Wim Wenders
Wenders at the Berlinale 2017
Ernst Wilhelm Wenders

(1945-08-14) 14 August 1945 (age 78)
Düsseldorf, Germany
Occupation(s)Filmmaker, director, screenwriter, playwright, author, photographer
Years active1967–present
Edda Köchl
(m. 1968; div. 1974)
(m. 1974; div. 1978)
(m. 1979; div. 1981)
(m. 1981; div. 1982)
Donata Wenders
(m. 1993)
AwardsFull list

Ernst Wilhelm "Wim" Wenders (German: [ˈvɪm ˈvɛndɐs]; born 14 August 1945) is a German filmmaker, playwright, author, and photographer.[1] He is a major figure in New German Cinema. Among the honors he has received are prizes from the Cannes, Venice and Berlin film festivals. He has also received a BAFTA Award and been nominated for three Academy Awards and a Grammy Award.

Wenders made his feature film debut with Summer in the City (1970). He earned critical acclaim for directing the films Alice in the Cities (1974), The Wrong Move (1975), and Kings of the Road (1976), later known as the Road Movie trilogy. Wenders won the BAFTA Award for Best Direction and the Palme d'Or for Paris, Texas (1984) and the Cannes Film Festival Best Director Award for Wings of Desire (1987). His other notable films include The American Friend (1977), Faraway, So Close! (1993), and Perfect Days (2023).[2][3]

Wenders has received three nominations for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature: for Buena Vista Social Club (1999), Pina (2011), and The Salt of the Earth (2014). He received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video for Willie Nelson at the Teatro (1998). He is also known for directing the documentaries Tokyo-Ga (1985), The Soul of a Man (2003), and Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018).

Wenders has been the president of the European Film Academy since 1996 and won an Honorary Golden Bear in 2015. He is an active photographer, emphasizing images of desolate landscapes.[4][5] He is considered an auteur director.[6]

Early life and education

Wenders was born in Düsseldorf into a traditionally Catholic family. His father, Heinrich Wenders, was a surgeon. The Dutch name "Wim" is a shortened version of the baptismal name "Wilhelm". As a boy, Wenders took unaccompanied trips to Amsterdam to visit the Rijksmuseum. He graduated from high school in Oberhausen in the Ruhr area. He then studied medicine at the University of Freiburg (1963–64) and philosophy at the University of Dusseldorf (1964–65), but dropped out and moved to Paris in October 1966 in order to become a painter.[7] He failed his entry test at France's national film school, IDHEC (now La Fémis), and instead became an engraver at Johnny Friedlaender's studio in Montparnasse.[7] During this time he became fascinated with cinema, and saw up to five movies a day at the local movie theater.

Set on making his obsession his life's work, he returned to Germany in 1967 to work in the Düsseldorf office of United Artists. That fall, he entered the University of Television and Film Munich (HFF).[7] Between 1967 and 1970, while at the HFF, he also worked as a film critic for FilmKritik, the Munich daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Twen magazine, and Der Spiegel.[7]

Wenders completed several short films before graduating from the Hochschule with a 16mm black-and-white film, Summer in the City (1970), his feature directorial debut.


1970–1976: Film debut and early work

Wenders's career began in the late 1960s, the New German Cinema era.[8] Much of the distinctive cinematography in his movies is the result of a long-term collaboration with Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19] Wenders made his directorial film debut with Summer in the City (1970), his graduation project at the University of Television and Film Munich, which he attended from 1967 to 1970. Shot in 16 mm black-and-white by longtime Wenders collaborator Robby Müller, the movie exhibited many of Wenders's later trademark themes of aimless searching, running from invisible demons, and persistent wandering toward an indeterminate goal. Protagonist Hans (Zischler) is released from prison, and after searching through seedy West German streets and bars, he visits an old friend in Berlin.

