Werner Herzog is renowned for passionate, epic films like Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982)—works that are beautifully shot, tremendously acted, and about as fast-paced as a wet brick. Don't get me wrong: I loves me some Herzog, but the newcomer or casual fan should know that his most absorbing and entertaining films are not the films themselves, but rather the films that have been made about those films. I know. Weird.

• Burden of Dreams (1982)—Les Blank's documentary covers the infamously arduous ordeal that resulted in Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, about a man who tries to pull a giant boat over a hill. Herzog brought his crew into the South American jungle, where he actually rigged a device to pull the boat over the hill, despite being told by experts that the ropes could snap at any point, with enough force to carve a person in half. A fascinating depiction of the making of a truly odd masterpiece, proving that Herzog is one of the most relentless, dedicated artists who ever lived.

• My Best Fiend (1999)—Herzog himself made this documentary about his rocky relationship with lunatic actor Klaus Kinski. Kinski has publicly described Herzog as a "nasty, sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep." The two men have had fist fights, and when Kinski threatened to walk off the set of Aguirre, Herzog threatened him back—with a gun. Yet together they've made Herzog's most famous works, and the only works of Kinski's anyone will ever remember.

• Incident at Loch Ness (2004)—A film within a film within another film, Loch Ness has Herzog playing himself for director Zak Penn (a Hollywood writer who also plays himself). Together, they strike out to examine the legend of the Loch Ness monster, and things go tremendously, hilariously downhill from there. While Loch Ness is never quite as clever as it fancies itself to be, the brilliantly contrived film still shows Herzog to be charming, funny, and devoted—and not above making fun of himself.