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The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns (1990)

Ken Burns  |  NR |  DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,060 customer reviews)

List Price: $84.98
Price: $59.97 & FREE Shipping. Details
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DVD Commemorative Edition $51.00  
  6-Disc Version $59.97  
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Product Details

  • Directors: Ken Burns
  • Format: AC-3, Box set, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Pbs Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: March 29, 2011
  • Run Time: 698 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,060 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004IK30T6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,743 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

This is the full-length, brilliant documentary by Ken Burns. Includes all DVDS. Walks through Civil War history, examining very rare letters, documents, photos, etc and dives into all key elements and battles. All set to a haunting, beautiful soundtrack!

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
489 of 503 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Best Documentaries Ever Made August 9, 2005
Format:DVD
There aren't too many productions from television that one can call "noble," but Ken Burns' The Civil War qualifies. Burns uses photographs, music, speech, maps and historical context to tell the story of the second most formative event in the nation's history. And since in those days people wrote...diaries, letters, journals...there is the written record not just of the great leaders, the politicians and generals, but of the wives and sweethearts, the nurses and doctors, newspaper editors and farmers. Most of all there are the words of the soldiers. Burns shows the importance and the sweep of the war, but in part he does it through the lives of average people caught up in events they may not have completely comprehended, but which they believed in.

If the words themselves have power, so do the voices. Burns recruited great voices, some actors, some not, to speak the words, distinctive voices that give great resonance to what we see. Julie Harris as Mary Chestnut, Charlie McDowell, a Virginia reporter, as Sam Watkins, Arthur Miller as William Sherman, Jason Robards as Grant, Studs Terkel as Benjamin Butler, Sam Waterston as Lincoln, and many others. He has David McCullough as the narrator. McCullough, an outstanding historian and writer, does a wonderful job. Burns also uses a number of historians to underline key points. Foremost, in my view, is Shelby Foote. Foote is the author of the epic three-volume Civil War. With his Southern accent, common sense and soft irony, he's a fascinating raconteur.

The program is never dry or dull. It is gripping and emotional. Both sides felt they were fighting for a pure cause.
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129 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest documentary ever made! April 5, 2011
Format:DVD
I first saw this on PBS and was spellbound by it. It is simply everything you need to know about the American Civil War. If you think history is dry and uninteresting, this film by Ken Burns will change your mind. This is filled with comedy and pathos, courage and cowardice, and a balanced explanation that is fair to both sides of the conflict.

Burns used well-known actors to read the diaries and writings of both famous people (Grant, Lee, Lincoln) and average persons and soldiers. It gives one a well-rounded view of both sides. I am in awe of the writings of that time--the people had an incredibly, descriptive way of writing; a command of the English language that has sadly been lost in modern times.

Burns also used still photographs, panning across them, giving the audience the feel of watching an actual movie of the time. That technique has since been adopted by other documentaries.

I've seen the series many times, and each time find something more. If nothing else, see it for Shelby Foot--a writer/historian who speaks about Robert E. Lee, and others, like he personally knew them. Fascinating from beginning to end!
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157 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ken Burns Best January 1, 2005
Format:DVD
Ken Burns has established himself as one of the greats in terms of historical documentaries. The Civil War is Mr. Burns' greatest work. The attention to detail brings the history to life. Mr. Burns does an excellent job of bringing humanity to the tragic time in America. With the use of solder's and family letters it is evident what a difficult time it was to be an American. Originally aired on PBS in September of 1990, nearly fifteen years later the series remains the ultimate narrative about the United States darkest time.

The series is finally released on DVD. While the price is a little high the amazing quality of the series makes the cost very reasonable. Ken Burns' Civil War is required for any Civil War historian's collection. The series is also a great way for those wishing to learn more about the Civil War. I would recommend this to anyone that loves historical documentaries. It does not get any better than The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns.
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95 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Documentary Ever Made...Now Even Better December 2, 2004
Format:DVD
Having owned and viewed the VHS edition of the Civil War numerous times, I didn't know if the DVD would make that much of a difference. Believe me, it does. Every frame of the film is digitally remastered and color corrected. The entire soundtrack is also digitally remastered. It's almost like seeing the film for the first time.

Concerning the film itself, for those of you who have been hiding under a rock and haven't seen it yet, this is probably the best Documentary ever made. Just get it.
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74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can I give it More than 5 stars? October 31, 2002
Format:DVD
I remember watching this documentary by Ken Burns when it first appeared on PBS in 1990. It started my lifelong interest in the Civil War. Countless books and trips to battlefields later, it still stands as the finest general work on the war ever made.
The story of the war is told through pictures, narratives, and the unobtrusive narration by David McCoulough, who's voice is pitch pefect for the job. Never before have photos had such a dramatic effect in telling a story. They say a picture says a thousand words, and this series prove that maxim correct. The five discs cover the 5 years of the war, and the 9 parts of teh series. The most effective are "1861: The Cause", "1863: The Universe of Battle", and "1865: The Better Angels of our Nature". They cover the events that led up to the war, the turining points at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and the end and aftermath of the war. Each is suprememly emotional. One episode intersperses an old narrative from the daughter of a former slave as she remembers her father's stories. Shelby Foote, author of the most comprehensive book on the war, offers invaluable advice. High praise must also go to Sam Waterston, who voices Abraham Lincoln. In the final segment of the 1863 disc, Waterston recites the Gettysburg Address, and I must admit it brought me to tears.
The music is also a key factor to the success of the film. Burns went back and found the old music that was popular among the people and the soldiers, both North & South during the war. It is moving, from the haunting opening music, to the old spirituals that are found on disc 2's "1862: Forever Free".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Documentary Ever Made.
This series of nine parts is the best documentary ever made, IMO. Told through narration by historians and through actors reading real letters and journals of those involved puts... Read more
Published 2 hours ago by Bpollen
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Gift to the American People
This documentary on the Civil War must represent Ken Burns' finest hour and the greatest gift to the American people. It's a meticulously and thoroughly researched piece of work. Read more
Published 10 hours ago by Richard Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best documentaries I have seen - very impressive
This documentary is meticulously researched and highly detailed, but still conveys so vividly the human drama, emotion and tragedy of the Civil War through stories and anecdotes... Read more
Published 12 hours ago by Manu Murthy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Series
This series seems to get better each time I watch it. More Americans should watch it and and it should be shown in all schools.
Published 17 hours ago by flyfanatic
5.0 out of 5 stars A chillingly graphic view of a sad part of our history
If you're watching this with kids or you're squeamish then you may want to stay away. Ken does not pull any punches when he shows images of the dead or wounded. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Leroy E. Trujillo
5.0 out of 5 stars very good true histury program
this program was great when it first came out, and still great the second (or third) time viewing it. brings in original materials, letters, photos, and war strategy facts. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Don & Jan
5.0 out of 5 stars great
If you are the least bit interested in the civil war this is the best documentary... l have watched it twice..
Published 3 days ago by mike555
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative
To be honest, I am not even halfway through this series. it is informative and great food for a history buff like me.. Read more
Published 5 days ago by boogie
5.0 out of 5 stars great history and information
I never knew this much about the civil war. We experienced more death in our own country than many of the current wars. It was a very sad time in our history.
Published 5 days ago by Drags
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing documentary
Was glued to my TV as a kid when this first aired. It's revisit it after all these years. Still great and a must watch for history buffs.
Published 5 days ago by Amazon Customer
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