Born Klaus Nakszynski in Poland on October 18, 1926, actor Klaus Kinski's family left Poland during the Great Depression and settled in Germany. At the age of 17, he joined the German armed forces, seeing combat and becoming a prisoner of war before he turned 18. (Kinski later claimed that he deserted the army and allowed himself to be captured by a British soldier. It is impossible to determine which version of the story is factual.) He took an interest in acting while in a British POW camp as a morale booster for his fellow inmates. Returning to Berlin following the war, Kinski learned that his mother and father had perished, while his sister and brothers had survived the war. With no other prospects, he embarked upon an acting career, which didn't really take off until the mid 1950s in German cinema. He quickly developed a reputation as an intense, albeit volatile, actor, which helped him land a role in his first big film, the Universal-International war picture A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958; with John Gavin and Jock Mahoney). By the early 1960s, he made a name for himself in Germany, acting in a string of B movies based on the crime novels of Edgar Wallace written largely in the 1920s, beginning with The Avenger (1960) and ending with Again the Ringer (1965).

Klaus KinskiNastassja Kinski and Klaus Kinski

LEFT: Late 1960s portrait of Klaus Kinski. RIGHT: With his second daughter, actress Nastassja Kinski, in 1978

In 1965, Kinski broke out with roles in Doctor Zhivago (1965; with Omar Sharif and Julie Christie) and the popular spaghetti western For a Few Dollars More (1965; with Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef). He enjoyed a run of supporting and starring roles in successful films, including Killer's Carnival (1966; with Stewart Granger and Lex Barker) and Five Golden Dragons (1967; with Robert Cummings and Margaret Lee). The zenith of his acting career came in five critically acclaimed, low-budget films he made with director Werner Herzog: Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979; with Isabelle Adjani), Woyzeck (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982; with Claudia Cardinale), and Cobra Verde (1987). Although Kinski could be counted on to turn in great performances, he often picked scripts based on short production schedules and his salary demands, rather than production quality.

the films of klaus kinski

The Counterfeit Traitor (1962)

Klaus Kinski and William Holden

With William Holden in the Paramount thriller The Counterfeit Traitor

The Last Ride to Santa Cruz (1964)

Klaus Kinski, Mario Adorf, and Marisa Mell

From the German western The Last Ride to Santa Cruz with Mario Adorf and Marisa Mell

The Pleasure Girls (1965)

Suzanna Leigh and Klaus Kinski

Suzanna Leigh and Klaus Kinski enjoy a fling in swinging 1960s London in the drama The Pleasure Girls

That Man in Istanbul (1965)

Klaus Kinski and Horst Buchholz

Kinski threatens protagonist Horst Buchholz in the eurospy adventure That Man in Istanbul

Five Golden Dragons (1967)

Maria Perschy and Klaus Kinski

Kinski tortures Maria Perschy in the eurospy thriller Five Golden Dragons. Shot in Hong Kong, this film was produced by B movie auteur Harry Alan Towers

The Cats (1968)

Giuliano Gemma, Rita Hayworth, and Klaus Kinski

Giuliano Gemma and Klaus Kinski are brothers and partners in crime in the Warner Bros. thriller The Cats. Also pictured is Rita Hayworth, in one of her final film roles

The Night of the Assassin (1970)

Klaus Kinski

From the Italian war film The Night of the Assassin

Only the Cool (1970)

Klaus Kinski and Stéphane Audran

From the French crime thriller Only the Cool with Stéphane Audran

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)

Klaus Kinski

From Werner Herzog's adventure Aguirre: The Wrath of God, shot in Peru for $375,000

Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973)

Klaus Kinski

Kinski portrays Dr. Sturges in the Italian horror flick Death Smiles on a Murderer

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

Klaus KinskiKlaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani

LEFT: In his best horror film, Kinski portrays the vampire in Nosferatu the Vampyre, a remake of the 1922 version starring Max Schreck. RIGHT: With Isabelle Adjani

Woyzeck (1979)

Klaus Kinski

Kinski portrays the emotionally disturbed title character in Werner Herzog's drama Woyzeck

Buddy Buddy (1981)

Paula Prentiss and Klaus Kinski

With Paula Prentiss in the Billy Wilder comedy Buddy Buddy, released by MGM. This big-budget film lost money at the box office and was Wilder's last film

Android (1982)

Klaus KinskiKlaus Kinski, Don Keith Opper, and Kendra Kirchner

LEFT: As Dr. Daniel in the low-budget sci-fi outing Android, released by Roger Corman's New World Pictures. RIGHT: Kinski struggles with android Don Keith Opper after making a pass at Kendra Kirchner. Opper wrote the script for this film

Venom (1982)

Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed, and Sterling HaydenKlaus Kinski and Susan George

LEFT: With Oliver Reed and Sterling Hayden in the horror flick Venom. RIGHT: With Susan George

Timestalkers (1987)

Klaus Kinski

From the CBS made-for-TV science fiction flick Timestalkers

later years

Although Klaus Kinski acted in a variety of film genres, his horror films are arguably the most fascinating of his career. Some of his best horror roles came in Creature with the Blue Hand (1967; with Harald Leipnitz), Jess Franco's Count Dracula (1970; with Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom), and his excellent performance as the title character in Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979; with Isabelle Adjani).

