Embracing the virtues of modesty and humility, the Amish have long deplored publicity and promotion. Nevertheless, media of all types have focused more attention on the Amish in recent years.

Coverage of the Amish by print media began in the first half of the twentieth century. Media coverage increased dramatically in television and film in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The feature film Witness was widely viewed in the United States and abroad in 1986.

Later films and television series such as Aaron’s Way and For Richer or Poorer, Plain Truth, Kingpin, Harvest of Fire, and Stoning in Fulham County depicted Amish life with various levels of authenticity. Devil’s Playground,  featuring rebellious teens during Rumspringa, appeared on HBO in 2004. A reality TV series, Amish in the City, depicted Amish youth and non-Amish youth living together in Los Angeles.

The BBC aired two documentaries, Trouble in Amish Paradise in 2009 and Leaving Amish Paradise in 2010. British Channel 4 produced a reality show, Amish: the World Squares Teens, in 2010. National Geographic, using ex-Amish people and actors, aired Amish at the Altar in 2010, followed by a ten-part series, Amish: Out of Order, in 2012. Two multi-episode “reality TV” series, Breaking Amish and Amish Mafia, were largely fictional and quite egregious in their portrayal of Amish life.

A two-hour documentary, The Amish, produced by American Experience, aired in 2012. It was followed by another American Experience program, The Amish: Shunned, in 2014.

Additional information

  • See chapter 20, “The Amish in Print,” and chapter 21, “Tourism and Media,” in Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt, The Amish. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
  • Valerie Weaver-Zercher, Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2013).
  • David Weaver-Zercher, The Amish in the American Imagination (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2001).
  • David Weaver-Zercher and Diane Zimmerman Umble, eds., The Amish and the Media (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008).

About the site

Amish Studies is an academic website developed by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College to provide reliable information on Amish life and culture.

Designed to assist scholars, students and the general public, the site was developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of a collaborative research grant on Amish diversity and identity in the 20th century. The research team included principal investigator Donald B. Kraybill of Elizabethtown College (Pa.) and two co-investigators, Steven M. Nolt of Goshen College (Ind.) and Karen M. Johnson-Weiner of SUNY Potsdam (New York).

The Amish population statistics are updated annually in July. Other information will be revised and added on a periodic basis.

Recent books

The Amish book cover

Authors: Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013)

Renegade Amish book cover

Author: Donald Kraybill (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014)