Wenders then directed The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty, titled The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick in the United States. The film was adapted from Peter Handke's 1970 short novel. He then directed the period drama The Scarlet Letter (1973), adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel of the same name. From 1974 to 1976 Wender directed the Road Movie trilogy. The first film in the trilogy was Alice in the Cities (1974), which was shot in 16mm. The last two films are The Wrong Move (1975) and Kings of the Road (1976), the latter of which won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.

1977–1987: Breakthrough and acclaim

Wenders with Carrie Fisher in 1978

In 1977 Wender gained prominence for directing the neo-noir The American Friend, starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz. The film is adapted from the Patricia Highsmith 1974 novel Ripley's Game. J. Hoberman of The New York Times has compared the film to Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, writing, "Like Taxi Driver, The American Friend was a new sort of movie-movie—sleekly brooding, voluptuously alienated and saturated with cinephilia."[20]

Wenders earned critical acclaim for his road drama Paris, Texas (1984), starring Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski and Dean Stockwell. The film premiered at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme d'Or. Critic Roger Ebert wrote of the film, "[it's] a movie with the kind of passion and willingness to experiment that was more common fifteen years ago than it is now. It has more links with films like Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy than with the slick arcade games that are the box-office winners of the 1980s. It is true, deep, and brilliant".[21]

Wenders then directed the romance fantasy Wings of Desire (1987), starring Bruno Ganz and Peter Falk. It premiered at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, where Wenders won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Director. Peter Handke co-wrote the screenplay. West Germany submitted Wings of Desire for consideration for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a bid supported by its distribution company. It was not nominated; the academy seldom recognized West German cinema.[22] The film was one of the most acclaimed films of the year, with many critics adding it on their top 10 lists.

1991–2010: Career fluctuations

Wim Wenders at Cannes in 2002

In 1991 Wenders directed the science fiction adventure drama Until the End of the World, starring William Hurt, Solveig Dommartin, Max Von Sydow and Jeanne Moreau. The film has been released in several editions, ranging in length from 158 to 287 minutes, with the longer versions receiving mixed reviews. In 1993 he directed Faraway, So Close!, a sequel to Wings of Desire. Actors Otto Sander, Bruno Ganz and Peter Falk reprised their roles as angels who have become human. The film also stars Nastassja Kinski, Willem Dafoe and Heinz Rühmann, in his last film role. It received critical acclaim, premiering at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, where it earned the Grand Prix. The next year, he directed Lisbon Story, which screened Un Certain Regard at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. In 1995 he directed both A Trick of Light and the anthology film Lumière and Company.

In 1997, Wenders directed the American drama film The End of Violence, starring Bill Pullman, Andie MacDowell, and Gabriel Byrne. The film received negative reviews and performed poorly at the box office after its debut at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Like many other of Wenders's American movies, it was shot in multiple locations, including the Griffith Observatory and the Santa Monica Pier. Wenders has directed several highly acclaimed documentaries, including Willie Nelson at the Teatro, a documentary about the recording sessions of Teatro (1998). The next year he directed Buena Vista Social Club, about the music of Cuba. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

2011–present: Resurgence with documentaries

Wim Wenders in 2008

Wenders has directed music videos for groups such as U2 and Talking Heads, including "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" and "Sax and Violins".[citation needed] His television commercials include a UK advertisement for Carling Premier Canadian beer.[citation needed] Wenders's book Emotion Pictures, a collection of diary essays written as a film student, was adapted and broadcast as a series of plays on BBC Radio 3, featuring Peter Capaldi as Wenders, with Gina McKee, Saskia Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton and Ricky Tomlinson, dramatized by Neil Cargill.

