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What to Watch on the 60th Anniversary of JFK’s Assassination

11 documentaries and fictional shows and films dramatize the still-mysterious murder

spinner image President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jaqueline Kennedy at Love Field in Dallas.
President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jaqueline Kennedy after disembarking from Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Six decades after John F. Kennedy’s killing, America is still trying to make sense of the who and why of it all. And pop culture continues to examine and reexamine the tragic event, whether it comes in the form of Oliver Stone’s JFK, a time-traveling 1992 episode of Quantum Leap written by an ex-Marine who met Oswald (and thinks he did it alone) or Rob Reiner and Soledad O’Brien’s new 10-part podcast Who Killed JFK? If you find yourself wanting to dive deeper, here is a list of big- and small-screen takes on the subject worth your time.

JFK: One Day in America (2023)

This new Nat Geo docuseries is distinguished by its exhaustive ambition and its surfacing of singular voices that haven’t been heard a million times before, like Peggy Simpson, the sole female AP reporter in Texas in 1963 and an eyewitness to Oswald’s shooting who’s never appeared on camera. Made in collaboration with The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, JFK: One Day in America is an essential reminder of the chaos and grief of that indelible day.

Watch it: on National Geographic

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JFK (1991)

In the granddaddy of all JFK conspiracy theory films, director Oliver Stone occasionally plays fast and loose with the facts. But there’s no ignoring the collective power of the dizzying discrepancies he puts on trial in the film, the righteous fire of Kevin Costner’s portrayal of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison or the sheer bravura force of Stone’s direction. JFK remains the place to begin and end any viewer’s journey through the conspiratorial looking glass and may even make you look at everything with a newfound skepticism.

Watch it: on Prime Video

Executive Action (1973)

This searing historical drama starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan felt like an exposed nerve. Cowritten by Dalton Trumbo, the film assembles all of the dark forces that have their reasons to want the liberal 35th president out of the picture — rogue members of the intelligence community, right-wing politicians and good ol’ boy Texas oil tycoons. With its use of newsreel footage of JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, director David Miller’s film packs a visceral urgency. 

Watch it: on Prime Video

JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide (2013)

This History Channel special is worth checking out just for the sheer lunacy of some of the theories. The show casts the widest possible net for potential motives, from the plausible (the Kennedys’ crackdown on the mafia) to the preposterous (the naive commander in chief asking too many questions about UFOs). The hook here is that the film actually asks Americans which theory they buy.

Watch it: on Vudu

Cold Case JFK (2013)

Treating the JFK assassination like any other unsolved cold case, the team from Nova taps forensic scientists and pathologists to use cutting-edge technology (laser scanning, ballistics testing) to examine the case detached from raw emotion and wild conjecture. The findings are eye-opening if not quite conclusive. The highlight is a look at X-rays of the late president retrieved from the National Archives. 

Watch it: on Apple TV

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Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live (2013)

Was Oswald the lone gunman, a patsy or just the unluckiest man to walk the face of the Earth? This TV docudrama (based on a book by Steve Gillon) chronicles the comings, goings and odd movements of the enigmatic figure in the days and hours between the morning of Nov. 22 and his murder at the hands of Jack Ruby while in police custody. Experts discuss the facts and point out the evidence that has mysteriously vanished. Not surprisingly, it will leave you with more questions at the end than you had going in … which jibes with just about everything else surrounding the case.

Watch it: on Vudu

Parkland (2013)

Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton and Zac Efron star in this tense procedural about the chaos that gripped Dallas’ Parkland Hospital when the fatally wounded president was rushed into the ER. What makes the movie fascinating is the unusual and unlikely setting it uses to view an event that most of us thought we already knew everything about. 

Watch it: on Starz

Killing Kennedy (2013)

National Geographic tapped Rob Lowe as their JFK (above average in the lookalike department) and Ginnifer Goodwin as the First Lady, Jackie. This compressed made-for-TV movie adapted from Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s bestselling book is a long way from both the filmmaking fireworks of Oliver Stone’s JFK, but there is something undeniably compelling about the performances and the sickeningly ominous buildup to the tragic moment.

Watch it: on Prime Video

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JFK Assassination: The Roger Craig Story (2016)

This compelling 20-minute documentary reveals how Dallas Deputy Sheriff Roger Dean Craig, who was on duty Nov. 22, was ordered not to take part in the security detail for the presidential motorcade in any way and raises legitimate questions about whether his testimony was altered by the Warren Commission investigating the assassination.

Watch it: on YouTube

Jackie (2016)

Natalie Portman delivers the most haunting performance of her career as the widowed First Lady in director Pablo Larrain’s unsettling drama. It feels like we’re eavesdropping on a conversation we shouldn’t be privy to as Portman, who nabbed an Oscar nomination for the role, politely spars with a journalist played by Billy Crudup. She seems, by turns, calculating and shattered with grief. It’s a fascinating portrait, even if it plays with the truth and bends it for its own purposes. What those purposes are is hard to discern exactly, but it’s a mesmerizing film to sit through.

Watch it: on Prime Video

JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass (2021)

Thirty years after the release of the triumphant JFK, Oliver Stone returns to his singular obsession. The director paces through Dealey Plaza, speaks to experts, raises a set of new questions about the 20th century’s most enduring mystery and makes us challenge our assumptions once again. A fascinating encore. 

Watch it: on Paramount+

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