"If the war is lost, then it is of no concern to me if the people perish in it. I still would not shed a single tear for them; Because they did not deserve any better."Downfall
(German: Der Untergang
) is a dramatic film from 2004 recounting the last days of Nazi Germany
as the forces of Marshals Konev and Zhukov close in
and the senior Nazi leadership wait around to die.
It is primarily based on the memoirs of Gertrude "Traudl" Junge, one of Adolf Hitler
's secretaries, and is one of the most accurate portrayals of the last, desperate days of the Third Reich and its effects on Hitler, his closest aides, and ordinary Germans. Junge is played by German actress Alexandra Maria Lara
, while Hitler himself is portrayed by Bruno Ganz
You most likely know it as the source of all those Hitler Rants
videos where the English subtitles are edited
to satirize some usually trivial topics.
Not to be confused with the ABC big-money prize-smashing game show of the same title
, the Harvester story-heavy horror videogame
, or the board game that all share the same name.
Downfall contains examples of:
- Ate His Gun: Many Nazis lose their will to live when faced with the end of the Nazi Reich. There are quite a few suicides using this and other means.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: One recurring question for the cast is how they plan to deal with the Reich's downfall: will they choose to flee, be taken prisoner, or will they commit suicide to save face and avoid ending up as a POW?
- Big Sleep: Magda Goebbels drugs her children into unconsciousness, then forces them to ingest cyanide by placing a vial in their mouths and forcing their jaws shut. The only sign of their death is a shudder. Unrealistic (even the most heavily drugged cyanide victim will usually thrash violently, if only for a few seconds) but enforced for dramatic purposes.
- Bittersweet Ending: Traudl and Peter taking a bicycle and riding off into the great unknown. Cue the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. This was added because the director felt the audience needed something upbeat. Constanze Manziarly, Hitler's cook, whose fate in the film was not shown, was last seen going into a U-bahn station with a pair of Red Army soldiers, telling the group "they just want to see my papers."
- Book Ends: The movie begins and ends with excerpts from a video interview with the real-life Traudl Junge, taken a matter of months before she died in 2002 (two years before Der Untegang was released).
- Braids of Action: The female Child Soldier operating the flak gun has long, blond, twin braids.
- But Not Too Evil: The film gives a balanced portrayal of Hitler as a human being, capable of displaying kindness and charm when around people and things he likes, but also cruel, petty, ineffectual and genocidally paranoid. Lest you get too much Sympathy for the Devil, one scene in particular has Hitler giving a speech expressing pride in the fact that he's killed so many millions of people and hopes that all of Germany perishes for failing him.
- Chewing the Scenery: Hitler goes completely apeshit when he learns that his army literally cannot stop the Soviets.
- Child Soldiers: The Germans are so short of troops that they're using children. One particular scene has Hitler inspecting a line of kids and giving them medals. This scene is essentially a recreation of well-known newsreel footage of Hitler doing just that on his birthday on 20 April 1945.
- Contrast Montage: Eva Braun's inner monologue narrates a letter she is typing to her family, calmly asking family members to redeem items and pay off debts at shops that have long since been destroyed, and that she hopes to send a care package with chocolate as well as some tobacco for her father. The almost cheerful narration of her letter is played over a montage of death and destruction as Berlin is blown to pieces, and under-equipped doctors perform amputations in overcrowded bomb shelters, and the Soviet Army overruns the German defences. Particularly harrowing is that during the part where she's absent-mindedly talking about sending some chocolate, a squad of child soldiers who are being overrun start turning their guns on their squadmates to save them from a more grisly death at the hands of the vengeful Soviets.
- Crapsack World: Berlin is being bombed and shelled into a smoking ruin by a ruthless enemy determined to make Germany pay for the war of annihilation they started on them and there is no escape from the top to the bottom for its inhabitants.
- Cyanide Pill: They're handed out like candy throughout the film. Most affectingly, Frau Goebbels forces her (sedated) children to take cyanide.
- Dead Guy on Display: Roving execution squads are going around hanging anyone found guilty of desertion (a lot of people, as what was left of the Heer and Volksturm was falling apart) and leaving the bodies up, with placards of warning hung from the bodies.
- Hitler ordered his body to be burnt once he committed suicide to avoid this being done to him by the Red Army.
- Deadly Distant Finale: The end explains how each of the characters lived their lives after the events of the movie, and how they died, if they did die.
- Demoted to Extra: Goering, despite being a major historical figure, does not factor into the events portrayed, so he's reduced to a single, non-speaking appearance and a telegram. Truth in Television, since Goering left Berlin for good after Hitler's last birthday party.
- Despair Event Horizon:
- The film is basically one long chain of these. Watching how individual people deal with their inevitable, total, and deserved (or undeserved) defeats is a major theme. Every major character has at least one scene where they finally break. Hitler has about half a dozen.
- Hitler's biggest one is most likely when he receives news that Himmler is attempting to negotiate a surrender of Germany. Hitler, who always believed Himmler to be his most loyal follower, regarded this as the ultimate form of betrayal. While previously he would see-saw between fits of rage and moments of delusional optimism, Himmler's betrayal marks the final point when he begins actively planning to commit suicide.
- The Determinator: The German soldiers, and several of the higher ranking officers in Hitler's circle. They genuinely believe that the final victory is coming, and when people tell them that it's hopeless, they practically accuse them of treason.
- Dramatic Sit-Down: Hitler has a massive Villainous Breakdown in this infamous scene. He reacted like this after he was told Felix Steiner couldn't hold back the Allies (the Soviets get there first of course) with the forces he has. After his breakdown, he is permanently hunched over and he is usually the only one sitting while everyone else has to stand.
- Driven to Suicide:
- Truth in Television, as many hardcore Nazis killed themselves rather than face justice or revenge, or a world without National Socialism, or even a world where Jews, Gypsies and other minorities are considered anything but subhuman.
- Subverted in one scene where a unit filled with supposedly hardcore die-hards make a big deal about the fact that they're all either going to die fighting or kill themselves to avoid dishonour. Moments later, a messenger soberly brings the news that the German High Command has surrendered and the war is over... and only one or two of them actually go through with it, the others just left stunned but with no apparent intention of killing themselves.
- Empathy Doll Shot: When Ernst-Robert Grawitz (an SS doctor who helped in the development of death camp gas chambers) kills himself, his wife, and his two children with grenades, we see a doll landing in the street after the explosion.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: A good chunk of the characters are the leaders and senior members of the Nazi party; they're also people with spouses and families.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Burgdorf mentions early in the film that Nazi party bosses "make him sick".
- Faux Affably Evil: In the film, Hitler is polite and affectionate to those who remain with him in the Führerbunker as well as those who continue to fight for his doomed ambitions. However, as the film progresses, it increasingly becomes apparent that his demeanor is a carefully calculated ruse designed to seduce his subordinates into joining him in death out of guilt and/or a tragically misplaced sense of loyalty.
- Face Death with Dignity: Fegelein, dragged out of a woman's bed to be summarily executed by the SS, takes a moment to button up his tunic and give the Nazi salute before being shot. This is the opposite of what the Real Life Fegelein, a bastard who betrayed his brother in law (the Führer) and tried to escape with a suitcase of stolen money and jewellery, did when caught. He was shot on the spot because he was too drunk to be court-martialed.
- Fate Worse Than Death: General Helmuth Weidling got a pint of this: Hitler orders his execution on assumption that he moved his command post to the west. After his attempt to solve the misunderstanding, Hitler was impressed and appointed him as commander of the defense of Berlin.
Weidling: "I'd have preferred to be shot!"
- In one scene, the young blonde female soldier begs the young German officer to kill her as their position is being overrun. It may seem unusual at first as to why she wouldn't just run away, but a lesser known fact was that the Red Army sexually assaulted a tenth or so of the female population of the areas they came across (sometimes repeatedly), partly as payback for the way that Germany had explicitly waged a war to exterminate every last Soviet man woman and child ('Vernichtungskrieg'/'Total War') and had killed a dozen million of their civilians in various atrocities, and in small part to unnerve and spite the Germans by playing to German racial stereotypes about them and their rapaciousness. So the German officer shoots her in the heart, and then he shoots himself in the head shortly after, probably to also avoid being captured and sent to a gulag, where few German soldiers survived.
- A Father to His Men:
- Subverted with Hitler. Many ordinary German soldiers and civilians still look up to him as a father figure, but it turns out he has no qualms about sacrificing them all for his own selfish/crazy reasons (he thought the entire German people had "failed" him).
- Weidling, who surrenders after Hitler's death and tells German soldiers to lay down their weapons because Hitler has abandoned them, is a more straightforward example of this trope.
- Folk Hero: The picture Hitler looks at in one scene is King Frederick II of Prussia, who was an idol to him. King Frederick was saved twice from utter defeat by last-minute turns of events (the "Miracles of the House of Brandenburg"), something Hitler hoped for himself (especially after FDR died). It should be noted that the real Frederick The Great was a flute-playing, (probably) gay, Francophile Freemason who would have loathed Hitler.
- Foregone Conclusion: And they know it. Some are more willing to face reality than others, however.
- Friend to All Children: Hitler, of all people, appears as this: The Goebbels' children are obviously fond of him. At the same time, he's also sending Child Soldiers en masse to their deaths.
- Funny Background Event: In the scene which has become legendary for providing the Hitler Rants, the map behind Hitler clearly depicts a mass of lines radiating out of England, of all countries.
- Gallows Humour: Knowing that all hope is lost as the Soviet army's artillery steadily reduces Berlin to rubble, the German generals tell each other jokes such as "Have you heard? Berlin's a city of warehouses. Where's my house, where's my house?" note
- General Failure: Hitler attempts to micro-manage his troops to increasingly greater degrees, revoking control from his far more capable (and sane) commanders for perceived failures. In the war room scene prior to his infamous breakdown, he shows a very weak grasp of tactics by declaring that battalions and divisions on the verge of being overrun will hold their ground no matter what and grossly overestimating the fighting capacity of groups that exist only on his map. Even the other members of his inner circle give each other nervous looks as he makes these costly decisions. After the last offensive ordered by his generals, Unternehmen Zitadelle/The Battle of Kursk of July 1943, failed and lead to a spectacular reversal which cost them the Ukraine and all the (experienced) panzer forces this became Truth in Television for the remainder of the war.
- The Ghost: Steiner, Wenck, and Admiral Dönitz, all of whom Hitler believes capable of saving Berlin.
- With the notable exception of a few scenes, the Red Army is this for most of the film. Outside of those, the most we see of Soviet soldiers in the battle sequences are fleeting glimpses of figures advancing from cover to cover or quickly popping up to fire their weapons before ducking back down again.
- Glasses Pull: In the infamous Hitler rant scene.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Hitler himself, along with Goebbels and his wife. Two generals, too. Oddly enough, we see a random mook suddenly shoot himself, yet then the camera stayed right on him.
- The director states in commentary that there's a specific reason for cutting away from the suicides of Hitler, Goebbels and his wife, as well as the two generals; they didn't deserve to have their final moment immortalized in film, even if it is just a recreation.
- Harmful to Minors: See Infant Immortality below.
- Heel Realization: In the real Traudl Junge's interview at the end of the film, she confesses that she had this moment when she finally learned that the great German resistance heroine, Sophie Scholl, was younger than herself and she knew what was going on in the Third Reich and had the conscience and backbone to do something while Junge did nothing.
