The Best Episodes Directed by Ken Burns

A Strong and Active Faith (1944-1962)

#1 - A Strong and Active Faith (1944-1962)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History Season 1 - Episode 7

Frail and failing but determined to see the war through to victory, FDR wins re-election and begins planning for a peaceful postwar world, but a cerebral hemorrhage kills him at 63. After her husband’s death, Eleanor Roosevelt proves herself a shrewd politician and a skilled negotiator in her own right, as well as a champion of civil rights, civil liberties and the United Nations.

star 9.54
50 votes
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Bottom of the Tenth

#2 - Bottom of the Tenth

Baseball Season 2 - Episode 2

Ken Burns' follow-up to "Baseball" concludes with a look at dominating pitchers like Pedro Martinez, Japan's first MLB star, Ichiro Suzuki; the comfort provided by the game after the 9/11 attacks; revelations about performance-enhancing drugs; the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry; and Boston's World Series victory.

star 9.51
68 votes
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Sixth Inning: The National Pastime

#3 - Sixth Inning: The National Pastime

Baseball Season 1 - Episode 6

Sixth Inning, The National Pastime, covers the 1940s and includes Joe DiMaggio's celebrated hitting streak, the awe-inspiring performance of Ted Williams and what Burns calls "baseball's finest moment" — the debut of Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

star 9.45
78 votes
The Adventure (1956 - 1961)

#4 - The Adventure (1956 - 1961)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 9

Critics who had believed that Charlie Parker was "too much" musically, could not have welcomed the arrival of Ornette Coleman. Coleman and John Coltrane would edge jazz toward even more freedom, eventually dropping all traditional structures. While these artists alienated many listeners, Miles Davis would record the most popular jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue.

star 9.42
12 votes
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The Rising Road (1933-1939)

#5 - The Rising Road (1933-1939)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History Season 1 - Episode 5

FDR brings the same optimism and energy to the White House that his cousin Theodore displayed. Aimed at ending the Depression, his sweeping New Deal restores the people’s self-confidence and transforms the relationship between them and their government. Eleanor rejects the traditional role of first lady, becomes her husband’s liberal conscience and a sometimes controversial political force.

star 9.36
53 votes
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Ninth Inning: Home

#6 - Ninth Inning: Home

Baseball Season 1 - Episode 9

Ninth Inning, Home, looks at baseball from the 1970s to the present, including the establishment of the free agent system, the rise in player salaries, the continued expansion, the dilution of talent, the ongoing battles between labor and management and the scandals. The documentary ends with an ironic claim that baseball, and indirectly the World Series, could never be stopped. The 1994 World Series, the series to be played the year the film was aired, was canceled due to a players' strike.

star 9.35
74 votes
The Gift (1917 - 1924)

#7 - The Gift (1917 - 1924)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 2

How can one explain the genius of a Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington? Blessed with skill and talent far exceeding their peers, one can only define what they possess as a gift from the gods. These early portraits are imperative, because both figures have been so canonized that it is easy to forget the significance of their gifts.

star 9.32
50 votes
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Fifth Inning: Shadow Ball

#8 - Fifth Inning: Shadow Ball

Baseball Season 1 - Episode 5

Fifth Inning, Shadow Ball, tells the story of the Negro Leagues in the 1930s. The title refers to a common pre-game feature in which the players staged a mock game with an imaginary ball. Though unintended, the pantomime was an apt metaphor for the exclusion of blacks from major league play at that time.

star 9.27
81 votes
The Common Cause (1939-1944)

#9 - The Common Cause (1939-1944)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History Season 1 - Episode 6

FDR shatters the third-term tradition, struggles to prepare a reluctant country to enter World War II and, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, helps set the course toward Allied victory. Meanwhile, Eleanor struggles to keep New Deal reforms alive in wartime and travels the Pacific to comfort wounded servicemen.

star 9.23
56 votes
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Gumbo (Beginnings - 1917)

#10 - Gumbo (Beginnings - 1917)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 1

"Gumbo" traces the roots of jazz from the 1800s to 1917. The viewer will catch glimpses of Jelly Roll Morton, who erroneously claimed to have invented jazz, and the tragic, though influential, figure of trumpeter Buddy Bolden.

star 9.19
53 votes
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The Better Angels of Our Nature (1865)

#11 - The Better Angels of Our Nature (1865)

The Civil War Season 1 - Episode 9

This extraordinary final episode of The Civil War begins in the bittersweet aftermath of Lee's surrender and then goes on to narrate the horrendous events of five days later when, on April 14, Lincoln is assassinated. After chronicling Lincoln's poignant funeral, the series recounts the final days of the war, the capture of John Wilkes Booth and the fates of the Civil War's major protagonists. The episode then considers the consequences and meaning of a war that transformed the country from a collection of states to the nation we are today.

