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: 49


Audience Score

User Ratings: 594

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Air date: Sep 17, 2017

The first installment of a 10-part, 18-hour history of the Vietnam War. After a long and brutal war, Vietnamese revolutionaries led by Ho Chi Minh end nearly a century of French colonial occupation. With the Cold War intensifying, Vietnam is divided in two at Geneva. Communists in the north aim to reunify the country, while America supports Ngo Dinh Diem's untested regime in the south.

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Air date: Sep 18, 2017

President Kennedy inspires idealistic young Americans to serve their country and wrestles with how deeply to get involved in South Vietnam. As the increasingly autocratic Diem regime faces a growing communist insurgency and widespread Buddhist protests, a grave political crisis unfolds.

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Air date: Sep 19, 2017

With South Vietnam in chaos, hardliners in Hanoi seize the initiative and send combat troops to the south, accelerating the insurgency. Fearing Saigon's collapse, President Johnson escalates America's military commitment, authorizing sustained bombing of the north and deploying ground troops in the south.

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Air date: Sep 20, 2017

Defying American airpower, North Vietnamese troops and materiel stream down the Ho Chi Minh Trail into the south, while Saigon struggles to "pacify the countryside." As an antiwar movement builds back home, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and Marines discover that the war they are being asked to fight in Vietnam is nothing like their fathers' war.

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Air date: Sep 21, 2017

American casualties and enemy body counts mount as Marines face deadly North Vietnamese ambushes and artillery south of the DMZ and Army units chase an elusive enemy in the central highlands. Hanoi lays plans for a massive surprise offensive, and the Johnson Administration reassures the American public that victory is in sight.

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Air date: Sep 24, 2017

On the eve of the Tet holiday, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces launch surprise attacks throughout the south, suffering devastating losses but casting grave doubt on Johnson's promise that there is "light at the end of the tunnel." The president decides not to run again and the country is staggered by assassinations and unrest.

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Air date: Sep 25, 2017

Public support for the war declines, and American men of draft age face difficult decisions and wrenching moral choices. After police battle with demonstrators in the streets of Chicago, Richard Nixon wins the presidency, promising law and order at home and peace overseas. In Vietnam, the war goes on and soldiers on all sides witness terrible savagery and unflinching courage.

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Air date: Sep 26, 2017

With morale plummeting in Vietnam, President Nixon begins withdrawing American troops. As news breaks of an unthinkable massacre committed by American soldiers, the public debates the rectitude of the war, while an incursion into Cambodia reignites antiwar protests with tragic consequences.

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Air date: Sep 27, 2017

South Vietnamese forces fighting on their own in Laos suffer a terrible defeat. Massive U.S. airpower makes the difference in halting an unprecedented North Vietnamese offensive. After being re-elected in a landslide, Nixon announces Hanoi has agreed to a peace deal. American prisoners of war will finally come home?to a bitterly divided country.

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Air date: Sep 28, 2017

In the finale, the Watergate scandal rivets Americans' attention and forces President Nixon to resign; and the Vietnamese continue to savage one another in a brutal civil war. When hundreds of thousands of North Vietnamese troops pour into the south, Saigon descends rapidly into chaos and collapses. For the next 40 years, Americans and Vietnamese from all sides search for healing and reconciliation.

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The Vietnam War: Miniseries Videos

The Vietnam War: Miniseries Photos

Tv Season Info

Cast & Crew

Lynn Novick
Ken Burns
Sarah Botstein

News & Interviews for The Vietnam War: Miniseries

Critic Reviews for The Vietnam War Miniseries

All Critics (49) | Top Critics (26)

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…

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…

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

Sep 18, 2017 | Full Review…

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…

A must-watch: The most important TV program of the year.

Sep 17, 2017 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

... viewers who sign on for PBS' "The Vietnam War" will witness a thoughtful documentary that bypasses well-worn ideological ruts and gives today's polarization valuable context.

Sep 14, 2017 | Full Review…

It is paradoxically laudable that documentarians, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, have been able to cast such a measured and equanimous tone over the subject matter.

Feb 25, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The Vietnam War, which took ten years and $30 million to make, does almost nothing new with its topic. It can't say what any number of books, documentaries, articles, or fiction films haven't already said.

Feb 7, 2020 | Full Review…

Burns and Novick are great researchers, but they've outdone themselves.

Jan 16, 2020 | Full Review…

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…

There have been vivid Vietnam movies, but don't kid yourself: the 'horror' of Apocalypse Now is escapist stuff next to the implacable record of the Burns/Novick movie.

