Documentary Review: Ken Burns Presents: The West (1996)

Release Date: September 15th, 1996 – September 22nd, 1996
Directed by: Steve Ives
Music by: Matthias Gohl

PBS, 537 Minutes (8 episodes)


Ken Burns makes the best documentaries for television, in my opinion. So his take on the Old West was pretty compelling, enjoyable and informative. Granted, he just produced this one and wasn’t a writer on it or the director.

The director is Steve Ives, who presented The West in the same style and format as Ken Burns’ other documentaries. It is full of a lot to sink your teeth into and for a big fan of the Old West and American history, there is a lot in this epic series that a viewer might not know.

Like most of the documentaries with Burns’ name on them, this one is in multiple parts of one-to-two hour films. Each one focuses on a theme and a different era.

The interviews, the photos and all the other material used to piece this thing together are top notch.

One thing that is absolutely exceptional about this series is the music and that majestic opening theme.

If you have seen a Ken Burns documentary, you already know what to expect. If you haven’t seen one, strap in for a long, epic tale with more information and stories than should be able to fit in a 9 hour running time. Yes, there is that much here to digest.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Anything by Ken Burns.