star 9.18
119 votes
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War Is All Hell (1865)

#12 - War Is All Hell (1865)

The Civil War Season 1 - Episode 8

The episode begins with William Tecumseh Sherman's brilliant march to the sea, which brings the war to the heart of Georgia and the Carolinas and spells the end of the Confederacy. In March, following Lincoln's second inauguration, first Petersburg and then Richmond finally fall to Grant's army. Lee's tattered Army of Northern Virginia flees westward towards a tiny crossroads town called Appomattox Court House. There the dramatic and deeply moving surrender of Lee to Grant takes place. The episode ends in Washington where John Wilkes Booth begins to dream of vengeance for the South.

star 9.17
123 votes
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The Morning of Creation (1946-1980)

#13 - The Morning of Creation (1946-1980)

The National Parks: America's Best Idea Season 1 - Episode 6

Following World War II, the parks are overwhelmed as visitation reaches 62 million people a year. A new billion-dollar campaign – Mission 66 – is created to build facilities and infrastructure that can accommodate the flood of visitors. A biologist named Adolph Murie introduces the revolutionary notion that predatory animals, which are still hunted, deserve the same protection as other wildlife. In Florida, Lancelot Jones, the grandson of a slave, refuses to sell to developers his family's property on a string of unspoiled islands in Biscayne Bay and instead sells it to the federal government to be protected as a national monument. In the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter creates an uproar in Alaska when he sets aside 56 million acres of land for preservation – the largest expansion of protected land in history. In 1995, wolves are re-established in Yellowstone, making the world's first national park a little more like what it once was.

star 9.09
34 votes
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The Storm (1920-1933)

#14 - The Storm (1920-1933)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History Season 1 - Episode 4

Franklin Roosevelt runs for vice president in 1920 and seems assured of a still brighter future until polio devastates him. He spends seven years struggling without success to walk again, while Eleanor builds her own personal and political life of. FDR returns to politics in 1928 and acts with such vigor during the first years of the Great Depression that the Democrats nominate him for president.

star 9.08
60 votes
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In the Arena (1901-1910)

#15 - In the Arena (1901-1910)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History Season 1 - Episode 2

Murder brings Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency, but in the seven years that follow, he transforms the office and makes himself perhaps the best-loved of all presidents, battling corporate greed, preserving American wilderness, carrying the message of American might around the world. FDR weds Eleanor Roosevelt, and jumps at the chance to run for the New York state senate.

star 9.03
63 votes
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Top of the Tenth

#16 - Top of the Tenth

Baseball Season 2 - Episode 1

Part 1 of 2. Ken Burns' follow-up to "Baseball" picks up where the 1994 series left off. Included: the crippling 1994 strike; the influx of international players; Cal Ripken's consecutive-games streak; the thrilling 1998 home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

star 9.00
69 votes
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Seventh Inning: The Capital of Baseball

#17 - Seventh Inning: The Capital of Baseball

Baseball Season 1 - Episode 7

Seventh Inning, The Capitol of Baseball, takes viewers through the 1950s when New York City had three successful baseball teams and dominated the World Series. By the end of the decade, the Giants and Dodgers had left New York, a signal that the old game was changed forever.

star 8.95
79 votes
Great Nature (1933-1945)

#18 - Great Nature (1933-1945)

The National Parks: America's Best Idea Season 1 - Episode 5

To battle unemployment in the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt creates the Civilian Conservation Corps, which spawns a "golden age" for the parks through major renovation projects. In a groundbreaking study, a young NPS biologist named George Melendez Wright discovers widespread abuses of animal habitats and pushes the service to reform its wildlife policies. Congress narrowly passes a bill to protect the Everglades in Florida as a national park – the first time a park has been created solely to preserve an ecosystem, as opposed to scenic beauty. As America becomes entrenched in World War II, Roosevelt is pressured to open the parks to mining, grazing and lumbering. The president also is subjected to a storm of criticism for expanding the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming by accepting a gift of land secretly purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr.

star 8.94
35 votes
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Eighth Inning: A Whole New Ballgame

#19 - Eighth Inning: A Whole New Ballgame

Baseball Season 1 - Episode 8

Eighth Inning, A Whole New Ball Game, moves the field to the 1960s. This episode traces the emergence of television, the expansion to new cities and the building of anonymous multipurpose stadiums that robbed the game of its intimacy and some of its urban following.

star 8.89
76 votes
Going Home (1920-1933)

#20 - Going Home (1920-1933)

