Documentaries

The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time 

Ranker Film
Updated June 26, 2018 406 votes 74 voters 2.6k 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
Ken Burns is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 65 from New York City, New York, United States of America
2
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 76 from Munich, Germany
3
Michael Moore is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 64 from Flint, Michigan, United States of America
4
Charles H. Ferguson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 63 from California
5
Albert and David Maysles... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
6
Errol Morris is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 71 from Hewlett, New York, United States of America
7
Eugene Jarecki is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
8
John Pilger is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 79 from Sydney, Australia
9
Oliver Stone is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 72 from New York City, Area code 917, Contiguous United States, New York, United States of America, United States, with Territories, Continental United States
10
Marcel Ophüls is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 91 from Frankfurt, Germany
11
Frederick Wiseman is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 89 from Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
12
Chris Marker is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dec. at 91 (1921-2012) from Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, France
13
Jean Rouch is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dec. at 87 (1917-2004) from Paris, France
14
Steve James is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 64 from Hampton
15
Jehane Noujaim is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 44 from Washington, D.C.
16
Alex Gibney is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 65 from New York City, New York, United States of America
17
D. A. Pennebaker is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 93 from Evanston, Illinois, United States of America
18
Alain Resnais is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dec. at 92 (1922-2014) from Vannes, France
19
Michael Apted is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 78 from England, Aylesbury
20
Peter Watkins is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 83 from Norbiton, London, United Kingdom
21
Claude Lanzmann is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 93 from Île-de-France, Europe, Metropolitan France, France, Paris
22
Les Blank is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dec. at 78 (1935-2013) from Tampa, Florida
23
Stan Brakhage is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dec. at 70 (1933-2003) from Kansas City, Missouri, United States of America
24
Deeyah is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 41 from Oslo, Norway
25
Godfrey Reggio is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Age 79 from USA, New Orleans, Louisiana