At times notoriously difficult to work with, Kinski frequently alienated himself from directors, other actors, and even his own family. He furthered this alienation when his autobiography, All I Need is Love, was published in English in 1988. Among others, Marlene Dietrich threatened to sue him for libel, and a copyright dispute between the German and English publishing companies saw the book pulled out of circulation. The revised version, titled Kinski Uncut, was published posthumously. He ended his acting career with the biodrama Kinski Paganini (1989), a film he wrote, directed, and starred in. Sadly, Klaus Kinski passed away from a heart attack in Marin County, California, on November 23, 1991, at the age of 65. He was survived by two daughters, actresses Pola and Nastassja Kinski, and his son, actor Nikolai Kinski.

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Kinski Paganini (1989) with Nikolai Kinski and Marcel Marceau
Prince Of The Night (1988) with Christopher Plummer and Donald Pleasence
Grandi cacciatori (1988) with Harvey Keitel
Cobra Verde (1987) with Jose Lewgoy
Timestalkers (1987) with William Devane, Lauren Hutton, John Ratzenberger, and Forrest Tucker
Crawlspace (1986) with Talia Balsam and Tane McClure
Revenge of the Stolen Stars (1986) with Barry Hickey
Star Knight (1985) with Harvey Keitel and Fernando Rey
Commando Leopard (1985) with Lewis Collins
Creature (1985) with Stan Ivar, Wendy Schaal, and Lyman Ward
The Little Drummer Girl (1984) with Diane Keaton
Code Name: Wild Geese (1984) with Lewis Collins, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, and Mimsy Farmer
The Secret Diary of Sigmund Freud (1984) with Bud Cort, Carol Kane, Marisa Berenson, Carroll Baker, and Dick Shawn
Android (1982) with Norbert Weisser
The Soldier (1982) with Ken Wahl
Fitzcarraldo (1982) with Claudia Cardinale and José Lewgoy
Love & Money (1982) with Ray Sharkey, Armand Assante, and King Vidor
Buddy Buddy (1981) with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Paula Prentiss, and Dana Elcar
Venom (1981) with Oliver Reed, Sterling Hayden, Susan George, and Michael Gough
Fruits of Passion (1981)
Schizoid (1980) with Donna Wilkes, Marianna Hill, and Craig Wasson
La femme enfant (1980)
Haine (1980) with Maria Schneider
Woyzeck (1979) with Eva Mattes
Zoo Zero (1979)
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) with Isabelle Adjani
The Song of Roland (1978) with Alain Cuny
Death of a Corrupt Man (1977) with Alain Delon
Operation Thunderbolt (1977) with Sybil Danning
The French Woman (1977) with Murray Head
Golden Night (1976)
Jack the Ripper (1976) with Josephine Chaplin
The Net (1975) with Mel Ferrer
A Genius, Two Friends, and an Idiot (1975) with Terence Hill, Patrick McGoohan, and Rik Battaglia
Lifespan (1975) with Hiram Keller and Tina Aumont
Return of Shanghai Joe (1975) with Karin Field
That Most Important Thing: Love (1975) with Romy Schneider and Fabio Testi
Le orme (1975) with Florinda Bolkan and John Karlsen
Eroi all'inferno (1974)
The Hand That Feeds the Dead (1974) with Katia Christine
Who Stole the Shah’s Jewels? (1974) with Terry-Thomas and Gregory Walcott
Shanghai Joe (1973) with Gordon Mitchell and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
The Bloody Hands of the Law (1973) with Cyril Cusack
Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973) with Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) with Helena Rojo
A Noose Is Waiting for You Trinity (1972) with George Martin
A Fistful of Death (1971) with Gordon Mitchell
Black Killer (1971)
Eye of the Spider (1971) with Antonio Sabato, Van Johnson, and Lucretia Love
Price Of Death (1971)
Web of the Spider (1971) with Anthony Franciosa, Michele Mercier, Karin Field, and Raf Baldassarre
Death's Dealer (1971)
Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dead (1971) with Paolo Casella
Slaughter Hotel (1971) with Margaret Lee, Rosalba Neri, and John Karlsen
His Name Was King (1971) with Richard Harrison
Coffin Full of Dollars (1971) with Jeff Cameron, Jack Betts, and Gordon Mitchell
The Beast (1970) with Paolo Casella
Churchill's Leopards (1970) with Richard Harrison, Helga Line, and Massimo Righi
The Night of the Assassin (1970) with Michael Craig, Eva Renzi, Adolfo Celi, George Sanders, Margaret Lee, and Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
Only the Cool (1970) with Lilli Palmer, Michel Constantin, and Noëlle Adam
Count Dracula (1970) with Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom
And God Said to Cain (1970) with Peter Carsten
