Cinema's greatest screen drunks

The ten best boozers to stumble on screen

Will Smith, Hancock

“Alcohol can make you feel invincible when you’re most vulnerable,” warn the superhero anti-drink ads. For Hancock it’s the other way round.

The man of bourbon has gulped so much Wild Turkey he’s now a vulnerable superzero – an un-Fresh Prince in need of a shower, a shave and a super-strong breath mint before he goes up, up and away to rehab.

Richard E Grant, Withnail and I

Here’s a lesson in why you should never mix your drinks. You start the evening off in good spirits (“We want the finest wines available to humanity!”).

Next thing you know, you’ve confused lighter fluid with a vodka Red Bull and still want something stronger (“Liar! You’ve got anti-freeze!”). Five seconds later, you’re on the floor covered in puke. Same again?

Dudley Moore, Arthur

Hic, hic, hooray for happy drunks: Moore’s Arthur is a permanently sizzled alcofrolic playboy with $750m in the bank. What’s the lesson here, kids?

Stinking rich drunks are funny, charming and sleep with Liza Minnelli. Poor drunks are homeless and sleep in doorways. We’d take the doorway every time.

Steve Buscemi, Trees Lounge

Propping up the bar in his favourite saloon, Buscemi’s Tommy wheedles away his afternoons on the sauce. All he does is play tracks on the jukebox and hang out with the kooky regulars (plus drink like a fish, obviously).

Can he give up his next shot for 10 bucks? Nope. He’s a weak man. “That’s why I drink it straight. The ice cubes are too heavy.”

Joan Allen, Upside of Anger

Sometimes you drink to get pissed. Sometimes you drink because you’re royally pissed off.

Abandoned by her philandering husband, Joan Allen’s desperate Detroit housewife Terry is cinema’s Smirnoff Ice queen: “Your father’s a vile, selfish pig. But I’m not going to trash him to you girls.”

Val Kilmer, Tombstone

There’s happy drunk, weepy drunk, nasty drunk… and then there’s refined drunk. Val Kilmer’s gentleman gunslinger sips, simpers and sweats through terminal consumption/alcoholism.

But even when he’s completely wankered after a 36-hour bender, Doc Holliday can still hit the target: “I have two guns, one for each of ya.”

Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa

Ah, Christmas… ’tis the season to be jolly. