There’s nothing quite like the dulcet tones of the modern-day philosopher, filmmaker and actor Werner Herzog, with his surreal existential musings taking audiences on a psychoactive trip of some of life’s most fascinating topics. With no two of his journeys the same, Herzog takes on fictional and documentary cinema with a sagacious eye, looking at everything from loneliness and personal satisfaction in Grizzly Man to modern-day existentialism in Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World.
Making his first film in 1961 at the age of 19, Herzog has enjoyed over 50 prolific years in the filmmaking industry, which has resulted in numerous critically acclaimed releases. Often featuring ambitious protagonists with impossible or unreachable dreams, people with unique talents in the leftfield or individuals who are in conflict with nature, Herzog’s interests span a wide range of noble subjects.
Recognised as a widely respected filmmaker, the iconic French filmmaker François Truffaut once called Herzog “the most important film director alive,” and for a good reason, too, often addressing life’s most difficult questions with philosophical resolve.
A student of cinema as well as one of its greatest ever teachers, Herzog’s top eight favourite films of all time were compiled by Combustible Celluloid and include a predictably eclectic range of bizarre documentaries and no narrative films at all.
His number one spot goes to Cane Toads: An Unnatural History by Mark Lewis, a documentary turned unintentional comedy detailing the spread of Hawaiian sugar-cane toads through Australia. Directed by Mark Lewis, the film, released in 1988, was unique in that it tried to tell the story from the toads perspective, featuring extremely low angle shots, with the filmmaker intending to give the animal’s a voice.
Coming in at a close second is the 1997 documentary Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, an unusual film about four unrelated professionals: a lion tamer, a robotics expert, a topiary gardener, and a naked mole rat specialist. Directed by the great Errol Morris, Herzog had a peculiar relationship with the filmmaker after making a bet that Morris couldn’t complete Gates of Heaven, resulting in Herzog eating his own shoe.
Finalising the top three is the 1986 documentary Forest of Bliss by Robert Gardner, a low-key observational documentary about daily life in the city of Benares, India, one of the most religious places in the country. No doubt a favourite of Herzog’s due to his own fondness for atmospheric documentary filmmaking in such films as Fata Morgana, the filmmaker held Forest of Bliss in very high regard.
Take a look at the full list of Werner Herzog’s eight favourite films of all time, below, and also check out the complete movie of Cane Toads: An Unnatural History on YouTube for free.
Werner Herzog’s eight favourite films of all time:
- Cane Toads: An Unnatural History (Mark Lewis, 1988)
- Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (Errol Morris, 1997)
- Forest of Bliss (Robert Gardner, 1986)
- Good News: Von Kolporteuren, toten Hunden und anderen Wienern (Ulrich Seidl, 1990)
- Letter from Siberia (Chris Marker, 1958)
- Les Maitres Fous (Jean Rouch, 1955)
- Nanook of the North (Robert Flaherty, 1922)
- Spend It All (Les Blank, 1972)