The use of documentaries in presidential campaigns dates all the way back to 1896 (alongside the rise of moving pictures) with a one-minute 68mm film showing William McKinley receiving news of winning the Republican nomination.

It would, however, take another 50 years before presidential infomercials and biographies became standard procedure for the campaigns.

The documentary medium saw its most prominent, pivotal and hostile usage in the 2004 American presidential campaigns. Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, released in June of 2004, was the first of a slew of partisan documentaries released that year. It was followed by the likes of George W. Bush: Faith in the White House and a series of conflicting documentaries on the truth of John Kerry’s military record.

This year has already been marked by a controversial anti-Romney film, King of Bain: When Romney Came to Town, created by Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC. The film was immediately rebuked by Gingrich himself, who said that the documentary was full of factual errors and should be taken down or corrected.

This year, a documentary by Davis Guggenheim (Waiting for “Superman”, An Inconvenient Truth) marks the introduction of President Barack Obama into the 2012 election. The film, The Road We’ve Traveled, chronicles the president’s first term in office. We bring you 10 of the most effective campaign documentaries produced in the midst of presidential election races.

View the video gallery of election-year documentaries »

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Kapish Singla is a Winter 2012 intern with POV Digital. He has previously interned at Cinereach and Rooftop Films. He holds a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University in anthropology.