Documentary The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time  

Ranker Film
260 votes 53 voters 1.9k 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
13 5
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Cave of Forgotten Dreams
2
11 4
Albert and David Maysles is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Gimme Shelter, Psychiatry in Russia, Christo’s Valley Curtain
3
15 8
Ken Burns is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
The Simpsons, Baseball, The Civil War
4
11 5
Charles H. Ferguson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Inside Job, No End in Sight
5
11 5
Errol Morris is listed (or ranked) 5 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
6
8 5
Eugene Jarecki is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Freakonomics, Why We Fight, Reagan
7
6 3
Marcel Ophüls is listed (or ranked) 7 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
8
5 2
John Pilger is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
The War on Democracy, The War You Don't See, Vietnam: The Last Battle
9
6 4
Frederick Wiseman is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Titicut Follies, Boxing Gym, Hospital
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
11 10
Michael Moore is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, Roger & Me
12
3 2
Michael Apted is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Rome, The World Is Not Enough, Spies Like Us
13
3 2
Chris Marker is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
12 Monkeys, La Jetée, Night and Fog
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
6 6
Oliver Stone is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Platoon, JFK, Natural Born Killers
16
4 4
Jehane Noujaim is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Control Room, Startup.com, The Square
17
4 4
Deeyah is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Banaz a Love Story
18
3 3
Stan Brakhage is listed (or ranked) 18 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
19
2 2
Steve James is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Hoop Dreams, Prefontaine, 30 for 30
20
2 2
Peter Watkins is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
The War Game, Culloden, Edvard Munch
21
4 5
D. A. Pennebaker is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dont Look Back, The War Room, Startup.com
22
3 4
Claude Lanzmann is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Shoah, Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, Sobibór
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
5 7
Alex Gibney is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Freakonomics
25
2 4
Leni Riefenstahl is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Triumph of the Will, Olympia, The Holy Mountain