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Judgement in Berlin (1988)

Judgment in Berlin (original title)
PG | | Drama | 6 May 1988 (USA)
American judge in Germany must decide if the hijacking of an East German plane into West Berlin was justified.



(based on the book "Judgment in Berlin" by), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Herbert J Stern
Bernard Hellring
Judah Best
Uri Andreyev
Helmut Thiele
Edwin Palmer
Max Volkert Martens ...
Hans Schuster
Marsha Stern
Marie Louise Sinclair ...
Kim Becker (as Marie-Louise Sinclair)
Alan Sherman
Jutta Speidel ...
Sigrid Radke
Bruno Ristau
Guenther X
Burt Nelson ...
Colonel Heller
Malgorzata Gebel ...
Beata Levandovska (as Malgoscha Gebel)


American judge in Germany must decide if the hijacking of an East German plane into West Berlin was justified.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Only two things stand between him and freedom. The Iron Curtain... and the United States.




PG | See all certifications »





| |

Release Date:

6 May 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Escape to Freedom  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$229,556 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


(archive footage)| (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Sean Penn: witness at trial. Sean Penn is the son of Leo Penn, who directed this film. See more »


Martin Sheen arrives in Berlin on Pan Am Clipper Intrepid in late 1978. The aircraft was sold to another airline in 1967. Other airframes with the same name were present at the time, but none were single-deck four-engined aircraft. See more »


Features The Blue Angel (1930) See more »

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User Reviews

Federal judge Martin Sheen resists pressures of U.S. Department of State
19 January 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Judgment in Berlin" (1988) is based on a book written by Herbert Jay Stern about an actual trial over which he presided in 1979 in Berlin. It makes for a compelling drama that brings to light issues that are highly pertinent today and have always been crucial to any government.

For name American actors all in top form, Martin Sheen plays a federal judge who likes to cut through excessive language and sharply hone in on actual facts and ideas. Sam Wanamaker plays the main defense attorney. Sean Penn plays a crucial witness. The core of the movie's dynamics and impact is built around the story itself and these three characters.

The rest of the cast is steady but not exceptional, their roles being less powerful. Harris Yulin appears in support as do Max Gail and Cristine Rose as Sheen's wife. The most important roles in the rest of the cast are filled by actors, German and American, that are not familiar to me.

A Polish airplane bound for East Germany is hijacked and lands in West Berlin. The hijacker is placed on trial in a brand new U.S. court convened for that purpose, with Sheen presiding. The U.S. Department of State prosecutes against the background of its status as an occupying political entity and a NATO convention signed by the U.S. on hijacking. Sheen resists abandoning the procedures of U.S. constitutional rule of law, including trial by jury. He refuses to make the trial an open and shut case.

The crucial issue raised by this movie is the independence of any judicial system from the State. The judicial system and an independent judiciary that adheres to traditional judicial safeguards for any person accused of a crime or breaking a law form a check on the power of the State to dominate its citizens. The independence is fragile, however, because of the close relations between the State and judicial system and because the tradition can be pushed aside by various means, laws, erosion of tradition, mistaken precedents, ignorance and "emergencies".

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