American Experience: Season 5, Episode 3

The Donner Party (28 Oct. 1992)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, History
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 8.5/10 from 232 users  
Reviews: 5 user | 1 critic

Doomed attempt to get to California in 1846. More than just a riveting tale of death, endurance and survival. The Donner Party's nightmarish journey penetrated to the very heart of the ... See full summary »



0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

IMDb Picks: August

Visit our IMDb Picks section to see our recommendations of movies and TV shows coming out in August.

Visit the IMDb Picks section

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 641 titles
created 22 Jan 2012
list image
a list of 47 titles
created 18 Feb 2012
a list of 9221 titles
created 25 Mar 2013
a list of 1128 titles
created 29 Jan 2014
list image
a list of 29 titles
created 6 months ago

Related Items

Search for "The Donner Party" on

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: The Donner Party (28 Oct 1992)

The Donner Party (28 Oct 1992) on IMDb 8.5/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of American Experience.
« Previous Episode | 59 of 318 Episodes | Next Episode »




Episode credited cast:
David McCullough ...
Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Paul Roebling ...
George McKinstry (voice)


Doomed attempt to get to California in 1846. More than just a riveting tale of death, endurance and survival. The Donner Party's nightmarish journey penetrated to the very heart of the American Dream at a crucial phase of the nation's "manifest destiny. Touching some of the most powerful social, economic and political currents of the time, this extraordinary narrative remains one of the most compelling and enduring episodes to come out of the West. Written by Joshua Mueller

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



Official Sites:




Release Date:

28 October 1992 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Dark Spanish Symphony
Composed by Angelo Badalamenti
Courtesy of Polygram Music and MCA Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Chilling & Haunting Masterpiece.
25 August 2013 | by (North America) – See all my reviews

An episode of the PBS series "American Experience", this re-telling of the doomed expedition of the Donner and Reed families to migrate from Illinois to California in covered wagons in the years 1846-1847, only to find devastating disappointment, hardship, and bad luck as they get stuck in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during a record series of blizzards is so unexpectedly compelling, moving, and powerful, that it was worthy of being released as a feature film.

There is no gore or on screen violence at all, despite the grim and grisly details, this instead uses narrated excerpts from the diaries of the family members to tell the story, and a more effective narrative device could not have been found; modern horror film-makers could learn a great deal on how effective subtlety, light and shadow can be. It is quietly told, yet retains such dramatic impact that it may bring you to tears. Eerie, sweeping music score will leave you breathless. Ending line, "Remember, never take no cut offs, and hurry along as fast as you can." is devastating.

Highly recommended!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
When will we see a film about that remarkable hero, Ida B Wells? Swing-lo
This years intro... ag-wktn
When are they going to make a movie on this? bette1981
The Satellite Sky craviola880
JFK powersroc
Discuss The Donner Party (1992) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: