Films show us how we see ourselves, our society and our past. Movies about Prohibition reflect how we see that period, with its speakeasies, moonshine and bootleggers.
I. Chronological List
But they also influence how we view that past. Was it exciting? Glamorous? Corrupt? A noble experiment? Or a foolish fiasco destined for disaster? Discover movies about Prohibition and explore your reactions and feelings.
I. Chronological List: Movies About Prohibition
- Ten Nights in a Barroom (1910) (Other versions released in 1926 and 1931.)
- The Idle Class (1921)
- The Curse of Drink (1922)
- The Mad Whirl (1924)
- The Goose Woman (1925)
- Ten Nights in a Barroom (1926) (Other versions released in 1910 and 1931.)
- After Midnight (1927) (Not the same as the horror film, London After Midnight of the same year.)
- Our Dancing Daughters (1928)
- The Racket (1928)
- Ladies of the Mob (1928)
- Romance of the Underworld (1928)
- Speakeasy (1929)
- Our Modern Maidens (1929)
- Corsair (1931)
- The Secret Six (1931)
- Ten Nights in a Barroom (1931) (Other versions released in 1910 and 1926.)
- The Struggle (1931)
- The Last Flight (1931)
- Blonde Crazy (1931)
- The Wet Parade (1932)
- Hell’s House (1932)
- Scarface (1932)
- The Public Enemy (1932)
- Scarface (1932)
- Night after Night (1932)
- Hold Your Man (1933)
- Song of the Eagle (1933)
- The Roaring Twenties (1939) More information here.
- High Sierra (1941)
- The Great Gatsby (1949. Other versions released in 1974, 2000, and 2013.)
- Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955)
- Thunder Road (1958) More information here and here.
- Al Capone (1959)
- The Earth is Mine (1959)
- Some Like It Hot (1959)
- Kissin’ Cousins (1964)
- Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964)
- The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967)
- Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
- Killers Three (1968)
- Bootleggers (1969)
- The Devil’s 8 (1969)
- Bloody Mama (1970)
- The Moonshine War (1970)
- Boulevard du Rhum (1971)
- This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! (1971)
- Honey Britches (1971)
- The Godfather (1972)
- White Lightning (1973) More information here and here.
- The Great Gatsby (1974. Other versions released in 1949, 2000, and 2013.)
- Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)
- The Godfather: Part II (1974)
- Moonrunners (1974)
- Bootleggers (1974)
- Hot Summer in Barefoot Country (1974)
- Moonrunners (1975)
- Rumrunners (1975)
- Lucky Lady (1975)
- Bugsy Malone (1975)
- Capone (1975)
- Dixie Dynamics (1976)
- Gator (1976)
- Moonshine Country Express (1976)
- Greased Lightning (1977)
- Thunder and Lightning (1977) More information here and here.
- Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
- Bad Georgia Road (1977)
- Moonshine Country Express (1977)
- Soggy Bottom, USA (1980)
- Smokey and the Bandit III (1983)
- Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
- The Cotton Club (1984)
- Izzy and Moe (1985)
- Redneck Zombies (1987)
- The Untouchables (1987)
- Harlem Nights (1989)
- The Great Gatsby (2000) (Other versions released in 1949, 1974, and 2013.)
- Speakeasy (2001)
- Chicago (2002)
- Road to Perdition (2002)
- The Dukes of Hazzard (2005)
- Public Enemies (2009)
- Midnight in Paris (2011)
- Lawless (2012)
- The Great Gatsby (2013)
National Prohibition in the U.S. lasted from early 1920 until late 1933. Temperance films dominated until the early 1920s. That’s because Prohibition had been widely popular. In fact, many states had state-wide prohibition even before National Prohibition began.
So convinced were they that alcohol was the cause of crime that, on Prohibition’s eve, some towns sold their jails!
Prohibitionists promised that National Prohibition would usher in a much better country. It would reduce crime, increase jobs, promote prosperity, and improve family life. Prohibition would reduce violence, raise morality, protect children, and reduce corruption.
However, “wet” (anti-Prohibition) sentiment increased during the Noble Experiment. The cause was simple. More and more people came to believe that that Prohibition failed to reduce drinking problems. Not only that. They saw Prohibition causing many more and very serious problems. Consequently, more and more people over time called for Repeal. As a result, “dry” films declined. And “wet” films increased in number.
Viewers who like movies about Prohibition may find some of the following books and articles interesting.
Barto, C., et al. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
Cornes, J. Alcohol in the Movies: 1898-1962. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006.
Herd, D., and Room, R. Alcohol images in American film 1909-1960. Drink Drug Pract Survey, 1982, 18, 24-35.
Room, R. The movies and the wettening of America. Brit J Addict, 1988, 83(1), 11-18.
Silverman, J. The Birth of a Nation. Prohibition propaganda. South Q, 1981, 19(3), 23-38.
Sklar, R. Movie-Made America. A Cultural History of American Movies. NY: Vintage, 2012.