The BEST Episodes of NOVA
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: May 6, 2020
Seen in more than 100 countries, NOVA is the most watched science television series in the world and the most watched documentary series on PBS. It is also one of television's most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.
#2 - Marathon Challenge
Season 34 - Episode 11 - Aired Oct 30, 2007
13 amateurs train for the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon.
#3 - Secrets Of Lost Empires: Medieval Siege
Season 27 - Episode 3 - Aired Feb 1, 2000
In the film, which is a part of the NOVA series Secrets of Lost Empires, a team of timber framers and other specialists design, build, and fire a pair of trebuchets, a devastating engine of war popular in the Middle Ages.
#4 - Whales, Dolphins, And Men
Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired Mar 17, 1974
NOVA explores the impact of whaling and the goods it produces for the industry, verses the grace and beatury of this intelligent mammal of the sea.
#5 - Fusion: The Energy Promise
Season 1 - Episode 12 - Aired May 19, 1974
Nuclear fusion offers the promises of an unlimited, clean source of energy. But achieving fusion has proved one of the most difficult and elusive goals of the physicist. NOVA tells the story of the twists and turns and the international competition along the road toward the achievement of fusion; and details the recent breakthroughs which seem at last to have brought it within reach.
#6 - The Miracle of Life
Season 10 - Episode 4 - Aired Feb 15, 1983
A documentary that shows the actual conception and development of a baby. It looks inside the male and female reproductive organs to show the formation of sperm and the passage of a fertilized egg through the fallopian tube. Uses a microscope to observe DNA, chromosomes, and other minute body details building up to the moment of birth.
#7 - Is Anybody Out There?
Season 13 - Episode 16 - Aired Nov 18, 1986
Could there be life beyond Earth? Only recently has it become possible to scan the skies in a systematic attempt to find out. NOVA joins the search with guest host Lily Tomlin.
#8 - The Last Journey of a Genius
Season 16 - Episode 2 - Aired Jan 24, 1989
NOVA looks at the bongo-playing scientist, adventurer, safecracker and yarn-spinner Richard Feynman, most recently famous for his role as gadfly of the Presidential Commission investigating the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
#9 - Design Wars!
Season 16 - Episode 13 - Aired Oct 17, 1989
NOVA examines the entries put forward by five architects and their teams, in a tough competition to choose a design for the new Chicago Public Library. The show gives viewers a chance to see the variation between the designs, as well as taking a closer look at the winning plan.
#10 - Can Bombing Win a War?
Season 20 - Episode 2 - Aired Jan 19, 1993
The Gulf War was fought in 38 days of non-stop bombing and four days of swift ground action. Did bombing win it? NOVA looks at the history of strategic bombing and asks whether bombing has now achieved preeminence in warfare.
#11 - Surviving the Tsunami
Season 38 - Episode 12 - Aired Sep 28, 2011
The earthquake that hit the northern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, was recorded at magnitude 9.0 the worst ever recorded in Japan. It generated an unprecedented tsunami, obliterating coastal villages and towns in a matter of minutes. In some areas, the tsunami climbed above 100 feet in height and traveled miles inland. Amazingly, amateur and professional photographers captured it all on video, including remarkable tales of human survival, as ordinary citizens became heroes in a drama they never could have imagined. As the waves rush in, a daughter struggles to help her elderly mother ascend their rooftop to safety; a man climbs onto an overpass just as the wave overtakes his car. These never-before-seen stories are captured in video and retold after the fact by the survivors who reveal what they were thinking as they made their life-saving decisions. Their stories provide lessons for how we should all act in the face of life-threatening disasters.
#12 - Galileo's Battle For The Heavens
Season 29 - Episode 12 - Aired Oct 29, 2002
In this two-hour special, NOVA celebrates the story of the father of modern science and his struggle to get Church authorities to accept the truth of his astonishing discoveries. The program is based on Dava Sobel's bestselling book, Galileo's Daughter, which reveals a new side to the famously stubborn scientist—that his closest confidante was his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun.
#13 - Where Did the Colorado Go?
Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Mar 10, 1974
NOVA explores the mighty Colorado River which today has become the life-blood of the Southwest, providing water and electricity to the farms and cities of California, Nevada, and Arizona. The program examines the political expediency and technological over-optimism that has led to some major miscalculations of the river's capacity.
#14 - The Elegant Universe: Einstein's Dream (1)
Season 30 - Episode 12 - Aired Oct 28, 2003
An introduction to string theory and its unification of general relativity and quantum mechanics.
#15 - The Big Energy Gamble
Season 36 - Episode 1 - Aired Jan 20, 2009
Can California's ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gases actually succeed?
#16 - Saved By The Sun
Season 34 - Episode 5 - Aired Apr 24, 2007
NOVA explores solar energy and its contribution towards getting humanity off of fossil fuels.
#17 - Ghost In Your Genes
Season 34 - Episode 10 - Aired Oct 16, 2007
Experts investigate how a mysterious "second genome" helps determine our biological fates.
#18 - Life's Greatest Miracle
Season 28 - Episode 17 - Aired Nov 20, 2001
A sequel to the most popular NOVA of all time, "Miracle of Life," the program once again uses the extraordinary microimagery of Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson to track human development from embryo to newborn.
#19 - The Orchid Hunter
Season 29 - Episode 15 - Aired Nov 26, 2002
For nine months in 2000, Tom Hart Dyke was a captive of guerrillas who seized him while he was collecting wild orchids in the Colombian rain forest. Now Hart Dyke is at it again in the most orchid-rich and one of the most politically unstable parts of Irian Jaya, the western half of the island of New Guinea.
#20 - The Deadliest Plane Crash
Season 33 - Episode 13 - Aired Oct 17, 2006
On March 27, 1977, on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, two fully loaded 747 jumbo jets collided on a fogbound runway, killing 583 people in what is still the deadliest crash in aviation history. NOVA looks back at the crucial final hours before the disaster. Despite new technology to improve runway safety, near-misses on the ground are still the leading cause of deadly aviation accidents.
#21 - Underwater Dream Machine
Season 33 - Episode 17 - Aired Dec 26, 2006
Follow one man's dream to engeneer a submarine with panaramic views.
#23 - Great Escape
Season 31 - Episode 17 - Aired Nov 16, 2004
Archeologists excavate Stalag Luft 3, the site of the greatest WWII prisoner escape. Prisoners of the camp are also interviewed.
#24 - Dying To Be Thin
Season 27 - Episode 20 - Aired Dec 12, 2000
The film examines a disturbing increase in the prevalence of debilitating and sometimes life-threatening eating disorders, particularly anorexia and bulimia.
#25 - Trillion Dollar Bet
Season 27 - Episode 6 - Aired Feb 8, 2000
The film tells the fascinating story of the invention of the Black-Scholes Formula, a mathematical Holy Grail that forever altered the world of finance and earned its creators the 1997 Nobel Prize in Economics.