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The Red Baron (also known by its original German title, Der rote Baron) is a 2008 German-British biographical action war film written and directed by Nikolai Müllerschön about the World War I fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, known as the "Red Baron". The film stars Matthias Schweighöfer, Joseph Fiennes, Til Schweiger and Lena Headey. The Red Baron was filmed entirely in English to improve its international commercial viability.

The Red Baron
Red-baron movie-poster.jpg
Directed byNikolai Müllerschön
Produced by
  • Dan Maag
  • Thomas Reisser
  • Roland Pellegrino
Written byNikolai Müllerschön
Music by
  • Stefan Hansen
  • Dick Reichardt
CinematographyKlaus Merkel
Edited byChristian Lonk
Distributed by
Release date
  • 10 April 2008 (2008-04-10)
Running time
123 minutes
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • German
  • French
Budget€18 million



In 1916, Manfred von Richthofen is serving as a fighter pilot with the Imperial German Air Service along the Western Front. After dropping a wreath over the funeral of an Allied pilot, Richthofen and his fellow pilots Werner Voss and Friedrich Sternberg encounter a squadron of enemy aircraft led by Captain Lanoe Hawker. Richthofen shoots down Canadian pilot Arthur Roy Brown. After pulling Brown out of the wreckage of his aircraft, Richthofen assists Nurse Käte Otersdorf with a tourniquet on Brown's leg.

After killing Hawker, Richthofen is awarded the Pour le Mérite medal and promoted to command a squadron. He is joined by his brother Lothar von Richthofen (Volker Bruch). He orders his men to avoid killing enemy pilots unless absolutely necessary and is dismayed when Lothar deliberately strafes and kills a British pilot who has already been forced into a landing.

Later, during an aerial dogfight, Richthofen again encounters Captain Brown, who has escaped from a German prisoner of war camp after being nursed by Käte. Both are forced to ditch their aircraft in no man's land, where they share a friendly drink. Brown expresses hope that they will not meet again until after the war is over, and he tells Richthofen that Käte has feelings for him.

On the way back to base, Richthofen is devastated to learn that his close friend, the Jewish pilot Friedrich Sternberg, has been shot down and killed. Over the days that follow, Richthofen makes no secret of his grief and refuses to leave his room. An enraged Lothar reminds him that, "A leader cannot afford to mourn."

Shortly thereafter, Richthofen suffers a skull wound during an aerial battle, and is sent to be nursed by Käte. As he recovers, the two share a romantic dinner and a dance. After Richthofen expresses gratitude for his wound keeping him out of the fighting, an angry Käte takes him on a tour of a local field hospital, berating him for regarding war as a game.

Later, Richthofen and Käte are beginning to make love when they are interrupted by an Allied bombing raid. Determined to protect the squadron's aircraft, he orders Käte to hide in the cellar and takes to the air with his men. During the raid, Richthofen's wound begins to reopen, making him disoriented, and upon witnessing the death of his protege Kurt Wolff, he goes into a state of rage in the air.

During another visit, Richthofen informs Kate that he has been offered a rear echelon position in command of the entire Air Service. Käte is overjoyed, but a depressed Richthofen conceals his doubts. Richthofen sees he is being manipulated by the Kaiser and his generals. On the eve of the February 1918 offensive, he approaches General Hindenburg and tells him that the war is now unwinnable, however, Hindenburg orders him back to his squadron. Caught between his disgust for the war, and the responsibility for his fighter wing, Richthofen sets out to fly again.

As the offensive begins, Richthofen's squadron sets out to clear every Allied aeroplane and balloon out of the target area. As Käte tends the wounded on the ground, she is horrified to learn that her beloved has returned to combat. Käte confronts him and demands to know why he has turned down the chance to remain safe. Richthofen states that he will not betray the soldiers in the field. He says, "You are my greatest victory."

On April 21, 1918, Richthofen is wakened with the report of a British formation approaching the front, after making love to Käte. He has a brief talk with his pilots and tells Wolfram not to get involved in combat. As Richthofen climbs into his cockpit, he exchanges a sad smile with Käte.