The National Parks: America's Best Idea Season 1 - Episode 4

While visiting the parks was once predominantly the domain of Americans wealthy enough to afford the high-priced train tours, the advent of the automobile allows more people than ever before to visit the parks. Mather embraces this opportunity and works to build more roads in the parks. Some park enthusiasts, such as Margaret and Edward Gehrke of Nebraska, begin "collecting" parks, making a point to visit as many as they can. In North Carolina, Horace Kephart, a reclusive writer, and George Masa, a Japanese immigrant, launch a campaign to protect the last strands of virgin forest in the Smoky Mountains by establishing it as a park. In Wyoming, John D. Rockefeller Jr. begins quietly buying up land in the Teton Mountain Range and valley in a secret plan to donate it to the government as a park.

star 8.88
34 votes
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Dedicated to Chaos (1940 - 1945)

#21 - Dedicated to Chaos (1940 - 1945)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 7

"Dedicated to Chaos" finds jazz musicians teetering on the brink of the modern era, fighting against the straightjacket of clichéd, big band arrangements. The revolution started at Minton’s Playhouse, a rundown club where musicians like Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Christian jammed on Monday nights. When they hooked up with a young saxophone player from Kansas City named Charlie Parker, the bop insurgency had arrived.

star 8.87
15 votes
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Valley of the Shadow of Death (1864)

#22 - Valley of the Shadow of Death (1864)

The Civil War Season 1 - Episode 6

Episode six begins with a biographical comparison of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee and then chronicles the extraordinary series of battles that pitted the two generals against each other from the wilderness to Petersburg in Virginia. In 30 days, the two armies lose more men than both sides have lost in three years of war. With Grant and Lee finally deadlocked at Petersburg, we visit the ghastly hospitals north and south and follow General Sherman's Atlanta campaign through the mountains of north Georgia. As the horrendous casualty lists increase, Lincoln's chances for re-election begin to dim, and with them the possibility of Union victory.

star 8.85
142 votes
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Fourth Inning: A National Heirloom

#23 - Fourth Inning: A National Heirloom

Baseball Season 1 - Episode 4

Fourth Inning, A National Heirloom, concentrates on Babe Ruth, whose phenomenal performance thrilled the nation throughout the 1920s and rescued the game from the scandal of the previous decade.

star 8.83
87 votes
The Last Refuge (1890-1915)

#24 - The Last Refuge (1890-1915)

The National Parks: America's Best Idea Season 1 - Episode 2

By the end of the 19th century, widespread industrialization has left many Americans worried about whether the country - once a vast wilderness - will have any pristine land left. At the same time, poachers in the parks are rampant, and visitors think nothing of littering or carving their names near iconic sites like Old Faithful. Congress has yet to establish clear judicial authority or appropriations for the protection of the parks. This sparks a conservation movement by organizations such as the Sierra Club, led by John Muir; the Audubon Society, led by George Bird Grinnell; and the Boone and Crockett Club, led by Theodore Roosevelt. The movement fails, however, to stop San Francisco from building the Hetch Hetchy dam at Yosemite, flooding Muir's "mountain temple" and leaving him broken-hearted before he dies.

star 8.80
41 votes
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The Empire of Grandeur (1915-1919)

#25 - The Empire of Grandeur (1915-1919)

The National Parks: America's Best Idea Season 1 - Episode 3

In the early 20th century, America has a dozen national parks, but they are a haphazard patchwork of special places under the supervision of different federal agencies. The conservation movement, after failing to stop the Hetch Hetchy dam, pushes the government to establish one unified agency to oversee all the parks, leading to the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916. Its first director, Stephen Mather, a wealthy businessman and passionate park advocate who fought vigorously to establish the NPS, launches an energetic campaign to expand the national park system and bring more visitors to the parks. Among his efforts is to protect the Grand Canyon from encroaching commercial interests and establish it as a national park, rather than a national monument.

star 8.78
40 votes
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Get Action (1858-1901)

#26 - Get Action (1858-1901)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History Season 1 - Episode 1

A frail, asthmatic young Theodore Roosevelt transforms himself into a champion of the strenuous life, loses one great love and finds another, leads men into battle and then rises like a rocket to become the youngest president in American history at 42. Meanwhile, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, brought up as the pampered only child of adoring parents, follows his older cousin’s career with fascination.

star 8.76
83 votes
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Second Inning: Something Like a War

#27 - Second Inning: Something Like a War

Baseball Season 1 - Episode 2

Second Inning, Something Like a War, takes viewers through 1910 and introduces some of the game's most celebrated and colorful characters, including Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson., and includes the formation of the American League and its integration with the National League, culminating in the establishment of the World Series.

star 8.76
91 votes
Risk (1945 - 1956)

#28 - Risk (1945 - 1956)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 8

The bop revolution’s influence would spread to other musicians, but unlike swing, it would never become a popular music. The rapid-fire solos and complicated chord structures made bop a musician’s music, unfit for dancing. Indeed, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie’s music even alienated established musicians like Armstrong. "Risk" provides an in-depth biography of the bright, brief life of Parker, and includes interviews with his former wife.

