An influential figure in the New German Cinema movement, he has directed a number of films across many genres and styles. His best known feature films include Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and Fitzcarraldo (1982). He also directed the documentaries Grizzly Man (2005) and Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010).
After spending just a few days in Duquesne University's film school, he began making documentaries for NASA. He then continued his studies at the University of Munich.
He received the award for Best Director at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival for his film Fitzcarraldo.
He married his third wife, photographer Lena Herzog, in 1999. He had three children from previous relationships.
The charismatic Klaus Kinski starred in a number of his films including Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Nosferatu the Vampyre.