Five Favorite Films with Werner Herzog

The director of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans talks about his wild career.

Werner Herzog

During his remarkable 40-year career, Werner Herzog has made some of world cinema's boldest films -- including Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Stroszek, Fitzcaraldo, and a remake of Nosferatu. In recent years, he's approached mainstream success in the United States, with the eccentric documentary Grizzly Man and the Vietnam war film Rescue Dawn, which starred Christian Bale. His latest, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, features Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes in the tale of a cop who tries to solve a brutal murder and keep his grip on reality while battling drug addiction, gambling debts, and familial woes.

It's not just the quality of Herzog's films that's made him a favorite of movie buffs; Herzog has become legendary for his exploits both on and off the set. He once promised to eat his shoe if Errol Morris ever finished his documentary Gates of Heaven, and followed up on the bet when filming was completed. He was shot by an air rifle on the grounds of his home while doing an interview with the BBC. During the making of Fitzcarraldo, filming was interrupted by a border dispute between Ecuador and Peru; two members of his crew survived plane crashes; his original leading man, Jason Robards, was hospitalized halfway through shooting, and Robards' replacement, the legendary Klaus Kinski, was so combative on the set that a group of native extras asked Herzog if they could kill him (these and other tales are detailed in Herzog's documentary, My Best Fiend), and engineers told him it was impossible to pull a steamship over the side of a hill with the system of ropes and pulleys he was using -- and Herzog proved them wrong. Even his latest release has generated its share of controversy: Abel Ferrara, the director of the original Bad Lieutenant, said he hoped the makers of Port of Call: New Orleans would die in an explosion -- despite the fact that Herzog says the film is not a remake, since he's never seen Ferrara's movie.

In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Herzog shared some of his favorite films, and discussed his attraction to film noir, how his films are "secretly mainstream," and the differences between working with Nicolas Cage and Klaus Kinski.


Freaks (1932, 95% Tomatometer)
Freaks One might be Freaks by Tod Browning. Oh, you just have to look at it. It's just formidable, it's phenomenal. You've gotta see it. It would take me an hour to explain.



Intolerance (1916, 95% Tomatometer)
Intolerance Everything that [D.W.] Griffith made: Broken Blossoms, Intolerance, Birth of a Nation, you just name it. Everything. He's the Shakespeare of cinema. Period. Watch his films and you'll know instantly.



Where Is the Friend's Home (1989, 100% Tomatometer)
Where Is the Friend's Home Some Iranian films, like Where Is the Friend's Home by Abbas Kiarostami. There's quite a lot of [great Iranian] films.



Rashomon (1950, 100% Tomatometer)
Rashomon It is probably the only film that I've ever seen which has something like a perfect balance, which does not occur in filmmaking very often. You sense it sometimes in great music, but I haven't experienced it in cinema, and it's mind boggling. I don't know how [Akira] Kurosawa did it. It's still a mystery to me. That's greatness.



Nosferatu (1922, 98% Tomatometer)
Nosferatu RT: I wanted to let you know that Rotten Tomatoes released our list of the best reviewed vampire films of all time, and your version of Nosferatu was number three.

Werner Herzog: Ah, and which is number one and two?

The original Nosferatu...

Oh yeah, that has to be number one, of course.

...and Let the Right One In.

It's okay. I do not need to occupy number two, three, four, and five.

What was the impulse to remake Nosferatu?

Well, I needed to connect to the great films of the grandfather generation, because our parents, our father generation, was a complete disaster and many of them sided with the barbarism of the Nazis. Somehow, you can only really make films embedded in the history of your own culture, and history was disrupted dramatically by the most barbaric regime you can ever find anywhere. So for me it was important to get some solid ground under my feet, connect with the grandfathers, connect with the greatest of them, and in my opinion, the greatest of great films is Nosferatu by [F.W.] Murnau, which I should include in the greatest five films of all time.

Next, Herzog talks about creating working with Nicolas Cage vs. working with Klaus Kinski, and what he thinks of critics.

Comments

Dave J

Dave J

I was always anticapating what Herzog's five favorites are and my prayers have finally been answered- I can almost see a striking resemblance between his list of five movies and the ones he makes. It's really quite astonishing.

Nov 17 - 05:31 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Wow, he likes some oldies, nothing made in the last 20 years and even that seems an aberration because the next youngest on is almost 60. It's an interesting comment about Iranian cinema, one would not think a place where the govt has so much control over all forms of media would have such an abundance. Definately an original list and I gotta say as a lover of films old and new he definately knows quality in the old films, though a bit of elaboration would have been nice considering how anticipated this list is.

Nov 17 - 05:47 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

P.S. where's the second page? It keeps taking me back to the first when I click it.

Nov 17 - 05:50 PM

King Kubrick

Travis Earl

Herzog is win. I haven't much time for rt lately but I had to comment on this. One of the best list yet. A true master knows to look to the classic for inspiration and instruction on how to do things right.

Nov 17 - 05:56 PM

AntonChigurh

Chris Scharlau

No Godfather or Citizen Kane in sight. Good. He has my not-a-hack seal of approval! And Rashomon rules.