star 8.73
15 votes
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Third Inning: The Faith of Fifty Million People

#29 - Third Inning: The Faith of Fifty Million People

Baseball Season 1 - Episode 3

Third Inning, The Faith of Fifty Million People, examines the century's second decade, which was dominated by the Black Sox scandal. George Herman "Babe" Ruth makes his first major league appearance (as a member of the Boston Red Sox) and a wave of immigration helps fill the stands with new fans, eager to "become American" by learning America's game.

star 8.73
89 votes
Most Hallowed Ground (1864)

#30 - Most Hallowed Ground (1864)

The Civil War Season 1 - Episode 7

The episode begins with the presidential election of 1864 that sets Abraham Lincoln against his old commanding general, George McClellan. The stakes are nothing less than the survival of the Union itself: with Grant and Sherman stalled at Petersburg and Atlanta, opinion in the North has turned strongly against the war. But 11th-hour victories at Mobile Bay, Atlanta, and the Shenandoah Valley tilt the election to Lincoln and the Confederacy's last hope for independence dies. In an ironic twist, poignantly typical of the Civil War, Lee's Arlington mansion is turned into a Union military hospital and the estate becomes Arlington National Cemetery, the Union's most hallowed ground.

star 8.70
131 votes
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The Scripture of Nature (1851-1890)

#31 - The Scripture of Nature (1851-1890)

The National Parks: America's Best Idea Season 1 - Episode 1

In 1851, word spreads across the country of a beautiful area of California's Yosemite Valley, attracting visitors who wish to exploit the land's scenery for commercial gain and those who wish to keep it pristine. Among the latter is a Scottish-born wanderer named John Muir, for whom protecting the land becomes a spiritual calling. In 1864, Congress passes an act that protects Yosemite from commercial development for "public use, resort and recreation" - the first time in world history that any government has put forth this idea - and hands control of the land to California. Meanwhile, a "wonderland" in the northwest corner of the Wyoming territory attracts visitors to its bizarre landscape of geysers, mud pots and sulfur pits. In 1872, Congress passes an act to protect this land as well. Since it is located in a territory, rather than a state, it becomes America's first national park: Yellowstone.

star 8.70
47 votes
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A Masterpiece by Midnight (1961 - 2001)

#32 - A Masterpiece by Midnight (1961 - 2001)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 10

Obviously Ken Burns knows that he can’t fit the last thirty-nine years of jazz history onto two hours of video tape, so from the outset, that shouldn’t be expected. There’s an excellent biography of John Coltrane, and footage of Miles Davis’ wonderful mid-‘60s quintet. There is also a nice, small section on the magnificent Charles Mingus.

star 8.69
13 votes
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Forever Free (1862)

#33 - Forever Free (1862)

The Civil War Season 1 - Episode 3

This episode charts the dramatic events that led to Lincoln's decision to set the slaves free. Convinced by July 1862 that emancipation was now morally and militarily crucial to the future of the Union, Lincoln must wait for a victory to issue his proclamation. But as the year wears on there are no Union victories to be had, thanks to the brilliance of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. The episode comes to a climax in September 1862 with Lee's invasion of Maryland. On the banks of Antietam Creek, the bloodiest day of the war takes place, followed shortly by the brightest: the emancipation of the slaves.

star 8.69
168 votes
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Simply Murder (1863)

#34 - Simply Murder (1863)

The Civil War Season 1 - Episode 4

The nightmarish Union disaster at Fredericksburg comes to two climaxes that spring: at Chancellorsville in May, where Lee wins his most brilliant victory but loses Stonewall Jackson; and at Vicksburg, where Grant's attempts to take the city by siege are stopped. During the episode we learn of fierce Northern opposition to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, the miseries of regimental life and the increasing desperation of the Confederate homefront. As the episode ends, Lee decides to invade the North again to draw Grant's forces away from Vicksburg.

star 8.65
156 votes
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The Universe of Battle (1863)

#35 - The Universe of Battle (1863)

The Civil War Season 1 - Episode 5

This episode opens with a dramatic account of the turning point of war: the Battle of Gettysburg, the greatest ever fought in the Western Hemisphere. For three days 150,000 men will fight to the death in the Pennsylvania countryside, culminating in Pickett's legendary charge. This extended episode then goes on to chronicle the fall of Vicksburg, the New York draft riots, the first use of black troops, and the western battles at Chickamauga, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The episode closes with the dedication of a new Union cemetery at Gettysburg in November, where Abraham Lincoln struggles to put into words what is happening to his people.

star 8.63
153 votes
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The Fire of Life (1910-1919)

#36 - The Fire of Life (1910-1919)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History Season 1 - Episode 3