Wenders also directed a documentary-style film on the Skladanowsky brothers, known in English as A Trick of the Light.[23] The Skladanowsky brothers were inventing "moving pictures" when several others like the Lumière brothers and William Friese-Greene were doing the same. In 2011, Wenders was selected to stage the 2013 cycle of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival.[24][25] The project fell through when he insisted on filming in 3-D, which the Wagner family found too costly and disruptive.[26] In 2012, while promoting his 3-D dance film Pina, Wenders told the Documentary channel blog that he had begun work on a new 3-D documentary about architecture.[27] He also said he would only work in 3-D from then on.[28] Wenders had admired the dance choreographer Pina Bausch since 1985, but only with the advent of digital 3-D cinema did he decide that he could sufficiently capture her work on screen.[29]

In 2015, Wenders collaborated with artist/journalist and longtime friend Melinda Camber Porter on a documentary feature about his body of work, Wim Wenders – Visions on Film. Porter died before it was finished, and the film remains incomplete.[30][31] Wenders is a member of the advisory board of World Cinema Foundation. The project was founded by Martin Scorsese and aims to find and reconstruct world cinema films that have been neglected. As of 2015 he served as a Jury Member for the digital studio Filmaka, a platform for undiscovered filmmakers to show their work to industry professionals.[32]

In June 2017, Wenders stage-directed Georges Bizet's opera Les Pêcheurs de perles, starring Olga Peretyatko and Francesco Demuro and conducted by Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera (Staatsoper). In a 2018 interview, he said his favorite movie of all time was his film about Pope Francis, and that his entire career had been building up to it. His admiration for Francis is profound; he said he felt Francis is doing his best in a world full of calamities. He also said that, though raised Catholic, he had converted to Protestantism years earlier.[33]

In 2019 Wenders acted as executive producer for his former assistant director Luca Lucchesi's documentary A Black Jesus, which has similar themes to Pope Francis: A Man of His Word. The film explores the role of religion in communal identity and how this can create or dissolve differences in a small Sicilian town during the height of the refugee crisis.[34] Lucchesi noted that Wenders pushed the film to be more symbolic and philosophical, saying that Wenders wanted the film to have a "universal fairy-tale aspect" and to represent "Europe in a nutshell".[35]


Wenders has worked with photographic images of desolate landscapes and themes of memory, time, loss, nostalgia and movement.[4][5] He began his long-running project "Pictures from the Surface of the Earth" in the early 1980s and pursued it for 20 years. The initial photographic series was titled "Written in the West" and was produced while Wenders criss-crossed the American West in preparation for his film Paris, Texas (1984).[7] It became the starting point for a nomadic journey across the globe, including Germany, Australia, Cuba, Israel and Japan, to take photographs capturing the essence of a moment, place or space.[36]

Personal life

Wenders lives and works in Berlin with his wife, Donata.[7] He has lived in Berlin since the mid-1970s.[37] He is an ecumenical Christian; as a teenager he wished to become a Catholic priest.[38] He supports German football club Borussia Dortmund.[39]

In 2009, Wenders signed a petition in support of director Roman Polanski, who had been detained while traveling to a film festival in relation to his 1977 sexual abuse charges, which the petition argued would undermine the tradition of film festivals as a place for works to be shown "freely and safely" and argued that arresting filmmakers traveling to neutral countries could open the door to "actions of which no-one can know the effects."[40][41]

From 1979 to 1981, Wenders was married to the American actress and singer-songwriter Ronee Blakely.