Nov 17 - 06:05 PM

John D.

John Debono

Personally I think your missing the point with the Favorites list, I have no problem with Citizen Kane or The Godfather being on a list. It just needs to make sense seeing the director's work on screen. I mean I believe Emmerich having Godfather on his list is like Jim Jarmusch having Transformers on his, its just doesn't make any freaking sense considering their ambitions don't strive towards that. That is what is great about Herzog's list, you can understand from these choices what inspires him as an artist.

Nov 17 - 07:07 PM

AntonChigurh

Chris Scharlau

Well said johnD. You put what I was thinking into context.

Nov 18 - 09:02 AM

thetruebastard

bart barker

I agree this is an interesting list, but only an idiot would assume a director is a hack because he or she considers Citizen Kane or The Godfather a favorite.

Just to illustrate how ****ing dumb you are, The Godfather was one of Kubrick's favorite films. What a damn hack, amirite??????? lol!!!11

Nov 18 - 07:19 AM

AntonChigurh

Chris Scharlau

Go **** yourself.

Nov 18 - 12:07 PM

John D.

John Debono

@ thetruebastard
Once again I think that you are missing the point. The problem with these lists is that the majority of time you have directors making choices that don't actually represent their choices as artists. I mean I love the Godfather but it gets boring to see everyone pick that movie and annoying to see these directors mention it just for the sake of it.
If I'm going to read these lists I would respect a list that well represents the individual over lists that seem to look for approval.

Nov 18 - 05:08 PM

thetruebastard

bart barker

Once again I think that you are missing the point. The problem with these lists is that the majority of time you have directors making choices that don't actually represent their choices as artists. I mean I love the Godfather but it gets boring to see everyone pick that movie and annoying to see these directors mention it just for the sake of it.
If I'm going to read these lists I would respect a list that well represents the individual over lists that seem to look for approval.

Or maybe The Godfather is actually one of their favorite films.

Honestly, I think all of you are getting butthurt over nothing. A lot of directors really like The Godfather and Citizen Kane. Just accept it. If you think the article is boring, stop reading it.

Nov 20 - 02:59 PM

RT-Ryan

RT-Ryan .

Bigbrother, we're working on fixing the Page 2 error now. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Nov 17 - 06:08 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

No worries, I simply live to point out faults :).

Nov 17 - 06:12 PM

Pseudonym

Pseudonym Psychology

This is a Quality list of Films.

Nov 17 - 06:13 PM

Film Ninja

Toronto Dog

Herzog is brilliant and his choices are great. Rashomon is one of my favorites too.

Nov 17 - 06:14 PM

inactive user

Jared King

Interesting choices. Makes sense for Herzog.

Nov 17 - 06:16 PM

AntonChigurh

Chris Scharlau

On the front page of the site there is a picture of Herzog next to Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol. They must have been seperated at birth or something...

Nov 17 - 06:18 PM

RT-Ryan

RT-Ryan .

The Page 2 issue has been solved. And thanks, Bigbrother; if it weren't for conscientious users like yourself pointing out all our flaws, where would RT be? ;-)

Nov 17 - 06:23 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Probably living on the street, but it's ok. A large cash reward is thanks enough for me :)

Nov 17 - 06:55 PM

Bharat N.

Bharat Nayak

Brilliant list from a brilliant director.

Nov 17 - 06:45 PM

Bharat N.

Bharat Nayak

Brilliant list from a brilliant director.

Nov 17 - 06:47 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Probably living on the street, but it's ok. A large cash reward is thanks enough for me :)

Nov 17 - 06:55 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Kinda wished the second page hadn't worked now. In the first comment he kinda takes a swipe at the RT faithful and praises Nicholas Cage. Two things I can't abide...but seriously, interesting interview. Thanks RT.

Nov 17 - 07:02 PM

John D.

John Debono

Personally I think your missing the point with the Favorites list, I have no problem with Citizen Kane or The Godfather being on a list. It just needs to make sense seeing the director's work on screen. I mean I believe Emmerich having Godfather on his list is like Jim Jarmusch having Transformers on his, its just doesn't make any freaking sense considering their ambitions don't strive towards that. That is what is great about Herzog's list, you can understand from these choices what inspires him as an artist.

Nov 17 - 07:07 PM

AntonChigurh

Chris Scharlau

Well said johnD. You put what I was thinking into context.

Nov 18 - 09:02 AM

IrreducibleKoan

Sean Pak

Freaks is a great, great movie. Very glad he mentioned it.

Nov 17 - 08:30 PM

Keith H.

Keith Hernandez

Yes about time someone didn't mention all of the old and common listed movies on this. Great list!

Nov 17 - 08:35 PM

josuepilk

Josue Pilk

"So in a way, I think I've always been mainstream, and some of the big Hollywood movies seem to me bizarre and marginal in contrast to me, as if I were the center and they were all bizarre and marginal."

That may be the best quote ever posted on this site.

Nov 17 - 09:08 PM

corina f.

corina flatley

My thoughts exactly! This is what Center tells to The Margins every night before bedtime...
And the fact he added Rashomon to his five list makes him all the more endearing to me.

Nov 20 - 10:47 AM

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