Theodore Roosevelt leads a Progressive crusade that splits his own party, campaigns for American entry into World War I — and pays a terrible personal price. Franklin masters wartime Washington as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, while Eleanor finds personal salvation in war work. Her discovery of Franklin’s romance with another woman transforms their marriage into a largely political partnership.

star 8.62
55 votes
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The Weight of Memory (March 1973-Onward)

#37 - The Weight of Memory (March 1973-Onward)

The Vietnam War (2017) Season 1 - Episode 10

Saigon falls and the war ends. Americans and Vietnamese from all sides search for reconciliation.

star 8.49
286 votes
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The True Welcome (1929 - 1935)

#38 - The True Welcome (1929 - 1935)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 4

"The True Welcome" continues many of the stories begun in Episode 3, following several troubling years for Louis Armstrong (who was arrested for marijuana possession), Duke Ellington’s growth as a composer, and Benny Goodman discovering gold in Fletcher Henderson’s arrangements. "The True Welcome" also has a nice section on rich kid John Hammond, Sr. who would become one of jazz’ biggest promoters

star 8.46
13 votes
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I Can't Stop Loving You (1953-1963)

#39 - I Can't Stop Loving You (1953-1963)

Country Music Season 1 - Episode 4

Travel to Memphis, where Sun Studios artists Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley usher in the era of rockabilly. Ray Charles crosses America's racial divide by recording a country album. Patsy Cline shows off Music City's smooth new Nashville Sound.

star 8.44
50 votes
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Swing: The Velocity of Celebration (1937 - 1939)

#40 - Swing: The Velocity of Celebration (1937 - 1939)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 6

Swing would be reacquainted with its blues roots by way of Kansas City, when Count Basie and the Barons of Rhythm brought their hot sound to the Big Apple. Basie would also give Billie Holiday her first break, offering her a chance to travel, perform, drink, and gamble with the rest of the band. Another young singer named Ella Fitzgerald would get her start in Chick Webb’s band at the Savoy Ballroom, and then be named top female vocalist—over Billy Holiday—by Down Beat in 1937.

star 8.43
14 votes
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Will The Circle Be Unbroken? (1968-1972)

#41 - Will The Circle Be Unbroken? (1968-1972)

Country Music Season 1 - Episode 6

Learn how country music responds to a nation divided by the Vietnam War, as Army captain turned songwriter Kris Kristofferson sets a new lyrical standard, and artists like Bob Dylan and the Byrds find a recording home in Nashville.

star 8.42
45 votes
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Swing: Pure Pleasure (1935 - 1937)

#42 - Swing: Pure Pleasure (1935 - 1937)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 5

1935 was the year that swing became the most popular music in the country and that the king of swing, Benny Goodman, became a matinee idol. Americans, stifled by the Depression, seemed determined to dance their troubles away. "Swing: Pure Pleasure" follows the continuing careers of Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Armstrong, and the discovery of Billy Holiday.

star 8.42
12 votes
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The Rub (Beginnings-1933)

#43 - The Rub (Beginnings-1933)

Country Music Season 1 - Episode 1

See how what was first called “hillbilly music” reaches new audiences through phonographs and radio, and launches the careers of country music's first big stars, the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.

star 8.41
76 votes
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Pride of our Nation

#44 - Pride of our Nation

The War Season 1 - Episode 4

By June 1944, there are signs on both sides of the world that the tide of the war is turning. On June 6, 1944 — D-Day — in the European Theater, a million and a half Allied troops embark on one of the greatest invasions in history: the invasion of France. Among them are Dwain Luce of Mobile, who drops behind enemy lines in a glider; Quentin Aanenson of Luverne, who flies his first combat mission over the Normandy coast; and Joseph Vaghi of Waterbury, who manages to survive the disastrous landing on Omaha Beach, where German resistance nearly decimates the American forces

star 8.38
53 votes
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The Hillbilly Shakespeare (1945-1953)

#45 - The Hillbilly Shakespeare (1945-1953)

Country Music Season 1 - Episode 3

See how the bluegrass sound spreads in post-war America, and meet honky-tonk star Hank Williams, whose songs of surprisingly emotional depth are derived from his troubled and tragically short life.

star 8.35
57 votes
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The Sons and Daughters of America (1964 -1968)

#46 - The Sons and Daughters of America (1964 -1968)

Country Music Season 1 - Episode 5

See how country music reflects a changing America, with Loretta Lynn speaking to women everywhere, Merle Haggard becoming "The Poet of the Common Man" and audiences looking beyond race to embrace Charley Pride.

star 8.34
50 votes
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When Things Get Tough