Aug 20, 2018 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Vietnam War: Miniseries

  • Oct 31, 2020
    During the first episode or two, viewers may find themselves saying, "really? Is this grizzled war veteran going to cry? Give me a break." By the time of the last episode, most viewers will be struggling to hold back their own tears even if their lives were unaffected by the war. Ken Burns presents the Vietnam War in a way nobody ever has. He masterfully captures the feeling of the the war - as much feeling as anyone who has never been there can experience.
  • May 26, 2020
    Ken Burns's The Vietnam War is documentary at its finest, providing gripping stories and riveting history to a revolutionary era for both the United States and Vietnam.
  • May 12, 2020
    Very interesting, but definitely told from a left wing point of view. Take some of these "facts" with a grain of salt.
  • Apr 24, 2020
    Brilliant Film, I was glued to the T.V. Well done
  • Apr 15, 2020
    The background music wouldnt end. It's annoying, loud, and distracting. Its absolutely ruined it for me and everyone watching. When it took forever for the first one to end, another annoying one starts. Horrible job!
  • Mar 29, 2020
    I understand 3 stars on R.T. means "meh", but the documentary wasn't "meh". It was, however, filled with utter bulls*** and we are waist deep in it by episode 2. We get it. Liberals hate the west, love communism, and despise our military unless their God-King, Obama, is in office. But wow. I expected more from Burns. For example, his documentary, "The West", made sure to show that while the U.S. did unspeakable, despicable and absolutely evil things to the Native Americans, the Natives were far from saints. He didn't piss all over the allies for the bombing of Dresden in his WW2 documentary, either. So I'm not sure why he had a meltdown over 'Nam. It's obvious his bias from whatever he saw as a child stayed with him, and those who paid attention to Burns during the Bush Jr years know that he is very far left and got much more marginalized and extreme during that era. This is a documentary where most vets that were hand picked were those who now have ill feelings towards the west and U.S., and despite having been in the war, still don't know the full story of their own engagement. That sounds harsh, I know. It makes me feel like trash even saying that, but facts are facts, and Burns made sure to find people whose opinions countered reality so he could really make a documentary about made up western imperialism and how the war was wrong. Now, on the surface, being against the Vietnam war isn't nefarious. Libertarians dislike almost any war, and most people don't believe we should lose our sons and daughters over non sense. But the spread of communism was the most vile and horrific thing to ever happen to this planet, and that isn't an opinion. The facts are that communism has killed more than any other thing in Earth's history. Burns made sure to make it sound like the south Vietnamese had issue with their government and weren't completely opposed to the northern take over. That is disgusting. Furthermore, Burns and his hand selected Vietnam vets lied about the U.S.' involvement and the government's reasoning for being involved. He seemed to be enamored by Ho Chi Minh, one of the most vile and evil people to ever live, and largely ignored how involved the south Vietnamese were in this war. They hated the north, they hated Ho Chi Minh, and they desperately wanted communism to go the way of the dinosaur. Evil regimes in places like China, the USSR, Vietnam, and Cambodia flourished because of the U.S.' vile far left wing propaganda in the 60s and 70s. They harmed our veterans and ensured we did not and could not win the war; a war in which we WERE poised to win. We pulled out and gave the nation to the communists who went on to commit some of the most evil acts in history, and allowed numerous tyrants to emerge all over Asia and South America. And my god, the way our soldiers and the south Vietnamese were portrayed in regards to civilian deaths and abuse was unreal. I would never say every thing was justified, but Burns and his lackeys made sure to dishonestly promote the US and S. Vietnamese as animals who went around torturing innocent civilians. I cannot believe Burns could stoop so low. He spent more time glorifying the north then he did telling the truth, and millions who watched this faux documentary have had their views skewed in an irreparable way. He made sure to blame republicans for something his party started, as well. But that's always the goal of leftists, isn't it? I'm no right winger, by the way. I am just disgusted with propagandists and liars.
  • Mar 28, 2020
    Ive watched a lot of documentaries the first episode of this one is better than the the next 10 combined. I thought they also brought the human element into the war well describing both sides struggles.
  • Oct 28, 2019
    Absorbing and non sensational. Illustrates perfectly how documentaries need to be conducted.
  • Oct 14, 2019
    It's hard to imagine that a more thorough and emotive documentary on war has ever been created. The Vietnam War is made unforgettable by its interviewees and the slow, tense unraveling of their stories. Many of the historical elements of this documentary are well recorded elsewhere, but for many it is a blessing to be given a dedicated chronology of events throughout the series, beginning at French occupation in Indochina up to the present day. History comes alive through the interviewees. Irrespective of what side they fought on, there is a thread of humanity that runs through every person who speaks in the documentary. The viewer becomes intimately connected with these people and their stories because they return in every episode. We don't just hear about the chaos and fear of a jungle firefight, we hear from their families, the Thanksgiving audio recordings and how veterans tried to live with the effects of the war once they returned home. Burns and Novick do not privilege American tragedy and give airtime to North and South Vietnamese alike, as well as civilians, journalists, advisers and families. It is impossible not to share in the therapeutic retelling of these stories, especially the US veterans. We become so intimately connected with many of the interviewees that towards the end of the documentary there's great suspense to see if a happy ending is possible for someone, anyone. It's a credit to the filmmakers that they tie in these stories so well with the larger themes of warcraft, politics and civilian protest. The documentary also does well to place Vietnam in the context of the Cold War, the 1960s and changes in American society, without ever losing focus on Vietnam. This is a documentary about the Vietnam War, but more than that it is a documentary about people and their struggle to survive and do what they think is right. By the end of the series, you will not be able to stop thinking about those who were involved and how their lives would forever be shaped by Vietnam.
  • Jun 10, 2019
    Harrowing and deeply tragic. A truly emotional depiction of the war.

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