films How Werner Herzog Would Improve Nihilistic Movies You Think Are Silly  

Ron Lechler
146 votes 61 voters 16 items Embed

List Rules Vote up the movies most in need of Herzogification.

Have you ever wondered what movies with voiceover would look and sound like without voiceover? How different would The Wolf of Wall Street be without Leonardo DiCaprio's narration? Would you even know what's going on? How much would movies without voiceover change if you added voiceover? And what if that voiceover came compliments of none other than Werner Herzog?

If you know anything about Werner Herzog, it's probably that he's an eccentric dude. Part of his mystique is his voice, an ominous, deadpan  sound you've no doubt heard if you've seen any Werner Herzog documentaries. Though you might think documentaries are tame compared to the likes of Fitzcaraldo and Aguirre, some of the most crazy Werner Herzog movies are docs. Ever seen Grizzly Man? Regarding his voiceover, there's a pretty simple formula to Werner Herzog narration:

  1. Make everything sound sad and important
  2. Over-annunciate
  3. Hiss every "S" sound
  4. Make sure everyone hears that Bavarian accent

Though Herzog often sounds as if he's heralding the arrival of the apocalypse, there's a strangely endearing quality to the way he talks. It's not just the rhythm and timbre of his voice; it's the way he makes everything sound like an eloquent fever nightmare.

Certainly, not all movies with benefit from a Herzog treatment. The films one this list ask intense philosophical questions couched in safe language. The Land Before Time, for instance. Audiences watch a cute film about dinosaurs knowing full well they suffered one of the worst holocausts the world has ever seen. What if Herzog were to make the themes of this film just a little more explicit with some choice voiceover? Well, wonder no more. All of the films on this list could benefit from Herzogification. 


The Land Before Time is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list How Werner Herzog Would Improve Nihilistic Movies You Think Are Silly
Photo:  Universal Pictures

The cruelty of nature is a driving force of the narrative in The Land Before Time, which makes the 1988 animated feature right up Herzog's alley. He might hate the naivety of all the central characters, though it's possible he'd be fond on their stubbornness, as he was of Fitzcarraldo's. If nothing else, he would appreciate the honesty of the unspeaking T-Rex.

Herzog's Narration: "The primitive trudge of these brainless creatures is an effort in futility. The Great Valley exists only in their minds. Their world is uncaring and full of venom. Escape from the bleakness of reality lies only behind the jaws of the Sharptooth."

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see more on The Land Before Time

FernGully: The Last Rainforest is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list How Werner Herzog Would Improve Nihilistic Movies You Think Are Silly
Photo: 20th Century Fox

If you've seen Burden of Dreams, the documentary about the making of Herzog's batsh*t insane Fitzcarraldo, you know the director is loves and loathes nature in equal measure. He describes the "articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity" of the jungle. Far from complimentary, but he also insists he loves the jungle against his better judgment.

Left-leaning environmentalist children's classic Ferngully: The Last Rainforest could benefit from Herzog's input on the rainforest. On the one hand, it could teach children a few important things about the world they live in. On the other hand, a little  Herzog sauce on this bleeding-heart fable might help us all feel a little less guilty when the rain forests are gone, the ice caps are melted, and the world is a desert wasteland. 

Check out the FernGully trailer overdubbed with Herzog's ruminations on nature:

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see more on FernGully: The Last Rainforest

Homeward Bound: The Incredible... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list How Werner Herzog Would Improve Nihilistic Movies You Think Are Silly
Photo:  Buena Vista Pictures

Herzog's Grizzly Man echoes children's classic Homeward Bound in a few ways: (1) It has a bear; and, (2) More generally speaking, there's a lot of untamed nature. Aside from these cosmetic similarities, the subject matter of Homeward Bound would certainly appeal to Herzog's preoccupation with the brutality nature. There are several bleak, dire moments in the film. "Bleak" and "dire" is pretty much how Herzog describes the world.

Herzog's Narration: "The sting of porcupines reminds the beast that none of us are entitled to safety. Control is an illusion. It haunts us from a distance without letting us grasp it. It eludes us like our own sense of belonging. We are all bound for home, but home does not want us."

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see more on Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

The Fly is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list How Werner Herzog Would Improve Nihilistic Movies You Think Are Silly
Photo:  20th Century Fox

David Cronenberg's classic remake of The Fly features Jeff Goldblum in the central role of scientist Seth Brundle, who undergoes a King Lear-esque descent into madness and an equally tumultuous physical transformation (into a fly, if you hadn't figured that out). Cronenberg explores many of his themes without making them explicit through dialogue, leaving a lot to be inferred. Given the pervasive visual illiteracy of the film-going public, it's likely many missed some of the deeper points made in the picture. 

The ideas of self and identity, both explored in The Fly, are dear to Herzog's heart; he addresses them frequently in his films. He would probably be especially enamored with Brundle's fascination with his own physical transformation.

Herzog's Narration: "I descend slowly into the abyss of my own mind and identity. I crawl across the ceiling and my shuffling steps break the hollow emptiness that surrounds me. Ears and teeth line the inside of my medicine cabinet, tokens and talismans of my eroded self. I die as I lived, an abomination of my own design."

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see more on The Fly