The Naughty Cheerleader (1970) with Barbi Benton, Broderick Crawford, and Lionel Stander
Sartana the Gravedigger (1969) with Gianni Garko and Gordon Mitchell
Venus in Furs (1969) with James Darren, Barbara McNair, Dennis Price, and Margaret Lee
Salt in the Wound (1969) with George Hilton
Gangster's Law (1969) with Helene Chanel
Double Face (1969) with Christiane Kruger, Sydney Chaplin, and Margaret Lee
They Were Called Graveyard (1969) with Antonio Sabato
Deadly Sanctuary (1969) with Maria Rohm, Akim Tamiroff, Mercedes McCambridge, Horst Frank, and Sylva Koscina
5 for Hell (1969) with Gianni Garko, Margaret Lee, and Samson Burke
The Great Silence (1968) with Vonetta McGee and Raf Baldassarre
The Cats (1968) with Rita Hayworth, Giuliano Gemma, Margaret Lee, and Claudine Auger
The Vatican Affair (1968) with Walter Pidgeon
Pride and Vengeance (1968) with Franco Nero and Tina Aumont
If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968) with Gianni Garko, William Berger, Sydney Chaplin, and Andrea Scotti
Coplan Saves His Skin (1968) with Margaret Lee
Psychopath (1968) with George Martin and Karin Field
The Ruthless Four (1968) with Van Heflin, Gilbert Roland, and George Hilton
Grand Slam (1967) with Janet Leigh, Adolfo Celi, and Edward G. Robinson
Five Golden Dragons (1967) with Robert Cummings, Margaret Lee, Maria Rohm, Brian Donlevy, Dan Duryea, Christopher Lee, George Raft, and Maria Perschy
The Million Eyes of Su-Muru (1967) with Frankie Avalon, George Nader, Shirley Eaton, Wilfrid Hyde-White, and Maria Rohm
Creature with the Blue Hand (1967) with Harald Leipnitz
A Bullet for the General (1966) with Martine Beswick
Target for Killing (1966) with Stewart Granger, Karin Dor, Curd Jurgens, Adolfo Celi, Scilla Gabel, and Molly Peters
Killer's Carnival (1966) with Stewart Granger, Lex Barker, Pierre Brice, Karin Dor, and Margaret Lee
Bang! Bang! You're Dead! (1966) with Tony Randall, Senta Berger, Terry-Thomas, Herbert Lom, Wilfrid Hyde-White, and Margaret Lee
Psycho-Circus (1966) with Christopher Lee, Margaret Lee, and Suzy Kendall
Doctor Zhivago (1965) with Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson, and Rita Tushingham
For a Few Dollars More (1965) with Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef
The Pleasure Girls (1965) with Ian McShane and Mark Eden
That Man in Istanbul (1965) with Horst Buchholz and Sylva Koscina
The Secret Agents (1965) with Henry Fonda, Robert Ryan, Vittorio Gassman, Peter van Eyck, Jacques Sernas, and Georges Marchal
Again the Ringer (1965)
Traitor's Gate (1964) with Gary Raymond and Catherine Schell
Das Geheimnis der chinesischen Nelke (1964) with Horst Frank and Brad Harris
Last of the Renegades (1964) with Lex Barker, Pierre Brice, Anthony Steel, Karin Dor, and Terence Hill
Curse of the Hidden Vault (1964) with Harald Leipnitz
Mark of the Tortoise (1964) with Hildegard Knef
The Last Ride to Santa Cruz (1964) with Edmund Purdom, Marianne Koch, and Marisa Mell
Piccadilly Zero Hour 12 (1963)
Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Witwe (1963) with Karin Dor
Kali Yug, la dea della vendetta (1963) with Lex Barker, Senta Berger, and Claudine Auger
Dr. Mabuse vs. Scotland Yard (1963) with Peter van Eyck
The Indian Scarf (1963) with Corny Collins
The Black Abbot (1963)
The Black Cobra (1963)
The Squeaker (1963)
Die Mondvögel (1963)
The Inn on the River (1962)
The Door with Seven Locks (1962)
Der rote Rausch (1962)
The Counterfeit Traitor (1962) with William Holden, Lilli Palmer, and Hugh Griffith
Secret of the Red Orchid (1962) with Christopher Lee and Marisa Mell
The Strange Countess (1961) with Lil Dagover
The Curve (1961)
Bankraub in der Rue Latour (1961) with Curd Jurgens
The Devil's Daffodil (1961) with Christopher Lee
Dead Eyes of London (1961)
The Avenger (1960)
A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) with John Gavin, Liselotte Pulver, Jock Mahoney, Don DeFore, and Keenan Wynn
Corinna Darling (1956)
Waldwinter (1956) with Gert Frobe
Sarajevo (1955)
Hanussen (1955) with Liselotte Pulver
Children, Mother, and the General (1955)
Ludwig II: Glanz und Ende eines Königs (1955) with Marianne Koch
Morituri (1948)

The Hitchhiker, episode Lovesounds, originally aired November 13, 1984
Faerie Tale Theatre, episode Beauty and the Beast, originally aired August 13, 1984

klaus kinski film now showing

Watch Klaus Kinski in the 1963 crime drama Der Zinker (aka The Squeaker)
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This page premiered October 5, 2012.