- Herr Doktor:
- Even though you're liable to get shivers the moment you see a Nazi in a lab coat, Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck turns out to be the most heroic character in the film, putting his concern for civilians above his orders from the SS. The real Schenck bordered on being little more than a Punch Clock Villain, but he engaged in human experimentation.
- Grawitz, the head of the German Red Cross who was simultaneously one of the leading planners of the Nazi human experimentation program (directly responsible for wounding prisoners and intentionally infecting them with gangrene to test treatments on them) appears in the film, but as opposed to a menacing hands-on surgeon, he's portrayed (much as he arguably was) as a cowardly fat bureaucrat, begging Hitler to allow him to flee Berlin rather than face justice at the hands of the Red Army. He takes the coward's way out by killing himself and his entire family with grenades while they're eating dinner (because he knew the Soviets would exact his punishment on his family as well).
- Historical Beauty Update: Compare the real Traudl Junge◊, with this one◊.
- Historical-Domain Character: All of the principal players except for the little boy pressed into combat with the Hitler Youth. He is shown as one of the child soldiers that Hitler comes out to greet on his birthday, but the real little boy that Hitler rather creepily caressed, one Alfred Czech, has no connection with the film character.
- In fact, the last of the real-life counterparts of the characters in the bunker, Rochus Milch, died as recently as October, 2013.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Dr. Ernst-Günther Schenck was involved in human experimentation upon concentration camp victims and was barred from practicing medicine in postwar West Germany.
- Fegelein, too. In real life he was responsible for several atrocities fighting partisans in Yugoslavia and was an unrepentant Nazi. He was also extremely corrupt, even by the standards of the SS.
- Hitler Ate Sugar: Averted. Hitler does a lot of fairly common human things while he holds out as long as he can, despite the horrifying and richly deserved circumstances.
- Home Guard: The Volksturm are this on paper. In practice they're under-trained conscripts who know next to nothing and die in droves doing things like running out in the open with no regard to cover.
- Hopeless War: That is the situation with Nazi Germany with its capital under direct siege with the Soviets relentlessly advancing through the city and Hitler's forces have no hope of stopping them.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Around a dozen children die on-screen over the course of the film.
- Insane Troll Logic: Hitler's level of delusion varies from scene to scene, but in general he'll resort blaming anyone and anything he can for the mess they're in, basically claiming it's they failed him by following the orders he gave.
- I've Come Too Far: Spoken by Hitler himself during the infamous rant.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: THE MOVIE. Pretty much everyone at some point needs to get drunk.
- Kick the Dog: Blondi is forced to test Hitler's cyanide pills, to see if they worked. Eva Braun admits to kicking Blondi on occasion, because she doesn't like her, which ironically serves as a Pet the Dog moment for her as she bonds with Traudl.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Hitler is dining and elaborates about being The Social Darwinist, how compassion is an evil sin, to feel empathy for the weak is treason to nature, and how Hitler had always chose the most reasonable path: to destroy the weak inside and outside Germany. Just then, he gets a report about Himmler surrendering to the allies. Himmler just had Screw This, I'm Outta Here! and, reasonably, is abandoning the weak (Hitler) to join the strong. Of course Hitler fails to see the irony and begins yet another Villainous Breakdown.
- Last Stand: By the scattered and disorganized remnants of the Heer, SS, and Volkssturm.
- Lonely Piano Piece: In The Courtyard of the Reich Chancellery by Stephan Zacharias. Part of the film's Crowning Music of Awesome.
- Manipulative Bastard: Adolf Hitler. Throughout the film, he shamelessly exploits the unwavering loyalty of his subordinates to make them feel compelled to join him in death during the final hours of the Nazi regime.
- Mama Bear/Papa Wolf: Subverted. Many parents in this film kill themselves and their own children.
- A Million Is a Statistic: Averted. While the child Peter represents a lot of youths caught up in the nightmare, a lot of civilians, conscripted Volkstrum, and soldiers are shown throughout the film being blown to pieces or otherwise suffering.
