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: 4/12/2024Network: PBSStatus: Continuing
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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?

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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.

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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.

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Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story
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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
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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!
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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
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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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Storm Over Everest
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0 votes

#14 - Storm Over Everest

Season 2008 - Episode 9 - Aired 5/13/2008

As darkness fell on May 10, 1996, a fast-moving storm of unimaginable ferocity trapped three climbing teams high on the slopes of Mount Everest. The climbers, exhausted from their summit climb, were soon lost in darkness, in a fierce blizzard, far from the safety of High Camp at...,000 feet. World-renowned climber and filmmaker David Breashears, who aided the rescue efforts back in 1996, now returns to Everest to tell the fuller story of what really happened on that legendary climb. Through remarkably intimate interviews with the climbers and Sherpas -- many who have never spoken before on American television -- Breashears sheds new light on the worst climbing tragedy in Mount Everest's history.

Organ Farm (2)
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#15 - Organ Farm (2)

Season 2001 - Episode 7 - Aired 4/3/2001

The Monster that Ate Hollywood
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#16 - The Monster that Ate Hollywood

Season 2001 - Episode 18 - Aired 11/22/2001

The box office is booming. New international markets are opening weekly. Amazing advances in technology hold the promise of new delivery systems. Yet there's trouble bubbling just below the surface in Hollywood today as movie industry creative types struggle to adapt to new business realities. On the eve of one of the biggest weekends for new movie releases, FRONTLINE explores the changing Hollywood, revealing how once-fiercely independent studio bosses must now answer to the megacorporations that have swallowed the industry whole.

Saudi Time Bomb?
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#17 - Saudi Time Bomb?

Season 2001 - Episode 17 - Aired 11/15/2001

President Bush says that if the nations of the world are not with us in the war on terrorism then theyre with the terrorists. But what about the United States' supposed ally Saudi Arabia? After September 11th many Saudi citizens reportedly applauded native son Osama bin Laden as a hero. Then the monarchy hesitated to renounce the Taliban and they are still reluctant to allow U.S. warplanes to fly from their bases. Why have Saudi and other Gulf charities sent money to support Islamic fundamentalist schools that are encouraging jihad? And are the Saudis dragging their feet when it comes to assisting U.S. law enforcement agencies that are tracking down terrorists? Whose side are the Saudis on? FRONTLINE and The New York Times explore the fragile alliance with this ultra conservative fundamentalist kingdom upon which the U.S. depends for fifteen percent of the countrys oil needs.

Gunning for Saddam
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#18 - Gunning for Saddam

Season 2001 - Episode 16 - Aired 11/8/2001

As Americans are confronted by acts of bioterrorism, powerful forces in the nations capitol believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is to blame, for this and many other terrorist acts during the last decade. Many are lobbying to mobilize a military operation to oust Hussein when the next phase of the war on terrorism kicks in. Proponents of the plan, including former Clinton administration CIA director James Woolsey, contend Saddam Hussein was involved in the first World Trade Center bombing, the attempted assassination of President George H.W. Bush in 1993, and the ongoing state sponsorship of terrorist activities. Foes of this plan argue that attacking Saddam will destabilize other nations in the region, most prominently Saudi Arabia, and no doubt destroy the carefully crafted coalition presently hunting for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. FRONTLINE investigates Americas other enemy, Saddam Hussein.

Trail of a Terrorist
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0 votes

#19 - 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.

Dangerous Straits
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#20 - Dangerous Straits

Season 2001 - Episode 14 - Aired 10/18/2001

Since the terrible events of Sept 11th, the United States has worked hard to put together a worldwide coalition against international terrorism. Where will China come down? FRONTLINE and The New York Times explore the tensions between the U.S. and China and the troubles the relationship presents for President Bush, who plans a visit to China in October. The dramatic U.S. spy plane incident off the coast of China in early 2001 reminded us of the dangerous suspicion that exists between the world's most powerful country and its most populous one. China has been supportive of some Islamic states that the U.S. counts as its enemies, and there is also the simmering question of Taiwan. American support for Taiwan means that if it declares independence, the U.S. could be drawn into an international dispute that might lead to war. The Straits of Taiwan have been described by one China expert as "one of the most dangerous places in the world."

Target America
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#21 - Target America

Season 2001 - Episode 12 - Aired 10/4/2001

Last month, the nation's top leaders gathered to decide the U.S response to the September 11 terrorist attack. Some of the same individuals were in Washington, DC, twenty-two years ago when the United States suffered its first humiliation at the hands of Islamic militants. U.S. embassy employees were taken hostage and held captive before the world. Over the decades, incident followed incident - the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, the killing of American soldiers in a Berlin nightclub, the downing of Pan Am 103, and the first attack on the World Trade Center. In "Target America," FRONTLINE uncovers a long-standing division within the nation's security apparatus about how to deal with an enemy that has been targeting America and Americans for decades.

Blackout
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#22 - Blackout

Season 2001 - Episode 10 - Aired 6/5/2001

Power shortages. Rolling blackouts. Skyrocketing utility bills. California's power disaster has made "energy" a national front-burner issue. The state's power crunch has affected everyone from homeowners and small businesses to the big-business consumers of electricity who originally pushed for deregulation. Now, the state's largest utility, PG& E, has filed for bankruptcy. But is California's energy crisis the result of flawed deregulation and the weather-or, as some charge, market manipulation by a new breed of power entrepreneurs? Or a bit of both? And could other states face similar energy shortages?

LAPD Blues
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#23 - LAPD Blues

Season 2001 - Episode 9 - Aired 5/15/2001

All is not well inside the Los Angeles Police Department. The worst corruption scandal in the force's history has devastated a police department once epitomized by Dragnet's Joe Friday and the clean-cut crew of Adam-12. FRONTLINE correspondent and New Yorker writer Peter J. Boyer unravels the mysteries that swirl around recent reports of police brutality, departmental racism, and corrupt cops who take part in everything from dope deals to bank robberies.

Medicating Kids
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#24 - Medicating Kids

Season 2001 - Episode 8 - Aired 4/10/2001

Today, millions of American children are being prescribed powerful behavior modifying drugs such as Ritalin, Prozac, Adderall. But are these medications really necessary-and safe-for young children or merely a harried nation's quick fix for annoying, yet age-appropriate, behavior? FRONTLINE investigates the rapidly growing use of psychoactive drugs by children and the challenges of parenting and schooling in a world of high stress and increasing family disintegration. Through an intimate portrait of several families in an American suburb, the film explores how medication has increasingly become an integral part of caring for our kids. The documentary also examines the role of doctors, educators, pharmaceutical makers, and insurance companies in advancing this trend.

Money, Power and Wall Street, Part 3
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#25 - Money, Power and Wall Street, Part 3

Season 2012 - Episode 11 - Aired 5/1/2012