The Vietnam War: Miniseries (2017)

The Vietnam War

Critics Consensus

The Vietnam War revisits a dark chapter in American history with patience, grace, and a refreshing -- and sobering -- perspective informed by those who fought.



Critic Ratings: 45


Audience Score

User Ratings: 567

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Air date: Sep 17, 2017
Air date: Sep 18, 2017
Air date: Sep 19, 2017
Air date: Sep 20, 2017
Air date: Sep 21, 2017
Air date: Sep 24, 2017
Air date: Sep 25, 2017
Air date: Sep 26, 2017
Air date: Sep 27, 2017
Air date: Sep 28, 2017

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Critic Reviews for The Vietnam War Miniseries

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (23)

The final episodes, nine and 10, offered no respite as they trawled through the particulars of America's withdrawal, the downfall of Nixon, and the plight of the boat people.

Dec 27, 2017 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

An excellent 10-part documentary series about the Vietnam War.

Dec 26, 2017 | Full Review…

As the world once again faces uncertain times, The Vietnam War challenges an entire nation to examine the sources of its enmity and not repeat catastrophes so recent that those directly affected by it can still lend their voices to the warning.

Sep 18, 2017 | Rating: A | Full Review…
Top Critic

I ended up crying during Kushner's retelling, and also about a half-dozen other times while watching The Vietnam War.

Sep 18, 2017 | Full Review…
Top Critic

... The Vietnam War boldly and bravely stands its ground and almost assuredly will stand the test of time.

Sep 18, 2017 | Full Review…
Top Critic

PBS's The Vietnam War is another masterpiece by Burns and Novick. It's powerful proof of something Burns once said -- history doesn't repeat itself, but human nature never changes.

Sep 17, 2017 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The Vietnam War covers a lot, but never forgets the human element. [Full review in Spanish]

Oct 5, 2018 | Full Review…

Hollywood should approach the reason of Vietnam with a comprehensive overproduction of the political, economic, social and ideological aspects collected in the magnificent documentary by Burns and Novick. [Full Review in Spanish]

Sep 23, 2018 | Full Review…

Those who fought in the war and those who fought against it will certainly want to watch this series.

Apr 16, 2018 | Full Review…

Rewatchable itchingly often.

Mar 13, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Vietnam War: Miniseries

