Life beyond the ‘Cabaret’: Check out these queer films set in WWII Germany

Life beyond the ‘Cabaret’: Check out these queer films set in WWII Germany

You are currently viewing Life beyond the ‘Cabaret’: Check out these queer films set in WWII Germany
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A scene from “Great Freedom.”

Welcome to your weekend streaming recommendations, a.k.a. the Weekend Watch, a handy guide to the queerest film and TV content that’s just a click away!

The new Broadway production of Cabaret, which took the West End by storm, stars Eddie Redmayne as the very gay Emcee and Gayle Rankin as the tragic anti-heroine Sally Bowles. Set in Berlin on the cusp of Nazi Germany, Cabaret is a story about the end of the Weimer Republic and the final days of the and era where liberal, openly queer people flocked to local nightclubs and the arts communities. And while it might be the most well-known, Cabaret is far from the only queer story set against the backdrop of the rise of Nazi fascism in Germany.

With that in mind, read on for more LGBTQ+ films set in Germany around World War II:

Eldorado: Everything The Nazis Hate

Directed by Benjamin Cantu, this 2023 documentary explores the LGBTQ+ community in Berlin during the final days of the Weimar Republic. As historians tell the story of queer Berlin in the 1920s and ’30s as the Nazis begin to rise to power, beautiful reenactments make this documentary a colorful, moving and devastating look at a liberal and free community that was decimated by fascism. It also serves as an interesting companion piece to something like Cabaret, set in a very similar time and place.

Now streaming on Netflix.

Great Freedom

What became of the gay survivors of Nazi concentration camps? In many cases, they went to prison. In this 2021 romantic drama by Sebastian Meise, gay concentration camp survivor Hans (Passages‘ Franz Rogowski) is released after the Holocaust and sent to prison for being homosexual due to an existing statute not abandoned after the fall of the Nazis. While imprisoned, Hans falls in love with fellow prisoner Viktor (Georg Friedrich), a hardened criminal who is also gay. This beautiful, sad movie explores a lesser-known historical period for queer people and tells an amazing love story.

Now streaming on Mubi.


This 1997 adaptation of the play by Martin Sherman, directed by Sean Mathias, is a very difficult watch but worth it for the powerful performances and vital story about homosexuals persecuted in the Holocaust. When Max (Clive Owen) and his lover, Rudy (Brian Webber II) are arrested by the Nazis in Berlin and separated, Max must survive the horrors of a concentration camp. Max soon falls in love with Horst (Lothaire Bluteau), who gives him a glimmer of hope. Bent is a very challenging film, with unrelenting violence and an oppressively bleak tone, but brilliantly written and expertly performed by Owen and the supporting cast, which includes Sir Ian McKellen.

Now streaming on Peacock, Hoopla, Kanopy, Pluto, Plex, and Tubi.

Aimée & Jaguar

An affair between a Jewish woman and the housewife of a Nazi? Believe it or not, 1999’s Aimée & Jaguar, directed by Max Färberböck, is a terrific film. Based on the book by Erica Fischer, the film focuses on Felice (Maria Schrader), a Jewish woman, and Lilly (Juliane Köhler), whose husband is a Nazi officer. As the women embark on an intense relationship against the backdrop of Nazi Germany, political and personal relationships threaten their happiness. 

Now streaming on Hoopla, Tubi, Kanopy, OVID, and Chai Flicks. 

The Kicker…

Woof, that was a lot, right? To wind down after these heavy picks, let’s relax to this terrific performance by Cecily Strong in Schmigadoon’s second season, which is heavily inspired by Cabaret.


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