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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 & 5 nominations. See more awards »




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

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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...
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Features In the Street (1948) See more »

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.

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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

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