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong: At the end, Hitler believes this, explaining in his Last Testament that a Soviet victory means that they are a more deserving race than German one and their strong leader will complete world conquest after destroying the "decadent democracies of the west." It's somewhat at odds with the accepted wisdom of the time that one of the USSR's greatest threats was its status as a highly mixed "mongrel race", and the common sense that there wasn't actually a Soviet race in the first place (presumably he meant the Slavs?).
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Gobbels has a private moment where he breaks down and sobs to Traudl, telling her that Hitler has asked him and his family to leave Berlin (and how this is the only order from Hitler he'll not obey). Traudl can only look at him, wide-eyed and shocked.
- Naïve Newcomer: Traudl Junge, painfully so.
- The Napoleon: Hitler, especially when he's next to his towering adjutant Günsche (played by 198cm/6'6" Gotz Otto). It doesn't help that Hitler is permanently hunched over as a result of his Villainous Breakdown, and that often he's the only one sitting down while everyone else has to stand.
- Nazi Protagonist: The events are told from the point of view of the Germans during the last days of the Third Reich. Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge, SS medical officer Ernst-Gunther Schenk, and Peter, a young German boy inducted into the Hitler Youth to defend Berlin, are the three main protagonists.
- Nazis with Gnarly Weapons: Unlike when they were masters of Europe, the Nazis are literally using the bottom of the barrel against the Russians. New soldiers are given only a few hours of training before they are thrown into the meat grinder. Gone are are the days of the elite Panzer divisions routing entire armies; the best weapons available are the StG-44, the world's first assault rifle, and the disposable Panzerfaust. The only thing the German soldiers have plenty of is fanaticism that they shall be victorious, or fear of both the advancing Russians and the Nazis behind them who will shoot those who try to desert.
- Never My Fault: As it becomes more and more obvious Germany is about to lose the war, Hitler blames just about everyone for it: first his generals, then the SS, then his inner circle, until finally he declares the entire German people lost because they were weak and deserved it. He never, ever blames himself.
- New Meat: Most of the Volksturm are barely shown how to fire their weapons before being sent straight into the front lines. It's not pretty.
- Oktoberfest: Eva Braun and at least one extra wearing a traditional Bavarian costume in Prussian Berlin.
- Offing the Offspring:
- Magda Goebbels kills her own children because of a political ideology. The film's portrayal differs from Real Life; a Soviet autopsy performed on Helga's body showed numerous large black and blue bruises, indicating that she may have woken up and struggled with her killer.
- Ernst-Robert Grawitz commits suicide in his apartment during dinner with his wife and three children—by detonating a grenade and killing his family along with him. Also an example of Pater Familicide.
- Oh, Crap: The reaction of the German officers when they learn Hitler has committed suicide.
- Not to mention the look on Jodl, Keitel, , Krebs, and Burgdorf's face after Hitler is told Steiner couldn't get enough men, and Hitler excuses everyone but them. This comes before the iconic rant.
- Only Sane Man: Filled by several of the viewpoint characters, usually by Traudl Junge throughout most of the movie (particularly when she realizes how absurd Eva's partying is while shells are falling on buildings around them). Albert Speer is one during his brief stay in the bunker, desperately trying to insist to Hitler that his scorched-earth orders are insane, ultimately revealing that he couldn't bring himself to implement such a suicidal order. At this point, even Traudl still vaguely hopes that the war is not lost, because she spends so much time with Hitler who rants that it is not. Speer has to one-up Traudl's "Last Sane Man" delivery at this point, making her finally realize that even Hitler knows the war is lost, or is flat-out delusional. Finally, the trope is subverted by Hitler himself, who sees himself as the Only Sane Man in all of Germany—and, until recently, many Germans agreed with him.
- Pet the Dog: The opening scene where Hitler plays the friendly uncle whilst interviewing a nervous group of women for a new secretary. At one point, he literally pets his dog, Blondi, before testing Traudl's abilities as a secretary.
