From epic war films to bittersweet comedies, we take a look at the top 10 movies about the Netherlands which will make you laugh and cry.
For many people, windmills, clogs, and tulips remain the stereotypical images evoked by the Netherlands. However, delve into the world of cinema and you will soon discover there is so much more to this low-lying country. Just take a look at these top movies about the Netherlands which explore the rich culture, history, and community of the Dutch.
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1. The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
No story about the Nazi witch hunt and genocide of Holland’s Jewish population during World War II is more famous than that of Anne Frank. The Diary of Anne Frank is the first movie adaptation based on the personal diary she kept for nearly two years; while living in hiding with her family. The movie’s director George Stevens handles the subject with remarkable care and feeling. As a result, it accurately captures the worries, dangers, and atmosphere of this fraught period in Dutch history. The movie was a hit with critics when it was released and won three Academy Awards in 1960. While more recent film adaptations have since emerged, many still consider this to be the best. The movie was shot on a sound stage in Los Angeles, but the exteriors were filmed at the actual building in Amsterdam; which is now one of the most visited museums.
2. A Bridge Too Far (1977)
Richard Attenborough’s 1977 masterpiece A Bridge Too Far is an adaptation of Cornelius Ryan’s book of the same name. The historical epic is based on the true story of one of the greatest military failures of World War II – Operation Market Garden. In September 1944, the Allies attempted to hasten the end of the war by securing three bridges in the Netherlands; which allowed access over the Rhine into Germany. They had planned to take the towns of Eindhoven, Nijmegen, and Arnhem. However, a combination of faulty intelligence and stubborn German resistance would ensure that Arnhem was a bridge too far. Although the movie received a mediocre critical response, it won several awards, including five BAFTAs. Interestingly, at the time of release, it was the most expensive movie ever made. It features several locations in the Netherlands, including Deventer, Nijmegen, and Bronkhorst.
3. Black Book (2006)
The brainchild of renowned Hollywood director Paul Verhoeven, this big-budget World War II thriller was voted by the public as the best Dutch film ever made in 2008. The movie tells the story of a Jewish woman who returns to Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation to infiltrate the Gestapo. At the time of release, it was the most expensive Dutch film ever made and the country’s most commercially successful. It went on to win the most awards at the Netherlands Film Festival in 2006. It was also nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language. The movie is credited as being based on several true events and characters. It features several pivotal scenes shot in Amsterdam; as well as scenes captured in Hardenberg, Giethoorn, The Hague, Delft, and Dordrecht.
4. The Assault (1986)
From Harry Mulisch’s novel of the same name, The Assault is arguably one of the greatest movies about the Netherlands. It tells the story of a middle-aged man Anton Steenwijk and his mission to uncover the truth behind his family’s murder at the hands of the Nazis. Dutch director and producer Fons Raedmaker offers an insightful look into Dutch resistance during World War II. The movie is brimming with intrigue, suspense, and dread. Interestingly, it was one of only three Dutch films to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; in 1986. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film; as well the Golden Space Needle of the Seattle International Film Festival. The movie features several locations in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Utrecht. Many critics still consider The Assault a marvelous piece of forgotten Dutch cinema.
5. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Amsterdam officially ‘made’ it as an international hotspot when Sean Connery donned his best womanizing swagger and hit the canals as 007. The last Bond film to star Connery, Diamonds Are Forever showcases Amsterdam through the eyes of tourists; only with the typical air of danger and style that comes with the sexy franchise. One memorable scene sees Bond in the throws of a bare-knuckle brawl in one of Amsterdam’s typical canalside apartments. In another, tourists aboard a tour boat pass under the “Skinny Bridge” only to witness police dragging the corpse of the diamond smuggler, Mrs. Whistler, out of the Amstel River. One particular canal house, located on Reguliersgracht 36, features as the home of fellow diamond smuggler, Tiffany Case. Although none of the interior shots of the house were filmed in Amsterdam, the exterior still looks very similar today.
6. Hawks (1988)
This bittersweet British comedy follows two terminally ill patients, played by Timothy Dalton and Anthony Edwards, who decide to sneak out of their hospital ward and live life to its fullest; for whatever time they have left. With little or no friends, they form an uneasy alliance and plot an escape for one last wild time. Their goal to reach the brothels of Amsterdam sends them on a hilarious and heartwarming adventure through the Dutch countryside to the infamous Red Light District. They encounter various characters along the way, including a pair of misfit British women; and thus, the mayhem continues. Hawks is an understated treasure of a movie that touches the hearts of audiences time and time again. It is guaranteed to make you laugh and cry from start to finish.
7. Ciske de Rat (1984)
An essential watch for young Dutch adolescents, Ciske de Rat is a true-to-form adaptation of the extremely popular children’s novel by Piet Bakker. The story follows 11-year-old Ciske, a lonely ragamuffin and street urchin who comes of age in 1930s Amsterdam. Ciske de Rat is one of the most famous movies about the Netherlands. While the novel led to two film adaptions, a TV Series, and even a musical, many consider the 1984 version the best. The movie won the UNICEF Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1984. Dutch box office figures also show that it still remains in the top 10 most-watched movies since 1945; a clear indication of the popularity of this national treasure. Large parts of the film were shot on location, and several scenes capture Amsterdam’s industrial past.
8. Amsterdamned (1988)
Forget charming waterways and picturesque streets, because this classic 80s Dutch horror film transforms Amsterdam’s scenic canal belt into a hellish nightmare. Amsterdamned follows a hard-boiled police detective who sets out to capture a gruesome serial killer on the loose; leaving a trail of corpses behind him. Critics praised Dutch director Dick Mass for his ability to mix horror with suspense. In fact, many consider Amsterdamned to be one of the greatest movies about the Netherlands and the best action/thrillers ever made. A dubbed version of the movie is also available; featuring the voices of the original lead actors who could speak English. Several locations appear in the movie, including Leiden, Utrecht, and Heemstede.
9. Antonia’s Line (1995)
Described as a “feminist fairy tale”, Antonia’s Line tells the story of the independent Antonia who returns to her rural Dutch home. There, she establishes and nurtures a close-knit matriarchal community. The movie covers a broad spectrum of topics including religion, sexuality, love, and death. It won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is also the first feature film directed by a woman – Marleen Gorris – to win an Oscar. Interestingly, the movie received more positive reviews in the United States than in the Netherlands. That said, many critics still consider Gorris to be one of the most valued Dutch directors. Ironically, the movie was shot in Belgium; due to challenges in finding a Dutch village that could be realistically portrayed.
10. Character (1997)
Based on the best-selling novel by Ferdinand Bordewijk, this Dutch-Belgian production was a hit with critics and audiences alike. It takes place in 1920s Rotterdam and tells the story of determined young lawyer Jacob W. Katadreuffe; who is the prime suspect in the murder inquiry of his cruel and despicable bailiff father. Although Character was not a commercial success at the box office, it went on to win a whopping 18 awards; including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1998. Although the movie features locations in Amsterdam, Belgium, and Germany, most of the scenes were actually shot in Wrocław, Poland.