You say you enjoy drinking a six-pack on the couch while watching movies, but all these good-looking, sober, Hollywood-types make you feel like a lush? Well, loosen your belt, dust off your VCR and throw back a shot of our top-shelf vicarious video. We’re handing out the only Oscars where everyone but you loses… it’s time for our Drunk Dozen: The Top Twelve Drinkinest Movies of All Time!
By Belly Buddy Hollis James
First Published April 2003, Last Modified April 2010
The Lost Weekend (1945)
Who’s Soused: Ray “27 years to my head transplant” Milland
Cutting edge for its time, and masterfully directed by Billy Wilder, Weekend introduced the DT’s to the malaise-encrusted world of the ’50s, as Ray’s character goes on a weekend bender. “I’m not a drinker, I’m a drunk,” is how Ray describes himself. Composer Miklos Rozsa used a Theremin for the first time on film, (yes, even before Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein), and created the most eerie soundtrack to hallucinations ever filmed up to that time. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. I can’t take quiet desperation,” Ray says. What better reason for that second martini?
Major Drunk Scene: They’re in the chandelier! No, Ray, now they’re behind you!!! A small, squeaking rodent crawls out of a crack in the wall. A screeching bat dives at Ray. It swoops down and kills the squealing mouse in front of his eyes. As the creature is devoured, thick blood stains drip down the wall of the room. That cutting-edge hallucination ensured that the film would sweep the Academy Awards.
Message: Um… some people shouldn’t drink?
The Quiet Man (1952)
Who’s Soused: John Wayne, Victor McLaglen, Barry Fitzgerald
Expatriate Duke, Sean Thornton, comes home to Ireland after a lifetime in the States and finds that he’s out of step with the customs of his natural-born country. Luckily there’s one male-bonding ritual that’s the same in any hemisphere. Not a drinking movie, you say? Guess again. Aside from featuring central casting’s greatest Irish tippler, Barry Fitzgerald, almost every single plot point is punctuated with a drink. Not only are fights picked by McGlaglan in the pub, but the pub is the location for the friendly-yet-fiery end to Duke and Vick’s big cross-country fight. Fitzgerald adds up lovely Maureen O’Hara’s dowry while draining her only bottle of scotch, and Duke drains his first black beer to the strains of “Wild Colonial Boy.”
Major Drunk Scene: Barry Fitzgerald shows up at Maureen O’Hara’s cottage wearing his official matchmaker’s garb—and one hell of a hangover—and inquires if Mo would be interested in marrying Thorn Shornton?
Message: Yes, the Irish drink. No, it’s not all they do; but if a few ales make you brave enough to go after Maureen O’Hara, why the hell not?
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Who’s Soused: Nicolas Cage
Nick has a problem, his left leg is hollow, so he spends the length of the film trying to fill it with liquor. In the meantime, he manages to strike a bargain with hot-whitebread-hooker Elizabeth Shue, whereby Nick allows Liz to support, love and care for him in exchange for her never asking him to stop drinking. Hmmm… Anyone else want that deal? Liz seems to get the short end of the stick in many ways as poor Nick can’t even get his cork-screw to work anymore. Every small moment of joy in the film is quickly shattered like a poolside, glass, hotel table. But it’s smiles all around at the Coppola enclave as Nick stumbles, fights and self-destructs his way to an Oscar.
Major Drunk Scene: Nick gets a good hand at the blackjack table, then gets a bad hand at the blackjack table, then overturns the blackjack table. Can you believe they refused to serve him any more booze?
Message: All your dreams come true in Las Vegas.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
Who’s Soused: The entire graduating class of Texas’ Lee High School, 1976
Neophyte Wiley Wiggans learns the rites-of-passage ropes from football jocks with hearts of gold, as he goes on a beer-soaked odyssey. His magical milestone moments include purchasing his first six pack, hanging and drinking at cool hangout The Emporium, drinking his body weight in keg-pumped gold, and spending the early morning with a dreamy Gremlin-driving sophomore. It’s hard not to envy Wiley as he goes from red-assed pipsqueak to shit-faced conqueror. Ironically all the film’s future superstars—like Matthew McConauhey, Ben Affleck and Renee Zellweger—the people who will make the most money and live the most fulfilled lives, are cast in the lesser roles. It’s high school all right.
Major Drunk Scene: The beer bust at the moon tower. Everyone from freshman to senior (to senior-citizen-ready potheads in a car) is draining the kegs at this bicentennial blowout. Parker Posey bitches into overdrive as the best female belligerent drunk ever. “AIR RAID!”
Message: The clothes were uglier, the music was better, and the drinking age was 18… Um, yeah, the ’70s rocked.
