The Best Episodes of American Experience

Dolley Madison

#1 - Dolley Madison 9.33

Season 22 - Episode 4

Tony Award-winner Eve Best stars as Dolley Madison, America’s “first First Lady”; Tony Award-winner Jefferson Mays is James Madison.

War of the Worlds

#2 - War of the Worlds 9.20

Season 25 - Episode 6

Shortly after 8 p.m. on October 30th, 1938, the voice of a panicked radio announcer broke in with a news bulletin reporting strange explosions taking place on the planet Mars, followed minutes later by a report that Martians had landed in the tiny town of Grovers Mill, New Jersey. It turned out to be H.G. Wells' classic 'The War of the Worlds', performed by 23-year-old Orson Welles. Although most listeners understood that the program was a radio drama, the next day's headlines reported that thousands of others plunged into panic, convinced that America was under a deadly Martian attack. 75 years after the original radio broadcast, 'American Experience' examines the elements that came together to create one of the biggest mass hysteria events in U.S. history.

Directors: Cathleen O'Connell
JFK (Part 2)

#3 - JFK (Part 2) 9.20

Season 25 - Episode 8

JFK presents a fresh look at an enigmatic man who remains one of the nation's most beloved and mourned leaders, John F. Kennedy. It offers a new perspective on his private life, his relationship with his wife, his close connection to his brother, Robert, and his bond with his father. JFK also reevaluates his strengths and weaknesses in the Oval Office as he navigated some of the most explosive events of the mid-twentieth century.

Directors: Susan Bellows
The Poisoner's Handbook

#4 - The Poisoner's Handbook 9.00

Season 26 - Episode 1

The story of New York City's first medical examiner, Charles Norris (1867-1935), and his chief toxicologist, Alexander Gettler (1883-1968), who pioneered the use of forensic science to explain violent and suspicious deaths. Included: remarks from renowned medical examiners Marcella Fierro and Michael Baden; and author Deborah Blum ("The Poisoner's Handbook"). Oliver Platt narrates.

Directors: Rob Rapley
The Donner Party

#5 - The Donner Party 9.00

Season 5 - Episode 3

Tragic tale of families attempting a short-cut passage to California in the 1840s, with narration of their life-and-death struggle taken from their own journals.

Directors: Ric Burns
Triangle Fire

#6 - Triangle Fire 9.00

Season 23 - Episode 8

It was the deadliest workplace accident in New York City’s history. A dropped match on the 8th floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory sparked a fire that killed over a hundred innocent people trapped inside. The private industry of the American factory would never be the same.

Directors: Jamila Wignot
JFK (Part 1)

#7 - JFK (Part 1) 8.83

Season 25 - Episode 7

JFK presents a fresh look at an enigmatic man who remains one of the nation's most beloved and mourned leaders, John F. Kennedy. It offers a new perspective on his private life, his relationship with his wife, his close connection to his brother, Robert, and his bond with his father. JFK also reevaluates his strengths and weaknesses in the Oval Office as he navigated some of the most explosive events of the mid-twentieth century.

Directors: Susan Bellows
Walt Disney (2)

#8 - Walt Disney (2) 8.60

Season 27 - Episode 9

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE offers an unprecedented look at the life and legacy of one of America’s most enduring and influential storytellers in Walt Disney, a new two-part, four-hour film premiering Monday and Tuesday, September 14-15, 2015, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET on PBS

The Amish: Shunned

#9 - The Amish: Shunned 8.50

Season 26 - Episode 3

Filmed over the course of twelve months, The Amish: Shunned follows seven former members of the Amish community as they reflect on their decisions to leave one of the most closed and tightly-knit communities in the United States. Estranged from family, the ex-Amish find themselves struggling to understand and make their way in modern America. Interwoven through the stories are the voices of Amish men and women who remain staunchly loyal to their traditions and faith. They explain the importance of obedience, the strong ties that bind their communities together, and the pain they endure when a loved one falls away.

Directors: Callie T. Wiser
Freedom Summer

#10 - Freedom Summer 8.25

Season 26 - Episode 6

In the summer of 1964, more than 700 students join with organizers and local blacks to canvas for voter registration, create Freedom Schools and establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Directors: Stanley Nelson
Walt Disney (1)

#11 - Walt Disney (1) 8.20

Season 27 - Episode 8

In 1966, the year Walt Disney died, 240 million people saw a Disney movie, 100 million tuned in to a Disney television program, 80 million bought Disney merchandise, and close to seven million visited Disneyland. Few creative figures before or since have held such a long-lasting place in American life and popular culture.

The Rise and Fall of Penn Station

#12 - The Rise and Fall of Penn Station 8.00

Season 26 - Episode 5

In 1910, the Pennsylvania Railroad successfully accomplished the enormous engineering feat of building tunnels under New York City's Hudson and East Rivers, connecting the railroad to New York and New England, knitting together the entire eastern half of the United States. The tunnels terminated in what was one of the greatest architectural achievements of its time, Pennsylvania Station. Penn Station covered nearly eight acres, extended two city blocks, and housed one of the largest public spaces in the world. But just 53 years after the station’s opening, the monumental building that was supposed to last forever, to herald and represent the American Empire, was slated to be destroyed.

Directors: Randall MacLowry
The Boys of '36

#13 - The Boys of '36 7.83

Season 28 - Episode 6

A group of working-class boys from the University of Washington, in the United States, surprise a nation when they capture the gold medal in rowing at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin.

Directors: Margaret Grossi
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

#14 - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 7.57

Season 26 - Episode 4

Robert Leroy Parker and Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, better known as Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, form the Wild Bunch gang and pull off the longest string of holdups in history.

Directors: John Maggio
1964

#15 - 1964 7.50

Season 26 - Episode 2

Recalling 1964, a pivotal year in U.S. history. While the Beatles captured the imaginations of the nation's youth, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, unveiled his vision of a "Great Society" and squared off against Barry Goldwater in the presidential election. Also covered: the murders of three Freedom Summer volunteers; and the influence of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique." Based in part on Jon Margolis' "The Last Innocent Year: America in 1964."

Dinosaur Wars

#16 - Dinosaur Wars 7.25

Season 23 - Episode 5

In the late 19th century, paleontologists Edward Cope and O.C. Marsh uncovered the remains of hundreds of prehistoric animals in the American West, including dozens of previously undiscovered dinosaur species. But the rivalry that developed between them would spiral out of control, permanently damaging their careers and threatening the future of American paleontology.