The Best Episodes of History Channel Documentaries

The Dark Ages

#1 - The Dark Ages

Season 2008 - Episode 2

A look at European history after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. At its height in the second century A.D., the Roman Empire was the beacon of learning, trade, power and prosperity in the western world. But the once-powerful Rome--rotten to the core by the fifth century--lay open to barbarian warriors who came in wave after wave of invasion, slaughtering, stealing, and ultimately, settling. As chaos replaced culture, Europe was beset by famine, plague, persecutions, and a state of war that was so persistent it was only rarely interrupted by peace. THE DARK AGES profiles those who battled to shape the future, from the warlords whose armies threatened to case the demise of European society, like Alaric, Charles the Hammer, and Clovis; to the men and women who valiantly tended the flames of justice, knowledge, and innovation including Charlemagne, St. Benedict, Empress Theodora, and other brave souls who fought for peace and enlightenment. It was in the shadows of this turbulent millennium that the seeds of modern civilization were sown.

Isaac's Storm

#2 - Isaac's Storm

Season 2004 - Episode 288

By the summer of 1900, Galveston, Texas was one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, and its citizens were full of optimism as the 20th century approached. One of those citizens was Isaac Cline, appointed a decade earlier to head the U.S. Weather Bureau office in Galveston. But on September 8 of that year, a Category 4 hurricane washed away most of the city and claimed more than 6,000 lives--still the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. This documentary focuses on Isaac Cline's role in the disaster: was he (as local legend has it) a heroic figure who saved lives by warning the population to flee, or did scientific hubris prevent him from seeing the danger until it was too late?

Star Trek: Secrets of the Universe

#3 - Star Trek: Secrets of the Universe

Season 2013 - Episode 1

Is building our own starship Enterprise possible? Will we ever travel between the stars as easily as they do in Star Trek? JJ Abrams' new feature, Star Trek Into Darkness, hits the screen in a golden age of scientific discoveries. HISTORY is there, giving viewers a deep look behind the scenes, on the set, and into the science--amazing new exoplanets, the physics of Warp drive, and the ideas behind how we might one day live in a Star Trek Universe.

The French Revolution

#4 - The French Revolution

Season 2005 - Episode 3

On July 14, 1789, a mob of angry Parisians stormed the Bastille and seized the King's military stores. A decade of idealism, war, murder, and carnage followed, bringing about the end of feudalism and the rise of equality and a new world order. The French Revolution is a definitive feature-length documentary that encapsulates this heady (and often headless) period in Western civilization. With dramatic reenactments, illustrations, and paintings from the era, plus revealing accounts from journals and expert commentary from historians, The French Revolution vividly unfurls in a maelstrom of violence, discontent, and fundamental change. King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Maximilien Robespierre, and Napoleon Bonaparte lead a cast of thousands in this essential program from THE HISTORY CHANNEL

Directors: Doug Shultz
Bible Battles

#5 - Bible Battles

Season 2008 - Episode 3

A look at the christian bible through the eyes of a military historian.

Nazi Titanic

#6 - Nazi Titanic

Season 2012 - Episode 4

In one of World War II’s most bizarre episodes, the Nazi propaganda machine attempted to produce an epic film recreating Titanic’s demise. This special brings you the little-known story of the Third Reich’s would-be blockbuster.

Journey To The Earths Core

#7 - Journey To The Earths Core

Season 2011 - Episode 7

Humans have mapped every corner of the globe – from jungles and deserts to the depths of space. Yet we’ve gone only seven miles below the Earth’s surface – just one five hundredth of the way to the Core. The two-hour documentary JOURNEY TO THE EARTH’S CORE goes deeper: 4,000 miles down to the heart of our planet. Along the way, scientists, engineers, explorers and adventurers encounter an underground world where: strange life forms inhabit deadly environments over a mile down; trees force their way through 400 feet of rock to find water; 1500-foot tall skyscrapers are built on sand; mines are the size of cities; and prospectors give the Earth electric shocks to help find oil. It also a place where people run marathons, make parachute jumps and scuba divers edge their way to the base of the world’s deepest caves.

102 Minutes That Changed America: 15th Anniversary Edition

#8 - 102 Minutes That Changed America: 15th Anniversary Edition

Season 2016 - Episode 7

History’s Emmy® Award-winning, and critically acclaimed documentary chronicled the terror of 9/11 in real-time. It is a minute by minute account of the catastrophe unfolding, using footage from numerous sources, including personal camcorder footage, police and fire department recordings, and in-the-moment commentary from first responders and witnesses. This anniversary edition includes interviews and perspectives from those featured in the film, and people who can speak to the events that followed the attack.