Who’s Soused: Dudley Moore
Perhaps the friendliest movie drunk in history, Arthur has an answer for everyone. When Arthur’s fiancée claims that a real woman could stop him from drinking, he replies, “She’d have to be a real big woman!” Dudley’s follow-up to 10 was big box office, and with good reason. What drunk wouldn’t love to have a classy, John-Gielgud type picking up after him? When you’re caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is drink a fifth of scotch, and cackle like a madman. Oh, and fall in love.
Major Drunk Scene: Tough choice, but we’ll have to go with Dud’s breaking of his engagement at the church five minutes before his wedding. A tipsy groomsman, a woman in tears, a black eye and an overturned table of catered food: this scene has the drinking seal of approval.
Message: Everyone looks like a “10” when you’re blitzed, even Liza Minelli.
Who’s Soused: Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Ron Livingstone
Written by wannabe smoothie Jon Favreau, this slight comedy doesn’t go very deep, but it does “superficial” better than most. They’re drunk in L.A., they’re drunk in Vegas, they’re drunk in L.A. again. Luckily alcohol makes the perfect bedfellow for Vince’s every monologue on womanizing. Beautiful babies abound in this economical, talky flick. Watching the sun come up through a trailer window with two aspiring actresses, getting through a Hollyweird party, or licking the wounds that only being turned down for the role of Goofy can cause, that demon alcohol finds its way into all the characters’ hands sooner or later. You can watch the imbibing fun from the safety of your own home, resting secure in the knowledge that the Swing music resurgence is once again, mercifully, dead.
Major Drunk Scene: Nothing goes better after a long night of drinking than a heavy, greasy meal at your favorite diner. Especially when Vince decides that “you’re all grows up!” Standing atop a table full of waffles and swinging his shirt over his head, Vince’s Trent is the ultimate “Can’t-take-him-anywhere” friend. Personality plus!
Message: Your friends are all jerks, so just be yourself. Oh, wait… you’re a jerk too? Doesn’t matter; Heather Graham will still want you.
What! No Beer? (1933)
Who’s Soused: Buster Keaton
Buster’s last starring feature in America, and the only major attempt by MGM to pair Buster with Jimmy Durante, Beer features Great Stone Face and The Schnoz as bootleggers during prohibition. If Beer’s subject matter didn’t already ensure its inclusion here, the fact that Buster was actually drunk during its filming must. Just two weeks out of rehab, Buster still needed a stay-at-home nurse, Mae Scriven, to help keep him off the bottle while filming Beer. Two weeks later, Buster wed Mae in a Mexican service, blitzed out of his gourd. Buster never had such a stone face as in his own dazed wedding photos. Luckily the marriage wasn’t legal as he was still married to his wife, Natalie. Talk about walking the drunken walk!
Major Drunk Scene: It’s an ironic feast for the senses as Buster uses his vaudevillian’s chops to evade rolling barrels of beer careening down a hill at break-neck speed. Never before has any actor been literally chased on film by the cause of his own eventual physical breakdown.
Message: You can’t tell a drunk by his face.
See if you can find it on VHS.
National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)
Who’s Soused: John Belushi, Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst, Peter Riegert, Tim Matheson, and, yes… D-Day
Delta fraternity has the worst house on campus, the worst incoming pledges and get the worst grades in school. But they know how to party. Single-handedly responsible for popularizing toga parties, this John Landis gem also brought binge-drinking, peeping toms, road trips, “Louie Louie” and Otis Day and the Nights back into vogue. Why drink to excess? Maybe because you scored a zero on your last test, you’re on double secret probation or there’s a golf ball in your soup. Or so you’ll have the uncontrollable urge to break Steven Bishop’s guitar into a million pieces. The rest of the party-goers will thank you.
Major Drunk Scene: With a devil on one shoulder, an angel on the other, and a drunken underage girl passed out in front of him, buzzed toga-reveler Tom Hulce does the right thing and takes the poor girl home. God bless Hollywood.
Message: You don’t have to drink away your money… you can drink away your parents’ money.
The Hangover (2009)
Who’s Soused: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha
An alternate title for this film might be When Roofies Attack! The phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” becomes that much easier thanks to America’s favorite date-rape drug. The action begins on the morning after the best Vegas bachelor party never remembered, when three friends awake from roofie-induced blackouts to find a tiger in the bathroom, an abandoned infant in the room, a missing tooth and a missing groomsman; you know… the usual. Thus begins their arduous squint-eyed task of retracing their steps from the time they began drinking the night before, in a feeble attempt to find their missing friend before his impending wedding. Along the way the trio meets underworld thugs, an effeminate yakuza, taser-happy cops and the baby’s mother—who just so happens turns out to be the newly nuptial’d hooker/wife of Ed Helms’ dentist. Though the bulk of this flick’s drinking is documented only in flashback form, you’d still be hard pressed to find a recent movie with higher blood-alcohol content than The Hangover. As a special treat, look for director Todd Phillips who got in on the fun as a mustachioed sleezeball who’s going down in an elevator as it is going up.