Käte crosses over to Allied lines with Brown's assistance and visits Richthofen's grave. She apologises for not coming sooner and expresses remorse for never telling him how much she loved him. A funeral wreath has been left by Captain Brown, reading "To Manfred von Richtofen, Friend and Enemy."


In credits order.


A shooting schedule from 10 July 2006 to 3 October 2006 took place in the Czech Republic at Prague and surrounding areas as well as locations in France and Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In Postproduction, CGI was carried out by PIXOMONDO.[2]

To improve its chances on the international market, The Red Baron was filmed by Niama Film in the English language, although it is a German production depicting Germans. With an estimated budget of 18 million euros, it is one of the most expensive and at the same time lowest-grossing films in German history.[3][Note 2]

Fewer than 100,000 saw the film in the first week, causing the film to miss the Top 3. In the second week it dropped to No. 10. In the third week the film was gone from the top ten.[5]


The Red Baron premiered on 31 March 2008 in Berlin and was released a week later in the German cinemas but was quite controversial in Germany, where glorification of war heroes is nowadays a taboo.[6] The reviews after the first public performances of the film were mainly negative, criticizing in particular the high level of historical inaccuracy. The fictitious love story between Richthofen and Käte Otersdorf was described as having little factual basis. The film received a cool reception at the Berlin premiere and one member of the audience stated that Richthofen's disillusion with the war was not believable.[7]

Reviewing the movie, Manfred von Richthofen (sports official), the Baron's nephew said "It's a remarkable movie". "Somehow it did not turn into a war film. The personality and especially the thoughtfulness of my uncle are true to life."[8] Richthofen biographer Joachim Castan, called Richthofen's and Otersdorf's affair "complete rubbish"; "The historical Richthofen was the James Dean of World War I, an idol of his time, But he had no affairs with women. He also did not drink and did not visit brothels." And it is true that on three occasions he waved his enemy to the ground rather than shooting them out of the sky. (In one case, seeing that an enemy pilot's gun had jammed, Von Richthofen waved him down to the ground, jumped out, shook his hand and then took off again.) But in other respects, Von Richthofen was "cold-blooded," says Castan. "He was mainly interested in his strike rate. He did not try to conceal the fact that he was aiming to kill."[8]

Both Tino Mewes as Best Young Supporting Actor and Matthias Schweighöfer as Best Young Actor from The Red Baron were nominated for Undine Awards.[9]



  1. ^ In reality, Canadian aviator Roy Brown was a flight commander in the Royal Naval Air Service.
  2. ^ The financing for The Red Baron came exclusively from well-to-do private individuals living in the state of Baden-Württemberg and was raised by the Stuttgart-based film financing with the production house Niama Film, which was established by director Nikolai Müllerschön with partners Thomas Reisser, Roland Pellegrino and Dan Maag.[4]


  1. ^ Meza, Ed "German pic tracks career of flying ace; Warner flies with 'Baron'." Variety, 6 February 2007. Retrieved: 30 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Der Rote Baron (2006)." Retrieved: 30 June 2017.
  3. ^ Beck 2016, p. 166.
  4. ^ Triva: 'The Red Baron'." IMDb. Retrieved: 30 June 2017.
  5. ^ "The Red Baron." Box Office Mojo. Retrieved: 30 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Red Baron: Film breaks war hero taboos." dw-world, 22 March 2008. Retrieved: 30 June 2017.
  7. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk. "Film review: 'The Red Baron'." Hollywood Reporter, 14 October 2010. Retrieved: 30 June 2017.
  8. ^ a b Purvis, Andrew (4 April 2008). "(Don't) Curse You, Red Baron!" – via
  9. ^ "Awards: 'The Red Baron'." IMDb. Retrieved: 30 June 2017.


  • Beck, Simon D. The Aircraft Spotter's Film and Television Companion. Jefferson, North Carolina, 2016. ISBN 978-1-476-66349-4.

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