Frontline

The BEST episodes of Frontline

Every episode of Frontline ever, ranked from best to worst by thousands of votes from fans of the show. The best episodes of Frontline!

Explores a wide scope of the complex human experience.

Last Updated: 11/21/2022Network:PBS
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United States of Secrets (Part Two)
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10.00
27 votes

#1 - United States of Secrets (Part Two)

Season 2014 - Episode 10 - Aired 5/20/2014

The role of Silicon Valley in the National Security Agency's surveillance program is explored.

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United States of Secrets (Part One)
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10.00
27 votes

#2 - United States of Secrets (Part One)

Season 2014 - Episode 9 - Aired 5/13/2014

The history of the National Security Agency's unprecedented surveillance program is investigated.

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The Merchants of Cool
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8.00
27 votes

#3 - The Merchants of Cool

Season 2001 - Episode 5 - Aired 2/27/2001

FRONTLINE journeys into the world of the marketers of popular culture to teenagers. They spend their days sifting through reams of market research data. They conduct endless surveys and focus groups. They comb the streets, the schools, and the malls, hot on the trail of the "next big thing" that will snare the attention of their prey - a market segment worth an estimated $300 billion a year. They are the merchants of cool: the creators and sellers of popular culture, who have made teens the hottest consumer demographic in America. But are these marketers merely reflecting a growing coarseness in teen culture, or have they helped create it? Are they simply reflecting teen desires or have they begun to manufacture those desires in a bid to secure this lucrative market? And have they gone too far in their attempts to reach the hearts - and wallets - of America's youth?

Memory of the Camps
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8.00
27 votes

#4 - Memory of the Camps

Season 1985 - Episode 18 - Aired 5/7/1985

Forty years ago, Allied troops invaded Germany and liberated Nazi death camps. They found unspeakable horrors which still haunt the world's conscience. Frontline presents the world broadcast of a 1945 film made by British and American film crews who were with the troops liberating the camps. The film was directed in part by Alfred Hitchcock and is broadcast for the first time in its entirety on Frontline.

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The Earthquake is Coming
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8.00
2 votes

#5 - The Earthquake is Coming

Season 1987 - Episode 2 - Aired 2/3/1987

Frontline examines the startling implications of what will happen when the big earthquake hits California, detailing the awesome effects as systems rupture and the entire nation's economy, industries, and national security are jeopardized.

Syria Behind the Lines
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8.00
27 votes

#6 - Syria Behind the Lines

Season 2013 - Episode 6 - Aired 4/9/2013

An unprecedented film documents the new and perilous reality of everyday life for both Syria’s rebels and its regime.

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Young & Restless In China
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8.00
27 votes

#7 - Young & Restless In China

Season 2008 - Episode 10 - Aired 6/17/2008

This spring, FRONTLINE explores the generation coming of age in China today. Shot over four years, the film follows a group of nine young Chinese from across the country as they scramble to keep pace with a society changing as fast as any in history. Their stories of ambition and desire, exuberance, crime and corruption are interwoven with moments of heartache and despair. Together they paint an intimate portrait of the generation that is remaking China.

Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story
star
7.10
27 votes

#8 - Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story

Season 2008 - Episode 14 - Aired 11/11/2008

In the wake of yet another hard-fought and bitter presidential campaign, FRONTLINE presents a spirited and revealing biography of Lee Atwater, the charming, Machiavellian godfather of modern, take-no-prisoners Republican political campaigns. Through eye-opening interviews with Atwater's closest friends and adversaries, the film explores the life of the controversial political operative who mentored Karl Rove and George W. Bush, led the GOP to historic victories, and wrote the party's winning playbook. The story tracks Atwater's rise from his beginnings in South Carolina as a high school election kingmaker all the way to the White House and his subsequent battle with cancer and final search for forgiveness and redemption. To Democrats, Atwater was a political assassin who one Congresswoman dubbed "the most evil man in America," but to Republicans he remains a hero for his deep understanding of the American voter and his unapologetic vision of politics as warfare.

