Like theatre in Greek and Roman times, movies not only entertain but reflect a society’s culture, themes, and issues. These best Swiss movies produced through the years give movie-goers insight into life in this tiny Alpine country.
With glimpses of the gorgeous Swiss countryside, they spotlight this European country’s unique history, heritage, and people.
Directed by Fredi M. Murer, Vitus is the story of a 12-year-old genius and piano-playing prodigy played by the real-life musical mastermind Teo Gheorghiu. After Vito’s parents, Leo and Helen von Holzen, become aware of their son’s rare and extraordinary talent, their minds begin ticking. They lay out the plans for Vito (and themselves) to become rich and famous.
Along with his amazing musical skill, Vito displays an emotional maturity well beyond his years. He is chilly and distant to his peers and is constantly proving that he’s smarter than his teachers. When he develops a crush on his older babysitter Isabelle, he comes up with the boy-genius theory that women should marry men younger than women by at least six years since a girl’s libido develops faster than a boy’s. Isabelle makes it clear that she is only interested in older boys.
The pressure from his parents to excel places such a burden on Vito, he becomes extremely withdrawn. Eventually, he warms up to his grandfather who helps him on his path to pursuing his own dreams.
The Boat is Full (1981)
The Boat is Full is a thought-provoking story about refugees seeking entry into Switzerland during World War II. “Our boat is full” refers to what Swiss authorities would say to deny those seeking asylum in the country.
The story begins when Germans briefly halt a train in a remote corner of Switzerland. Four Jews, a German soldier, and a French child jump off the train to seek asylum. Posing as a family, they find temporary refuge at a quaint Swiss village inn run by a man and his wife.
The deserting German soldier pretends to be the father. A young Jewish girl, Judith, poses as his wife, and her teenage brother pretends to be a soldier. An old man from Vienna portrays himself as Judith’s father. The French child is sworn to secrecy.
A combination of chance and the investigating local constable unravels their fabrication, and decisions have to be made. Will they get to stay or get deported?
The Swissmakers (1978)
This Rolf Lyssy film is a satirical comedy about the difficulty foreigners have in establishing life and obtaining citizenship in Switzerland. It tells the story of two conformist German doctors, politically troublesome Italian immigrants, and an Eastern European dancer who go so far as to shoot themselves in the foot to get the coveted red passport with a white cross.
Using situational comedy and colorful native characters, the film derides and criticizes the Swiss bureaucracy and the community’s lack of hospitality.
The Swissmakers is one of the country’s most successful domestic releases and a must-see for anyone wanting to learn more about the people and culture of Switzerland.
War Photographer (2001)
War Photographer is a documentary by Christian Frei that focuses on the life and work of war photographer and journalist James Nachtwey.
The film examines combat journalism and the psychological problems it can cause. It raises questions about how deeply a journalist should get involved in witnessing and documenting war and the destruction it causes. In the end, they are committed to bringing the world information about what’s going on and the tragedy of war. They are willing to put themselves in the middle of a war to bring the truth to the rest of the world, which is why the perpetrators of war don’t want photographers on the scene.
Documentaries are cheaper for the struggling European film industry. This result is determined and gifted documentary makers. War Photographer is well-researched and put together with insightful and moving material.
The Lacemaker (1977)
The Lacemaker is the story of Pomme, a quiet, reserved 19-year hairdresser who lives with her overprotective mother and works in a Parisian beauty salon. Her best friend and polar opposite, Marylene, is a sensual and experienced beautician. When Marylene takes Pomme along on a vacation to Cabourg, Normany to an exclusive seaside resort, the virginal Pomme meets Francois, a sophisticated literature student.
Marylene falls head-over-heels for Francois. He becomes her first lover and goes back with her to Paris where they move into an apartment. But bliss turns to unhappiness as their cultural differences cause complications. One of the impassioned lovers has a change of heart.
Based on Pascal Laine’s novel la Dentelliére, this story is a tale of class prejudice and a romance that turned sour. The result is a tear-jerker movie with a bitter ending.
