The Untold History of the United States (also known as Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States) is a 2012 documentary series directed, produced, and narrated by Oliver Stone.
Stone is the director and narrator of all ten episodes. The series is a reexamination of some of the underreported and darkest parts of American modern history, using little-known documents and newly uncovered archival material. The series looks beyond official versions of events to the deeper causes and implications and explores how events from the past still have resonant themes for the present day. Stone said, “From the outset I’ve looked at this project as a legacy to my children and a way to understand the times I’ve lived through. I hope it can contribute to a more global insight into our American history.”
The first three episodes of the series premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 6, 2012, with Indiewire describing them as “extremely compelling” and “daring.” The series was personally presented by Stone at the Subversive Festival on May 4, 2013, in Zagreb, Croatia, which next to film screenings also included debates and public lectures by prominent intellectuals such as Slavoj Žižek and Tariq Ali.
Stone described the project as “the most ambitious thing I’ve ever done. Certainly in documentary form, and perhaps in fiction, feature form.” Production took four years to complete. Stone confessed, “It was supposed to take two years, but it’s way over schedule”. The premiere was finally set for November 12, 2012. Stone spent $1 million of his own money on the film as the budget inflated from $3 million to $5 million.
The series premiered on Showtime in November 2012. The executive producers were Oliver Stone, Tara Tremaine and Rob Wilson. A book by the same name was also published.
The Untold History of the United States was released on Blu-ray on October 15, 2013. All ten episodes of the show are featured on four discs, and the Blu-ray release also includes various bonus content, as well as two prologue episodes. The first prologue episode deals with World War I, the Russian Revolution and Woodrow Wilson. The second prologue episode highlights the pre-World War II era of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. The series was released on DVD on March 4, 2014. The series is currently available for streaming on Netflix.
The ten-part series is supplemented by a 750-page companion book, The Untold History of the United States, also written by Stone and Kuznick, released on Oct 30, 2012 by Simon & Schuster.
Kuznick objected to the working title “Secret History”, claiming that “the truth is that many of our ‘secrets’ have been hidden on the front page of the New York Times. If people think the secrets will be deep, dark conspiracies, they’ll be disappointed. We’ll be drawing on the best recent scholarship”. It was subsequently retitled The Untold History of the United States.