Bush's War, Part 1
star
7.00
27 votes

#9 - Bush's War, Part 1

Season 2008 - Episode 5 - Aired 3/23/2008

9/11 and Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Iraq, WMD and the Insurgency, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, and the Surge. For six years FRONTLINE has been revealing those stories in meticulous detail, and the political dramas played out at the highest levels -- George W. Bush and Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Osama Bin Laden. Now, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, the full saga will unfold in a special four-hour broadcast over two consecutive nights on PBS, titled Bush's War. Drawing on one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism (FRONTLINE's 40+ films), veteran producer Michael Kirk (Cheney's Law; Endgame; The Lost Year in Iraq; The Dark Side; The Torture Question; Rumsfeld's War; The Man Who Knew; The War Behind Closed Doors; Gunning for Saddam, Target America) also delivers new reporting and fresh interviews. Bush's War will be the definitive documentary analysis of one of the most challenging periods in the nation's history. "Parts of this history have been told before -- the invasion of Afghanistan, torture, flawed intelligence and the invasion of Iraq, failures in the American occupation, and the saber-rattling over Iran," Kirk says, "But no one has laid out the entire narrative to reveal in one epic story, the scope and detail of how this war began and how it has been fought, both on the ground and deep inside the government."

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Cyber War!
star
7.00
1 votes

#10 - Cyber War!

Season 2003 - Episode 9 - Aired 4/24/2003

The Slammer hit on Super Bowl Sunday. Nimda struck one week after 9/11. Code Red had ripped through the system that summer. Moonlight Maze moved from the Russian Academy of Science and into the U.S. Department of Defense. A new form of warfare has broken out and the battleground is cyberspace. With weapons like embedded malicious code, probes and pings, there are surgical strikes, reverse neutron bombs, and the potential for massive assaults aimed directly at America's infrastructure -- the power grid, the water supply, the complex air traffic control system, and the nation's railroads. FRONTLINE investigates the threat of cyber war and reveals what the White House knows that the rest of us don't.

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Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown
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6.00
27 votes

#11 - Inside Japan's Nuclear Meltdown

Season 2012 - Episode 6 - Aired 2/28/2012

FRONTLINE continues its investigation of nuclear safety with an unprecedented account of the crisis inside the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011. With exclusive eyewitness testimony, FRONTLINE tells the story of the workers struggling frantically to reconnect power inside the plant's pitch-dark and highly radioactive reactor buildings; the nuclear experts and officials in the Prime Minister's office fighting to get information as the crisis spiraled out of control; and the plant manager who disobeyed his executives' orders when he thought it would save the lives of his workers. The story profiles the Japanese soldiers and firefighters drafted to cool the reactors, who were wounded when the reactor housings exploded; and the families living near the nuclear plant, who unknowingly fled in the same direction as the radioactive plume, exposing themselves to dangerously high radiation levels.

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Inside Obama's Presidency
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6.00
27 votes

#12 - Inside Obama's Presidency

Season 2013 - Episode 2 - Aired 1/15/2013

As Barack Obama is sworn in for his second term, FRONTLINE takes a probing look at the first four years of his presidency. With inside accounts from his battles with his Republican opponents over health care and the economy to his dramatic expansion of targeted killings of enemies, FRONTLINE examines the president's key decisions and the experiences that will inform his second term.

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Prison State
star
4.00
27 votes

#13 - Prison State

Season 2014 - Episode 8 - Aired 4/29/2014

A look at the impact of mass incarceration in America focuses on a housing project in Kentucky.

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Drug Wars (1)
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0.00
0 votes

#14 - Drug Wars (1)

Season 2000 - Episode 13 - Aired 10/9/2000

In 1968, the federal drug enforcement budget was $60 million. By the end of fiscal year 1999, that same budget had exploded to more than $17 billion. Yet despite the United States' vast efforts during the past three decades to stop the flow of illegal drugs, the use of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and other illicit drugs remains essentially unchanged. FRONTLINE presents the first television history of America's war on drugs as told from both sides of the battlefield in a special four-hour report. Part I recounts the origins of the anti-drug campaign, from the Nixon administration's drug control efforts to the rapid rise and fall of the Colombian drug cartels.