Lost Magic Decoded

#9 - Lost Magic Decoded

Season 2012 - Episode 8

Master illusionist Steve Cohen tracks down, decodes, and resurrects some of the most thrilling and terrifying magic effects ever witnessed. Magic has a secret history, and it takes an insider like Cohen to gain access to the ancient incantations, secret sorcery, and mysterious contraptions that have shocked audiences for centuries. Can their secrets somehow be rediscovered? And can they thrill and shock today's audiences like they once did? Explore the mysteries of how these legendary effects were influenced by their times, and even how the illusions themselves changed the course of history. Steve Cohen discovers that there is much more to magic than meets the eye, and he becomes drawn closer and closer to taking the same sometimes death-defying risks that conjurors have been taking for the sake of an illusion since magic began, over a thousand years ago.

Sun Tzu: The Art of War

#10 - Sun Tzu: The Art of War

Season 2009 - Episode 10

Documentary detailing the philosophy of Sun Tzu; A Chinese general who wrote the fundamental principles of war. This program analyzes wars in recent history and explains how Sun Tzu's philosophy is still relevant today.

Directors: David Padrusch
Little Ice Age: Big Chill

#11 - Little Ice Age: Big Chill

Season 2005 - Episode 11

Not so long ago, civilization learned that it was no match for just a few degrees drop in temperature. Scientists call it the Little Ice Age--but its impact was anything but small. From 1300 to 1850, a period of cataclysmic cold caused havoc. It froze Viking colonists in Greenland, accelerated the Black Death in Europe, decimated the Spanish Armada, and helped trigger the French Revolution. The Little Ice Age reshaped the world in ways that now seem the stuff of fantasy--New York Harbor froze and people walked from Manhattan to Staten Island, Eskimos sailed kayaks as far south as Scotland, and two feet of snow fell on New England in June and July during "the Year Without a Summer". Could another catastrophic cold snap strike in the 21st century? Leading climatologists offer the latest theories, and scholars and historians recreate the history that could be a glimpse of things to come

Most Extreme Airports

#12 - Most Extreme Airports

Season 2010 - Episode 16

The infrastructures of 50-year-old airports are examined for their difficulties in keeping pace with the demands of heavy, modern traffic, as the aging airports must face issues stemming from layout, geography and much more

American Vesuvius

#13 - American Vesuvius

Season 2006 - Episode 16

On August 25th, 79 AD, the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were flash-frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying all life in its path. Noted paleontologist, archaeologist, and forensic physicist Charles Pellegrino is the author of Ghosts of Vesuvius, a fascinating look at this ancient volcanic eruption. In AMERICAN VESUVIUS, Pellegrino uses the emerging science of forensic archaeology to decipher clues and gather evidence that helps him reconstruct the final moments of the victims. Using the same forensic techniques, Pellegrino undertakes an investigation of the ruins of the World Trade Center. By processing evidence and interviewing witnesses, he illustrates dramatic physical parallels between Vesuvius's eruption and the collapse of the Twin Towers. His scientific exploration results in an array of startling connections between the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the man-made devastation at Ground Zero.

Enola Gay: Rain of Ruin

#14 - Enola Gay: Rain of Ruin

Season 2011 - Episode 17

ENOLA GAY: RAIN OF RUIN puts you inside the cockpit of the historic B-29 Superfortress bomber whose devastating payload helped bring about the end of WWII. From the development of the atomic bomb to the horrific aftermath, highlights include dramatic footage taken by the crewmembers themselves.

Directors: Tim Curran
Ghost Planes and the Mystery of Flight 370

#15 - Ghost Planes and the Mystery of Flight 370

Season 2014 - Episode 17

More than 80 aircrafts have gone missing, vanishing without a trace, since 1948; experts, CGI recreations and re-enactments show theories behind the Malaysia Flight 370 occurrence.

Ape to Man

#16 - Ape to Man

Season 1 - Episode 18

Scientists glimpse the lives of ancestral humans.

The Real American Sniper

#17 - The Real American Sniper

Season 2015 - Episode 1

Chris Kyle--an American hero--served four tours in the Iraq war and was one of the most skilled marksmen to serve in the U.S. armed forces. HISTORY tells his powerful story in this poignant one-hour World Premiere special.

Vulcan Bomber: Return to the Skies

#18 - Vulcan Bomber: Return to the Skies

Season 2007 - Episode 19

The Royal Air Force held its breath as its ageing but legendary fleet of Vulcan Aircraft undertook one last mission. The RAF took the first strike against the Argentinian invaders of the Falkland Islands. Its bombs delivered an unmistakable message; the British are coming and we will not be defeated. Only one aircraft could achieve this seemingly impossible mission over such a long distance - the legendary Vulcan Bomber. As large as a Boeing 737-200 and as fast as a fighter. With an operational ceiling of 65,000 feet her delta shape and ultra secret anti radar devices made her all but invisible to enemy forces. She was unlike anything that had been seen before and sent shock waves around the world.The programme charts the history of the aircraft, the conflicts it was involved in and follows the restoration of the World's only flying Vulcan, XH558. Also features archive film and photographs, interviews with aviation journalists, those involved with XH558's restoration and former RAF pilot and author Frederick Forsyth.An Electromedia Production for the History Channel.

