Ken Burns' The West

Watch Ken Burns' The West

  • 1996
  • 1 Season
  • 8.4  (2,120)

Ken Burns' The West is an epic historical documentary series from PBS, first aired in 1996. The show tells the story of the American West, from its earliest days as a frontier region to its transformation into a modern society. Narrated by renowned actor Peter Coyote, the series features interviews with historians, Native American leaders, and other experts on the region. N. Scott Momaday, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and member of the Kiowa tribe, also provides commentary on the Native American experience of the West.

The show examines the West's history through a series of interconnected stories, tracing the lives of key figures such as explorers, settlers, cowboys, and outlaws. Viewers are introduced to famous figures like Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson, and Billy the Kid, as well as lesser-known individuals who played important roles in the West's development.

Throughout the series, the show also explores the various cultural and social forces that shaped the West, including the clash between Native Americans and white settlers, the rise of industrialization and transportation, the development of the cattle industry, and the impact of major historical events like the Civil War.

As the title suggests, the show also examines the Western landscape, showcasing the region's stunning vistas and natural wonders. The series features stunning cinematography and breathtaking scenery, from the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the rolling plains of Montana.

Ken Burns' The West offers a comprehensive and nuanced view of the American West, one that challenges stereotypes and offers a fresh perspective on this important chapter in American history. It is a must-see for anyone interested in the region's rich history and unique cultural identity.

The show's excellent production values, engrossing storytelling, and expert commentary make it a classic of the historical documentary genre. Peter Coyote's deep, resonant voice and N. Scott Momaday's thoughtful insights lend the series a sense of gravitas and authenticity.

Overall, Ken Burns' The West is a monumental achievement in documentary filmmaking, offering both an informative and entertaining look at one of America's most important and enduring cultural landscapes.

Ken Burns' The West is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (9 episodes). The series first aired on September 15, 1996.

Ken Burns' The West
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One Sky Above Us
9. One Sky Above Us
September 22, 1996
As settlers race to claim tribal lands, Native Americans try to restore a lost way of life until their hopes are crushed at Wounded Knee. The new century marks a new era, but the West remains what it has always been, a world waiting for a dream.
Ghost Dance
8. Ghost Dance
September 24, 1996
By the late 1880's, Americans were astounded by the changes they had brought to the West. Mining towns such as Butte, Montana were now full-fledged industrial cities, magnets of opportunity to workers from around the world, but also places where the landscape itself was under assault. Defeated militarily, Native Americas throughout the region now flocked to the call of a Paiute mystic, who offered the illusionary hope that the lost world of the buffalo could be brought back by a Ghost Dance. But its promises would be trampled in the snow and blood of Wounded Knee. In place of the great Native American cultures which once dominated the Plains was a new culture, epitomized by the Oklahoma Land Rush, in which 100,000 eager settlers lined up for a mad dash to stake out a farm and a future.
The Geography of Hope
7. The Geography of Hope
September 21, 1996
Newcomers arrive by the millions, bringing a new spirit of conformity to the West. Yet the legend of the "Wild West" lives on, thanks to the greatest showman of the age.
Fight No More Forever
6. Fight No More Forever
September 20, 1996
The federal government tightens its grip on the West, but three bold spirits remain defiant - Sitting Bull, Brigham Young, and Chief Joseph.
The Grandest Enterprise Under God
5. The Grandest Enterprise Under God
September 19, 1996
The transcontinental railroad opens a new era in the West, carrying homesteaders and cowboys, helping give women the vote and sending buffalo hunters onto the plains, where they drive a symbol of the West - and a way of life - to the brink of extinction.
Death Runs Riot
4. Death Runs Riot
September 18, 1996
Civil war comes early to the West. The war between North and South unleashes brute savagery in the West, and leaves behind an army prepared for total war against the native peoples of the plains.
The Speck of the Future
3. The Speck of the Future
September 17, 1996
The Gold Rush brings the whole world to the West, as 49ers from Asia, South America and the eastern states scramble for "a share of the rocks". But in the push to strike it rich, many are violently pushed aside.
Empire Upon the Trails
2. Empire Upon the Trails
September 16, 1996
Americans head west along many pathways -- the fur trade, self-determination, religious freedom, or a better life. But whatever direction they travel, they move closer with every step to a "Manifest Destiny" that will make the West their own.
The People
1. The People
September 15, 1996
The West begins as the whole world to the people who live there. When Europeans arrive it becomes a New World, shaken by incompatible visions. And when Lewis and Clark venture west, it becomes the testing-ground for a nation's continent-spanning dream.
Where to Watch Ken Burns' The West
Ken Burns' The West is available for streaming on the PBS website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch Ken Burns' The West on demand at Google Play and Apple TV.
  • Premiere Date
    September 15, 1996
  • IMDB Rating
    8.4  (2,120)