, was extremely well received at Cannes in 2019, with the director and writer’s creative warmth and intelligence perfectly translating into a film about the potentially hurtful and destructive notions of tradition. Crossing promises to be just as emotionally moving and as richly textured as And Then We Danced.
With her neighbour Achi (Lucas Kankava), retired teacher Lia (Mzia Arabuli) sets out to find her long-lost niece, Tekla, in Turkey. Upon their arrival, they find Evrim (Deniz Dumanli), a lawyer fighting for trans rights, before beginning their weaving search through the streets of Istanbul. Crossing will be a highlight of the Panorama section, with a potentially rich tapestry of characters and a similar trailblazing quality to And Then We Danced. Akin’s powerful cinematic voice could give us one of the festival’s best in Crossing. (W.S.)
(BERLINALE SPECIAL GALA)
Director: Tilman Singer
Starring: Hunter Schafer, Dan Stevens, Jessica Henwick, Marton Csókás, Jan Bluthardt
Country: Germany & USA
Hunter Schafer has been making the rounds, quickly establishing her name among this generation’s exciting new actresses, first in Euphoria and then in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. She is now starring as the lead of the upcoming German horror film Cuckoo, making its worldwide premiere in Berlin before a wider release by Neon.
Schafer plays 17-year-old Gretchen, who is forced to move to a resort with her family but is soon met with the terrifying truth of what the place hides under its paradisal facade. Any further details about the plot of Cuckoo have been kept under wraps for the most part, but this film has all the tools necessary to be the next big horror flick in 2024. (G.P.)
Director: Mati Diop
Country: France & Senegal
In November 2021, 26 royal treasures of the Kingdom of Dahomey were set to leave Paris to return to their country of origin, Benin. These artefacts, along with thousands of others, were stolen by French colonial troops in 1992. In her first feature film since 2019’s Atlantics, Mati Diop focusses on said return and the debate it stirs amongst students at the University of Abomey-Calavi. Diop is no stranger to documentary filmmaking (her 2019 short In My Room is a terrific depiction of life in the COVID pandemic) and has also fearlessly tackled important world issues (most recently in her emigration-focussed Atlantics). Dahomey, then, seems like a perfect film for Diop to make.
It will be interesting to see how this subject is discussed in only 67 minutes. Even more intriguing is how Dahomey promises to depict not just the centuries-long negative impact of colonialism on African countries such as Benin, but also how those living in these countries view the return of such treasures after so long. (W.S.)
DIARIES FROM LEBANON
Director: Myriam El Hajj
Starring: Joumana Haddad, Perla Joe Maalouli, Georges Moufarrej
Country: Lebanon, France, Qatar & Saudi Arabia
Lebanese filmmaker Myriam El Hajj brings her second documentary to Berlin, and takes us to 2018. Back then, feminist author, poet and human rights Joumana Haddad was the first woman to be voted in the Lebanese parliament, but the decision is soon reverted due to a suffocating political system that’s set in very old ways. Needless to say, her supporters are angry, and this leads to a revolution in 2019, led by the intrepid Perla Joe. Structured like diaries, the documentary shows us four years in which Lebanon tried to break free from centuries old legislations and fight for their own right to freedom. (S.S.)
THE EDITORIAL OFFICE (Redaktsiya)
Director: Roman Bondarchuk
Starring: Dmytro Bahnenko, Zhanna Ozirna, Rymma Ziubina, Andrii Kyrylchuk, Oleksandr Shmal
Country: Ukraine, Germany, Slovakia & Czechia
Ukranian director, producer and cinematographer Roman Bondarchuk’s second feature is one of the most anticipated films at this year’s Berlinale. Just like his acclaimed first feature, 2018’s Volcano, it tells a story that begins with a series of coincidences and evolves into a political satire that has something to say about the state of the world’s today. But The Editorial Office (Redaktsiya) also has some sci-fi undertones that place it even higher on our watchlist.
The film is about a young biologist named Yura (Dmytro Bahnenko) who works at the Natural History Museum. His life isn’t very eventful, as he lives with his mother and spends his days working. One day, while he’s searching for a marmot – a creature that is thought to be extinct – on the Southern Ukrainian steppe, he witnesses arson, and his life suddenly changes. Determined to let everyone know about what happens, he goes to a local news site, but he ends up being quoted in a sensationalistic article, and things become even more absurd for our unwitting protagonist. We absolutely cannot wait to watch this captivating satire. (S.S.)
I SAW THE TV GLOW
Director: Jane Schoenbrun
Starring: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman, Fred Durst, Danielle Deadwyler
After the polarizing debut of We’re All Going to the World’s Fair in 2021, Jane Schoenburn’s sophomore feature, I Saw the TV Glow, promises to display a triumph in arthouse surrealist horror in its international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. Anticipation for this haunting, Cronenberg-inspired, hypnotic trip of a film is bubbling up as its first screenings at Sundance earlier this year left audiences speechless at the emerging of Schoeburn’s standout craftsmanship.
Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine are teenagers Owen and Maddy, who discover a supernatural TV show that might be offering them a glimpse into a world beyond the one they know, only to blur the lines of reality and shatter any perceptions of their own selves after its abrupt cancellation. Time will tell whether this infinitely layered, bizarre tale could cement itself as one of A24’s signature hits this year. (G.P.)