Based on the classic children’s story by Johanna Spyri, Heidi is the tale of a young orphaned girl who is scuttled off to stay with her crusty old grandfather who lives secluded high in the Swiss Alps after his murder charge.
Heidi adapts to the wild country and takes to Peter, a young and adventurous goat herder. Her grandfather refuses to send Heidi to town to attend school. Heidi’s Aunt Detie, a wealthy, chic lady from Frankfurt, intervenes and takes Heidi home with her. Heidi must spend her after-school hours as a companion for her aunt’s daughter Klara who is crippled and confined to a wheelchair.
Heidi misses her adventurous life with her Grandfather and Peter but tries to make the best of the situation. Will she find her way back to happiness?
Heidi is an iconic character in Switzerland, and several versions of the movie have been produced. This one is especially captivating thanks to its authentic portrayal, vivid characters, and majestic scenery.
Fögi Is a Bastard (1998)
When fifteen-year-old Beni falls in love with a singer in a Rock band named Fögi, he becomes willing to follow him everywhere. Fögi, a drug addict pulls Beni into his addiction. His life becomes a dark web of addiction and life becomes a rollercoaster of happiness and despair.
Dependent on Fögi, Beni finds himself traveling down a path of destruction and addiction.
The punk rock scene of the 1970s, addiction and teenage love are all prominent themes of Fögi Is a Bastard.
Journey of Hope (1990)
Journey of Hope tells the story of a struggling Turkish family who, drawn to the country’s beauty and economic success, try to illegally emigrate to Switzerland. After Haydar convinces his wife Meryem they should leave Turkey, he gets passage for two in exchange for selling his small plot of land and livestock. He wants to leave their children with his parents except for his eldest son.
However, Haydar’s father convinces him to send his son to Europe for education in order to make sure that he has a brighter future.
The three become stowaways on a ship and set off for Istanbul, Milan, and finally Switzerland. They give the rest of their money to n’er do-gooders who abandon them at Lake Como before a blizzard. Haydar and his son get separated from Meryem. Will they make it to the promised land?
The Swiss movie Journey of Hope won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. There is a lot of heart in the story, and the cinematography captures Switzerland’s stunning landscapes beautifully.
Life for an isolated rural family is upended when a major highway next to their property, constructed 10 years before but apparently abandoned, is finally opened back up.
The family in Home leads a carefree and unconventional lifestyle, even using bath time as a communal experience. That all ends when the whoosh of traffic, the honking of horns, and the odor of fossil fuels and exhaust fumes penetrate their daily lives. Even crossing the highway to get to work or school becomes a dangerous game of chicken. The vehicles have no intention of slowing down for pedestrians.
When the outside world encroaches on the family’s peace and tranquility, the family members become neurotic, paranoid, and violent.
Filmed primarily in Bulgaria, the film captures the rural Swiss lifestyle. As a parable, it shows how modern life creates chaos in rural areas.
Les Petites Fugues (1979)
Les Petites Fugues is a Swiss-French comedy by director Yves Yersin that tells the story of Pipe, a farmhand for 30 years. Bored with his mundane reality, he uses his old-age insurance benefits to buy a moped. After admiring i,t and pampering it, his friend Luigi gives him advice on how the moped functions.
After a difficult start, Pipe takes off to tour the Swiss countryside. The result is the hilarious antics and experiences of an aging nomad as he revels in his freedom. But his new lease on life eventually creates to new problems for Pipe to solve.
Les Petites Fugues is a heart-warming story about a man trying to regain his lost sense of youth. The scenes shot in the Swiss countryside add lots of intrigue to this feel-good film with somber undertones.
Disney movies set in Switzerland
There are a few Disney movies that are set in Switzerland, including animation movies.
Frequently Asked Questions
What movie is based in Switzerland?
The 2015 movie Heidi, based on the book by Johanna Spyri, is based in Switzerland. More modern movies like various James Bond movies have been set in Switzerland too
Does Switzerland have a film industry?
Yes, Switzerland has had a film industry since the 1930s, however, it is far smaller than its international counterparts. It is mostly supported by the government and local tv stations. However, there is a hope that Netflix could help rejuvenate it.