Hollywood has a way of making vices look incredible sexy. Watch a few minutes of any Humphrey Bogart film and honestly tell me you don’t want a cigarette, I dare you. The same goes with booze, which can take on immortal status through a deftly acted scene or some clever editing.
Many iconic movie characters have enjoyed a good drink or four. From James Bond to Jeff Lebowski, there’s a broad spectrum of characters and scenes that revolve around a signature cocktail or beer-guzzling soiree. Some scenes, naturally, are better than others. If there were an Oscar’s for drinking scenes in modern film, these would be the nominees:
This fantastic scene from 1998’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is pure, party-fueled shenanigans. It’s got everything, from a piano, backflips, and pulls right from the tap to spiraling camerawork that feels blissfully drunk. It’s hard not to imagine just how much fun you and your best friends would have if you got to close down a bar on your own. Don’t try this at home, unless you know how to cure a hangover.
There aren’t too many scenes in this classic Coen brothers film that don’t involve a White Russian. Yet, there’s something magical about this moment, where The Dude has a drink at the bowling alley bar with Sam Elliot’s character, The Stranger. Whether its imagined or not takes nothing away from the perfect commentary and world-class acting. It’s fair to say sarsaparilla sales likely went up a bit after this movie came out.
One of the scariest movies of all time also touts one of the best drinking scenes. Here, Jack Nicholson hallucinates to the point of conjuring up the lodge’s old and decidedly dapper barkeep. He enjoys a much-needed Jack Daniels on the rocks while tailspinning into insane waters brought on by isolation (something that feels frighteningly familiar these days). “You were always the best bartender, from Timbuktu to Portland, Maine,” Nicholson famously says. After one sip, things get gloomy fast and the viewer sees the genuine plight of a tortured soul. It’s brilliant and fueled by brown liquor.
A dark romantic comedy with loads of wine drinking, Sideways has its share of moments to choose from. While downing wine straight out of the bottle in the vineyard or taking a swig from the spit bucket have their own merits, the best scene goes to Paul Giamatti as he waxes poetic about Pinot Noir. Winos were quick to borrow the adjective “haunting” for their favorite wines after taking in this 2004 movie.
Bill Murray as a Japanese whisky ambassador is pure filmic gold. This scene in the outstanding 2003 film Lost in Translation encapsulates the genius of Bill Murray and the absurdity that can come with being a foreigner in an unfamiliar place. A drink has never looked so good, in the custody of a tuxedo-clad Murray. It’s frustrating, hilarious, and hyperbolic, much like a night of heavy drinking.
Shots! The list would not be complete without a good old fashioned drinking context. This one from arguable the best of the Indiana Jones series takes place in Nepal and features cash, high-tolerance locals, peer pressure, and a communal table. The dimly lit bar where Marion works looks like the perfect place to throw a few back.
The scene that started it all for 007, in which he orders the first of many, many Martini’s over the course of the movie series. It’s hard to pick a favorite among the giant and booze-soaked James Bond catalogue but there’s something about the first time the iconic drink is spotlighted. And, well, Sean Connery was the best Bond, hands down.
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