Why it’s famous:
Not one of the most famous movies of its time, Swing Kids is nonetheless well known as a simple tale of teenage rebellion under the Nazi regime. It brings together a cast of bright young actors to jive and swing their way across the screen, slowly transforming into the disciplined young people they fear becoming.
Arvid: No one who likes swing can become a Nazi.
Emil: I am not a traitor. I just wised up. You will too.
Willie: Swing Heil! Swing Heil, Peter! Swing Heil!
Why you haven’t seen it:
This Christian Bale pre-American Psycho dance flick set in Nazi Germany hasn’t gotten much credit — most must-see movie lists won’t even mention it. If you aren’t a dance-loving history nerd you might have just never heard of it.
Why it might be tough to get through:
Some of the dialogue in this movie is corny to the point where you’ll most likely have to face-palm your way through it. It is also at times relatively predictable, as the background of the characters can give you a pretty good idea of the trajectories they will make as teenagers within an authoritarian state.
Why you should see it anyway:
This movie has the unique ability to capture daily life under the Nazi regime in a surprisingly relatable way. It reminds the viewer that the infamous authoritarian state was inhabited by normal young people who, much like the teenagers of any era, are just trying to figure themselves out and make some sense of the society that restrains their existence.
It displays how indoctrination can slip through the cracks of the most seemingly robust and resolute young rebel’s personality, transforming people from their very essence without them even noticing. It will leave you wondering how well you would have recognized the true nature of the state ruling you, and whether you would have been able to react to your changing society any differently than the heroes.
- On location in Prague in near-freezing weather, Christian Bale was visited by Steven Spielberg, director of his feature film debut Empire of the Sun (1987).
- Kenneth Branagh is reported to have refused any billing at all rather than be billed above Christian Bale and the other boys who he said were the stars of the film.