The King

The King

January 28, 2019


Eugene Jarecki

Climb into Elvis’s 1963 Rolls-Royce for a musical road trip and timely meditation on modern America.


About the Documentary

Is the promise of the “American Dream” alive or a concept that’s faded in the rear-view mirror?

Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, acclaimed filmmaker Eugene Jarecki takes the King’s 1963 Rolls-Royce on a musical road trip across America in search of not only Elvis’s legacy but the fate of the American Dream and the consequences of “cashing in” to try to achieve it. The King is a cautionary snapshot of America at a critical time in the nation’s history, painting a parallel portrait of the nation’s own heights and depths, from its inspired origins to its perennial struggles with race, class, power, and money.   

From Memphis to New York, Las Vegas, and beyond, the journey traces the rise and fall of Elvis as a metaphor for the country he left behind. A diverse cast of regular Americans join music icons and celebrities including Rosanne Cash, Chuck D, Emmylou Harris (who says in the film, “Maybe [Elvis] was the king but he was doomed”), Van Jones, Ethan Hawke, Mike Myers, and Dan Rather, among many others, woven in with soaring live performances from artists as varied as teen Nashville phenomenon EmiSunshine, Mississippi bluesman Leo Bud Welch, New York City rapper Immortal Technique, the cool West Coast sounds of M. Ward, and the gospel stylings of Memphis’s Stax Music Academy.

The Filmmakers

Eugene Jarecki

Eugene Jarecki (Director/Writer/Producer) is an award-winning documentary director and producer. After directing The Trials of Henry Kissinger in 2002, Jarecki won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and a Peabody Award for his 2005 film Why We Fight. In 2010, he created Move Your Money, a viral short encouraging Americans to shift their money from “too big to fail” banks to community banks and credit unions. His Emmy-Award winning 2011 film, Reagan, premiered at Sundance before broadcasting on HBO. The House I Live In, his 2013 film about America’s War on Drugs, once again won him the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival as well as a second Peabody Award; its broadcast premiere was on Independent Lens. He executive produced the Sundance Award-winning documentary (T)ERROR, as well as Denial, which aired on PBS in 2017. In 2016, Jarecki directed The Cyclist as part of Amazon's “The New Yorker Presents” series.

Full Credits


  • News & Documentary Emmy Award

    Best Documentary & Outstanding Historical Documentary (Nominee)

  • Grammy Awards

    Best Music Film (Nominee)

  • Cannes Film Festival

    Golden Eye Award (Nominee)

Learn more about the documentary

Join the Discussion

What does Elvis Presley and his legacy represent to you? Is the American Dream dead, very much alive, or just resting? Is it possible to be a celebrity or obtain the dream life and not sell out?


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