Directors: Rob Hallam
God vs Satan: The Final Battle

#19 - God vs Satan: The Final Battle

Season 2008 - Episode 19

Armageddon. It is a universal theme that has spanned centuries and cultures...and has, as some say, become increasingly more relevant today. Surprisingly, however, a final chapter of this apocalyptic end has received little examination: the actual final battle between God and Satan, good and evil. The Bible points to a battlefield at Meggido in present day Israel, with each side taking a series of steps that will lead up to, and unfold, during this actual battle. What will this battle look like? Where do the stories come from, and how have they differed throughout history, between religions? God vs. Satan: The Final Battle will take viewers on a tour of the final days, and moments, as envisioned by believers of the three Abrahamic religions.

The Pope From the End of the World

#20 - The Pope From the End of the World

Season 2014 - Episode 23

On March 13, 2013, the world waited in hushed anticipation for the announcement of the new Successor of Peter and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. For weeks the news had been filled with discussions and speculation of leading papabili. Now, finally, the new pope would be revealed. But when Jorge Mario Bergoglio appeared the world was momentarily stunned. Who was this humble Cardinal from Argentina who emerged onto the loggia, choosing the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi?

Last Stand of the 300

#21 - Last Stand of the 300

Season 2007 - Episode 24

This is the true and astounding saga of the Spartans at Thermopylae. It is among the greatest tales of war ever recounted. All the glory and grit of these warriors' last stand is captured in this exceptional documentary. It is almost impossible to understand how 300 Spartans managed to hold off the million-man Persian army for even a moment, much less seven days. To a man they paid with their lives but their stunning Last Stand assured that their sacrifice would resonate throughout history. Relying on brilliant tactics, lifelong training, and unshakable allegiance, the doomed Spartans achieved the impossible. The Battle of Thermopylae is literally a textbook case, required reading even to this day at military colleges and officer training around the world. Now, THE HISTORY CHANNEL offers a definitive perspective on the epic conflict with this instructive and thrilling feature-length presentation. Transporting dramatizations and incisive graphics put you in the heat of the battle and show the lay of the land. The complications and strategies of the conflict are revealed through careful analysis, and critical moments are reconstructed to show exactly what happened. Discover what the Spartans were fighting for, what made them capable of such heroics and what drove them to such sacrifice.

Directors: David Padrusch
The Real Story of Christmas

#22 - The Real Story of Christmas

Season 2010 - Episode 28

Did you know that the quaint custom of Christmas caroling actually began with drunk and rowdy revelers threatening people door to door looking for food and liquor? Early versions of the heartwarming legend of Santa Claus described him as a horrible devil named Krampus who beat and kidnapped naughty children. In America during the 17th and 18th Centuries, celebrating Christmas was against the law! There's a lot to tell about the history of Christmas, and a lot you may not know. Along the way, meet Ebenezer Scrooge and George Bailey, The Grinch and Rudolph, and learn the true origins of our Christmas traditions. So grab some eggnog and a slice of fruitcake as HISTORY unwraps THE REAL STORY OF CHRISTMAS.

Life After People

#23 - Life After People

Season 2008 - Episode 31

If humans were suddenly to disappear, what would happen to our planet--the structures we’ve built, the everyday items we take for granted, animals domesticated and wild, plants, trees? What would become of the things that define our species and leave our mark on this Earth? Visit the ghostly villages surrounding Chernobyl (abandoned by humans after the 1986 nuclear disaster), travel to remote islands off the coast of Maine to search for abandoned towns that have vanished from view in only a few decades, then head beneath the streets of New York to see how subway tunnels may become watery canals. THE HISTORY CHANNEL takes you on an amazing visual journey in LIFE AFTER PEOPLE, a thought-provoking adventure that combines movie-quality visual effects with insights from experts in the fields of engineering, botany, ecology, biology, geology, climatology, and archeology to demonstrate how the very landscape of our planet will change in our absence.

Directors: David de Vries
Falklands The Islanders' War

#24 - Falklands The Islanders' War

Season 2007 - Episode 29

A gripping story of bravery and defiance that explores the Falklands conflict through the eyes of the people who lived through it, the islanders. Winner of the prestigious Broadcasting Press Guild ‘Best Multichannel Programme’.

History of the World in 2 Hours

#25 - History of the World in 2 Hours

Season 2011 - Episode 35

History of the World in 2 Hours gives viewers a rapid-fire history of our world, from the beginning of time as we know it to present day. History of the World in 2 Hours delves into the key turning points: the formation of earth, emergence of life, spread of man and the growth of civilization – and reveals their surprising connections to our world today.