Feature Films

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1970 Summer in the City Yes Yes Yes First full-length feature film
1972 The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty Yes Yes Yes
1973 The Scarlet Letter Yes Yes Yes
1974 Alice in the Cities Yes Yes Yes First part of Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy
1975 The Wrong Move Yes No Uncredited Second part of Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy
1976 Kings of the Road Yes Yes Yes Third part of Wenders's Road Movie Trilogy
1977 The American Friend Yes Yes Yes
1982 Hammett Yes No No
The State of Things Yes Yes Yes
1984 Paris, Texas Yes No No
1987 Wings of Desire Yes Yes Yes
1991 Until the End of the World Yes Yes Co-producer
1993 Faraway, So Close! Yes Yes Yes Sequel to Wings of Desire
1994 Lisbon Story Yes Yes Yes Partially a sequel to The State of Things
1995 Beyond the Clouds Partial Yes No Director of the prologue, intermissions & epilogue
1997 The End of Violence Yes Yes Yes
2000 The Million Dollar Hotel Yes No Yes
2004 Land of Plenty Yes Yes No
2005 Don't Come Knocking Yes Yes Executive
2008 Palermo Shooting Yes Yes Yes Dedicated to Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni
2015 Every Thing Will Be Fine Yes No No
2016 The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez Yes Yes No
2017 Submergence Yes No No A romantic thriller tracing Islamic jihadists and exploration in the depth of sea in search of the origin of life[42]
2023 Perfect Days Yes Yes Yes Inspired by Japan's unique public toilet culture.[43][44][2]

Short Films

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1967 Scenary' Yes Yes Yes Also cinematographer and editor
1968 Same Player Shoots Again Yes Yes Yes
Blurb Film Yes No No Co-directed with Gerhard Theuring
Victor I. Yes No No
1969 Alabama (2000 Light Years) Yes Yes No Also editor and sound
1992 Arisha, the Bear, and the Stone Ring Yes Yes Yes
1995 Segment 38 Yes No No Segment of the Anthology film Lumière et compagnie
2002 Twelve Miles to Trona Yes Yes No Segment from Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet
2003 Other Side of the Road Yes No No
2007 War in Peace Yes Yes No Segment of To Each His Own Cinema
2008 Person to Person Yes Yes No Segment of 8
2012 Ver ou Não Ver Yes Yes No Segment of Mundo Invisível
2010 If Buildings Could Talk Yes Yes No Short film shot in 3D part of an exhibition
2015 Two or Three Thoughts on Edward Hopper Yes Yes Yes Short film shot in 3D part of an exhibition
Also executive producer
2019 (E)motion Yes Yes Yes Exhibition based on his film work.


Feature Films

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1980 Lightning Over Water Yes Yes Yes Documentary co-directed by Nicholas Ray
Also editor
1985 Tokyo-Ga Yes Yes Yes Also editor and narrator
1989 Notebook on Cities and Clothes Yes Yes Yes Also cinematographer and narrator
1995 A Trick of Light Yes Yes Yes Also known as The Brothers Skladanowsky
1998 Willie Nelson at the Teatro Yes Yes No
1999 Buena Vista Social Club Yes Yes No
2002 Ode to Cologne: A Rock 'N' Roll Film Yes Yes No Documentary about the rock group BAP
2003 The Soul of a Man Yes Yes No Part of the documentary film series The Blues
2011 Pina Yes Yes Yes Documentary filmed in 3D[45]
2014 The Salt of the Earth Yes Yes Executive Co-directed with Juliano Ribeiro Salgado
2018 Pope Francis: A Man of His Word Yes Yes Yes
2023 Anselm Yes No Yes Documentary filmed in 3D[46][47]

Short Films

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1969 Silver City Revisited Yes Yes Yes Also cinematographer and editor
1982 Reverse Angle Yes Yes Yes Wenders / Coppola dispute during Hammett
2007 Invisible Crimes Yes Yes No Documentary segment of Invisibles
2010 If Buildings Could Talk Yes Yes No Short documentary about the Rolex Learning Center
Il volo Yes Yes No Short documentary about immigrants [48]
2014 The Berlin Philharmonic Yes Yes No Documentary segment of Cathedrals of Culture[49]
2022 Présence Yes Yes Executive Documentary short filmed in 3D as part of an exhibition
2023 Somebody Comes Into the Light Yes No Yes Dance performance by Min Tanaka filmed in 3D


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1969 Police Film Yes Yes Yes TV short
Also cinematographer and editor
3 Americans LPS Yes No No TV short
Also editor
Kaspar Hauser Yes No No Film project conceived with other 9 directors
1977 A House for Us Yes No No TV Series
Directed 2 episodes
1982 Room 666 Yes Yes Yes TV Documentary
2020 4 Walls Berlin Yes Yes No Anthology short film series
Episode: "Change"