- Photoflood Lighting: The fuhrerbunker is lit entirely with photo floods.
- Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Eva Braun begs Hitler to spare her brother-in-law Fegelein after he's ordered to be executed for treason.
- The Pollyanna: Eva Braun to a pathological degree. Seeming to live in total delusion, she's completely carefree as the Nazi Reich crumbles around her. Like Hitler ordering counterattacks from non-existant units, she asks people to visit stores that have been bombed out. However, in a private moment with Traudl, she admits that she realizes that there is no hope left for the Nazis, but insists that she doesn't care. She's still happy.
- Pretty Little Headshots: They're less pretty than most, but still under-done.
- Reds with Rockets: The Ghost for most of the movie until the end.
- Refuge in Audacity: Many Nazis, including Hitler, believe the party line that Germany is just one good counterattack away from turning the tide and winning the war. Nazi propaganda was built around the concept of the "Big Lie," that people would be suspicious of small promises and lies, but would more easily believe huge, sweeping lies.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Fegelein, Speer, Himmler, among others.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!
Goebbels: You're talking to the Führer here.
- Shown Their Work: This movie was heavily researched. As noted in Shout-Out above, much of the framing is taken from contemporary photographs and newsreels—one of the movie posters is basically a staged version of the very last picture ever taken of Adolf Hitler. The Hitler rant that became an infamous Internet meme is presented in this movie as it basically happened, with Hitler screaming at his subordinates, telling them he should have purged them like Stalin did to the Soviet general staff, and finally admitting that the war was lost and that he would kill himself in Berlin.
- Bruno Ganz went through a lot of effort and study to accurately imitate Hitler's mannerisms and speech patterns, including his distinct Austrian accent that is slightly difficult for native Germans to pull off convincingly. Ask any German-speaker, he nails it.
- Among the tools Ganz used to prepare for the role was a ten-minute tape recording of a dinner between Hitler and Finnish Field Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim, which is the only known recording of Hitler speaking in a normal and relaxed tone of voice.
- Sidelong Glance Biopic
- The Starscream:
- Himmler plans to secretly negotiate with the Allies, and his greatest concern is whether to greet General Eisenhower with the Nazi salute or a handshake. Too bad the only choice he was left with was death by hanging or by Cyanide Pill in his prison cell.
- Hitler starts seeing Starscreams all around him (to greater or lesser degrees of accuracy), blaming defeat on everyone but himself.
- Screw the War, We're Partying!: Eva Braun engineers vast parties to distract Hitler and their friends to avoid the reality of Germany's defeat.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Mohnke tries to reason with Goebbels about the under-trained Volksturmm he was being supplied with, saying that they have little hope of actually making a difference and it's just wasting German lives.
- Simple Score of Sadness: And how!.
- Sound-Only Death: The suicides of Hitler and Eva Braun, the Goebbels couple and some other Nazi bigwigs.
- Stepford Smiler:
- Eva continues smiling even when things are at their bleakest. It might be a bit of a subversion in that she insists that she really is happy, in spite of it all, with no regrets and unafraid to die. She was, after all, dying as Mrs. Hitler after being hidden away from public view for years.
- The party scene in the bunker, where there's a palpable sense of dread and forced merriment, with people forcing smiles and continuing to dance and trying to act happy as the bombing gets louder and louder.
- Supervillain Lair: The genuine article, the Führerbunker. We also get a glimpse of the Wolf's Lair at the beginning of the film, a much larger and heavily fortified secret base in East Prussia that fits the trope more.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Discussed by Hitler. It's half-true, in the sense that no-one is doing what he tells them, but that's because they all know it has no chance of turning the war around.
Hitler: Unbelievable! Unbelievable! The Russians are 12 kilometres from the city center and no-one told me. I had to ask!
- Sympathy for the Devil: It's often easy to sympathize with Hitler as a human being, watching him almost literally break apart from the enormity of his failure, but then you gets scenes where he reminds the audience what a cold-blooded, paranoid mass-murderer he is.
