Brazilian director Walter Salles said in the presentation speech that Wenders was “one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.”
“What Wenders taught us was a moral compass, but also an aesthetic one and one regarding content for film-making,” he said.
The 69-year-old asked that his 1977 thriller “The American Friend” (Der amerikanische Freund), starring Bruno Ganz and Dennis Hopper, be screened at the gala presentation.
One of his most famous movies, it was based on the novel “Ripley's Game” by Patricia Highsmith, whose book “Strangers on a Train” was adapted for the screen by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951.
Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick said that in Wenders, the festival was honouring one of the most renowned contemporary auteur film-makers.
“His genre-spanning and multi-faceted work as a film-maker, photographer and author has marked our memory of films,” Kosslick said.
Berlin mayor Michael Müller said that the city was “proud and thankful that one of the greatest film-makers is a fellow citizen of the city.”
One of Wenders' films, 1987's “Wings of Desire” (Der Himmel über Berlin), the story of an angel who falls to earth in the city during the era of the Berlin Wall, is perhaps the most famous depiction of the divided capital ever committed to celluloid.
Ten of Wenders' movies will be shown during the film festival.
Recognition of his talent won't end with the Berlinale, as he is currently in the running for an Oscar for his documentary film about Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.
Third time could be the charm for Wenders, after his previous nominations for “Pina” and “Buena Vista Social Club” failed to bear fruit.