• Network: PBS
  • Series Premiere Date: Oct 2, 2011
  • Season #: 1
Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 19
  2. Negative: 0 out of 19
  1. Reviewed by: David Wiegand
    Oct 3, 2011
    100
    Great historical documentaries not only enlighten us about the past, but tell us things about our own times as well, either directly or implicitly. Prohibition, the latest project by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, states the implicit links between the passage of the 18th Amendment and contemporary politics so loudly, you'd have to be drunk on bathtub gin not to get the message.
  2. Reviewed by: Ed Bark
    Oct 3, 2011
    100
    In the end, it may be the most fun you'll ever have with a Ken Burns film.
  3. The lively script by Geoffrey Ward covers a lot of ground and offers keen insights via interviews, not only with experts but regular folk who lived through the era.
  4. Reviewed by: Dorothy Rabinowitz
    Sep 30, 2011
    100
    Taken together there is in these 5 1/2 hours, breathtaking in their scope and detail, nothing approaching a dull moment.
  5. Reviewed by: Tom Gliatto
    Sep 30, 2011
    100
    Prohibition is a merry, bullet-sprayed study of the era's rampant criminality. [10 Oct 2011, p.40]
  6. Reviewed by: Verne Gay
    Sep 29, 2011
    100
    An enthralling film.
  7. Reviewed by: Lori Rackl
    Sep 28, 2011
    100
    The 18th Amendment--that "Noble Experiment" that turned out to be one of the country's biggest civic failures--is the subject of a fascinating new documentary by Ken Burns.
  8. Reviewed by: Ken Tucker
    Oct 3, 2011
    91
    Talking heads such as Daniel Okrent are eloquently pithy. And narrator Peter Coyote is as soothing as a tumbler of fine Scotch.
  9. Reviewed by: Jonathan Storm
    Oct 3, 2011
    90
    More than any of Burns' documentaries except The Civil War, Prohibition provides viewers with a real feel for the times as well as new and surprising information.
  10. Reviewed by: Matt Roush
    Oct 3, 2011
    90
    With deft detail, and the usual sparkling mix of vivid archival footage and jazzy period music, we're treated to an evocative portrait of a young nation wracked by alcoholism and a debauched saloon culture, taking drastic measures to ban the manufacture and sale of alcohol.
  11. Reviewed by: Ellen Gray
    Sep 30, 2011
    90
    Prohibition is barely more than a gulp next to Burns benders like "Baseball" and "Jazz," but it packs a punch, both as a cautionary tale and as entertainment.
  12. Reviewed by: Troy Patterson
    Oct 5, 2011
    80
    Over three nights and five and half hours, Prohibition provides a very fine analytic survey of the noble experiment, and most criticisms of it are quibbles.
  13. Reviewed by: Neil Genzlinger
    Sep 30, 2011
    80
    Mr. Burns and Ms. Novick, commendably, don't beat you over the head with the obvious lessons for those today who would legislate personal behavior; they largely let the story of Prohibition speak for itself.
  14. Reviewed by: Brian Lowry
    Sep 30, 2011
    80
    [It manages] to be extremely entertaining, packed with amusing details and highly relevant to today's politics.
  15. Reviewed by: James Poniewozik
    Sep 30, 2011
    80
    Prohibition provides a detailed, engaging postmortem of a very, very bad idea.
  16. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Sep 30, 2011
    80
    The series presents an often-engrossing look at a unique cultural moment in America, when high-mindedness was in the saddle yet lawlessness was never so pervasive.
  17. Reviewed by: David Hinckley
    Sep 29, 2011
    80
    What the show doesn't say, but wouldn't mind our noticing, is that even today we should be very careful about giving up some part of our freedom because someone tells us it will "solve" some other problem.
  18. Reviewed by: Robert Lloyd
    Oct 3, 2011
    50
    At something more than five hours, Prohibition, while interesting from moment to moment, is longer than it needs to be, and made even longer by Burns' habitual stateliness.
  19. Reviewed by: Hank Stuever
    Oct 3, 2011
    50
    It's rare for Burns and Novick to get lost in their own material, but it happens here.
User Score
8.1

Universal acclaim- based on 14 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Dec 21, 2011
    10
    Fascinating, as usual. Ken Burns is a master, and this is another masterpiece. As is his staple, he breaks the subject into logical, manageable chunks, and turns even the dry (read: boring) parts of the story into a dramatic, engaging piece of television. If you like this, I strongly recommend any other Ken Burns documentary (especially Baseball). At a time when "American Idol" passes for respectable content, do yourself a favour and invest some time in PBS. Full Review »
  2. Oct 4, 2011
    7
    Bottom Line: I know all of this already. It seems Burns has pieced together a lot of other documentaries, statements, photos, footage and such already readily available. I don't think I saw or heard anything that has not been brought out on other programs through the years. Not that history changes but really his other works are so much better. It is like he used wiki for his main source of information. I watched it because there was nothing else on. Watching the behind the scenes footage made me cringe. Actors are full of themselves and I could care less about how much fun they had and the talent and insight for so and so. I wish Tom Hanks would just go away. Full Review »