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.




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




Series cast summary:
Peter Coyote ...  Self - Narrator 3 episodes, 2011
Pete Hamill ...  Self - Writer 3 episodes, 2011
Catherine Gilbert Murdock Catherine Gilbert Murdock ...  Self - Historian 3 episodes, 2011
Michael Lerner Michael Lerner ...  Self - Historian 3 episodes, 2011
Daniel Okrent ...  Self - Writer 3 episodes, 2011
Noah Feldman Noah Feldman ...  Self - Legal Scholar 3 episodes, 2011
Jack Roche Jack Roche ...  Self - Resident of Chicago 3 episodes, 2011
William Leuchtenburg William Leuchtenburg ...  Self - Historian 3 episodes, 2011
Patricia Clarkson ...  Reader / ... 3 episodes, 2011
John Lithgow ...  Reader / ... 3 episodes, 2011
Campbell Scott ...  Reader 3 episodes, 2011
Sam Waterston ...  Reader 3 episodes, 2011
John Paul Stevens ...  Self - Resident of Chicago 2 episodes, 2011
Jonathan Eig ...  Self - Writer 2 episodes, 2011
Margot Loines Wilkie Margot Loines Wilkie ...  Self - Resident of Massachusetts 2 episodes, 2011
Martin Marty Martin Marty ...  Self - Theologian 2 episodes, 2011
Jack Clarke Jack Clarke ...  Self - Resident of Chicago 2 episodes, 2011
Ruth Proskauer Smith Ruth Proskauer Smith ...  Self - Resident of New York 2 episodes, 2011
Edwin T. Hunt Jr. Edwin T. Hunt Jr. ...  Self - Resident of Seattle / ... 2 episodes, 2011
Joshua Zeitz Joshua Zeitz ...  Self - Historian 2 episodes, 2011
Philip Bosco ...  Reader 2 episodes, 2011
Kevin Conway Kevin Conway ...  Reader 2 episodes, 2011
Tom Hanks ...  Reader 2 episodes, 2011
Josh Lucas ...  Reader 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 (

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


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Did You Know?


John Lithgow and Amy Madigan, readers in this film, both appeared in the nuclear holocaust movie the Day After 1983. See more »


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

User Reviews

A 101 Course in Prohibition.
2 May 2017 | by KidNorwaySee all my reviews

Prohibition took place in the early 1900's, was unpopular, and was repealed. That was the extent of my knowledge on prohibition. Ken Burns proved that such a big part of our country's history is worth taking a closer look at.

The storytelling is excellent, with interviews of and narration by folks you'll likely recognize. The archival footage is eye-opening and heartbreaking. The comic relief is perfectly timed, and the facts presented here linger on the mind long after the TV is off.

Personal preference will dictate whether the film's length outlasts its charm. I usually like things short and sweet, but I couldn't hold myself to a single episode in one sitting. However, at 5 hours it'll probably wear down the patience of some viewers.

The only other downside I can think of is that some points are overly expounded upon, while other enticing tidbits will be mentioned briefly but not fully exemplified. I almost doubled the length of one episode by continuously pausing and googling something for more clarification.

Of course, that could've been Ken's plan all along.

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Release Date:

2 October 2011 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Prohibition See more »

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16:9 HD
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