November 15, 2017

Best FRONTLINE Documentaries & Podcasts

FRONTLINE has produced over 500 documentary films on contemporary social and political issues in the past 20 years. And you can not only watch most of them online for free through the PBS FRONTLINE website, but you can also listen to over 50 of them on the Frontline Audiocast Podcast. While the popular Frontline Audiocast Podcast lacked the visual component, it still was usually comprehendible as an audio podcast with some audio cues to aid listeners. Now FRONTLINE has launched their first audio-only podcast in The FRONTLINE Dispatch Podcast and it applies FRONTLINE’s investigative reporting to the podcast medium with superb audio documentaries. Check it out here:

The FRONTLINE Dispatch Podcast

This new podcast currently features five audio documentaries. In each documentary a journalist guides you through the story as it is interspersed with interviews and audio source material to aid in the storytelling. For an interesting listen, check out the episode “The Housing Fix” which examines the complicated relationship between slum landlords, tenants, and city planners, as many living in poverty are evicted from their homes to make way for pricier housing developments. Set in the city neighborhoods of Dallas, but indicative of what’s happening in many U.S. urban cities, the audio documentary paints a complex portrait of the challenges in maintaining affordable living conditions for the nation’s poor and lower middle class. That’s just one of the audio documentaries you can hear in this new podcast from FRONTLINE that you’ll probably want to subscribe to.

If you’d like to listen to FRONTLINE documentaries, then can also listen to over 50 of them on the:

Frontline Audiocast – PBS Podcast

The PBS Frontline series are some of the best documentaries available on public television, but it’s often difficult to carve out time to sit down and watch them. Now Frontline has released a group of their documentaries as audio podcasts and they actually work really well as just audio. Since most of the Frontline documentaries feature talking heads interviews along with narration they don’t really require the visual component. Also Frontline has done the service of inserting audio of the name of the person who is talking before each interview. Each podcast runs about an hour.

We also feature over 150 of the best FRONTLINE documentaries on streaming video on our site and we plan add more soon. Browse the best of FRONTLINE on LearnOutLoud:

Browse Over 150 of the Best Free FRONTLINE Documentaries

FRONTLINE also has started their 36th season. Below are three of the best documentaries from the new season:

North Korea’s Deadly Dictator

In North Korea’s Deadly Dictator, FRONTLINE presents the bizarre story of the murder of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia in February of 2017. As the days after the murder by chemical attack progressed, the investigation increasingly appeared to be an assassination conducted by the North Korean leadership in response to Kim Jong-nam speaking up against the regime. The documentary then turns towards the increasing aggression of North Korea and their nuclear weapons program which has loomed over 2017. It covers the response of the Trump administration and potential ways of dealing with the threat North Korea poses. The documentary features footage from inside North Korea and interviews of experts on the Korean conflict.


In the FRONTLINE documentary Mosul, viewers will get an inside look at the battle young Iraqi soldiers fought to drive ISIS out of Mosul in Iraq. It’s a brutal and sometimes graphic look at the violence in the region. The documentary doesn’t feature narration, but instead focuses on the battles and words of the soldiers fighting them. With many innocent men, women, and children caught in the crossfire and a city decimated, it is a difficult look into the heart of a battle that cost thousands of civilian lives.

Putin’s Revenge

In the two-part documentary Putin’s Revenge, FRONTLINE casts a light on the Russian President Vladimir Putin. In part one you’ll learn about Putin’s role in the KGB at the end of the Cold War and his rise to power under Boris Yeltsin. You’ll also hear about his ongoing strain with the United States including Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. By gaining firm control of Russian state media, Putin has been able to shift the blame of many global conflicts and uprisings onto the United States. His ire against the U.S. was eventually directed towards Hillary Clinton who was the U.S. Secretary of State at the time Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from power and killed in Libya. Part two of Putin’s Revenge focuses on Putin’s more recent political meddling in the Ukraine and then in the Presidential election of the United States. U.S. intelligence agents and journalists comment on the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails and the cyber campaigns and fake news stories that were initiated to tarnish the campaign of Hillary Clinton. At the same time of these attacks, Republican candidate Donald Trump encouraged both the Russians and Wikileaks to hack emails in order to expose the corruption of his opponent Hillary Clinton. And on election day in November of 2016, Putin believed he had succeeded in his attempts to influence U.S. politics and derail the Clinton campaign, when Donald Trump was elected U.S. President. If you’d like to listen to Putin’s Revenge, you can listen to it on the Frontline Audiocast Podcast as well.

