JFK documentaries 2023: top 5 shows to watch ahead of 60th anniversary, from One Day in America to Kennedy
Top 5 new JFK documentaries to watch ahead of 60th anniversary of the US president’s assassination
American president John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on 22 November 1963 - making this month the 60th anniversary of his brutal murder. A wave of new documentaries will hit TV screens over the next few weeks as the mysterious event is revisited.
Officially, US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald is the man responsible for killing Kennedy, but he too was assassinated by nightclub owner and suspected mobster Jack Ruby before being brought to trial, so Oswald’s guilt was never proven in a court of law.
Kennedy was the fourth, and last US President to be assassinated, but the only one whose murder was captured on film, immortalising his grisly death. Because so much uncertainty surrounds his murder, the event, and hours surrounding it in Dallas has been the subject of scores of documentaries and films over the decades.
From Oliver Stone’s fictional account in the 3.5 hour epic, to the 2021 feature length documentary JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, which delves into unclassified documents, none has managed to concretely prove just who killed Kennedy or their motive for doing so.
The five new documentaries airing this month in the UK won’t answer those questions either, but they all shed new light on certain aspects of the American president’s life, and that fateful day in Dallas.
Top five JFK documentaries to watch in November 2023
JFK: 24 Hours That Changed the World
This documentary takes a narrower, more clinical look at the Kennedy assassination. It explores the events in Dallas on the day of the killing moment by moment, from the president’s arrival in Texas, to the shooting, and the point that his body is taken back to Washington DC on Air Force One.
Although titled 24 Hours That Changed the World, the special will also cover the arrest and murder of Oswald, who was killed two days after Kennedy. Whilst the programme doesn’t unearth any new revelations, it does explore the outpouring of grief nationwide at the news that their president had been killed.
The episode is pieced together through archival footage, some of which has never been seen before, and oral history, explaining precisely what happened on 22 November, and how the chief suspect in Kennedy’s assassination was himself assassinated before being brought to trial.
JFK: 24 Hours That Changed the World will air on Channel 4 at 8pm on Saturday, 4 November and will be available to watch on Channel 4 online after it is first broadcast.
Kennedy, Sinatra, and The Mafia
The two-hour Channel 4 documentary special explores Kennedy’s reported links to the Mafia, which are often hinted at but rarely fully explored in the documentaries about his death.
This programme argues that crooner Frank Sinatra, a close friend of JFK and also a frequent associate of the Mafia, used his influence in the entertainment industry, and links to organised crime to help Kennedy win the race to the White House when he ran against Richard Nixon in 1960.
Relying on archival footage and interviews with biographers, and Helen O’Donnell, daughter of Kenneth O’Donnell, Kennedy’s special assistant and close friend, to present a less than squeaky clean image of the 35th president of the United States.
The feature length documentary will air on Channel 4 on 4 November straight after 24 Hours That Changed the World, at 9pm. It will be available to watch on Channel 4 online after it is first broadcast.
JFK: One Day in America
This series from National Geographic doesn’t tell you any facts about the JFK assassination you haven’t heard a dozen times before. What’s unique about this three-part series is the human voices it employs to speak on the subject.
The docuseries hears from three of the last surviving eyewitnesses from the assassination in Dallas. They speak candidly about their memories of the time and how the shocking event still affects them to this day.
We hear from two secret service agents, one of whom was assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy, who were in the motorcade when it came under fire, and a reporter who covered the assassination as it happened.
JFK: One Day in America will air on National Geographic on Sunday 5 November at 9pm in the UK, and will be released on Disney+ the following day.
Kennedy is a comprehensive exploration of the late present’s life, from his formative years in Depression-era America, to his role in the Pacific during the Second World War, and rapid success in politics. It will cover how Kennedy won the race to the White House, became involved in the Civil Rights Movement, was instrumental in averting a nuclear threat, and how he met his end in Dallas 60 years ago.
The chunky eight-part series only arrives at Kennedy’s assassination in the final episode, but for American history buffs it is a must-watch as a detailed portrait of one of America’s most fascinating figures. The series will be released in the US on the History Channel over three nights, with three episodes airing on Saturday 18 November, three more on 19, and the final two on 20. It is expected to air in the UK on the History Channel, but a release date has not yet been confirmed.
JFK: Inside the Trauma Room
Inside the Trauma Room reunites seven doctors who were working in the Parkland ER where JFK was sent after being shot. None of them can forget their harrowing experiences in Trauma Room 1 where Kennedy was treated despite the severity of his wounds that made survival almost impossible.
Revelations from the doctors contradict the official results of investigations into the assassination, as some describe seeing an entry wound into the president’s throat. If this were the case, it would imply that Kennedy was shot at least once from the front, and Oswald could not have acted alone.
The doctors also question the exact number of bullets that hit the president, and the damage that they caused further calling into question what Americans have been told about the event for six decades. The feature-length documentary will be released on Paramount+ in the US under the title JFK: What the Doctors Saw, on Tuesday 14 November. It will air on Channel 5 later this month as Inside the Trauma Room. An exact UK release date and time has not yet been confirmed, though it is likely to arrive before 22 November.