- Taking You with Me: Hitler's final plan basically amounted to scorched earth, destroying Germany's infrastructure and abandoning its people to the caprices of the Red Army. He felt they "failed him".
- Tanks, but No Tanks: Despite the generally high levels of historical accuracy in uniforms and equipment, there is a scene that includes one very poor mock-up of a Tiger tank, which is quite jarring. Averted in the use of actual T-34/85s by the Soviets.
- This Cannot Be!: Hitler's bombastic rant is fueled by his utter disbelief that there is no way the Germans can hold the Soviets off. Everyone else saw this coming long before he did.
- This Is What the Building Will Look Like: Hitler has a model of his planned new Berlin that will, of course, never exist.
- Those Wacky Nazis: As Villain Protagonists.
- Title Drop: At Hitler's birthday reception, when Fegelein and Himmler pleads he evacuate.
Hitler: "I will defeat them in Berlin, or face my downfall."
- Truth in Television: Mostly. The points where it fails to live up to history are usually the brightest parts of the film.
- Undying Loyalty: Unlike many other members of Hitler's inner circle, Goebbels and his wife remain loyal to the Fuehrer to the end.
- Villainous Breakdown: Pretty much Villainous Breakdown: The Movie.
- The movie focuses on the last days of Hitler as the Soviets close in, and as such, he has some quite epic breakdown moments, especially in this infamous scene where he completely loses it upon finding out that Felix Steiner couldn't muster up enough forces to hold back the Allies.
- At one point, another general also has a screaming fit, refusing to consider the possibility of surrender because he remembers the shame and humiliation of the German surrender at the end of World War One. It's a sobering reminder of just how much suffering and misery was caused by what can be essentially chalked up as wounded pride and arrogance gone mad.
- Villain Protagonist: It's a film centered on the last ten days of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi inner hierarchy. Technically, almost every character in the film is either a Nazi or supporter of their regime. Some of the characters are treated sympathetically, such as Hitler's secretaries, Albert Speer, Dr. Schenck, General Mohnke, and General Weidling. This is largely because their remaining capacity for rational thought and human emotion stands in stark contrast to how far off the deep end Hitler went. Mohnke and Weidling are the only generals that outright express concern to Hitler about the fate of the German civilians in Berlin. Mohnke is on the front lines alongside his troops, pointing out to Goebbels that the "Volksturm" conscripts are being slaughtered. Weidling outright pleads with Hitler to abandon Berlin. After most of the other Nazi leaders commit suicide or flee, more or less on his own initiative Weidling crosses the lines to unconditionally surrender Berlin to the Soviets, rather than let the pointless fighting continue.
- Visible Boom Mic: The shadow of one can be seen in one instance during the 'Hitler rant' scene.
- Virtue Is Weakness: Hitler goes on a rant where he says that morality is a human flaw and compassion is a weakness.
- The Voiceless: Rochus Misch. Heinrich Schmeidler delivers an impressive performance despite having no dialogue beyond an incredulous "Marshal Zhukov!?" late in the film. He gets a couple more lines in the extended cut.
- War Is Hell: And how!
- We Have Reserves:
- Subverted by Hitler, who keeps pretending that they do. It's the subject of the infamous rant.
- Goebbels tries to use the Volkssturm this way, but the "national militia" is actually just a pathetic, last-ditch attempt to put outdated weapons in the hands of untrained civilians, a lot of them old men and children barley in their teens, and herd them into the meatgrinder of the Soviet army on threat of execution by the SS. Their commander, General Wilhelm Mohnke, pleads with Goebbels to realize that the Volkssturm have no effect on the Soviets and simply waste German lives. Goebbels finally admits that he really doesn't care. It's their fault for following him.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The ultimate fates of the people we weren't shown is detailed at the very end.
