Prohibition (2011)

TV Mini-Series  -  Documentary | History
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 709 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 8 critic

The story of the American activist struggle against the influence of alcohol, climaxing in the failed early 20th century nationwide era when it was banned.

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »





Series cast summary:
(3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
 Eliza Hackett (3 episodes, 2011)
Kevin Conway
(3 episodes, 2011)
 Himself / ... (3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
 George Remus (3 episodes, 2011)
 Himself (3 episodes, 2011)
 Himself (3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
 HL Mencken (3 episodes, 2011)
 Himself (3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
(3 episodes, 2011)
Noah Feldman ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2011)
Catherine Gilbert Murdock ...
 Herself (2 episodes, 2011)
Pete Hamill ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2011)
Michael Lerner ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2011)
William Leuchtenburg ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2011)
Martin Marty ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2011)
 Himself (2 episodes, 2011)
Jack Roche ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2011)
John Paul Stevens ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2011)


Throughout American history, heavy alcohol consumption has been a pervasive part of its national social character. However in the 1800s, a growing Temperance movement arose determined to oppose the destructive habit by any means necessary. This series tells the story of this crusade until it achieved its ultimate goal of passing the 18th Amendment of the US Constitution which imposed prohibition. After that victory, the series covers this social reform's disastrous unintended consequences that encouraged clandestine drinking and organized crime while undermining civil liberties and society's respect for the law in ways that still reverberate today. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


How did a nation founded on rights ever go so wrong?



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Release Date:

2 October 2011 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Prohibition  »

Company Credits

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, ,  »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #28.10 (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Amazing Story. How could Probition Ever Existed? This film makes clear the roots of the insanity of prohibition.
2 January 2012 | by (Saint Louis, MO) – See all my reviews

I've always wondered how the US ever passed laws prohibiting alcohol. Such an amazingly common thing today, it would be like banning caffeine or soda. This six hour story is told well from all sides and it provides clarity as to the insane and radical motives behind the Volstead Act and how it backfired in every way. While the video and photos are all rather dated being from the 1910s and 1920s, the interviews of experts, historians and people with real-life stories really come together well. The narration is also great and uses some of the best names in the film business.

This is a long series, about 6 hours. Ken Burns' direction is poignant and well-paced. It gives you time to think about the meaning and the historical impact of each chapter of this story which touches on many decades.

I feel I know understand an important part of American history that never made sense to me. Concepts like "Bootleggers and Baptists" being aligned and the role of the gangsters in society become crystal clear after viewing this film. I had no idea how vicious and immoral the attacks on Al Smith were by the Herbert Hoover camp. Politics and police seem violently corrupt in this era. You learn a lot about life, laws, religion and politics in a difficult and bitter era (the Great Depression). Most importantly, you are reminded of the fact that US was built on Freedoms--and Prohibition is such an amazing violation of this. It's a historical guidepost to preserving our freedoms going forward.

The story of the Roaring 20s, flappers, the speakeasy, the rum-runners, and ironically, how the post-prohibition era was favorable to women and equality and stories I'd never imagined.

FDR had three priorities when he took office: 1) regulate the banks, 2) cut federal spending, 3) legalize beer. He won by a landslide. On a funny note, Utah voted to repeal the Volstead Act rather quickly. Amazing given that that state has spend the last 80 years trying to restrict it! This three DVD series is worthy of a weekend of your time. Thanks PBS for this fine historical film and Ken Burns for another amazing tale.

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Paralells to drug-prohibition Torgeir-6
What's with the low rating scores? lbs1942
Who is the main narrator? RobRoy-5
Soundtrack princessfaz
I missed the first episode. Can anybody send me a copy if you recorded? heavydude
The amazing greed of PBS. bobdog-4
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