Influential The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time  

Ranker Film
212 votes 36 voters 1.1k 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
9 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
9 5
Charles H. Ferguson is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Inside Job, No End in Sight

3
8 4
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Cave of Forgotten Dreams

4
8 4
Ken Burns is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
The Simpsons, Baseball, The Civil War

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
Errol Morris is listed (or ranked) 6 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

7
5 2
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
7 5
Eugene Jarecki is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Freakonomics, Why We Fight, Reagan

9
4 2
Jean Rouch is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Madame L'Eau, Six in Paris, Little by Little

10
4 2
John Pilger is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
The War on Democracy, The War You Don't See, Vietnam: The Last Battle

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
4 4
Deeyah is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Banaz a Love Story

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
2 2
Peter Watkins is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
The War Game, Culloden, Edvard Munch

17
2 2
Alain Resnais is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Night and Fog, Last Year at Marienbad, Hiroshima mon amour

18
5 6
Alex Gibney is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Freakonomics

19
4 5
D. A. Pennebaker is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dont Look Back, The War Room, Startup.com

20
2 3
Stan Brakhage is listed (or ranked) 20 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

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

22
1 2
Ondi Timoner is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Dig!, Join Us, Cool It

23
1 2
Steve James is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Hoop Dreams, Prefontaine, 30 for 30

24
1 3
Godfrey Reggio is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi

25
1 3
James Benning is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
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
1 3
Claude Lanzmann is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Influential Documentarians of All Time
Shoah, Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, Sobibór

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