#47 - When Things Get Tough

The War Season 1 - Episode 2

By January 1943, Americans have been at war for more than a year. The Germans, with their vast war machine, still occupy most of Western Europe, and the Allies have not yet been able to agree on a plan or a timetable to dislodge them. For the time being, they will have to be content to nip at the edges of Hitler’s enormous domain. American troops, including Charles Mann of Luverne, are now ashore in North Africa, ready to test themselves for the first time against the German and Italian armies.

star 8.34
56 votes
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A Necessary War

#48 - A Necessary War

The War Season 1 - Episode 1

December 1941-December 1942 After a haunting overview of the Second World War, an epoch of killing that engulfed the world from 1939 to 1945 and cost at least 50 million lives, the inhabitants of four towns — Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; and Luverne, Minnesota — recall their communities on the eve of the conflict. For them, and for most Americans finally beginning to recover from the Great Depression, the events overseas seem impossibly far away. Their tranquil lives are shattered by the shock of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and America is thrust into the greatest cataclysm in history. Along with millions of other young men, Sid Phillips and Willie Rushton of Mobile, Ray Leopold of Waterbury and Walter Thompson and Burnett Miller of Sacramento enter the armed forces and begin to train for war. In the Philippines, two Americans thousands of miles from home, Corporal Glenn Frazier and Sascha Weinzheimer (who was 8 years old in 1941), are caught up in the Japanese onslaught there, as American and Filipino forces retreat onto Bataan while thousands of civilians are rounded up and imprisoned in Manila. Meanwhile, back home, 110,000 Japanese Americans all along the West Coast, including some 7,000 from Sacramento and the surrounding valley, are forced by the government to abandon their homes and businesses and are relocated to inland internment camps. On the East Coast, German U-boats menace Allied shipping just offshore, sending hundreds of ships and millions of tons of materiel to the bottom of the sea. The United States seems utterly unprepared for this kind of total war. Witnessing all of this is Katharine Phillips of Mobile, who remembers sightings of U-boats just outside Mobile Bay, and Al McIntosh, the editor of the Rock County Star Herald in Luverne, who chronicles the travails of every family in town. In June 1942, the Navy manages an improbable victory over the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. In August,

star 8.28
64 votes
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Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? (1973-1983)

#49 - Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? (1973-1983)

Country Music Season 1 - Episode 7

Witness a vibrant era in country music, with Dolly Parton finding mainstream success; Hank Williams, Jr. and Rosanne Cash emerging from their famous fathers' shadows; and Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings launching the “Outlaw” movement.

star 8.26
38 votes
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Our Language (1924 - 1929)

#50 - Our Language (1924 - 1929)

Jazz Season 1 - Episode 3

Colorful characters like the tragic Bix Beiderbecke, powerhouse Bessie Smith, and the braggart Jelly Roll Morton, make the study of jazz fascinating. Perhaps most touching in this episode is the extended portrait of the troubled, white cornet player, Bix Beiderbecke, whose family disapproved of his chosen profession, and who would never be allowed to record with greats like Louis Armstrong due to segregation in the music business.

star 8.26
19 votes
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Hard Times (1933-1945)

#51 - Hard Times (1933-1945)

Country Music Season 1 - Episode 2

Watch as Nashville becomes the heart of the country music industry. The genre grows in popularity during the Great Depression and World War II as America falls in love with singing cowboys, Texas Swing and the Grand Ole Opry's Roy Acuff.

star 8.24
54 votes
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A Nation of Hypocrites

#52 - A Nation of Hypocrites

Prohibition Season 1 - Episode 3

Conclusion. The factors that led to the end of prohibition are detailed, as the criminalization of alcohol feeds large profits into the coffers of criminal organizations and turns such gangsters as Al Capone into celebrities. Wealthy Pauline Sabin encourages the repeal of the 18th Amendment; and brings together women from all classes who support her position. The 21st Amendment, which repeals the 18th, is adopted after FDR's 1932 election and by late 1933 people can again legally buy drinks.

star 8.23
172 votes
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First Inning: Our Game

#53 - First Inning: Our Game

Baseball Season 1 - Episode 1

First Inning, Our Game, looks at the origins of baseball in the 1840s and takes the story up to 1900. Burns refutes the myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown and traces its roots instead to the earliest days of the nation — there are records of a game called "Base" played at Valley Forge..

star 8.21
137 votes
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A Disrespectful Loyalty (May 1970-March 1973)

#54 - A Disrespectful Loyalty (May 1970-March 1973)

The Vietnam War (2017) Season 1 - Episode 9

South Vietnam fights on its own as Nixon and Kissinger find a way out for America. The POWs return.

star 8.19
315 votes
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Don't Get Above Your Raisin' (1984-1996)

#55 - Don't Get Above Your Raisin' (1984-1996)

Country Music Season 1 - Episode 8

Neotraditional country artists such as George Strait, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire and the Judds keep country music true to its roots. Plus, the rise of superstar Garth Brooks and the return of Johnny Cash to the industry he helped create.

