The 11 Best Documentaries About Appalachia

Jul 23, 2023 | Best Of, Culture, History

The 11 Best Documentaries About Appalachia

The Appalachian Mountains are a stunning landscape of rolling hills, lush forests, and vast open spaces. They have been home to generations of people whose stories often go untold. But documentaries can tell these stories in unique and captivating ways. Whether you’re looking for an exploration of the region’s history or insight into its culture today, there is something for everyone among the best documentaries about Appalachia. Dive into this list to find out what makes these films so special and why they deserve your attention!


Appalachia – The Endless Forest (2005)

The Appalachians, a majestic mountain range that spans from the southern state of Georgia to the northern state of Maine, stands tall and proud along the eastern edge of the United States. With its sprawling landscape and rich history, it is no wonder this region has captured the hearts and minds of many.






The River Runs On (2023)

Experience the journey of conservationists in Southern Appalachia as they grapple with managing two of America’s most treasured national forests – the Pisgah and Nantahala. Delve into the complexities of a final plan being drafted by the US Forest Service, which will shape the management strategies for these forests over the next two decades.






Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl (2012)

THE DUST BOWL tells the haunting tale of a man-made disaster that ravaged the American heartland in the 1930s. Driven by greed, the southern Plains became consumed by a wheat frenzy that ultimately led to a decade-long drought. As crops withered and soil turned to dust, the once thriving breadbasket of the nation was on the brink of collapse.





The Best Free Documentaries About Appalachia


1. Appalachia: Rich Land, Poor

This documentary examines the Appalachian region, an area in Eastern Kentucky that has been designated as a poverty area for decades. It focuses on how mechanization of the mines is replacing people and jobs, leaving many residents struggling to find work due to lack of education or other working skills. The film features interviews with local families, showing the harsh reality of life in this land rich with coal yet lacking adequate food, housing or medical care. Watch this film from 1968 and learn about the struggles faced by those living in Appalachia.


2. The Appalachian Peoples: History, Music, Culture & True Identity

Do you want to know more about the Appalachian Mountains? This video will take you on a journey through this vast and beautiful region, from Belle Isle in Canada to Cheaha Mountain in Alabama. You’ll learn about its diverse inhabitants: their culture, myths and behaviors. Plus, we’ll discuss the Appalachian Regional Commission’s definition of Appalachia, which includes 420 counties and 8 independent cities spread across 13 states! So join us as we explore this captivating area that has been home to millions of people for centuries.


3. Women of These Hills – 3 Cultures of Appalachia – 2000

Take a journey back in time to the Appalachian mountains with three remarkable women. These ladies, all in their 80’s, share stories of growing up as Cherokee, Scots-Irish and African-American women from rural regions of Appalachia. Journey through their memories and get an inside look at what life was like for these mountain women. Hear some of the unique challenges they faced and how they rose above them to live full lives!


4. “Appalachian Journey”, Alan Lomax (1991)

Travel back in time and explore the Appalachian culture with this documentary! In this film, you will join renowned folklorist Alan Lomax as he travels to Appalachia to document some of its most iconic musical sounds. From Tommy Jarrell, Janette Carter, and Ray & Stanley Hicks to Frank Proffitt Jr., Sheila Kay Adams, Nimrod Worker and Phyllis Boyens – you’ll get an exclusive look at a variety of performers who have been preserving traditional music for centuries. As well as being met with suspicion by the Spanish authorities due to his anti-fascist beliefs, Alan’s journey provides us with a unique opportunity to discover the beauty of Appalachian music that has been passed down through generations.


5. Mountain talk

Are you a lover of the outdoors? Have you ever wondered how mountain-dwellers communicate with each other? In this documentary, we explore the unique language used by those living in the mountains. From secret handshakes to coded phrases, discover how these locals interact and connect with one another! Learn about their culture and traditions as well as what it takes to be part of this special community. Join us on an adventure into the world of mountain talk!


6. Appalachia – The Endless Forest – Go Wild

This film takes you on a journey to discover the secrets of remote valleys, uncovering an amazing array of wildlife and nature. From bears and salamanders to vultures and flying squirrels, these hidden worlds are full of life! But that’s not all – human culture is as vibrant here as the natural world. Come explore this unique part of the world with us!


7. Inside Appalachia: WV’s 1,000 Year Flood

The June 2016 floods in southern West Virginia were a devastating event that no one could have predicted. Almost 8 inches of rain fell in some areas within 12 to 18 hours, an amount expected only once every 1,000 years according to the National Weather Service. This video takes you on a journey through the affected towns like Richwood, Rainelle, White Sulphur Springs and Clendenin. You’ll meet residents and community leaders who share their stories of loss and resilience. We also examine how the state is preparing for recovery with conversations with Chief Recovery Coordinator Major General James Hoyer of the WV National Guard appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Join us as we explore what happened during this exceptional meteorological event and learn how these communities are rebuilding after such tragedy!


8. A Simple Life in the Appalachian Mountains – All Chapters

Join us on a journey to the Appalachian Mountains where we visit Gene and Hansel at their hermitage in Eastern Tennessee. This July 1st, 2001 trip was an amazing experience that we want to share with you! Watch this video to enjoy all the beauty of nature and get inspired by Gene and Hansel’s lifestyle.


9. The Appalachians: The Scotch-Irish / Scots-Irish

The Appalachian region of America has been shaped by the Presbyterian Scots-Irish from Ulster in Ireland. This documentary takes an in-depth look at how they have impacted this area with their music, religion, moonshine and independent spirit. It also examines their love of freedom as well as other aspects that make them unique. Get to know the people who live here and what it’s like to be a part of this special place in the world!


10. The Appalachian Channel LIVE- Documentaries

Explore the beauty and culture of Appalachia with The Appalachian Channel LIVE! Our documentaries take you deep into the heart of this special region, showcasing its unique history and people. Join us as we journey through some of Appalachia’s most stunning landscapes, hearing stories from those who call it home. From hidden gems to long-held secrets, our documentaries will give you an inside look at all that makes this area so special.


11. Shocking and Controversial Documentary of 1940s Appalachia

This documentary takes you back to the 1940s in Appalachia, where a shocking and controversial story unfolds. Witness the struggles of rural families as they attempt to survive against all odds. Follow their journey through this harsh landscape, uncovering secrets and truths that were previously hidden from public view. This film is an eye-opening experience that will have you questioning everything you thought you knew about life in the Appalachian region during this time period.


Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

David B