Best Ken Burns Documentaries

Ken Burns is by far the Godfather of Documentary Cinema. His documentaries have been nominated for two Academy Awards and have won Emmy Awards among other honors. He has covered such serious matters as the US Civil War and World War II as well as more lighthearted subjects like Baseball and Mark Twain.

While his subjects primarily cover life and history in the United States, his perspectives are far-reaching. His style of using archival photos and film footage has served to give a new life to the past. In fact, it was his step-father, a psychologist, who pointed out to Burns that his "whole work was an attempt to make people long gone come back alive."

Below are the best of his many documentaries. Some are fun, some are sobering, but all are informative and artistic.

The Top Ten

1 The Civil War

If you haven't seen this series, you should. It gives the best insight into the "war against the states" ever really produced. Covering everything from slavery to major battles, you'll be brought to tears by the artistry.


2 Baseball

The most thorough history of America's national pastime every produced. Covering everything from the game's creation to it's modern day scandals, if you love sports, you'll love this series.

3 The War

An insightful look at World War II through the eyes of the United States.

4 The National Parks: America's Best Idea

This is the series that won Ken Burns two Emmy Awards. It features the United States National Park system and traces the system's history.

Our national treasure the must be preserved for our future generation, a must see for junior high to high schoolers plus all government officials with a summary of what our elected official understood by a biparitian inquiry.

5 The West

A history of the American West. Native struggles, frontiersmen, military conquest, this series covers it all.

6 Jazz
7 The Roosevelts

I knew nothing about them. This documentary was fascinating. Teddy, FDR, and Eleanor were like real life super heroes. Being wealthy from birth they could have done little and still be fine but they all accomplished amazing acts that have benefitted our country and mankind to this day.

8 Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio

It began as a non-fiction book by Tom Lewis but was adapted into a documentary and a radio drama. Ken Burns covers the major players in the field as well as their feuds.

9 Prohibition

T describes how the consumption and effect of alcoholic beverages in the United States were connected to many different cultural forces including immigration, women's suffrage, and the income tax. Eventually the Temperance movement led to the passing of Prohibition, the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Should be numero uno yo!

10 The Central Park Five

The documentary provides background, interviews, expert analysis and details of associated facts related to the Central Park jogger case and the conviction of the five suspects.

The Contenders

11 The Statue of Liberty

A detailed history of "Lady Liberty" from not only the view of the people but also of the media.

12 Mark Twain

Burns attempted to capture both the public and private persona of Mark Twain from his birth to his death.

All American Literature begins with Mark Twain -Hemingway (And all documentaries begin with Ken Burns)

13 The Dust Bowl
14 Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery

The best of all his productions,photography is stunning.. Story captivating and accurate

15 Uranium – Twisting the Dragon's Tail

This one reallly open's your eyes to the power and dangers of uranium...the ultimate pandora's box - espyorkshireman

BAdd New Item

Recommended Lists