In the uniquely upbeat prisoner-of-war movie Stalag 17 by Billy Wilder, William Holden plays a “survival king” sergeant Sefton who actually runs many lucrative businesses inside a prisoners’ camp; among them is his business of selling self-distilled drinks, using his still (which he presumably got hold of, through long and tedious transactions of cigarettes and other goods.) and some potato peels. Steve McQueen and James Garner are two other actors playing prisoners-of-war who make moonshine in The Great Escape, this time to celebrate the completion of an escape tunnel. These cinematic examples show that distilling with crude tools is not only possible but also desired by those who are in next to dire circumstances. In a more recent television drama, Oz, a fellow bunkmate offers some moonshine to Tobias Beecher, a man imprisoned for a fatal mistake he made when drunk.
Moonshine is also used for character building, as in the case of one of the most well-known, so-called western movies characters, Ruben J. “Rooster” Cogburn played by John Wayne. Cogburn loves moonshine and confiscates it from the drunken people he encounters. Homer Simpson from The Simpsons becomes an official judge of moonshine taste, through his avid drinking. Moonshine in movies can be used by characters more murderous than tough marshals, as seen in the Polish movie Hiccups, in which a rural village woman poisons other villagers with her distributed moonshine. Moonshine can have the effect of giving a character a dark, illegal past, as in the case of Brad Pitt’s character Lieutenant Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds, who used to bootleg moonshine.
True stories have been depicted in the same field of moonshine production, often with fictional additions. Moonrunners is such a film, based on the life of the famous moonshiner Jerry Rushing. Greased Lightning is about the first African American stock car racer, Scott Wendell, who in the film is said to have driven a taxi cab to transport illegal moonshine after the World War II; apparently his great raicing skills have been learned from the experience as a bootlegger. The People vs. Larry Flint shows Flint as a child selling moonshine with his brother.
In real life, moonshine can be produced openly with a license or excise tax, if you reside in the United States or other English speaking countries, in most cases of which you would be able to distill your own drinks at home. Going briefly back to William Holden’s jail distiller character, Sefton, a still is really the single most important tool you need for home distilling, which should be free of harmful material; Sefton guarantees his customers or inmates, that his alcoholic beverages will not make them go blind (which is the only guarantee he is able to give them). A still should be lead-free and preferably made of copper. Before you start distilling for your own pleasure, for a family gathering or a big party for your friends, purchase a proper still after making a full study of copper still details. You would definitely be able to guarantee more than Sefton could.