Documentary The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time  

Ranker Film
222 votes 39 voters 1.3k views 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.

list ordered by

1
10 4
Albert and David Maysles is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Gimme Shelter, Psychiatry in Russia, Christo’s Valley Curtain

2
10 5
Ken Burns is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
The Simpsons, Baseball, The Civil War

3
9 5
Charles H. Ferguson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Inside Job, No End in Sight

4
9 5
Errol Morris is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, The Thin Blue Line, Standard Operating Procedure

5
9 6
Michael Moore is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, Roger & Me

6
8 5
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Cave of Forgotten Dreams

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

8
5 2
Marcel Ophüls is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
The Sorrow and the Pity, Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, The Memory of Justice

9
4 2
John Pilger is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
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
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
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
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
Rome, The World Is Not Enough, Spies Like Us

14
3 2
Alain Resnais is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Night and Fog, Last Year at Marienbad, Hiroshima mon amour

15
4 4
Jehane Noujaim is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Control Room, Startup.com, The Square

16
4 4
Deeyah is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Banaz a Love Story

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

18
2 2
Chris Marker is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
12 Monkeys, La Jetée, Night and Fog

19
5 6
Alex Gibney is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Freakonomics

20
4 5
D. A. Pennebaker is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dont Look Back, The War Room, Startup.com

21
2 3
Claude Lanzmann is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Shoah, Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, Sobibór

22
2 3
Stan Brakhage is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Cannibal! The Musical, In the Mirror of Maya Deren, The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes

23
1 2
Ondi Timoner is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dig!, Join Us, Cool It

24
1 2
Steve James is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Hoop Dreams, Prefontaine, 30 for 30

25
1 3
Les Blank is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Burden of Dreams, Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers, All in This Tea

26
1 3
Godfrey Reggio is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi

27
1 3
James Benning is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Easy Rider, Pig Iron, RR

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