Napoleon (2000)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Documentary, Biography, History
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Documentary about the rise and fall of one of the greatest military geniuses of modern times from his Corsican childhood to final exile in St. Helena.

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Series cast summary:
David McCullough ...
 Narrator (4 episodes, 2000)


Born in 1769 to a poor but aristocratic Corsican patriot family, 6 year old Napolon Bonaparte is enrolled in a French academy, where his military career begins. His capabilities are amply demonstrated with a series of dazzling victories in Revolutionary France's Italian campaign. He becomes obsessed with and marries Josephine, a widow, and begins a meteoric rise to power. He gradually compromises his egalitarian ideals and crowns himself emperor in 1804. After he establishes himself as master of Europe with victories in battles like Austerlitz and diplomatic alliances, he embarks on a series of decisions that mark his decline and fall: an ill-advised occupation of Spain, his divorce of Josephine and marriage into the Hapsburg family, and his disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. After a failed attempt to return to power culminating in final defeat at Waterloo in 1815, he spends his remaining years defining his legacy with his memoirs. Written by Gabe Taverney (

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Release Date:

8 November 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Empires: Napoleon  »

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Did You Know?


Battle scenes were shot in France with military re-enactors from 10 European countries. See more »


from "Messe du Sacre de Napoleon"
Written by Jean-Francois Le Sueur
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User Reviews

From the man we understand the historical figure
19 February 2015 | by (Carlsbad CA) – See all my reviews

Napoleon Bonaparte's achievements for the non historians are so intertwined with the revolutionary period of his life, his military victories, his being both a populist leader and then a king, that it's difficult to form a coherent understanding of the individual. This documentary starts with the infant who as a child was thrown into a world not only of other students who were of a different class, the aristocracy, but of a different country, France.

Others would have wilted, but Napoleon had the brilliance, energy and drive for these impediments to be a springboard for transcendence. And if the old saw, "timing is everything," needs validation, his life is the ultimate example. This man was a child when the "ancient regime" had run its course, and the unwashed masses had been exposed to ideas that were to be encapsuled in "Liberte, Egalite et Fraternite" rather than subservience to the exalted power of royalty.

Napoleon managed to be educated and spend his earliest years demonstrating his intuitive military skills, away from the "terror" when waves of beheading ebbed and flowed with the vagaries of hope, power and reaction. This film manages to get inside the head of this man, understand his limits that became his strengths, his sexual desires that sustained him even when he was across the world in his conquests.

We learn about a human being, whose particular megalomania was exactly what a country, a world in the chaos of profound structural revolution needed. So, the paradox of a populist revolutionary who crowns himself Emperor conveys the challenge of all political systems. Ideals and myths (as he acknowledged religious belief being a useful one for the masses) only go so far, as full equality negates the authority that is needed for order. The French Revolution is the ultimate cost of a failed state, of chaos, the same condition that we see in 2015 in the middle East under the Islamic Caliphate.

So, the contradictions of Napoleon Bonaparte as so brilliantly delineated in this documentary, graphically illustrate political truths that the world dare not lose sight of. Few commercial endeavors have this potential value.

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