'Aguirre, the Wrath of God' (1972)
Man and nature, the primal conflict in nearly all Herzog films, finds its fullest, fiercest expression in this tale of conquistadors, colonization and cracked minds. Following a 16th-century Spanish explorer (Klaus Kinski) as he leads a doomed expedition in search of the fabled El Dorado, the director's breakthrough movie is filled with breathtaking visuals – that winding-through-the-Andes long shot! – and was the first of what would be a long, fruitful and volatile series of collaborations between the auteur and the actor. (The director would later threaten to shoot his leading man, and then himself, when Kinski declared he was leaving the movie midway through production.) And it features what is still the single best madness-and-monkeys climax ever.