22 user 5 critic

New York: A Documentary Film 

Ric Burns (brother of the famed documentarian Ken Burns) presents an exhaustive history of New York City from the settling of the area by the Dutch to the attack by terrorists nearly 400 ... See full summary »




2003   2001   1999  
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »


Learn more

More Like This 

Prohibition (TV Mini-Series 2011)
Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

The story of the American activist struggle against the influence of alcohol, climaxing in the failed early 20th century nationwide era when it was banned.

Stars: Peter Coyote, Pete Hamill, Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

This documentary chronicles the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. The difficult construction process is described in interesting detail; later parts of the film interview ... See full summary »

Director: Ken Burns
Stars: Paul Roebling, Julie Harris, Arthur Miller
The Dust Bowl (TV Mini-Series 2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A documentary about the 1930s drought of North American prairie farm land, and its consequences during the great depression.

Stars: Dorothy Williamson, Donald Worster, Timothy Egan
Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  

Miniseries shines a spotlight on the influential builders, dreamers and believers whose feats transformed the United States, a nation decaying from the inside after the Civil War, into the ... See full summary »

Stars: Campbell Scott, H.W. Brands, Mark Cuban
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (TV Mini-Series 2014)
Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  

A documentary that weaves together the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics.

Stars: Meryl Streep, Edward Herrmann, George Will
American Experience (TV Series 1988)
Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

A series showcasing documentaries on American history.

Stars: David McCullough, David Ogden Stiers, Oliver Platt
Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A biography of the life and work of the American architect.

Directors: Ken Burns, Lynn Novick
Stars: Edward Herrmann, Philip Bosco, Julie Harris
The Congress (TV Movie 1988)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

The U. S. Congress is one of the country's most important and misunderstood institutions. Ken Burns tells the story behind this branch of government.

Director: Ken Burns
Stars: David McCullough, Charles McDowell, Barbara Fields
Documentary | Adventure | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The saga of Horatio Nelson Jackson, the first man to cross the United States by automobile--in 1903!

Director: Ken Burns
Stars: Keith David, Tom Hanks, Adam Arkin
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Ken Burns examines the American utopian 19th century religious sect known as the Shakers.

Directors: Ken Burns, Amy Stechler
Stars: Olga Bellin, Tucker Burr, Jesse Carr
The Italian Americans (TV Mini-Series 2014)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

The Italian Americans reveals the unique and distinctive qualities of one immigrant group's experience, and how these qualities, over time, have shaped and challenged America. At the turn ... See full summary »

Stars: Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Adriana Trigiani
Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

For 50 years, radio dominated the airwaves as the first mass medium. Ken Burns examines the lives of three men who shared the responsibility for its invention and early success.

Director: Ken Burns
Stars: Jason Robards, Red Barber, Erik Barnouw


Series cast summary:
David Ogden Stiers ...  Narrator 8 episodes, 1999-2003
John Steele Gordon John Steele Gordon ...  Himself - Commentator 7 episodes, 1999-2001
Kenneth Jackson Kenneth Jackson ...  Himself - Commentator 7 episodes, 1999-2001
Robert A.M. Stern Robert A.M. Stern ...  Himself - Commentator 7 episodes, 1999-2001
Mike Wallace ...  Himself - Commentator 7 episodes, 1999-2001
Philip Bosco 6 episodes, 1999-2001
Brendan Gill Brendan Gill ...  Himself - Commentator 6 episodes, 1999-2001
Calvin O. Butts III Calvin O. Butts III ...  Himself - Commentator 5 episodes, 1999-2001
Robert A. Caro ...  Himself - Commentator 5 episodes, 1999-2001
Peter Hamill Peter Hamill ...  Himself - Commentator 5 episodes, 1999-2001
Alfred Kazin Alfred Kazin ...  Himself - Commentator 5 episodes, 1999-2001
David McCullough ...  Himself - Commentator 5 episodes, 1999-2001
George Plimpton 5 episodes, 1999-2001
Luc Sante Luc Sante ...  Himself - Commentator 5 episodes, 1999-2001
Eli Wallach 5 episodes, 1999-2001
Craig Steven Wilder Craig Steven Wilder ...  Himself - Commentator 5 episodes, 1999-2001
Keith David 4 episodes, 1999-2001
Paul Giamatti 4 episodes, 1999-2001
Rudy Giuliani ...  Himself - Commentator 4 episodes, 1999-2001
Fran Lebowitz ...  Herself - Commentator 4 episodes, 1999-2001
Callie Thorne 4 episodes, 1999-2001
Daniel Czitrom Daniel Czitrom ...  Himself - Commentator 4 episodes, 1999
Robert Sean Leonard 4 episodes, 1999
Peter Quinn ...  Himself - Commentator 4 episodes, 1999
Marshall Berman Marshall Berman ...  Herself - Commentator 3 episodes, 1999-2001
Allen Ginsberg ...  Himself - Commentator 3 episodes, 1999-2001
Spalding Gray ...  Himself - Comentator 3 episodes, 1999-2001
Josh Hamilton Josh Hamilton 3 episodes, 1999-2001
David Levering Lewis David Levering Lewis ...  Himself - Commentator 3 episodes, 1999-2001
Carol Willis Carol Willis ...  Herself - Commentator 3 episodes, 1999-2001
Caleb Carr Caleb Carr ...  Himself - Commentator 3 episodes, 1999
James Hazeldine 3 episodes, 1999
Phillip Lopate Phillip Lopate ...  Himself - Commentator 3 episodes, 1999
Daniel Patrick Moynihan ...  Himself - Commentator 3 episodes, 1999
Frances Sternhagen 3 episodes, 1999
John Kuo Wei Tchen John Kuo Wei Tchen ...  Himself - Commentator 3 episodes, 1999
Joshua Freeman Joshua Freeman ...  Himself - Commentator 2 episodes, 1999-2001
Ruth J. Abram Ruth J. Abram ...  Herself - Commentator 2 episodes, 1999
Thomas Bender Thomas Bender ...  Himself - Commentator 2 episodes, 1999
Carol Berkin Carol Berkin ...  Herself - Commentator 2 episodes, 1999
Janeane Garofalo 2 episodes, 1999
Margo Jefferson Margo Jefferson ...  Herself - Commentator 2 episodes, 1999
Frederic Kimball Frederic Kimball 2 episodes, 1999
David Margulies David Margulies 2 episodes, 1999
Gretchen Sullivan Sorin Gretchen Sullivan Sorin ...  Herself - Commentator / ... 2 episodes, 1999
Harris Yulin 2 episodes, 1999
Bella Abzug Bella Abzug ...  Herself - Commentator 2 episodes, 2001
Frances Golden Frances Golden ...  Herself - Commentator 2 episodes, 2001
Cheryl Greenberg Cheryl Greenberg ...  Herself - Commentator 2 episodes, 2001
Ada Louise Huxtable Ada Louise Huxtable ...  Herself - Commentator 2 episodes, 2001
Ed Koch ...  Himself - Commentator 2 episodes, 2001
Anna Quindlen ...  Herself - Commentator 2 episodes, 2001
Susan Sarandon 2 episodes, 2001
Ray Suarez Ray Suarez ...  Himself - Commentator 2 episodes, 2001
Donald Trump Jr. ...  Himself - Commentator 2 episodes, 2001


