Metropolis was heavily influenced by a number of styles and trends occurring in Germany in the mid-1920s, although its visual themes and style can be traced back further. The film is largely credited as being the last true German Expressionist film, while simultaneously being hailed as the first example of German New Objectivity film.
German Expressionism was a movement in the arts and, later, cinema that began in 1905 with the formation of a group of artists who called themselves Die Brucke (The Bridge). Prominent members of this group include Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, and Otto Mueller. Expressionist art explored the distortion of reality for an emotional effect on the viewer.
Following World War I, a time of great economic hardship for Germany, Expressionism entered the relatively new medium of film, incorporating the same ideas that it had in painting and skewing it to reflect the attitudes of the time. Although the German film industry was booming, the hard economic times meant that filmmakers found it difficult to create movies that could compare to the high-budget Hollywood productions in America. To compensate, filmmakers of the German UFA studio experimented heavily to alter the mood of the audience in new and previously unexplored ways.