GenreDrama, Music ProducerMark Gordon LanguageEnglish
WriterJonathan Marc Feldman Release dateMarch 5, 1993 CastRobert Sean Leonard (Peter Müller), Christian Bale (Thomas Berger), Frank Whaley (Arvid), Barbara Hershey (Frau Müller), Tushka Bergen (Evey), David Tom (Willi Müller) Similar moviesThe Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, None But the Brave, Too Late the Hero, Wake Island, Valkyrie
TaglineIn a world on the brink of war. You either march to one tune or dance to another.
Swing kids trailer
Swing Kids is a 1993 American musical drama film directed by Thomas Carter, and stars Christian Bale, Robert Sean Leonard and Frank Whaley. In pre-World War II Germany, two high school students, Peter Müller and Thomas Berger, attempt to be swing kids by night and Hitler Youth by day, a decision that acutely impacts their friends and families. The film has a 43% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In Hamburg in 1939, Peter Müller and Thomas Berger join their friends Arvid and Otto at a swing club called the Bismarck. They have a good time, dancing and enjoying the music.
Peter goes home to find his mother in an argument with the Nazi Blockleiter (block leader). Herr Knopp, head of the local Gestapo, arrives and curtly dismisses the Blockleiter. Herr Knopp begins asking Frau Müller questions about some of her late husband's friends. Herr Müller had been accused of being a communist, and was irreparably damaged by an interrogation at the hands of Nazi agents.
At Arvid's house, Thomas accidentally ruins one of Arvid's prized records. Upset, Arvid kicks Thomas, Peter and Otto out. To apologize to Arvid, Peter and Thomas steal a radio (which Peter knows was stolen from a ransacked Jewish home) from a bakery. Thomas escapes, but Peter is caught. Herr Knopp, who is attracted to Peter's mother, intercedes for him; in return, Peter must enroll in the Hitlerjugend (HJ).
Peter, who has a job delivering books, is asked to spy on his boss, whom the Nazis suspect is working against the Reich. In HJ school, the boys are encouraged to spy on their friends and families. Thomas accuses his father of insulting Hitler, hoping to cause trouble for him, but is unnerved when the Nazis come to his home and take his father away. His subsequent attempts to resume his friendship with Peter and persuade him to collaborate with the Nazis are tinged with fear.
Arvid, who is working at a jazz club, refuses to play a German song, lashing out at the club's patrons for being blind to the Nazi agenda. Peter is sympathetic but Thomas loudly argues the Nazi side. Peter angrily proclaims Thomas to be a "fucking Nazi" and storms off. As time goes on, Arvid realizes there is nothing for him in Germany and commits suicide.
As Thomas begins to believe fully in Nazi ideology, Peter feels as though there is no hope for him. Peter, disenchanted with how his life is coming apart, dresses up and goes to a swing club which is scheduled to be raided by members of the Hitlerjugend (HJ). As Thomas begins assaulting the club's patrons he attacks Peter; however, during the fight Peter is able to reach Thomas. Thomas begs Peter to run away but Peter won't. Willie Müller is there and as Peter is driven away by the police, he loudly screams "Swing Heil!" over and over again, proud that his brother stood up for being a swing kid.
Robert Sean Leonard as Peter Müller
Christian Bale as Thomas Berger
Frank Whaley as Arvid
Barbara Hershey as Frau Müller
Tushka Bergen as Evey
David Tom as Willi Müller
Julia Stemberger as Frau Linge
Kenneth Branagh as SS-Sturmbannführer Knopp
Noah Wyle as Emil Lutz
Jessica Hynes as Helga
Martin Clunes as Bannführer
Jayce Bartok as Otto
The soundtrack includes a combination of swing music and the film's score.
"Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)" – 5:05
"Nothing to Report" – 1:37
"Shout and Feel It" – 2:27
"It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" – 2:51
"The Letter" – 4:12
"Flat Foot Floogee" – 3:20
"Arvid Beaten" – 2:12
"Swingtime in the Rockies" – 3:10
"Daphne" – 1:52
"Training for Utopia" – 3:45
"Life Goes to a Party/Jumpin' at the Woodside" – 2:17
"Goodnight, My Love" – 3:08
"Ashes" – 4:21
"Bei Mir Bist Du Schön" – 4:11
"The Bismarck" – 3:06
"Swing Heil″ – 5:28
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 43% (based on 13 reviews) and an average score of 4.6/10. Jonathan Rosenbaum of Chicago Reader described the film as a "corny but sincere weeper", while Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one star (out of 4) and criticized the screenplay (calling it "murky" and including it on his "Most Hated" list). On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 reviews from film critics, the film has a rating score of 39 (based on 20 reviews).