Raising a glass to booze on film

If there's one thing film has managed to do, it's to document vice. Booze in particular has played its part over the years, from the cinema's first megastar Charlie Chaplin playing the drunken buffoon through to the Hangover's latest franchised instalment.

For better or for worse, drink has played an important part in our social history and in turn the correlating cinematic commentary. There are films that make us despair at liquor's destructive power such as Mike Figgis's Leaving Las Vegas (1995), but there are many more that shine a sophisticated or even comedic light on the demon drink.

So if you fancy catching up on liquor-laced viewing over the weekend, I've compiled a list three of the best and booziest flicks of all time.

The Hangover

Released in 2009, The Hangover – one of the highest grossing R-rated comedies of all time – has proven a point; that the booze fuelled humour pioneered by Chaplin is, in fact, timeless.

The premise is relateable if not familiar – a stag night gone wrong. A combination of beer, cocktails, Jägermeister and unintended drug-taking leaves three groomsmen, played by Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis, no memory of the previous night's carousing on the Las Vegas strip.

The trio's misadventures have left them with a misplaced groom, a tiger, a missing tooth, a baby, a mystery hospital band and a stolen police car. With these clues, the groomsmen slowly piece together the events of the night before the morning after in order to find their groom and get him to his wedding the following day.

Despite some preposterous moments the film retains just enough realism to help you relate to the characters' hilarious situation. The film will at times have you in stitches and certainly there's chuckling throughout. It gets my vote for the funniest liquor-laced adventure this side of the millennium.



Roger Donaldson's Cocktail (1988) remains the most famous movie about bartenders of all time. It's also an unforgivingly terrible film. Every bartender in the world wishes that this film could somehow be unmade so that they'd stop being compared to Tom Cruise's douche-bag character Brian Flanagan.

In short, Flanagan is an army veteran trying to make it rich in New York and somehow thinks that bartending might be his ticket. He's taken under the wing of the experienced barkeep Doug Coughlin, played by Bryan Brown, who shows him the ropes when it comes to mixing drinks. The duo become friends and have various romantic interests and financial mishaps, with Coughlin eventually taking his own life and Flanagan opening his own bar to prove that he can be a worthy father to his pregnant ex-girlfriend's unborn baby.

The film is undeniably important in relation to booze. The flick has more cocktails on show than any previous or since, glorifies the bartending lifestyle and helped popularise flair bartending – where they throw bottles around before (eventually) serving you a drink. The dialogue, however, is embarrassingly poor and some of the worst of the 1980s mindset is on show, but if you are a true bar and cocktail devotee this is one film that you regrettably just have to watch. Pour yourself a healthy dram of Scotch first to take the edge off the cringeworthiness.


Heading back a ways, Casablanca (1942) is a classic Hollywood film that sooner or later everyone just has to watch. And considering that a good two-thirds of the flick takes place in Rick Blaine's bar, Café Américain, it's one of the more important boozy flicks you'll find.

Set in Morocco during World War II, refugees en route to America must apparently pass through Casablanca and inevitably find their way to Café Américain – a gin joint run by Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart). Blaine turns a blind eye to criminal activity, refugees, Nazis and the crooked police that frequent his bar. That is, until a resistance leader walks in with Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), an old flame from Blaine's past.

Lund's entrance not only inspires the famous "of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world – she walks into mine" quote, but prompts Blaine into polishing off a bottle of whiskey and eventually into action.

Part romance, part war story and part musical, the film's length and pace make it a stiff cocktail for a modern audience to down. Give it some time, though – this is the perfect boozy flick for a rained-out weekend.

What's your favourite boozy moment in film?