Movies are the perfect way to immerse yourself in a culture, be it if you are looking to learn a new language or just get a glimpse of life through a country’s perspective. We have listed below some of the best Swiss films that are worth watching to get a feel not only of Switzerland but also of some interesting universal themes and issues that they address.
Heidi – 2015
Johanna Spyri’s Heidi is a popular and unique character in Swiss culture, so it is to no surprise that she appears in many film adaptations that visualize her beautiful story. However, this 2015 adaptation by the Swiss director Alain Gsponer is particularly special due to its authentic yet contemporary portrayal. The movie is in Swiss German and follows the novel’s original plotline of the orphaned Swiss girl, full of character and life, who eventually finds happiness in the Alpine regions of Switzerland. With its combination of vivid characters and the majestic scenery of the Alps, Heidi is the perfect feel-good movie.
Die Schweizermacher (The Swissmakers) – 1978
Filmed in 1978, this Rolf Lussy comedy remains one of the most successful Swiss movies. The story satirizes the lives of foreigners in Switzerland, their struggles, and the bureaucracy behind the tedious process of obtaining Swiss citizenship. The Swiss-German film perfectly depicts Swiss stereotypes, culture, and the country’s strengths and weaknesses, all tied together with humorous exaggeration and situational comedy.
Uli der Knecht (Uli the Farmhand) – 1954
Uli der Knecht is a 1954 Swiss romantic comedy directed by Franz Schnyder, adapted from the 1841 novel with the same title. The film is a story of the reformation of the main character, Uli, who is a careless and headstrong farmhand with a bad reputation. Uli der Knecht is in Swiss German, a perfect chance to spruce up your language skills.
Grounding – The Last Days of Swissair – 2006
In October of 2001, the Swiss airline company Swissair collapsed with a debt of 17 billion Swiss francs, forcing the grounding of all their flights worldwide. The informative and emotional film portrays this event’s debacle and the consequences after the failure of what was considered one of Switzerland’s national emblems.
Fögi Is a Bastard (F. Est un Salaud) – 1998
Fögi Is a Bastard is a 1998 French/Swiss drama filmed in Zürich. The movie is about a dysfunctional love story of fifteen-year-old Beni, with rock band singer Fögi. Fögi’s drug use pulls Beni into a dark web of the intense and depressing life of addiction, making such for a film well-titled. This movie’s portrayal of the 70’s punk rock scene, addiction, and teenage love is an emotional and unique narrative that is a worthwhile watch.
Journey of Hope – 1990
Switzerland’s postcard views and immigrants’ economic success convince Turkish couple Haydar and Meryem to sell their livestock and land towards moving illegally to the promising country. Journey of Hope is a film by Swiss director Xavier Koller and tells the moving story of the hardships these characters encounter on their journey towards Istanbul, Milan, and Switzerland, along with their children. Among other spectacular movies filmed in Switzerland, this 1990 film is distinguished by its winning title as the Best Foreign Language Film in the 1991 Oscars.
Vitus – 2006
This charming film was the official Swiss entry for the 2006 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Vitus is a gifted 12-year-old boy, a piano prodigy, burdened with the parental pressure of excelling in his talent. The 2006 Fredi M. Murer film is an inspiring film on the boy’s journey to pursue his own dreams and new talents with the aid of his grandfather.
Home – 2008
The Swiss-French movie by director Ursula Meier follows Marthe and her family’s rural lives near the edge of a deserted highway. A renewed construction on the highway disrupts their sheltered, simplistic lifestyle, and they have to deal with the anxiety it causes. The narration incorporates comedic elements, drama, and an environmental statement, all joined together for an incredible artistic experience.
Sister (L’Enfant d’en Haut) – 2012
Ursula Meier made another great appearance with Sister, a 2012 film that was Switzerland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards. The drama was based on the director’s memories of growing up near a ski resort in Geneva and follows the lives of the twelve-year-old Simon and his older sister Louise. The boy, despite his age, supports himself and his sister by stealing from the foreigners at the ski resort. This critically acclaimed film exploring the complicated familial relationship between the two siblings, as well as two different social classes, is definitely worth watching.
Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 – 1976
Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 is a Swiss film by director Alain Tanner released in 1976. The drama inspects the lives of several characters in their 30s as they face the life approaching the social and political tumult brought by the demonstrations and strikes of May 1968 in France. The movie depicts the post-revolutionary confusion of that year and is a masterful critique of the pressures that come with living in capitalistic societies.
My Life As a Courgette (Ma Vie de Courgette) – 2016
My Life As a Courgette is a magnificent 2016 stop motion animation film directed by Claude Barras, which was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Film at the 89th Academy Awards. The film is a story of a nine-year-old boy nicknamed Courgette and his path to gaining trust in the people around him after his mother’s disappearance. The film treats the struggles of abandonment and abuse, yet the spirited characters pull through to transmit the universal calling for solidarity through empathy.
Les Petites Fugues – 1979
After 65 years of living a solitary life as a farmhand, Pipe reaches the age of retirement and decides to buy a motorcycle to tour the Swiss countryside. Despite difficult setbacks, he discovers a life he had never known before in his mundane reality. This 1979 Swiss-French comedy of the director Yves Yersin is an uplifting watch that takes you on the characters’ journey and adventures along the way.
These were some of the greatest films produced from the small but culturally rich Switzerland. So, grab your popcorn and enjoy!