A lifelong critic of French colonialism, Vautier is best known for "Avoir 20 ans dans les Aurès", which depicted young French conscripts being turned into killing machines during the Algerian war (1954-1962).
It won the international critics' prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972 but like much of his work, it brought him into conflict with French authorities.
Many of his films were banned by the establishment and one - "Africa 50" which is seen as the first French anti-colonial film - even landed him one year in prison.
"Africa 50" denounced the crimes of the French army and the lack of education afforded to the natives of French colonies. It was banned for 40 years.
"René Vautier was a politically engaged film-maker when censorship reigned. He
was one of the just." said Gilles Jacob, the former president of the Cannes festival.
The war in Algeria, on which he made nearly a dozen films, was at the heart of Vautier's oeuvre.