The Choice 2000
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0.00
0 votes

#15 - The Choice 2000

Season 2000 - Episode 12 - Aired 10/2/2000

As Americans prepare for the first presidential election of the 21st century, FRONTLINE opens its nineteenth season with a dual biography of the two men who hope to become the next president of the United States. The two-hour documentary goes beyond the political rhetoric to explore how the candidates and their values have been shaped by family background, history, victory and defeat. By eschewing political pundits in favor of insightful comments from friends, mentors, historians, and spiritual advisors, "The Choice 2000" offers viewers-and voters-a chance to see these two individuals in a fresh light before the campaign reaches its climax on Election Day.

The Battle Over School Choice
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0 votes

#16 - The Battle Over School Choice

Season 2000 - Episode 11 - Aired 5/23/2000

With more students than ever enrolled in kindergarten through high school, education is now a top voter concern. What's needed to improve our public schools-better teachers, smaller classes, greater parent involvement, higher standards, more tests? Or, is privatization the answer? Democrats and Republicans differ sharply on the hot button issue of school vouchers and whether public funds should be used to pay for private or parochial schools. FRONTLINE explores the heated political debate over the reform of public education and investigates the spectrum of "school choice" options-from vouchers to charter schools to for-profit academies-and their growing popularity in troubled inner cities. FRONTLINE also interviews presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush about their views on reform initiatives and looks at their track records on improving public schools.

Return of the Czar
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0 votes

#17 - Return of the Czar

Season 2000 - Episode 10 - Aired 5/9/2000

Almost a decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia is arguably more free than at any time in its history. But while the West has applauded the market reforms of former President Boris Yeltsin, in Russia there has been collapse. Today, as the country is being militarized, anti-Western propaganda is increasing. In pushing its ideas of reform, did the U.S. turn a blind eye to Kremlin illegality and compromise the moral authority America cultivated throughout the Cold War? As career KGB officer Vladimir Putin-Yeltsin's anointed successor-is set to ascend to Russia's presidency, FRONTLINE takes an in-depth look at what Russia has become and why.

Jefferson's Blood
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0.00
0 votes

#18 - Jefferson's Blood

Season 2000 - Episode 9 - Aired 5/2/2000

For years there existed a rumor that Thomas Jefferson had a long-standing relationship and several children by Sally Hemings, a woman who was his slave. Now, DNA tests all but prove the rumor true. An early hero of the anti-slavery movement, Jefferson wrote brilliantly of the corrupting influence of slavery on blacks and whites alike. Yet it is now apparent that he lived a dual life, sharing his house with his white daughter and grandchildren while his unacknowledged mistress and his children by her worked in the same house as slaves. In a personal essay, FRONTLINE correspondent Shelby Steele examines Jefferson's life and follows the descendants of Jefferson and Hemings as they undergo DNA testing, search out their family history, and try to sort out their place along America's blurred color line.

What's Up With the Weather?
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0 votes

#19 - What's Up With the Weather?

Season 2000 - Episode 8 - Aired 4/18/2000

Since the late 1980s, rising temperatures and dramatic weather-from heat waves and hurricanes to melting glaciers-have fueled a global political and scientific debate about whether life on earth is imperiled by human-caused global warming. NOVA and FRONTLINE join forces to examine what climatologists really know about the greenhouse effect. What is the connection between rising levels of carbon dioxide and rising temperatures? And what will the real impact of global warming be? The program examines the enormous difficulty in reducing the levels of greenhouse gases in a highly technological world economy and explores the political struggle between environmentalists and industrialists, between rich and poor countries, to grapple with what promises to be the most perplexing issue of the twenty-first century.

