The 31-year-old has previously won the Ballon d'Or three times, the last in 2014 when it had been merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year accolade.
Barcelona and Argentina's Lionel Messi finished second in this year's competition, with Atletico Madrid and France's Antoine Griezmann third.
Commenting on his triumph, Ronaldo said: "I never thought in my mind to win four times the Golden Ball, so I am so pleased and so happy.
"I have the opportunity to thank all of my team-mates, the national team, Real Madrid, all of the people and players who helped me to win this individual award.
Lionel Messi had to settle for second
"As you can imagine I feel so proud and happy to receive this amazing and beautiful ball, I am so happy."
France Football announced Ronaldo as the winner at 7pm GMT, but it had revealed the top five before the countdown.
Ronaldo's Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale, who helped drive Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, was voted in sixth place.
Some 30 players in all were put forward on the 2016 Ballon d'Or finals list, which included several players based in the English Premier League.
Leicester's title winning striker Jamie Vardy was put into the top 10 as the English forward finished in eighth place with midfielder Riyad Mahrez, the PFA Player of the Year, ranked seventh.
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