German Pop Culture 101

German pop culture and its development through time

Germany is often praised for its art, culture, music and film. But what does the current pop culture look like? Can Germany say that they do their heritage of artists like Bach and Beethoven proud, or would the classic musicians turn around in their graves? And what about TV and movies?

German movies and TV – from greatness to rubbish to hope

Germany was once a country that was kind of the “inventor” of all movie genres. In the past, Germany produced high quality movies and influenced the world. However, the current state of German TV and movies is a rather sad one. And the Germans know it. One of the TV shows that has been around for over 30 years, “Wetten, dass...?” (“Should be bet that...?”), has been stopped – to the dismay of some and to the joy of others. People hope that this change shows that changes are indeed possible, and many Germans hope that German TV could develop into something great and not only really on imports from other countries.

There are good German actors around – however, everyone agrees that a lot of work has to be put into the German film and TV industry. The best German actors and actresses usually end up working in Hollywood. Some of the most popular German actors and actresses are:

Franka Potente

Franka Potente became famous with the movie “Run, Lola, Run”, and then starred in movies like “Blow” and the “Bourne Conspiracy”.

Diane Kruger

Diane Kruger was also born in Germany and has recently received more attention after playing parts in movies like “Inglourious Bastards” and “Unknown”.

Michael Fassbender

He was born in Germany, raised in Ireland and is know based in London, England. The German, however, like pointing out that he is one of them (though his passport says otherwise). Fassbender is famous for his part in various X-Men movies.

German music – the courage to sign in German in a world dominated by English music

German pop music seems to be dominated by retro songs these days, and many pop culture criticism articles complain about the lack of innovation in pop music.

Some of the popular German singers and bands are:

Die Prinzen

Die Prinzen (the Princes) are one of the best known German bands, and have been around for ages. While they do not produce much new material anymore, their tours are still very popular with people.

Xavier Naidoo

Born in Mannheim, this singer and songwriter has been in the music business as a popular and successful solo entertainer since 1998. However, he started being quite popular since he worked as a background singer for other singers and bands since the year 1993. It speaks volumes for the quality of his work that he is still around while many acts he sang for are not.

Sabrina Setlur

Sabrina Setlur, for whom Xavier Naidoo used to be a background singer, is still around, and most likely the best known German female rap singer, and also the best-selling one at that. However, her popularity has suffered a little during the last few years.


This band is one of the reasons why German singers and bands don't feel embarrassed about singing in their native language anymore. Their hit single “Die perfekte Welle” (The perfect wave) showed that songs that are sung in German don't have to be horribly cheesy or meaningless.

Common questions about German pop culture

There are some questions you often hear about German pop culture – some are based on a lacking knowledge, some are based on facts from events way in the past. Here are some of them:

Q: Why is David Hasselhoff so immensely popular in Germany?

A: Actually he isn't. At least not any more. He was quite popular around 1990 because he had a free concert at the Berlin Wall, and his song “Looking for Freedom” of course hit the spot with the freshly reunited Germans. His TV series “Knight Rider” was popular, and people also enjoyed watching “Baywatch”. Hasselhoff made a few more fans because he made the effort to also sing in German – but these days Hasselhoff definitely isn't someone people talk about much.

Q: Is Rammstein a very popular German band?

A: For some reason many people believe that Rammstein is very popular with all Germans. They sell well, and do have loyal fans – but there are just as many (or even more) people who don't like their music.

Q: Are all German songs folk songs?

A: As mentioned above, German bands and singers have increasingly been singing in German – and their rock, pop, punk and rap songs don't have much to do with the rather soppy folk songs German grandmothers watch on TV.