Dr Solomon's Dilemma
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0 votes

#20 - Dr Solomon's Dilemma

Season 2000 - Episode 7 - Aired 4/4/2000

In the 1990s, cost-cutting HMOs were reviled as the enemy of doctors and patients. After fighting to regain control of the medical process, doctors are now struggling to manage tough financial decisions as well as patient care. On a daily basis, doctors find themselves faced with the often excruciating responsibility of balancing quality care against their own bottom line. FRONTLINE correspondent Hedrick Smith goes inside one of Harvard Medical Schools premier teaching hospitals and discovers Dr. Martin Solomon, a highly rated primary care physician, embroiled in the most bitter conflict of his career. He and his colleagues battle with each other over cutting costs, worry about the impact of red ink on their own income, and fear the struggle between care and costs will not only damage quality but will ultimately tear apart the trust between doctors and patients.

War in Europe (1)
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0 votes

#21 - War in Europe (1)

Season 2000 - Episode 5 - Aired 2/22/2000

Twelve months ago, in the skies above Kosovo, NATO went to war. It was a war that unleashed terrible brutality. On one side was a ruthless leader-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic-who claimed history was on his side. On the other, an alliance whose politicians believed that this was a crusade for moral values. It was a war where the politicians, rather than the military commanders, dictated the battlefield strategy and tactics. At its end, the war had produced one million refugees, thousands of civilian deaths, and a broken land still without peace. FRONTLINE correspondent Peter Boyer undertakes the first in-depth examination of a European war rife with diplomatic infighting and military stumbling.

Assault on Gay America
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0 votes

#22 - Assault on Gay America

Season 2000 - Episode 4 - Aired 2/15/2000

On February 19, 1999, in Sylacauga, Alabama, 39-year-old computer programmer Billy Jack Gaither was murdered - the victim of a violent hate crime. One of the convicted killers testified he killed Gaither because he was "queer." Why have gays like Gaither and Matthew Shepard become the targets of such brutality? On February 15, nearly one year after the Gaither murder, FRONTLINE correspondent Forrest Sawyer explores the roots of homophobia in America-as a catalyst for hate crimes and as a phenomenon that permeates our society-and asks how these attitudes, beliefs, and fears contribute to the recent rise in violence against gays.

The Survival of Saddam
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0 votes

#23 - The Survival of Saddam

Season 2000 - Episode 3 - Aired 1/25/2000

When the Gulf War ended, the United States government believed the Iraqis would quickly overthrow Saddam Hussein. But nine years later, he still rules Iraq. FRONTLINE investigates Saddam's ruthless rise to power and how he has maintained his grip despite pressure from economic sanctions, no-fly zones, UN weapons inspectors, and military attacks from the Iraqi opposition.

The Killer at Thurston High
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0 votes

#24 - The Killer at Thurston High

Season 2000 - Episode 2 - Aired 1/18/2000

In May 1998, a year before the massacre at Columbine High, fifteen-year-old Kip Kinkel murdered his mother and father, and then opened fire at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, killing two fellow students and wounding twenty-five others. In this first in-depth television examination of a school shooter, FRONTLINE reveals the intimate inside story of how the "shy and likeable" Kip Kinkel from a solid middle-class family became the boy police call "a cold-hearted killer."

Trail of a Terrorist
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0.00
0 votes

#25 - Trail of a Terrorist

Season 2001 - Episode 15 - Aired 10/25/2001

On December 14, 1999, Ahmed Ressam was detained at the U.S./Canadian border when an alert customs agent became suspicious of Ressam's hesitant answers to her questions. When the trunk of his car was opened, agents discovered a powerful bomb and a plot for a millennium attack on America. Ressam said nothing at his trial but, facing 130 years in prison, decided to testify against an accomplice. His chilling testimony reveals his motives, his methods, and his connection to an Algerian terrorist group that had already carried out bombings in Europe. Ressam described his training at the Osama bin Laden camps in Afghanistan, where he became skilled in urban warfare, sabotage, and covert operations. With access to Ressams testimony, police files, and officials in the U.S., Canada, and France, correspondent Terence McKenna follows the trail of a terrorist.

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