Ric Burns (brother of the famed documentarian Ken Burns) presents an exhaustive history of New York City from the settling of the area by the Dutch to the attack by terrorists nearly 400 years later. Told in a sentimental tone, Burns weaves a lyrical tale of the great metropolis that encompasses not only the city's streets, but also that of the history of America. Though around fourteen hours in length, this epic documentary presents a thoughtful, entertaining look at our relatively young country. Written by Chris Bogner

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



Official Sites:

PBS [United States]





Release Date:

September 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

American Experience: New York - A Documentary Film See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Originally, the film was to be a seven-episode documentary. After the World Trade Center was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, an eighth episode - "The Center of the World" about the rise and fall of the Twin Towers - was made. It aired September 8, 2003. See more »


voice: From the ruins, lonely and inexplicable as the sphinx, rose the Empire State Building and, just as it had been a tradition of mine to climb to the Plaza Roof to take leave of the beautiful city, extending as far as eyes could reach, so now I went to the roof of the last and most magnificent of towers. Then I understood - - everything was explained: I had discovered the crowning error of the city, its Pandora's box. Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what...
See more »


Features In the Street (1948) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A powerful, fascinating, and tremendously educational series
26 September 2014 | by runamokprodsSee all my reviews

An extraordinary 8 part, almost 18 hour history of New York City; it's politics, economics, architecture, and above all humanity, from the first arrival of white settlers. (I would have been curious to know more about the Native Americans who had been living there, but the focus is on New York as a city, which arguably started with the arrival of the Dutch).

I was born and lived the first half of my life in the city, was always passionate about it, and yet the program had so much fascinating information I didn't know – not only about the distant past, but the complex back-room city politics (some disastrously wrong headed, even aggressively racist) that were going on in my early years.

It's always lively, often touching and asks important questions about what makes a city and why they're so important -- as well as "how can a city keep 'modernizing', but not lose it's soul?" It also forced me to abandon some supposed "facts" I'd been brought up with as a New Yorker, like the idea that names of immigrants were commonly changed at Ellis Island.

The last episode, made after the rest of the documentary, is devoted entirely to the Word Trade Center; it's inception, it's building (and the complex, sometimes dark politics behind it), it's successes and failures as architecture and urban planning, and of course it's horrifying demise. While it's the most emotional of the episodes, it does feel a bit apart from the others, spending it's entire length on one very focused subject. Not a problem, other than a bit of change in style.

If one had to nit-pick it would probably be the use of hyperbole in some of the narration. I lost count of how many crises were 'the worst the city ever faced'. But that is a tiny fly in a ton of ointment.

The images, still and moving, are beautifully chosen (great seeing moving images from the turn of the century New York), the various expert talking heads are passionate and articulate, and I learned so much more than I expected.

It's interesting that film-maker Ric Burns' brother Ken has received so much more attention. I find Ric's many documentaries often the equal of Ken Burns' work, and indeed sometimes find them more emotional.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 22 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Trending TV Series With Prime Video

Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed