Among the many films set in Vienna over the years, it was a film noir that truly put Austria’s capital on the map for movie geeks: Carol Reed’s The Third Man broke box office records in 1949 and was voted The Greatest British Film of All Time by the British Film Institute in 1999.
Some 70 years later, director Christopher McQuarrie turned Vienna’s city centre into a Hollywood set featuring Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), the world premiere of which took place at the Vienna State Opera.
But Vienna’s cinematic legacy isn’t all about blockbusters. The city has a lively art house scene and organises film festivals that are well known beyond its borders. In addition (despite most cinemas screening dubbed versions), there are also plenty of opportunities to watch movies in English in Vienna. Gunther Baumann, founder of Vienna-based online film magazine Filmclicks, and Matthias Greuling, editor-in-chief of Vienna’s monthly magazine celluloid, guide us through the best cinemas in Vienna, which film festivals to attend and how to experience its key film locations for yourself.
Viennale – Vienna International Film Festival
Austria’s largest annual film festival kicks off at the end of October and features more than 300 films (many of them in English or with English subtitles) over a period of two weeks. “Viennale is one of the main European Film Festivals to address the general public. The 57th edition in 2019 attracted more than 92,000 moviegoers,” says Gunther Baumann, adding, “If you happen to be in Vienna during the Viennale period, you can share the festival atmosphere with the local film buffs. They mainly show art house films from all over the world, but there are also historical films and retrospectives.” Screenings take place around town, with the main cinema being Gartenbaukino. Tickets sell out quickly but there are usually some returns available on the day – queue at the cinema for the chance to bag one for yourself.
Vienna Independent Shorts Film Festival (VIS)
Vienna Independent Shorts Film Festival is held in early June and focusses on short films from around the world, with a maximum length of 30 minutes. The festival attracts 10,000 movie fans and 600 industry representatives every year. “The Vienna Independent Shorts Film Festival shows outstanding short and animation films and has a great reputation internationally,” explains Greuling. What’s more, VIS is the only Academy Award-qualifying festival in Austria, meaning that the films shown here have the chance to qualify directly for the Oscars – a pretty remarkable fact considering the festival started out as a student project in 2004.
The Third Man (1949), a noir gangster movie starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton and set in post World War II Austria, is the most famous film ever shot in Vienna, and you can still check out the key locations today. Baumann praises the film’s memorability and highly recommends the Third Man Tour to fans of the movie. “No one that has seen the thriller will ever forget the ‘Harry Lime theme’ and the scenes with Orson Welles in the mysterious dark of the Vienna sewage system,” he says, adding that the tour includes an exploration of that underground network. Tours run daily from May to October and start at Karlsplatz-Girardí-Park, opposite Café Museum. The English language tour starts at 3pm each day and advance booking is highly recommended.
Film Archiv Austria
“Film Archiv Austria is the treasury of Austrian film, the main institution for collecting and documenting everything film-related in the country,” says Greuling, adding, “Thousands of film rolls are stored and carefully restored here, and made accessible to the general public at regular screenings at Metro Kinokulturhaus.” The archive, which you’ll find at Obere Augartenstrasse 1e, currently owns no less than 200,000 films, 2 million photographs, 50,000 film programmes and 16,000 film posters, with the oldest ones dating back to the late-19th century – and the collection is growing by the day. Check their website for screening dates, exhibitions, talks and special events.
“Burg Kino opened its doors in 1912 and is one of the oldest cinemas worldwide still in operation. They show original-language versions only,” says Greuling. The tradition started before World War I and until the 1970s, Burg Kino was the only cinema of its kind in Austria and Germany. Besides all the latest blockbusters and art house films, they also have regular screenings of The Third Man, so come to Opernring 19 to watch the classic for the first time, or to experience it again before or after the location tour. Tickets are cheapest on Mondays at €7 (£5.90) and go up to €9.50 (£8) during the week.
Pro tip: If you’re a fan of Mission Impossible, check out the Vienna State Opera just across the road. This is where Tom Cruise, said to be a huge opera lover himself, spent almost two weeks filming Rogue Nation in 2015.
A great place to watch English movies in Vienna is family-run Haydn Kino, conveniently located on Vienna’s main shopping boulevard, at 57 Mariahilfer Strasse. Haydn Kino has been around since 1912 and has screened English original version films without subtitles since 1995. “They show both Hollywood blockbusters and art house films. The cinema has four screens and up to nine different films on every day,” says Baumann, who especially recommends Cinema A, saying, “It is the most comfortable in the house and has by far the largest screen.” Tickets are €10 (£8) per person, with discounts on Mondays at €7.50 (£6.30) and Tuesdays at €8.70 (£7.30). Besides movies, the cinema occasionally screens live opera, theatre and ballet.
Old-school cinema Gartenbaukino opened in 1960 (with Kirk Douglas as a guest of honour) and has hosted numerous premieres of Austrian movies as well as Hollywood productions from Oblivion (2013) with Tom Cruise to American Pie (1999). “With 736 seats and a 100-square-metre [1,080-square-foot] screen, it houses Vienna’s largest cinema, a relic from the past when huge one-room film palaces were still being built,” explains Baumann, adding, “While it’s fully booked up for the two weeks of Viennale, it mainly screens art house films the rest of the year, all in their original-language versions. It’s also one of the very few cinemas in Europe where 70-millimetre-widescreen-films can still be projected.” Tickets cost €9.50 (£8) at any time on any day of the week.