star 8.18
39 votes
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The Cause (1861)

#56 - The Cause (1861)

The Civil War Season 1 - Episode 1

Beginning with a searing indictment of slavery, this first episode dramatically evokes the causes of the war, from the Cotton Kingdom of the South to the northern abolitionists who opposed it. Here are the burning questions of Union and States' rights, John Brown at Harper's Ferry, the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the firing on Fort Sumter and the jubilant rush to arms on both sides. Along the way the series' major figures are introduced: Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and a host of lesser-known but equally vivid characters. The episode comes to a climax with the disastrous Union defeat at Manassas, Virginia, where both sides now learn it is to be a very long war.

star 8.16
337 votes
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Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968)

#57 - Things Fall Apart (January 1968-July 1968)

The Vietnam War (2017) Season 1 - Episode 6

Shaken by the Tet Offensive, assassinations and unrest, America seems to be coming apart.

star 8.14
375 votes
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The History of the World (April 1969-May 1970)

#58 - The History of the World (April 1969-May 1970)

The Vietnam War (2017) Season 1 - Episode 8

Nixon withdraws troops but when he sends forces into Cambodia the antiwar movement reignites.

star 8.11
334 votes
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A Nation of Drunkards

#59 - A Nation of Drunkards

Prohibition Season 1 - Episode 1

Part 1 of Ken Burns' three-part history of the prohibition era (1920-33) opens with the start of the temperance movement in the 19th century under the stewardship of such leaders as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances Willard and Carry Nation; and the Anti-Saloon League, which pushed for a constitutional amendment that would ban the sale and manufacture of alcohol.

star 8.07
194 votes
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The Veneer of Civilization (June 1968-May 1969)

#60 - The Veneer of Civilization (June 1968-May 1969)

The Vietnam War (2017) Season 1 - Episode 7

After chaos roils the Democratic Convention, Nixon, promising peace, narrowly wins the presidency.

star 8.06
363 votes
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A Very Bloody Affair (1862)

#61 - A Very Bloody Affair (1862)

The Civil War Season 1 - Episode 2

1862 saw the birth of modern warfare and the transformation of Lincoln's war to preserve the Union into a war to emancipate the slaves. Episode Two begins with the political infighting that threatened to swamp Lincoln's administration and then follows Union General George McClellan's ill-fated campaign on the Virginia Peninsula, where his huge army meets a smaller but infinitely more resourceful Confederate force. During this episode we witness the battle of ironclad ships, partake of camp life, and watch slavery begin to crumble. We meet Ulysses S. Grant, whose exploits come to a bloody climax at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. The episode ends with rumors of Europe's readiness to recognize the Confederacy.

star 8.05
269 votes
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The River Styx (January 1964 – December 1965)

#62 - The River Styx (January 1964 – December 1965)

The Vietnam War (2017) Season 1 - Episode 3

With South Vietnam in chaos, hardliners in Hanoi seize the initiative and send combat troops to the South, accelerating the insurgency. Fearing Saigon's collapse, President Johnson escalates America's military commitment, authorizing sustained bombing of the North and deploying ground troops in the South.

star 8.03
462 votes
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Resolve (January 1966-June 1967)

#63 - Resolve (January 1966-June 1967)

The Vietnam War (2017) Season 1 - Episode 4

US soldiers discover Vietnam is unlike their fathers’ war, while the antiwar movement grows.

star 8.00
413 votes
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A Deadly Calling

#64 - A Deadly Calling

The War Season 1 - Episode 3

In fall 1943, after almost two years of war, the American public is able to see for the first time the terrible toll the war is taking on its troops when Life publishes a photograph of the bodies of three GIs killed in action at Buna.

star 8.00
54 votes
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Riding the Tiger (1961-1963)

#65 - Riding the Tiger (1961-1963)

The Vietnam War (2017) Season 1 - Episode 2

As a communist insurgency gains strength, JFK wrestles with American involvement in South Vietnam.

star 7.93
544 votes
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A Nation of Scofflaws

#66 - A Nation of Scofflaws

Prohibition Season 1 - Episode 2

Part 2 of 3 examines the problems that the Volstead Act and prohibition caused, including a possible increase in alcoholism due to women frequenting the illicit speakeasies that replaced male-only saloons; adulterated liquor that poisons some drinkers; and civil-rights violations by overzealous federal agents anxious to make arrests. Despite the public's growing opposition to the ban, few politicians dare to speak against it due to the political might of the Anti-Saloon League.

star 7.93
178 votes
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Déjà Vu (1858-1961)

#67 - Déjà Vu (1858-1961)

The Vietnam War (2017) Season 1 - Episode 1

After nearly a century of French colonial rule, Vietnam emerges independent, but divided.

