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American Experience: New York: A Documentary Film by Ric Burns (2004)

 NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (479 customer reviews)

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American Experience: New York: A Documentary Film by Ric Burns + American Experience: New York Underground + Ken Burns America Collection - Brooklyn Bridge
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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 8
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: September 28, 2004
  • Run Time: 1050 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (479 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BITUF2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,221 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

The fascinating story of New York City from its civilized beginnings as an essential trading outpost to a global center of commerce! Ric Burns grabs hold of this intriguing municipal icon and reveals the compelling tale of New York's greatness using reflections offered by a host of distinguished New Yorkers. From the Dutch settlers through the reign of the British Empire and on to the pinnacle of liberty, New York City remains the nucleus of American life. Narrated by David Ogden Stiers. 8 DVDs. 1999/color/17 hrs., 30 min/NR.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
131 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NYC History in A Brilliant DVD October 29, 2005
If you are interested in a thorough but entertaining history of New York City this is as good as it gets. Ric Burns provides plenty of details but doesn't forget that part of the reason viewers are watching is to have some fun too. Eight DVDS may seem like too much but with a city like New York it is surprising how quickly the show passes by, this collection is large enough to give you a serious history of the topic without getting too complicated. If you are looking for a travel guide to NYC this isn't for you, if you are a sports fan look elsewhere, don't expect a guide to theatre or restaurants either. This DVD set is meant as a visual history course of America's, if not the world's, most fascinating city.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Town! May 23, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is the definitive gift for anyone who loves New York City. The series is presented in easily digestible pieces and all the episodes draw you into a period in NYC's history and give you a good understanding of what makes the City so unique. The final episode, about the building and the destruction of the World Trade Center, will touch your heart as well as your mind.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rich Tapestry of History November 4, 2008
Perhaps the very best documentary on any subject ever produced...a gargantuan, incomprehensible effort, amassing a haunting and romantic archive of original film footage, photographs, print, vintage cartography, and priceless commentary by various cultural luminaries and historians. Spellbinding from first episode to the last...I found myself not wanting it to end. The series presents a broad tapestry of New York's history with an emphasis on the indomitable and resilient human spirit above all else. Ric Burns succeeds with a definitive masterpiece and tribute to New York in a unique style that captures one's imagination while tugging at the heart. If history had been taught with this medium when I was in school, it would have made the difference between passing marginally or with excellence. This DVD set is a treasure and one which I will revisit again and again. I highly recommend the amended version with 8 DVD discs, including the final post-9/11 disc.
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35 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two Out of Three Ain't Bad June 15, 2010
The life of any great city exists on three levels - social, political and cultural. What is surprising about this documentary is how well it succeeds at presenting the first two aspects of New York, while failing so miserably at addressing the third. While I agree that a film should be evaluated on the basis of what it intended to do and not on what one thinks it should have done, it is difficult not to be critical of this omission, especially in a film with a running time approaching 18 hours.

What Ric Burns and his team have done here is present an exhaustive history of a great American city, with particular focus on the political figures at the center of it all. Peter Stuyvesant, Boss Tweed, F.H. LaGuardia, Robert Moses and countless others are given extensive coverage, as are the lives of the immigrant population that were affected, for better or worse, by these political giants. We see the various crises, upheavals and tragedies that went on to shape the city, and how the lives of its residents adapted, often with great difficulty, to the city's changes and growth.

And yet those who know New York as a center of American culture will quickly notice something missing in this film. We see the great influx of immigrants but we learn little to nothing about how these different cultures went on to form the great melting pot. The creation of ethnic neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy are given only a passing mention. New York institutions like the Italian market and the Jewish deli are never seen, despite New York's position as the multicultural food capital of the world. The great Gilded Age of New York, as recounted by literary giants like Henry James and Edith Wharton, is virtually ignored. (Burns is somewhat more successful with F.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Stunning. September 20, 2008
As a lover of both film and history, this is undoubtably the best documentary I've ever seen. I was awed at Ric Burns ability to make the city a living breathing character with as much trials and tribulations as any great character in history. At times I forgot I was watching a documentary, because I was so dramatically tuned into the story.

With ample time devoted to it's many evolutions, each chapter is both informative and facinating. I have watched the entire series many times, and I am always amazed at how emotionally moving the legacy of this great city really is.

For the record, I have never been to New York, but I feel I will have a tremendous historic and cultural insight, when I eventually do.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful City--Fantastic and Entertaining Visual History November 13, 2007
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
For those who love NY, this series will make you fall in love with NY all over again. Its an easy, entertaining way to get a rich history of NY.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks Ric! February 8, 2008
By K. Fox
My dad has always been a huge history buff. When I moved to New York a few years ago, he became very interested in the history of the city, it's subways, etc. This past Christmas, I bought this collection for him. My father, who can't sit through a movie longer than an hour without falling asleep, watched the entire collection over the course of a week and is now watching other Ric Burns collections. Now, both dad and I know more about my new home and I have a running order for next Christmas!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars best two hours ever spent in front of a television
hands down, best two hours ever spent in front of a television.
Published 2 hours ago by aaron c/o vanguard
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but a bit dated.
Interesting, but a bit dated. Simultaneously a bit over- and under-drawn, glosses over some aspects and details while focusing a bit much on others, particularly the... Read more
Published 2 hours ago by Phil Gates
4.0 out of 5 stars I have learned alot about NY.
Love this series.
Published 23 hours ago by Mark Jacobsen
5.0 out of 5 stars American History Lesson
Lots of facts about New York that you didn't know.
Published 1 day ago by TomG
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Documentary!
Never thought there was anything more to New York than sky scrapers until I watched this show. Awesome insight on New York's beginnings and how it became what it is today! Read more
Published 2 days ago by Katie B.
5.0 out of 5 stars New York New York
Wow. This is one of the best documentary I've seen in a long time.
Published 2 days ago by Rudy DeVeau
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful!!
Amazing. I grew up in New York and I was amazed at how much I did not know! Very engaging.
Published 3 days ago by Captobx
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Extremely interesting & educational
Published 4 days ago by Elena mosquera
4.0 out of 5 stars New York Revisited
This documentary gave a good history of the city of New York. I found it very interesting, because my father grew up in Brooklyn, and he never talked about his youth. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Tim
5.0 out of 5 stars I am about halfway thru this season and I am ...
I am about halfway thru this season and I am more than impressed by the history of New York that is being shown. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Nancy J. Tryon
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