Generally favorable reviews - based on 25 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 25
  2. Negative: 0 out of 25

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Critic Reviews

  1. A supremely cranky and lyrical feat.
  2. The stunning images aren't enough for Herzog, though. He wants us to see how these quirky researchers, in their lust to explore, are acting out a drive as primitive as nature: the need to break away from the world in order to find it.
  3. 100
    It is a poem of oddness and beauty.
  4. 100
    Werner Herzog is a stranger in a strange land as soon as he gets out of bed in the morning: in this travelogue of Antarctica, his perverse curiosity and zest for the harshest extremes of nature transform what might have been a standard TV special into an idiosyncratic expression of wonder.
  5. Like many of Mr. Herzog's movies, fiction and nonfiction, Encounters at the End of the World itself has the quality of a dream: it's at once vivid and vague, easy to grasp and somehow beyond reach.
  6. 88
    A deranged penguin is seen racing toward his certain doom amid the crags of a mountain range. It may not be "Happy Feet," but Herzog has made a penguin movie after all.
  7. All this is as fascinating as it is humbling, even when Herzog ventures a little too far down eccentricity's back alley.
  8. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Does Antarctica attract dreamers or create them? It's a thread that runs throughout the film.
  9. Takes you places an ordinary documentary filmmaker might’ve gone to yet missed completely.
  10. Through Herzog's eyes it is a desolate, strangely beautiful frozen Edenish hell where the planet, having shaken out its pockets, lets the loners, fanatics and cosmologist-crackpots fall to bottom.
  11. An engaging and generous profile of the fascinating folks who have chosen to live at the end of the world.
  12. 80
    The images captured by Herzog and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger are dazzling all on their own, finding the disorienting psychedelia that is nature at its weirdest.
  13. It's as much fun to anticipate what he's (Herzog) going to say as it is to appreciate the snowy landscapes, belching volcanoes and mustachioed seals before his lens. And what could have been a conventional travelogue becomes a sort of ruminative odyssey of the mind.
  14. 80
    I also think Herzog is making a case for those crazy enough to follow their dreams, even when they take you to the end of the earth. Literally.
  15. 75
    A sort of distracted, freewheeling form of inquiry and observation drives Encounters At The End Of The World, a loosely constructed documentary that seems to have been made on a whim.
  16. 75
    Encounters may lack the power of, say, the Herzog doc "Grizzly Man," because it has no bigger-than-life character at its nexus, but it does confirm the filmmaker as an iconoclastic master.
  17. An enjoyable example of this extraordinary director's documentary work.
  18. Midway through, an eerier theme creeps in, all the more powerful for Herzog's lack of insistence. By the "end of the world" he means the end of the world.
  19. Retains considerable entertainment value on the strength of Herzog's never-dull, very personal narrating style.
  20. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Resultant picture -- one of Herzog's best and most purely enjoyable -- may lack the built-in curio factor of "Grizzly Man."
  21. 70
    Perhaps because Herzog is approaching old-master status, Encounters at the End of the World skews toward the observational. As in "Grizzly Man," his 2005 portrait of a deranged bear lover, Herzog seems at least as fascinated with other people's obsessions as his own.
  22. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    It's a loosely bound collection of miscellany filmed at the McMurdo Station, a 1,000-person settlement of researchers in Antarctica, during the five-month "austral summer" of round-the-clock sunlight. Herzog was sent to Antarctica by the National Science Foundation with carte blanche to make whatever movie he wanted--all he could tell them for sure was that it wouldn't involve penguins.
  23. 67
    You get the impression that Herzog believes wholeheartedly the planet will be better off without us. Nosferatu that we have proven ourselves to be, he may be right.
  24. 67
    It's Herzog-light, in a way -- more travelogue than dissection. But it's filled with small riches, not least of which is the director's amazing narration. Can't you just imagine him reading "Green Eggs and Ham"?
  25. Creating a hypnotically digressive travelogue, Herzog wanders from soul to soul, asking deceptively mild questions to potent effect.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 26 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 8
  2. Negative: 2 out of 8
  1. Sep 6, 2010
    I watched this documentary and was appalled that a filmmaker could take a subject matter this interesting into an terrible film. It made veryI watched this documentary and was appalled that a filmmaker could take a subject matter this interesting into an terrible film. It made very little sense and had no real point, despite the filmmakers repeated ham-fisted attempts to relate it to some overarching philosophy. His 'dry sense of humor' as some put it, consisted mainly of him asking scientists insipid questions about gay penguins wasting both their time and mine as a viewer.

    I was even more surprised to see that it had received so many awards and positive reviews.

    The one redeeming feature of this documentary is that it contains some incredible footage, and interviews with some great people which even this hack couldn't entirely destroy.

    When it comes right down to it I would actually recommend this film to people. If you manage to ignore the stupid interviewer and the poor shot selection there is some useful insight into a rarely seen side - not of Antarctica, but of the people who work there.
    Full Review »
  2. AlexH.
    Jan 31, 2009
    It doesn't work as a nature documentary, as it lacks enough footage or information to stand up to Planet Earth, or even your average It doesn't work as a nature documentary, as it lacks enough footage or information to stand up to Planet Earth, or even your average National Geographic documentary. Instead, the movie relies on half-baked philosophical musings, with about as much insight as a stoned guy rambling about humanity's inevitable extinction. Herzog's English is relatively poor, and his linguistic limitations mean he often relies on cliche, and this reveals how trite most of his ideas are. The music is intrusive and often manipulative - especially the choral pieces, which draw obvious cave/cathedral comparisons. For $5, you could rent this film. But for the same price, you could buy a joint, get your buddy stoned, and ask him about his thoughts on life. PASS. Full Review »
  3. HyperS
    Dec 1, 2008
    A documentary of sorts has two goals in my view: 1) Either entertain the audience. 2) Or spark a sense of curiosity and imagination in the A documentary of sorts has two goals in my view: 1) Either entertain the audience. 2) Or spark a sense of curiosity and imagination in the audience and educate them along the way. This film failed to do both. The film was about Antarctica, but you could have renamed it to "Alaska" or "Canada" or even "Colorado" and no one would have known the difference. Heck take a camera into a random apartment complex and interview the tenants and you'd probably get a more entertaining film. The film focused more on the more-often-than-not lackluster researchers on the continent instead of showing the audience the aura of Antarctica. Where are the exotic creatures? Inspiring underwater sequences [all but one in the film]? What no cool ice glacier canyons or anything? We got a few seconds of some Penguins [snore], a couple of starfish [snore], one clam [snore], and one jellyfish [snore]. Oh, but we got to watch them sexually assault a family of seals! I'm a fan of documentaries, but this one has no theme... no point... just random bits glued together and the pace was too slow just waiting... hoping... for anything to peek one's curiosity. I became so bored I began envisioning the narrator as Arnold Schwarzenegger just to pass the time. Save the time and just flip on the Discovery channel and watch Planet Earth or something. In 5 minutes you'll get more than this film has to offer in 1hr 40 mins. Full Review »