best film:  Aguirre, the Wrath of God is the 31st best film of all-time and it is Herzog’s masterpiece. Kinski has actually been in some sneaky-good films outside of his famous collaborations with Herzog (Doctor Zhivago, For a Few Dollars More) but it’s Fitzcarraldo that gives Aguirre the closet  run for its money as Kinski’s best work. Still, Aguirre pervades. Herzog’s haunting jungle experience is one of the most purely ambitious films of all-time (Fitzcarraldo would be one of the main rivals for that) and I admire that so much about Herzog.

best performance: Aguirre, the Wrath of God with again Fitzcarraldo as second. Actually it’s that trio of performances at the top that put Kinski so high up on this list despite the limited filmography. It’s impossible to picture an actor half as eerie (and just flat crazy) as Kinski and to pull off “Don Lope de Aguirre”. He’s terrifying– lost in his monomania.

stylistic innovations/traits: Kinski’s bug-eyes and distinct features make for a perfectly odd vehicle for Herzog’s explorations on obsession and ambition,. You could describe him as unnerving, mesmerizing, and disturbing for sure. He was a fine character actor in Italy and Hollywood during the 60’s and 70’s but it’s his collaboration with Herzog that will be remembered 50 and 100 years from now. Kinski could really only play a madman—but madmen make for such riveting viewing and there’s really nobody better. He gives one of the 5 best male performances of both the 1970’s and the 1980’s.

directors worked with:   Herzog (5) and you can’t overstate the importance of this collaboration. The other names here below Kinski worked with once a piece (Sirk, Lean, Leone, Wilder) are misleading because Kinski isn’t crucial to any of these films. In his five films with Herzog he’s the film’s soul, almost always on screen, and the star.

Top 10 Performances:

  1. Aguirre, the Wrath of God
  2. Fitzcarraldo
  3. Nosferatu the Vampyre
  4. Cobra Verde
  5. Woyzeck
  6. The Great Silence
  7. Doctor Zhivago
  8. For a Few Dollars More
  9. Buddy Buddy
  10. A Time to Love and a Time to Die

Archiveable films

1958- A Time to Love and a Time to Die
1965- Doctor Zhivago
1965- For a Few Dollars More
1968- The Great Silence
1972- Aguirre, Wrath of God
1979- Woyzeck
1979- Nosferatu the Vampyre
1981- Buddy, Buddy
1982- Fitzcarraldo
1987- Cobra Verde