The BEST episodes of James May's 20th Century

Every episode of James May's 20th Century ever, ranked from best to worst by thousands of votes from fans of the show. The best episodes of James May's 20th Century!

The world in 1999 would have been unrecognisable to anyone from 1900. James May takes a look at some of the greatest developments of the 20th century, and reveals how they shaped the times we live in now.

Last Updated: 4/14/2024Network: BBC TwoStatus: Ended
Blast Off
157 votes

#1 - Blast Off

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired 7/10/2007

James May investigates what the Space Race did for all of us who never got a chance to blast off into orbit, discovering that the race to the moon began in Chiswick, West London. James gets to road-test a street-legal version of the lunar buggy, but finds out gravity makes the handling difficult. After taking his own satellite photo from 700km above Earth, he then travels to NASA's launch pad in Florida to see for himself the massive Saturn moon rockets that he once made in kit-form in his bedroom.

Directors: Paul King
Watch Now:Amazon
Big City, Bright Lights
98 votes

#2 - Big City, Bright Lights

Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired 7/24/2007

Each day 180,000 people move into a city somewhere on the planet. James May investigates how the high-rise urban living condition was created.

Directors: Dan Walker
Watch Now:Amazon
Inventing The Teenager
128 votes

#3 - Inventing The Teenager

Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired 7/24/2007

During the 20th century teenagers evolved to the point of almost becoming a separate species. James May is on a journey to find out how this came about. Was it the promise of sex, the power of pop, or the pull of a 50cc Japanese two-stroke?

Directors: Claudine Dabbs
Watch Now:Amazon
Body Fantastic
126 votes

#4 - Body Fantastic

Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired 7/17/2007

James May discovers just how far he can push his body, exploring some of the most remarkable medical advances over the last hundred years. He begins by testing himself in a centrifuge, a machine used to train fighter pilots and astronauts. He is then invited to watch open heart surgery, where a man's heart stops beating in the middle of an operation. Fortunately, it is all part of the procedure to fit an artificial heart. But his biggest surprise comes when he investigates the 20th century's greatest medical breakthrough - the discovery of DNA.

Directors: Milla Harrison
Watch Now:Amazon
Honey, I Shrunk The World
133 votes

#5 - Honey, I Shrunk The World

Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired 7/10/2007

Documentary series about 20th century innovations. James May discovers how, thanks to planes, cars, televisions and computers, our world suddenly got a whole lot smaller. He takes a flight in the pioneering airplane that created the European mini-break and looks at the Ford Cortina - the classic family car that opened up a new world when he was a young lad. James also takes a Model T Ford for a test drive and finds it so difficult he wonders how motoring ever caught on.

Directors: Simon Baker
Watch Now:Amazon
Take Cover
126 votes

#6 - Take Cover

Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired 7/17/2007

James May investigates some of the most ingenious ideas to emerge from 20th century warfare. He flies in the RAF's latest supersonic jet as well as a biplane, getting to grips with just how difficult it was for early aviators to hit their targets. James also joins a group of ex-paratroopers to test camouflage painting techniques. It work so well he can't spot a man just a few hundred feet in front of him, and so turns to a hi-tech infrared camera to spot his enemy.

Directors: Helen Thomas
Watch Now:Amazon