Music videos

Year English title Notes
1990 "Night and Day" Music video for U2
1992 "Sax and Violins" Music video for Talking Heads
1993 "Stay (Faraway, So Close!)" Music video for U2
1997 "Every Time I Try" Music video for Spain[citation needed]
2000 "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" Music video for U2
"Warum werde ich nicht satt?" Music video for Die Toten Hosen
2001 "Souljacker Part I" Music video for Eels
2002 "Live in a Hiding Place" Music video for Idlewild[50]
2009 "Auflösen" Music video for Die Toten Hosen
2020 "Anagnorisis" Music video for Asaf Avidan


Year Title Director Writer Notes
2000 "Un matin partout dans le monde" Yes Yes Commercial for JCDecaux
2009 "My Point of View" Yes Yes Commercial for Leica[51]
2017–2018 Jil Sander: Spring/Summer 2018 Yes Yes Commercials for Jil Sander[52]
2021 A Future Together Yes No Commercial for Salvatore Frengasso

Other film work

Year Title Notes
1977[citation needed] The Left-Handed Woman producer
1979 Radio On associate producer
...als diesel geboren producer[53]
1987 Iron Earth, Copper Sky
1992 The Absence co-producer
1997 Go for Gold! producer[54][55][56][57]
2002 Half the Rent
2003 Fools
2004 "La torcedura" executive producer
Egoshooter producer
Música cubana executive producer[58][59]
2006 The House Is Burning
2008 The Clone Returns Home
2009 The Open Road
2010 Au Revoir, Taipei
2012 Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You: A Concert for Kate McGarrigle
2015 Our Last Tango executive producer[60]
2016 National Bird
2017 "Little Hands" executive producer[61][62]
2018 It Must Schwing: The Blue Note Story
Waiting for the Miracle to Come
2020 A Black Jesus producer[63]
Karen Dalton: In My Own Time executive producer
2021 United States vs. Reality Winner
Souad co-producer
2023 An Endless Sunday producer[64]

Legacy and honors

Year Association Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1999 Academy Award Best Documentary Feature Buena Vista Social Club Nominated
2011 Pina Nominated
2014 The Salt of the Earth Nominated
1985 BAFTA Award Best Direction Paris, Texas Won
1988 Best Film Not in the English Language Wings of Desire Nominated
1999 Buena Visa Social Club Nominated
2011 Pina Nominated
2001 Grammy Awards Best Long Form Music Video Willie Nelson at the Teatro Nominated

Wenders has received many awards, including the Golden Lion for The State of Things at the Venice Film Festival (1982); the Palme d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival for Paris, Texas; and Best Direction for Wings of Desire at the 1987 Bavarian Film Awards[65] and the 1987 Cannes Film Festival. He won the Bavarian Film Award for Best Director for Faraway, So Close! in 1993.[65] In 2004, he received the Master of Cinema Award of the International Filmfestival Mannheim-Heidelberg. He was awarded the Leopard of Honour at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2005. In 2012, Pina was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 84th Academy Awards.[66] Wenders also received a nomination from the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Documentary Screenplay for the film.[67]

He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Sorbonne in Paris in 1989, the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) in 1995, and the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium, in 2005. The Wim Wenders Foundation was established in Düsseldorf in 2012. It provides a framework to bring together his cinematic, photographic, artistic and literary works in his native country and make them permanently accessible to the public.[68] Wenders was awarded the Honorary Golden Bear at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival in 2015.[69] In 2016, he received the Großer Kulturpreis of the Sparkassen Culture-Foundation Rhineland. In 2017, Wenders received the Douglas Sirk Award at the Hamburg Film Festival.[70]


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Installation art





See also


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Further reading