Babylon Berlin

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Babylon Berlin TV Poster Image
Dazzling police/spy drama set in pre-WWII Germany.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Seems most interested in depicting the complexity and duplicitousness of its world -- that no one is quite what they seem -- so no overarching moral or ethical takeaway. But we do see characters who behave amorally take responsibility for themselves and struggle with consequences of their actions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Takes place among criminals, spies, and corrupt police, so it's difficult to know who is acting nobly and who is acting selfishly. The character Charlotte is our main window into this world; she plays the mother-figure in her family, but it becomes clear that she'll provide for them at any cost, even if it means prostituting herself.


Takes place in a violent world, but the violence isn't over-the-top considering the reality of the time. Fistfights, gunfights, and early on a man kills himself on-screen. Some implied violence, most frequently with a series of pictures from murder scenes that are repeatedly shown.


Lots of edgy sexual content. In first 20 minutes, the vice squad raids a pornography ring that's in the middle of filming, so there's male and female nudity and simulated sex acts. This sets the tone for the show, which contains implications and depictions of prostitution, pedophilia, and incest.


Surprisingly, there is little bad language. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Germany's nightlife is one of the main topics, so drinking is a constant on the show -- though no one seems to drink to excess. Also, there's a subplot involving Inspector Rath's addiction to morphine. Everyone smokes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Babylon Berlin is a historical drama with plenty of mystery and intrigue. The show is in German with English subtitles, and it takes place in pre-World War II Berlin, so some historical context is helpful, though not absolutely necessary. The tone of the show is edgy: There are gruesome depictions of sex and violence throughout. One main character, a vice officer, busts a smut peddler in the middle of filming pornography, and stills from the films collected from the scene are shown repeatedly throughout the series. Similarly, another character works to catalog pictures from murder scenes, including things like corpses and severed body parts. But the appeal of the show is that it combines a police show with a spy show (as a group of Russians tries to infiltrate Berlin) within the backdrop of stunningly depicted Germany. The scenes of Berlin's nightlife, specifically, are captivating, and often incorporate incredible musical and dance numbers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byAnu A. March 27, 2018

The best show of 2018

Even though it has a slow start, the show is a quite engrossing mystery that has unexpected twists and turns. The accurate setting of post WW 1 Germany is what... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byoliveonatoothpick July 16, 2020

Mature 13+

I'm thirteen. Given that, I am a pretty mature thirteen-year-old, I think. I've recommended this show to friends who ended up being uncomfortable with... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bydoqtooth January 25, 2020

What's the story?

In BABYLON BERLIN, Inspector Gareon Rath (Volker Bruch), the son of a renowned detective, joins Berlin Police's Vice Squad in 1929. Rath and his suspicious partner, Detective Chief Inspector Bruno Wolter (Peter Kurth), immediately bust a smut-peddling ring that Rath has vague ties to. It quickly becomes clear that this pornography operation has ties to a larger crime syndicate in Germany. Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries) lives in a slum with her entire family. Her mother is sick, leaving Charlotte to provide for her grandparents, siblings, and young niece. During the day, she work for the police department, cataloguing photos from murder scenes. At night, she lives the life of a flapper, and occasional prostitute, in Berlin's thriving underground nightlife. Meanwhile, a group of Russian spies hijacks a train to Berlin as part of an operation to overthrow Stalin. As the group prepares to carry out their plan, one of them is revealed to be a spy for the Soviet secret police.

Is it any good?

Notoriously the most expensive non-English television program ever made, this series is much more than pure spectacle. It combines a police drama and a spy story with the historical context of pre-World War II Germany in a vivid and compelling way. As you'd expect with a spy show, everyone seems to be working toward different ends. Just when you think Inspector Rath is a good guy, something comes along to indicate he might not be. Rath's partner is suspicious of him from the jump, but that may be because his partner is a corrupt and violent cop ... or it may be because he has cause for suspicion.

Even with all the mystery and intrigue, Babylon Berlin's best moments often come when they depict the German nightlife of the time. Rath drinks by himself in a pub, but when he sees a group of students dancing raucously in the back room, he joins in and surprisingly outshines them all. The best early scene combines the two: After working all day to provide for her extended family, Charlotte attends a cabaret where Countess Svetlana Sorokina (Severija Janušauskaitė), secretly a member of an anti-Stalinist cell, is performing in drag. There's an elaborate dance number involving the whole audience, which takes place at the same time a massive hit is carried out on the anti-Stalinist group. This juxtaposition between Berlin's vibrant nightlife and the seedy world of its criminals drives Babylon Berlin, giving it the tone of a pulp novel while providing a window into a critical time in German (and world) history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the historical context of Babylon Berlin. Why would someone choose to set a show in pre-WWII Germany? What was going on at that time? What does the show say about German culture at that time? 

  • Because Babylon Berlin is a spy show,  a character's motivations are often obscured, so that the audience doesn't always know whose side each character is on. What do we know about Inspector Rath? Is he a "good guy" or a "bad guy"? Or something in between? 

  • Do Americans see German history differently than Germans might? How did WWII color people's ideas about Germany? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love historical TV

Themes & Topics

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