Werner Herzog is a self-taught German [director](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-a-movie-director-the-responsibilities-of-a-film-director-and-tips-on-directing-actors), filmmaker, screenwriter, actor, and opera director. Born in 1942 and raised in Munich, Werner Herzog grew up impoverished and didn’t see his first film until he was 11 years old—in fact, he didn’t even know cinema existed. His film education came from studiously watching films from around the globe. \n\nWerner Herzog did not go to film school but learned filmmaking by studying films and story on his own. His first film, *Signs of Life*, was released in 1968, and Werner soon garnered a reputation as a groundbreaker. Films such as *Rescue Dawn*, *Encounters at the End of the World*, and *Queen of the Desert* depict people pushed to their psychological extremes, lead characters with impossible dreams, people with odd talents, or protagonists caught in conflict. \n\nWerner Herzog is among the leading figures of New German Cinema. Inspired by French New Wave, New German Cinema was a 1960s movement of emerging directors working on low-budget films for art-house audiences. Although Werner’s style has evolved significantly over the course of his lengthy career, Werner often uses unusual [casting](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-cast-a-film) as well as controversial techniques to get the desired performance from actors. Werner Herzog has made more than 70 films and won over 50 awards; as an actor, he has appeared in Disney’s *The Mandalorian*, *The Simpsons*, and *Jack Reacher*.\nWerner Herzog’s filmography includes more than 70 feature films and documentaries over the course of his 50-plus-year career. Film scholars have studied his extensive canon of films for decades, including: \n\n1. __*Even Dwarfs Started Small* (1970)__: This early Werner Herzog film is a comedy-drama centered on a community of dwarfs confined in an institution on a remote island. Tormented by the institution’s guards, the dwarfs stage a rebellion.\n2. __*Fata Morgana* (1971)__: Originally shot in 1968 and 1969, this Werner Herzog film is a meditation on desert mirages in a science fiction context.\n3. __*Aguirre, the Wrath of God* (1972)__: The epic historical drama follows Spanish soldier Lope de Aguirre as he and a cadre of conquistadors travel down the Amazon River in search of the legendary city of El Dorado.\n4. __*The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser* (1974)__: The drama follows Kaspar Hauser, a German youth who lived in total isolation for 17 years. The film is a dramatization using Hauser’s letters as reference and stars German actor-musician Bruno S. \n5. __*Heart of Glass* (1976)__: Set in eighteenth-century Bavaria, Werner Herzog’s film follows a local baron who believes the ruby glass made in a local factory has magical properties. When the master glassblower dies, the baron descends into madness.\n6. __*Stroszek* (1977)__: In this tragicomedy, a street performer is released from prison in Berlin and joins an elderly sex worker on a quest to leave Germany for a better life in Wisconsin.\n7. __*Nosferatu the Vampyre* (1979)__: This horror film is a remake of the F.W. Murnau’s 1922 German film *Nosferatu* and is set in nineteenth-century Germany and Transylvania.\n8. __*Fitzcarraldo* (1982)__: This historical action-adventure film follows a rubber baron who wants to access a rich rubber territory in Peru’s Amazon Basin. Werner Herzog won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival the same year.\n9. __*Invincible* (2001)__: Tim Roth stars in this drama about a Jewish strongman passing as Aryan in 1930s Berlin.\n10. __*Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans*__ (2009): Starring Nicolas Cage, this crime drama set in the United States follows an addict detective investigating the killing of five Senegalese immigrants following Hurricane Katrina.\n11. __*Salt and Fire* (2016)__: This thriller follows three scientists who are kidnapped after traveling to Bolivia for an ecological emergency.\n12. __*Family Romance*, LLC (2019)__: A Japanese-language drama about a man who is hired to impersonate a young girl’s missing father.\nThroughout his career, Werner Herzog has produced and directed documentaries. Films such as *Into the Abyss*, *Into the Inferno* and *Land of Silence and Darkness* tackle lesser-known communities and complex characters. Werner’s documentaries include:\n\n1. __*Lessons of Darkness* (1992)__: This documentary depicts devastated oil fields in Kuwait following the Gulf War. Werner Herzog shot the documentary on 16mm film with few interviews or explanatory narration.\n2. __*Little Dieter Needs to Fly* (1997)__: In this documentary, Herzog follows US naval pilot Dieter Dengler as he revisits his capture and eventual escape from the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.\n3. __*My Best Fiend* (1999)__: This documentary unpacks Werner Herzog’s volatile but productive relationship with German actor Klaus Kinski.\n4. __*Grizzly Man* (2005)__: Werner Herzog’s documentary chronicles the true story of grizzly bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell, who died as a result of an encounter with a bear in 2003.\n5. __*Encounters at the End of the World* (2007)__: Werner travels to Antarctica to document the people and locales of the continent.\n6. __*Cave of Forgotten Dreams* (2010)__: In this documentary, Werner Herzog provides rare access into the Chauvet Cave in France, which houses the world’s oldest surviving paintings.\n7. __*Happy People: A Year in the Taiga* (2010)__: Werner provided narration for this film about the lives of people living in an isolated village in the eastern Siberian taiga. \n8. __*Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin* (2019)__: The director follows seminal travel writer Bruce Chatwin, a nomad and the author of *In Patagonia*.\n9. __*Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds* (2020)__: Co-directed by Clive Oppenheimer, this documentary unpacks the impact of meteorites and the craters they create.\n\nThere are also documentaries about Werner Herzog’s films. In 1982, Les Blank directed *Burden of Dreams*, a film about the making of *Fitzcarraldo*.\nBecome a better filmmaker with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com). Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Werner Herzog, Ron Howard, Mira Nair, Issa Rae, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Shonda Rhimes, Jodie Foster, Martin Scorsese, and more.\nWerner Herzog is one of the most celebrated filmmakers in modern cinema, having created more than 70 films in a variety of groundbreaking styles.