Top Picks: Ken Burns

For decades Ken Burns has been undeniably the foremost name in documentary filmmaking. His influence is massive. The same way Jacques Cousteau took the film-viewing public into the sea, Burns took the television viewing audience on a deep dive into American history. Heck, his style is so distinct, there's a "Ken Burns Effect" setting on many computer editing programs! 

While audiences are most familiar with his hours-long meditations on Baseball and The Civil War, those massive efforts aren't his only achievements. I prefer his concise, entertaining, and sometimes esoteric early work. 

Brooklyn Bridge is his first feature film and is directly based on a book by historian David McCullough. It shows Burns developing his style while marking the trials and tribulations of the construction of the iconic structure. 

The Shakers shows the egalitarian, communal, pacifistic religious sect famous for their furniture and spiritual practices. 

Statue of Liberty is a moving examination of the history and meaning of the colossal sculpture. 

Huey Long is a delightful rumination on the firebrand populist governor. 

Other early, shorter work from Burns includes The Congress, Thomas Hart Benton, and a personal favorite Empire of the Air