- While Rome Burns: There are a few desperate attempts to have fun, at Eva's insistence - for example, when everyone is forcing themselves to act happy and dance with the bombing in the background. Finally it gets so loud and so close, that they can't even fake it anymore and are clearly terrified. At this point, Eva jumps up on a table and starts dancing going "Cmon, play the music, I want to dance!" And then, a bomb hits directly over the bunker and one of the walls collapses in a cloud of dust, sending everyone into a panic as the lights flicker.
- Windmill Crusader: Hitler and some of his closest followers desperately tried to save the world from a global conspiracy they honestly believed to be real. As Berlin falls they face what they believe to be the twilight of mankind itself. Hitler himself is most likely insane, while his followers are rational except for their misguided belief that he is a legitimate leader. Their actions make total sense when one take this tragic belief into account.
- Windmill Political: The film is one of many works that take this view on the then-widely-believed fear of a global Jewish conspiracy; it was ultimately a total crackpot hoax and delusion, but Hitler and his followers honestly believed it -— making them Windmill Crusaders.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Hitler condemns the German people to death because, apparently, they failed him. He's convinced that the day will be saved at any moment by what one underling refers to as "phantom divisions". He goes about appointing people to key positions seemingly at random. He generally makes many errors; for example, he even orders one general to be executed as a traitor, only to later call him a hero and reassign him to Berlin's faltering defense — all in a span of literally like 40 seconds. (Then again, the execution order was due to a misunderstanding.) Generally, much of Hitler's breakdown seems to revolve around the fact that he utterly fails to recognize his own flaws, and turns his loathing of his own weaknesses at other people and their perceived (whether actual or imagined) weakness.
- World War II
- Wouldn't Hurt a Child: In the extended cut, Peter takes his deceased teenage commander's pistol and hides as the Soviet troops storm in. After leaving his hiding place, he is found by a Soviet soldier who then says in Russian, "I won't fight a child". He is then shot and left for dead by Peter, who is quickly horrified by what he did.
- This is truth in fiction of course, but Hitler's generals are such "yes men" they will never disobey him (Wilhelm Keitel's nickname was "Lakeitel", a pun on the German word for lackey). At best, some implore him to see reason, but refuse to outright turn on him. The most any of them ever does is when (the unseen) Felix Steiner refuses to launch a counterattack against surrounding Soviets... only because Hitler insisted he attack using imaginary units, and his remaining forces were (despite Hitler's crazed claims) in reality outnumbered ten to one.
- In contrast to regular generals, SS members like Himmler and Fegelein know all too well that the war is lost and are secretly planning to negotiate with the Allies; not that they were more heroic, but they were smart enough to realize when to give up on a lost cause. Fegelein even criticizes the regular generals (Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, Hans Krebs and Wilhelm Burgdorf) for continuing to go along with Hitler when they privately admit the war is lost. Himmler and Fegelein pay lip service to Hitler while in the same room, but they're simply buying time for their escape.
- Even Joseph Goebbels — Yes Man among Hitler's Yes Men — has his fair share of private admissions of defeat, even as he seems to honestly believe everything Hitler says, knowing all too well that, as Hitler's right-hand man, getting out of Berlin alive is nigh-impossible.
- Subverted with Albert Speer, one of the few people who tries to convince Hitler that the war is truly lost, even pointing out that most of his generals already think the same, even as they are too spineless to ever say it to his face.
- You Are in Command Now: On several occassions Hitler randomly promotes officers to higher military positions. General Weidling is ordered to defend Berlin when he only came in to attest that he didn't move his command post and therefore shouldn't be executed. Ritter von Greim is an even better example however: he was also already a general, but when he makes it to the bunker he is put in command of the entire German air force (which is all but completely defunct by this point in time), and told that he has to rebuild it from the ground up. When Hitler starts claiming that he'll be able to give Greim a thousand jet aircraft on short notice, it's become obvious that reality and him don't see eye to eye anymore.
- You Have Failed Me: Hitler and some of his cohorts attempt to do this to an entire country.