Major Drunk Scene: Direct from video tape, we are treated to a security-camera-eye’s view of the boys’ drunken midnight tiger heist, while they share a couch with Iron Mike Tyson—who turns in a cameo that’s equal parts genius and ludicrous.
Message: Whether you’re fighting Charlie in Vietnam or robbing Tyson in Vegas: never leave a man behind!
Who’s Soused: Who Isn’t?
Charles Bukowski’s autobiographical slice of skid-row life follows the day-to-day ramblings and rumblings of Henry Chinaski, a part-time poet/full-time drunk, played ably by Mickey Rourke. Gee, ya think he practiced much for the role? His face looks like a callused gorilla’s hand. Even Faye Dunaway manages to look like a lizard-skinned Weimaraner in this stripped-bare portrait of low-living excess. Did someone say Frank Stallone? Yes, he’s here too, as Chinaski’s worst enemy and only shot at any sense of pride. Would you believe that egocentric bartender Frank dishes out more punches in two minutes than his brother Sly did in five Rocky films? Luckily for Chinaski, in the down-and-out world of professional drunks, there’s always a rematch. It’s just a matter of ingesting the right fuel, and pouring the same for “all my frieeeeeeends!!!”
Major Drunk Scene: Tough choice, but we’ll have to go with the final triumphant slugfest between bartender Frank and drunk-ass Mickey. This scene is not just notorious for its realistic street-fighting, but for possibly being that imperceptible push towards becoming a real-life boxer that was the death knell of Rourke’s career.
Message: Heavy drinking never pays, except if you can write well…about heavy drinking.
Strange Brew (1983)
Who’s Soused: Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas)
Filmed in “Hoserama,” this film really wears its inebriating influence on its sleeve. Straight from the files of SCTV, Bob and Doug come screaming out of the Great White North to open a brewery, but encounter problems along the way that are strangely reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Coincidence? Not really, as the pair of directors based their movie, very loosely, on the bard’s masterwork. As you might imagine, there’s beer here, lots of beer, not just being ingested in copious amounts, but pushing the (Ahem…) “plot” along and giving brewery owners Bob and Doug the chance to do some of their funniest set pieces. Max von Sydow is on board as the evil Brewmeiser Smith, fresh off his successful turn as Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon. And Mel Blanc blesses the film with one of his last voiceovers.
Major Drunk Scene: There’s something rotten in the state of mental health, as Bob and Doug join the dumbest hockey game this side of the Hansen brothers family picnic. They also take satirical jabs at Return of the Jedi back when it was topical, unlike Mel Brooks (and Rick Moranis) would in Spaceballs four years later. Beauty, eh?
Message: A woman would have to be bombed to appreciate the line: “Geez, you’re nice. If I didn’t have puke breath, I’d kiss you.” Find and marry that woman!
Who’s Soused: Broken Lizard Comedy Troupe: Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske
When the von Wolfhouse brothers, Jan (Soter) and Todd (Stolhanske), travel to Munich to spread their cremated father’s ashes on the ground during Oktoberfest, they accidentally stumble upon Beerfest—an underground, liquid Fight Club of drinking games. That’s where they encounter their German relations, the Wolfhausens, who despise their American counterparts and challenge them to a drink off. Jan and Todd end up defeated, ridiculed, shamed and covered in their dead dad’s ashes. Once back in America, the brothers put together a team of old college drinking cronies in hopes of challenging the winners at next year’s Beerfest. Their recruits are hefty competitive-eater Landfill (Heffernan), Jewish chemist Finkelstein (Lemme), and shit-faced homeless pal Badrinath (Chandrasekhar). The liquid lexicon bloats exponentially with our heroes’ waistbands as a bottle of Schnitzengiggle gives Badrinath “beer goggles” and induces “drunken recall” in Todd. We viewers act as the team’s wingmen as we chart their successes and failures over the following year leading up to the big showdown in Munich. The Broken Lizard crew finally has outdone themselves in this stein way to heaven—paved with a willy-loving grandmother and a pot-loving Willie Nelson!
Major Drunk Scene: Though a case could be made for almost any scene in this beer-soaked saga we have to give the blue ribbon to the film’s finale, which pits our ragtag American team against the Teutonic tipplers in a beer-boot-drinking relay that is anyone’s game until Team USA utilizes the “Eye of the Jew.” Payback’s a bitch, Germany!
Message: “If you can drink ram’s piss… fuck, you can drink almost anything!”
Hollis James lives in Manhattan, where he writes by day and DJs by night. He can be contacted at his Web site: www.fringeunderground.com.
First Published April 2003, Last Modified April 2010