Discussion: Donald Sutherland plays a Nazi in “The Eye of the Needle”

Posted: January 8, 2010
Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List

Ralph Fiennes in "Schindler's List"

A lot of actors have famously played sinister Nazis: Conrad Veidt, Otto Preminger, Ralph Fiennes… What is your favorite performance by an actor playing a Nazi? Neal Gabler thinks Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds must be considered!

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  • Rebecca

    We vote for Bruno Ganz in Downfall!

    The runner up in my view is Christoph Waltz.

  • rayban

    Well, now, there are a lot of possible candidates – but one of my all-time favorites is Dirk Bogarde’s former Nazi in “The Night Porter”, who has now become a night porter – one of my most recent favorites is the reconstituted Nazi that Tom Cruise played in his last film, “Valkyrie” – of course, just for the absolute fun of it, Claude Rains’ mom, Leopoldine Konstantin, in “Notorious” and, just for the superb craziness of it, Pierre Blais’ young gung-ho Nazi in “Lacombe, Lucien”.

  • Nikki

    Armin Mueller-Stahl in “The Music Box,” Maximilian Schell in both “The Man In The Glass Booth” and “The Pedestrian,” and both too seldom aired films. Hannes Messemer in “The Great Escape” who has that one moment in the end of caring, when he has to say they were all killed. And don’t forget how hard it is to play comedy, especially when you have to find humor in horror, Werner Klemperer, Leon Askin, and the wonderful John Banner, all in “Hogan’s Heroes.”

  • Mr. Katz

    Best at playing a Nazi? Definitely my ex-wife any day of the week was the best — wait, has to be actor?

  • Roy Smith

    That was funny, Mr. Katz.
    The best Nazi in film hands down will likely win a 2009 Academy Award for his performance: Christopher Waltz as Col. Hans Landa in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

  • Keith Conklin

    And the winner is…Conrad Veidt as Major Strasser in Cassablanca. The greatest love story of World War Two and the evil Nazi who “allowed” it to be so poignant.

  • Sefton

    Otto Preminger had the best Nazi boots- you will not get them

  • JoanieB

    To answer this question I think I will have to go way back to a film made in 1946 “The Stranger” where Orson Welles brilliantly played a Nazi, Franz Kindler hiding out under an assumed name in a small CT town…

  • Jerricho Cotchery

    Playing fictional characters: Candidates have to include Hannes Messmer in Great Escape; J├╝rgen Prochnow (if his character was indeed a Nazi) in Das Boot; Burt Lancaster in Judgment at Nuremberg; Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man; and Siegfried Rauch in Patton (as the German officer assigned to familiarize himself with Patton’s personality).

    For playing historical personages, Bruno Ganz in Downfall is hard to beat; but other candidates would include Tom Cruise and Thomas Kretschmann in Valkyrie.

    I’d say my favorite performance in the category — technically not a Nazi because, as she was quick to frequently remind the audience, she never “joined the party” — was Leni Riefenstahl playing a late-20th-century woman telling the stories about how she had made possible the Nazi rise to power, in “The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl”. That is, she was playing herself. The performance is as haunting as any of the others mentioned. The film is perhaps as much a masterpiece as Casablanca or The Stranger.

  • Nikki

    And Uta Hagen playing opposite Laurence Olivier in the prison scene in “The Boys From Brazil.” What a pleasure to watch to great actors perform.