This paper investigates the usefulness of bidirectional multigrid methods for variational optical flow computations. Although these numerical schemes are among the fastest methods for solving equation systems, they are rarely applied in the field of computer vision. We demonstrate how to employ those numerical methods for the treatment of variational optical flow formulations and show that the efficiency of this approach even allows for real-time performance on standard PCs. As a representative for variational optic flow methods, we consider the recently introduced combined local-global method. It can be considered as a noise-robust generalization of the Horn and Schunck technique. We present a decoupled, as well as a coupled, version of the classical Gauß-Seidel solver, and we develop several multigrid implementations based on a discretization coarse grid approximation. In contrast, with standard bidirectional multigrid algorithms, we take advantage of intergrid transfer operators that allow for nondyadic grid hierarchies. As a consequence, no restrictions concerning the image size or the number of traversed levels have to be imposed. In the experimental section, we juxtapose the developed multigrid schemes and demonstrate their superior performance when compared to unidirectional multigrid methods and nonhierachical solvers. For the well-known 316×252 Yosemite sequence, we succeeded in computing the complete set of dense flow fields in three quarters of a second on a 3.06-GHz Pentium4 PC. This corresponds to a frame rate of 18 flow fields per second which outperforms the widely-used Gauß-Seidel method by almost three orders of magnitude.