In addition to this 2-hour documentary, FRONTLINE has put up over 30 full length interviews with many of the key interviewees featured in the Putin’s Revenge documentary, including many interviews that last over an hour in length. They’ve assembled a YouTube playlist which you can watch all of the interviews on:

FRONTLINE: The Putin Files

And in the past we’ve featured numerous FRONTLINE documentaries in our Free Resource of the Day Email. Here are all the FRONTLINE documentaries we’ve featured in the past. Note: It seems that only U.S. viewers can watch these for free. Sorry to our international users.

The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela

This 2-hour PBS FRONTLINE documentary covers Nelson Mandela’s amazing life story, from his radical political activism in Johannesburg as a youth to his over 20-year imprisonment, and then to his remarkable rise as the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 in which he presided over the dismantling of apartheid. This documentary features excellent footage from all periods in Mandela’s life along with interviews of the people closest to him. It’s a story that must be heard to be believed. Watch this superb documentary from PBS online.

The Wounded Platoon

Watch this free FRONTLINE documentary, and it will certainly bring our armed service veterans to the forefront of your mind. This PBS documentary takes a look at a platoon of U.S. infantrymen and their tours of duty in Iraq and the difficulties they faced in returning to everyday life. It provides a glimpse into the horrors of war, along with the horrors of returning from war when psychological wounds often haunt soldiers. The film examines the lives of numerous men from this platoon, many of whom are inflicted with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which sometimes leads to violent and self-destructive behavior. It’s a sobering reminder of our collective responsibility to our veterans and to the soldiers currently serving the United States of America.

The Soldier’s Heart

This free FRONTLINE documentary will certainly bring our armed service veterans to the forefront of your mind. This 2005 PBS documentary examines the lives of numerous men who returned from the Iraq War and were inflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The veterans tell their stories of the horrors of war and the difficulty they had in coping with life after coming home. Numerous mental health professionals offer their advice on coping with PTSD throughout the documentary. It’s a sobering reminder of our collective responsibility to our veterans and to the soldiers currently serving the United States of America. This documentary is available on streaming video through the PBS website.

Syria Behind the Lines

Watch this recent PBS Frontline documentary to get an up close view of the ongoing Syrian civil war. Award-winning filmmaker Olly Lambert attempts to show both sides of the conflict by following a Sunni rebel soldier and a Syrian Army soldier serving in President Bashar al-Assad’s army. It’s a pretty horrific documentary depicting graphic imagery of the ongoing violence in this bloody conflict with a death toll surpassing 100,000. But, in light of recent events, it is definitely worth watching to get a glimpse into what is happening in Syria on the ground level.

Syria Undercover & The Regime Responds

These two documentaries on Syria were aired in November 8, 2011. In the 30-minute documentary “Syria Undercover” reporter Ramita Navai goes undercover to see what is happening to protesters during the Syria uprising. She seems to enter one dangerous scenario after another as the Syrian army cracks down on the protests. In the second 20-minute documentary “The Regime”, Frontline takes a look at the history of the rule of the Al-Assad family over Syria since 1970. They examine the rule of the current President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and how his reforms may have led to the Syrian uprising during the “Arab Spring” movement, which President Assad is now trying to suppress.

The Rise of ISIS

Watch this PBS Frontline documentary on the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Starting with the withdrawal of American ground troops, this documentary examines the political climate of Iraq and the conflicts between Shiites and Sunni Iraqis since that time. After increased dissatisfaction with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his support of Shiites, the Sunni insurgency began to grow. Aided by the rise of ISIS in the Syrian Civil War, the group began driving out Iraqi government forces in key western cities in Iraq. The documentary concludes with ISIS controlling large portions of both Iraq and Syria, and revealing their notorious human rights abuses and war crimes. With interviews from U.S. intelligence officials and members of the Obama administration, the documentary examines the increased recent involvement of the U.S. in the region and the possibility of putting ground troops back in Iraq. This 50-minute documentary is available to stream for free from the PBS Frontline website.

Digital Nation

In this PBS documentary Frontline turns its eye to our digital age and how the ubiquitousness of computers and the Internet are transforming our lives. They examine the role of digital technology from many angles, but primarily focus on its role in education. The big question is are these technologies enhancing education or dumbing it down, and the answers the filmmakers get are quite mixed. From the halls of MIT to the unique schools which utilize gaming as the primary form of learning, teachers and students chime in about what they think digital technology is doing to education. The documentary also explores virtual reality and the world of Second Life. They talk to avid gamers, IBM employees who virtually meet in Second Life, and veterans who utilize virtual reality to confront their PTSD. The film covers many other topics from Korean kids addicted to video games to military service members who conduct drone strikes from remote posts in Nevada. The filmmakers do an excellent job of showcasing what is gained and what is lost as we rapidly move forward as a digital nation.

Generation Like

In this superb follow up to his Frontline documentary The Merchants of Cool, Frontline filmmaker Douglas Rushkoff tries to figure out what is happening at the intersection of teens and corporate marketing in this new digital age. No longer the passive consumers of the media that is presented to them, teens are now empowered through social media with a new social currency of “likes”. From Facebook to YouTube to Twitter, Rushkoff looks at how teens are interacting with celebrities, movies, and brands in new ways. He interviews rising YouTube stars about the ways they are collaborating with companies to market their products. He also goes to some of the hottest social media marketing companies to see how they generate buzz for their clients. In the end he finds that the idea of “selling out” is something foreign to this new digital generation and that they are plenty willing to play along with corporate marketing in exchange for more “likes”.

And if you want to revisit them, they’ve been offering their special Presidential election documentaries “The Choice” on their YouTube channel for the past three election cycles:

FRONTLINE: The Choice 2008

Watch this 2-hour PBS Frontline documentary entitled “The Choice 2008”. This informative documentary intertwines the biographical story of the presidential candidates John McCain & Barack Obama along with a behind-the-scenes look at the ups and downs of their presidential campaigns over the past few years. A host of commentators from political strategists to biographers to personal friends of the candidates chime in with their observations. This documentary is free to watch on streaming video on YouTube.

Frontline: The Choice 2012

Each presidential election year PBS produces the Frontline documentary “The Choice”. Watch the 2-hour documentary “The Choice 2012” on YouTube. This documentary goes beyond the talking points of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and looks at their biographies in order to discover what drives them and informs their decisions. The documentary goes back to the upbringing of both candidates and follows them through their rise in politics and some of their more recent political struggles. It’s a good look at Obama and Romney with insightful interviews from some of the people that have been closest to them. Enjoy this free documentary.

Frontline: The Choice 2016

Each presidential election the PBS series Frontline produces an election special that profiles the two major candidates. Their two-hour special is now available to stream on their YouTube channel. This special covers the biographies of the frontrunners Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump, and the long and very different paths they took to reach this point. With interviews from biographers and people closest to each of the candidates you get an idea of what has driven these individuals throughout their careers. You’ll hear the story of Hillary Clinton and her entry into Democratic politics from her years as first lady of Arkansas and then the United States, to her role as Senator of New York and Secretary of State. You’ll also hear about the rise of Donald J. Trump, the wealthy American businessman who came of age in the 1980s and kept his brand alive into 1990s and became a reality TV star in the 2000s. You’ll hear about the scandals and hardships they’ve faced throughout their long lives in the public eye and their persistence through it all in “Frontline: The Choice 2016”.