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 Dutch cinema and you will soon discover that there is so much more to this low-lying country. There are plenty of great films about expat life, but the Dutch film industry is no slouch, either. Just take a look at these top movies about the Netherlands which explore the country’s rich culture, history, and spirit.
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1. The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
The heartbreaking story of Anne Frank is arguably the most famous account of the persecution of the Jews during WWII. Directed by George Stevens, 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 in Amsterdam. The movie handles this harrowing chapter of Dutch history with extreme care, successfully capturing the fear and danger that so many Jews faced during the period. As a result, it was praised by critics and went on to win 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 in the Netherlands.
2. A Bridge Too Far (1977)
Adapted from Cornelius Ryan’s book of the same name, A Bridge Too Far is a historical epic based on the true story of Operation Market Garden, one of the greatest military failures of WWII. In September 1944, the Allies attempted to bring an abrupt end to the war by securing three bridges in the Netherlands. These 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 Richard Attenborough’s 1977 masterpiece received a mediocre response from the critics, it went on to win several awards, including five BAFTAs. Interestingly, at the time of its 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)
Created by Dutch director, screenwriter, and producer, Paul Verhoeven, this big-budget WWII thriller certainly made its mark on the country’s film industry. In fact, in 2018, it was voted as the best Dutch film ever made. At the time of release, it was also the most expensive Dutch film ever made. It was also the country’s most commercially successful. It tells the story of a Jewish woman who returns to Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation to join the resistance. The nail-biting thriller racked up 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)
Sean Connery officially put Amsterdam on the map when he donned 007’s famous swagger and hit the canal belt in Diamonds Are Forever. The last Bond film to star Connery showcases the city through the eyes of tourists; only with the usual underlying danger and suspense that we’ve come to love and expect from the franchise. One of the most memorable scenes features Bond fighting in an elevator inside a typical canalside apartment block. In another, tourists aboard a tour boat pass under the famous “Skinny Bridge”, only to witness police dragging the corpse of Mrs. Whistler, a diamond smuggler, out of the Amstel River. One particular canal house, located on Reguliersgracht 36, features in the movie 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 no family or close friends to speak of, they form an unlikely alliance and hatch a plan to escape for one last wild adventure. 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 meet various characters along the way, including two British misfits on their own ‘girly’ adventure, who only add to the mayhem. Guaranteed to make you laugh – and cry – from beginning to end, Hawks is an understated gem of a movie that touches the heart, time and time again.
7. Ciske de Rat (1984)
Closely adapted from Piet Bakker’s immensely popular children’s novel of the same name, Ciske de Rat is a must-watch for Dutch kids. It tells the story of Ciske, a mischievous 11-year-old schoolboy, 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 to be the best. It even 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-nosed 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/thriller ever made. Several Dutch locations appear in the movie, including Leiden, Utrecht, and Heemstede. Impressively, there is also a dubbed version of the movie which features the voices of the original lead actors who could also speak English.
9. Antonia’s Line (1995)
Described as a “feminist fairy tale”, Antonia’s Line tells the story of Antonia, an independent woman who returns to her rural Dutch home and establishes a close-knit matriarchal community. The movie covers a broad range 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. Surprisingly, the movie received better reviews from film critics in the United States than in the Netherlands. That said, many still consider Gorris to be one of the country’s best 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 movie won the hearts of audiences and critics 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.