  • Jun 10, 2019
    Harrowing and deeply tragic. A truly emotional depiction of the war.
  • Mar 29, 2019
    A perfect documentary series. The Vietnam War explores the American-Vietnam conflict from a myriad of angles while keeping the viewer involved with some spectacular editing, resulting in an exhaustive narrative with a gripping pace.
  • Dec 10, 2018
    The most comprehensive documentary produced on Vietnam War. A Must Watch documentary on US politics. Betrayal of US citizens and Vietnamese citizens by their leaders and their governments. Exceptional directing and narration!!
  • Nov 26, 2018
    Inspired and beautifully balanced. It is, after all a Ken Burns documentary.
  • Oct 07, 2018
    An incredibly well told history lesson When people think about war, they should never see with the simplistic eyes of the Second World War, or the American Civil War, or the long gone wars of the past. They should think loud and clear about this one, messy, wrong and meaningless, and how well told that lesson is sent through this documentary's eyes.
  • Sep 19, 2018
    Love Ken Burns’ docs - factual historical information intertwined with varying personal experiences & perspectives. Great footage & music that captures the charged emotions of the time!
  • Sep 17, 2018
    This is the sort of documentary that I wish a teacher would've shown to me back when I was in school. It would have gotten my full attention and curiosity not only for this particular subject but for history in general. There are just things that a boring textbook can't convey like the deeply emotional personal narrative of the survivors, for example. Even weeks after finishing the last episode I still find myself thinking about certain accounts, revelations, or crucial dates. It's an 18-hour experience that captivated me from the very beginning and it set the standard for how such a documentary should be made. The makers did an impeccable job by starting all the way back to the mid-19th Century during the time of French colonialism and showing how America got involved in Vietnam in the first place. They then continue to highlight both sides or parties of the war and give each of them enough screen time to tell the audience their part of the story. That way you get a good understanding of why they fight or, equally as important, why they choose not to fight. The documentary, obviously, dives headfirst into the many mistakes that were made along the way. I could only shake my head in disbelief at the fact that countless lives were lost, because of the stupid decisions of one person or a small group. In most cases, these people had no idea what it's like to be in the shoes of their soldiers or the innocent people who were indifferently seen as casualties of war. It's a harrowing tale told in a brutal, truthful, and visceral manner.
  • Sep 09, 2018
    10/10. A very documentary about Vietnam war. The history of the Vietnam War at the very beginning to the end.
  • Aug 16, 2018
    One of the finest documentaries ever made Described by the show's official website as "an immersive 360-degree narrative," The Vietnam War is a behemoth in every sense of the word; written by historian Geoffrey C. Ward and directed by celebrated documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, the series cost $30 million to make, and was in production for over ten years, with the ten episodes running to a gargantuan eighteen hours. Assembled from over 24,000 photos and 1,500 hours of archive footage, the show features interviews with 79 people, including analysts, bureaucrats, journalists, artists, anti-war protestors, draft dodgers, conscientious objectors, deserters, Gold Star family members, and American, South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese troops. Deliberately eschewing interviews with historians and major polarising figures such as Jane Fonda, John Kerry, or Oliver Stone, the series features what Burns and Novick define as a "ground up" approach; concentrating almost exclusively on the experiences of ordinary people and soldiers from every side. Beginning with the French invasion of Indochina in 1858 and concluding with the opening of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982 (although some brief postscript material goes up to President Barak Obama's visit to Vietnam in 2016), the series hits all the beats you'd expect within this timeframe, but where the show excels is not in trying to present an all-inclusive summary of everything that happened in the war, but in its mixture of the macro and the micro - intercut into the larger framework of political analysis and military assessment are more relatable and personalised interviews, which serve to reinforce what the war was like for the people who actually fought it and their families back home. These human stories serve as Burns and Novick's "ground up" material, helping to contextualise the less personal socio-political canvas against which they are set. A major theme throughout the series is the effect the war had on the American psyche. Whilst the first episode outlines how the US emerged from World War II as world leaders, convinced of its own irrefutable morality, and proud of its self-appointed role as global law enforcer, later episodes detail how all of this changed during the war. Fought in a country few Americans had even heard of, and fewer still knew anything about, the war was a conflict whose ultimate futility at so great a cost was unlike anything any living American had seen. The stain of the war lingered for decades, and lingers still. As the documentary lays bare, Vietnam fundamentally redefined the notion of American patriotism, altered the American zeitgeist, and undermined American exceptionalism. Another vital theme, but one which is left for the viewer to provide the connective tissue, is how the domestic events of the war are mirrored in contemporary American society. Undoubtedly, the war was the most divisive period in the US since the Civil War. However, the most divisive period since the war is right now; the US is currently in the seventeenth year of a war begun under dubious circumstances; there are accusations of foreign collusion in a US election; the president has threatened to use force against an Asian nation; there are mass demonstrations across the country; the White House is obsessed with leaks, with three different presidents attempting to undermine the media in a manner not dissimilar to Trump's catchphrase of "fake news." However, the series is not perfect. The most obvious criticism is that despite their claims that all sides are represented equally, there is an imbalance between the anti-war movement (represented by three interviewees and dozens of vets), and those who supported the war (represented by a few comments here and there from people who admit they were conflicted). This imbalance is also present in the number of North Vietnamese combatants (14) weighed against the number of South Vietnamese combatants (7). There are also some notable, and oftentimes bizarre, omissions. For example, there is no mention whatsoever of Maj Gen Edward Lansdale, LTC John Paul Vannor Lê Van Vien (aka Bay Vien). Nevertheless, The Vietnam War is an undeniably epic achievement. Burns and Novick have distilled down a massively complex canvas, whilst at the same time refusing to placate either side. This refusal leaves the series open to criticism from both sides, but it may also be the show's greatest strength. Rather than submitting to partisan politics, the series follows its own path, irrespective of how it appears to those with preconceived notions. Harrowing and insightful, informative and disturbing, conciliatory rather than condemnatory, The Vietnam War is a masterpiece.
  • Aug 15, 2018
    Outstanding documentar.

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