10 Best Werner Herzog Movies
A director, writer, producer, historian, documentarian, and lover of literature and theater, Werner Herzog is easily one of the recognizable and beloved German filmmakers of our time. From his dramas to his documentaries to his dramas based on his documentaries, the filmmaker has a knack for bringing out the humanity and the existentialism in every situation. Also an actor who has appeared in all kinds of projects ranging from Jack Reacher to Parks and Recreation, Werner Herzog is undoubtedly aware of how uniquely gripping he is as a person and as a filmmaker. From his one-of-a-kind voice to his never-ending search for the ideas that connect humans, animals, plants, and the earth together, Herzog is irreplaceable and inimitable — not to mention, his filmography is pretty stellar, as well.
Aguirre: The Wrath of God
One of his earliest features, Aguirre: The Wrath of God is the movie that is and always will be completely and totally Herzog’s. No one else could have made this film, no one else would have ever tried to make this film, no one would ever dare remake this film. It is Herzog’s masterpiece, taking the top spot on the list of his best films.
Not too far off from Aguirre, a case could definitely be made in favor or Fitzcarraldo being Herzog’s magnum opus. It’s based on a true story, following the impossible task bestowed upon a group of native people by a greedy businessman: dragging a boat up and over a mountain by sheer manpower. Like Aguirre, it’s a movie only Herzog could make and a story only he could possibly humanize.
One of Herzog’s funnier films, Stroszek tells the story of some eclectic Germans who decide to emigrate to the United States. Once there, culture shock hits hard and descent into surreality begins. As a German man himself, it’s hard to ignore the elements of the story that are no doubt semi-autobiographical.
Lessons of Darkness
The best documentary the filmmaker has ever made, Lessons of Darkness shows the very real impact of war on civilians. Taking place in Kuwait after the first Gulf War, the documentary shows the aftermath of the fires the Iraqi military started in Kuwait’s oil fields and the devastation and havoc that descended upon the country. It’s harrowing and difficult, but Herzog deserves plenty of praise for the work he did here.
Like Lessons of Darkness, Grizzly Man is an incredible documentary that shows the best of the best of what the medium has to offer. Following the life and death of Timothy Treadwell, Grizzly Man profiles the adventures of the man convinced he was saving Alaskan grizzly bears when he might have actually been hurting them. An amazing story with incredible footage and thought-provoking narration and interviews, Grizzly Man is a must-watch.
Land of Silence and Darkness
Everyone knows who Hellen Keller was, but not many would be able to describe the life of Fini Straubinger. That’s where Herzog comes in. A heartbreaking and inspiring story about a woman who was blind and deaf, Land of Silence and Darkness is a documentary about what it is to be human, even when the things that make us feel alive are robbed from us.
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
A historical drama, Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser follows the titular young German man as he attempts to assimilate to society after being inexplicably confined from the real world. Herzog is so good at examining the little things we take for granted in life and showing the very real impact the absence of these things might have on a person.
Little Dieter Needs to Fly
Another incredible true story told through Herzog’s endlessly fascinating documentary style, Little Dieter Needs to Fly tracks a former German-American pilot as he retraces the steps of his horrific and traumatic military experience in Laos. Going as far as recreating some of the hardest moments of his life, Herzog and Dieter show the audience the unspoken horrors of war. No matter how horrible the subject matter, fear not: Herzog never exploits these people. He honors them.
My Best Fiend
A rare instance where Herzog turned the camera on himself, My Best Fiend sees the filmmaker discussing his complicated relationship with friend and collaborator Klaus Kinski. Rarely has the man ever been so candid about his experiences in this world. For that reason alone, this movie is an essential one of his.
Encounters at the End of the World
Taking his camera and his crew to the limits, Encounters at the End of the World sees Herzog exporting Antarctica. It’s a place most people will never see, making the documentary a historic artifact comprised of primary sources and a great piece of entertainment in one.
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