star 7.87
812 votes
The Ghost Front

#68 - The Ghost Front

The War Season 1 - Episode 6

By December 1944, Americans have become weary of the war their young men have been fighting for three long years; the stream of newspaper headlines telling of new losses and telegrams bearing bad news from the War Department seem endless and unendurable. The Ghost Front was fought between December 1944 - March 1945.

star 7.79
19 votes
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A World Without War

#69 - A World Without War

The War Season 1 - Episode 7

In the spring of 1945, although the numbers of dead and wounded have more than doubled since D-Day, the people of Mobile, Sacramento, Waterbury and Luverne understand all too well that there will be more bad news from the battlefield before the war can end. That March, when Americans go to the movies, President Franklin Roosevelt warns them in a news reel that, although the Nazis are on the verge of collapse, the final battle with Japan could stretch on for A World Without War was between March 1944 - December 1945.

star 7.78
18 votes
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#70 - FUBAR

The War Season 1 - Episode 5

By September 1944, in Europe at least, the Allies seem to be moving steadily toward victory. “Militarily,” General Dwight Eisenhower’s chief of staff tells the press, “this war is over.” But in the coming months, on both sides of the world, a generation of young men will learn a lesson as old as war itself — that generals make plans, plans go wrong and soldiers die. The Ghost Front was fought between September 1944 - December 1944.

star 7.52
23 votes
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Unforgivable Blackness: Rise

#71 - Unforgivable Blackness: Rise

PBS Specials Season 2010 - Episode 10

Jack Johnson — the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World, whose dominance over his white opponents spurred furious debates and race riots in the early 20th century — enters the ring once again in January 2005 when PBS airs Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, a provocative new PBS documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns. The two-part film airs on PBS Monday-Tuesday January 17-18, 2005, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings). Burns, whose past films on PBS (The Civil War, Baseball, JAZZ, etc.) are among the most-watched documentaries ever made, shows the gritty details of Johnson's life through archival footage, still photographs, and the commentary of boxing experts such as Stanley Crouch, Bert Sugar, the late George Plimpton, Jack Newfield, Randy Roberts, Gerald Early and James Earl Jones, who portrayed Johnson in the Broadway play and film based on Johnson's life, "The Great White Hope." "Johnson in many ways is an embodiment of the African-American struggle to be truly free in this country — economically, socially and politically," said Burns. "He absolutely refused to play by the rules set by the white establishment, or even those of the black community. In that sense, he fought for freedom not just as a black man, but as an individual." Johnson, who was born in 1878 in Galveston, Texas, began boxing as a young teenager in the Jim Crow-era South. Boxing was a relatively new sport in America, and was banned in many states. African-Americans were permitted to compete for most titles, but not for the title that whites considered their exclusive domain: Heavyweight Champion of the World. African-Americans were considered unworthy to compete for the title — not for lack of talent, but simply by virtue of not being white. Despite this, Johnson was persistent in challenging James J. Jeffries — the heavyweight champion at the time, who was considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight in history

star 0.00
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Unforgivable Blackness: Fall

#72 - Unforgivable Blackness: Fall

PBS Specials Season 2010 - Episode 11

In Unforgivable Blackness, Johnson biographer Randy Roberts observes, "The press reacted [to Johnson's victory] as if Armageddon was here. That this may be the moment when it all starts to fall apart for white society." His victory spurred a search among whites for a "great white hope" who could beat Johnson and win back the title. They finally found him in Johnson's old nemesis, Jim Jeffries, who decided to return from retirement and give Johnson the fight he had always wanted. This fight was especially important to Johnson, because many whites had dismissed his claim to the title as invalid; Burns, it was argued, was never the true champion because he didn't win the title by beating Jeffries. No one had beaten Jeffries, and most thought he was certain to reclaim the title for whites. The Johnson-Jeffries fight, dubbed the "Battle of the Century," took place on July 4, 1910, in Reno, Nevada. Johnson knocked out Jeffries in the 15th round. Johnson's victory sparked a wave of nationwide race riots across in which numerous African-Americans died. Newspaper editorials warned Johnson and the black community not to be too proud. Congress eventually passed an act banning the interstate transport of fight films for fear that the images of Johnson beating his white opponents would provoke further unrest. Perhaps even more troubling for white America than Johnson's dominance over his white opponents in the boxing ring were his romantic entanglements with white women. One of his frequent traveling companions was Hattie McClay, a white prostitute. They were later joined by Belle Schreiber, also a white prostitute whom Johnson met in Chicago. "He wouldn't let anybody define him," says James Earl Jones in Unforgivable Blackness. "He was a self-defined man. And this issue of his being black was not that relevant to him. But the issue of his being free was very relevant." Johnson eventually married a white woman, Etta Duryea. Their relationship was troubled; Johnson dr

star 0.00
0 votes
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