LOVE LIES BLEEDING
(BERLINALE SPECIAL GALA)
Director: Rose Glass
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone
Country: USA & UK
On her way to Las Vegas for a bodybuilding competition, Jackie (Katy O’Brian) meets Lou (Kristen Stewart) and the pair swiftly fall in love. Lou’s family, however, is complicated; her father is an arms dealer and involved in a criminal syndicate. Such violent associations inevitably cause issues for Jackie, Lou, and their relationship in destructive and unpredictable ways.
Rose Glass’ follow up to her 2019 feature film debut Saint Maud was instantly one of the most hotly anticipated films when the Berlinale schedule was first announced—and that was even before glowing reviews at Sundance. Saint Maud remains one of the tightly directed, most atmospheric and best horror films of the 21st century, so we inevitably can’t wait to see what Glass will do with a move into the romance and thriller genres (the trailer still promises some gruesome body horror too). Buckle up: this fascinating film promises to be a full-throttle ride through the desert roads of the US. (W.S.)
MY FAVOURITE CAKE (Keyke Mahboobe Man)
Director: Maryam Moghaddam & Behtash Sanaeeha
Starring: Lily Farhadpour, Esmail Mehrabi
Country: Iran, France, Sweden, Germany
Iranian film My Favourite Cake (Keyke Mahboobe Man) hasn’t even had its World Premiere yet, but it’s already sparked a debate. Earlier this month, Iran banned directors Maryam Moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha from traveling and even confiscated their passports. The Berlinale released a statement, calling upon Iranian authorities to let them present their film in Berlin, but the filmmakers are currently facing a court trial for the art they made. Sadly, this is not unexpected news when it comes to Iranian cinema, and even acclaimed directors like Jafar Panahi and Saeed Roustaee faced severe sentences and even served time for making art. If anything, this should make you watch Moghadam and Sanaeeha’s film even more.
But the main reason why you should watch My Favourite Cake is its compelling plot. The movie revolves around a 70-year-old woman named Mahin, who has been living alone in Tehran for years, after her husband died and her daughter moved to Europe. One day, she decides to do something unexpected and agrees to have tea with some friends. But a chance encounter leads to her spending a surprising, life-altering evening with a stranger that makes her want to do the unthinkable: open herself up to romance and dare to be happy in a country where women have no rights. Given this captivating premise and also the success of Moghadam’s previous film (Ballad of a White Cow), I wouldn’t be surprised if My Favourite Cake was this year’s Golden Bear winner. (S.S.)
Director: Nora Fingscheidt
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Paapa Essiedu, Stephen Dillane
Country: UK & Germany
Adapted from Amy Liptrot’s memoir of the same name and starring Oscar-nominated actress Saoirse Ronan, The Outrun tells the painfully familiar story of a recovering alcoholic seeking solace. The lead character, Rona, desperately tries to hold on to the little she has left in her life when she goes back to her roots in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. Childhood memories intertwine with current challenges in Rona’s non-linear path to sobriety, creating a complicated journey that manages to stay unique and inventive in a sea of similar narratives. With The Outrun, Saoirse Ronan is on top of her craft. Could this be one of her most memorable performances? (G.P.)
SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE
Director: Tim Mielants
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Eileen Walsh, Michelle Fairley, Emily Watson, Clare Dunne
Country: Ireland & Belgium
The beloved Cillian Murphy finally gets his time in the limelight as a leading man. Following the groundbreaking achievements of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, Murphy doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. Small Things Like These, directed by Tim Mielants and adapted from Claire Keegan’s novel, is described as a delicate and quiet story that’s handled with excellence. It takes place in 1980s Ireland during Christmas, where coal merchant and father Bill Furlong, a man of few words, is faced with terrible discoveries not only about himself but about the Magdalene laundries, a chain of asylums run by Roman Catholic institutions with the aim of reforming young women. (G.P.)
(BERLINALE SPECIAL GALA)
Director: Johan Renck
Starring: Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan, Kunal Nayyar, Lena Olin, Isabella Rossellini
Jakub (Adam Sandler) is an astronaut, and he’s been on a mission on his own for many years, on the edge of the solar system. Day after day, loneliness and depression slowly take hold of him, and he realizes that this mission might have cost him his marriage. Will his wife be waiting for him when he returns? As these questions go through his mind, something unexpected happens: an alien form comes to the rescue. Hanuš, who’s been hiding in the spaceship all along, has been alive since the beginning of time. Though Hanuš is unfamiliar with Earth’s customs, the alien might just be able to give Jakub the help he desperately needs. Spaceman is adapted from Jaroslav Kalfar’s novel “Spaceman of Bohemia,” and we can’t wait to find out more. (S.S.)
MORE BERLINALE 2024 FILMS TO WATCH:
- The Devil’s Bath
- Dying (Sterben)
- The Fable
- Fin (Huling Palabas)
- Janet Planet
- Last Swim
- Los Tonos Mayores
- Matt and Mara
- Seven Veils
- Sons (Vogter)
- The Strangers’ Case
- Through Rocks and Clouds (Raíz)
- A Traveler’s Needs (Yeohaengjaui pilyo)
- Who By Fire
- The Wrong Movie
- You Burn Me
The 2024 Berlin Film Festival will take place on February 15 – 25 at many venues in Berlin. Follow us on our socials for more Berlinale updates and come back soon for our reviews!