Influential The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time  

Ranker Film
205 votes 33 voters 28 items

List Rules Vote up the most important and influential documentarians of all time.

Much like the films themselves, the influential documentarians on this list have changed people's viewpoints and perspective across the world—always for the better. Whether they set out to expose underlying truths about controversial subjects or simply want to show the real lives of various celebrities, these famous filmmakers have an eye for the interesting most others don't possess. Moreover, they document some of the most important sociological and economical issues throughout the world's history—and create some of the most life-changing documentaries.

Of course, it's not just the subjects that make these documentary directors so influential, but it's their approach that affect both viewers and other filmmakers. In other words, the world's most influential documentarians set the standard for documentaries, pioneering the way in which we document important topics and issues. With this, the films they've made stand the test of time and go down as the greatest documentaries ever made.

Now, take a look at the most important documentary filmmakers of all time and cast your votes to determine who were and are the most important. If you think someone should be on the list, go ahead and add them.

1
8 3
Ken Burns is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Ken Burns The Simpsons, Baseball, The Civil War

2
9 4
Charles H. Ferguson is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Charles H. Ferguson Inside Job, No End in Sight

3
8 4
Errol Morris is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Errol Morris The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, The Thin Blue Line, Standard Operating Procedure

4
8 4
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Werner Herzog Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Cave of Forgotten Dreams

5
8 4
Albert and David Maysles is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Albert and David Maysles Gimme Shelter, Psychiatry in Russia, Christo’s Valley Curtain

6
9 6
Michael Moore is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Michael Moore Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, Roger & Me

7
5 2
Marcel Ophüls is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Marcel Ophüls The Sorrow and the Pity, Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, The Memory of Justice

8
7 5
Eugene Jarecki is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Eugene Jarecki Freakonomics, Why We Fight, Reagan

9
4 2
John Pilger is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
John Pilger The War on Democracy, The War You Don't See, Vietnam: The Last Battle

10
4 2
Jean Rouch is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Jean Rouch Madame L'Eau, Six in Paris, Little by Little

11
5 4
Frederick Wiseman is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Frederick Wiseman Titicut Follies, Boxing Gym, Hospital

12
5 4
Oliver Stone is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Oliver Stone Platoon, JFK, Natural Born Killers

13
3 2
Michael Apted is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Michael Apted Rome, The World Is Not Enough, Spies Like Us

14
5 5
Alex Gibney is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Alex Gibney Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Freakonomics

Ways That 'Akira' Is Far More Influential Than You Think

15
4 4
Deeyah is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Deeyah Banaz a Love Story

16
4 4
Jehane Noujaim is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Jehane Noujaim Control Room, Startup.com, The Square

17
2 2
Peter Watkins is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Peter Watkins The War Game, Culloden, Edvard Munch

18
2 2
Alain Resnais is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Alain Resnais Night and Fog, Last Year at Marienbad, Hiroshima mon amour

19
2 3
Stan Brakhage is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Stan Brakhage Cannibal! The Musical, In the Mirror of Maya Deren, The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes

20
1 2
Steve James is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Steve James Hoop Dreams, Prefontaine, 30 for 30

21
1 2
Chris Marker is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Chris Marker 12 Monkeys, La Jetée, Night and Fog

22
3 5
D. A. Pennebaker is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
D. A. Pennebaker Dont Look Back, The War Room, Startup.com

23
1 3
Godfrey Reggio is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Godfrey Reggio Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi

24
1 3
Claude Lanzmann is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Claude Lanzmann Shoah, Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, Sobibór

25
1 3
James Benning is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
James Benning Easy Rider, Pig Iron, RR

26
1 3
Les Blank is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Les Blank Burden of Dreams, Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers, All in This Tea

27
0 2
Ondi Timoner is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Ondi Timoner Dig!, Join Us, Cool It

28
1 4
Leni Riefenstahl is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Leni Riefenstahl Triumph of the Will, Olympia, The Holy Mountain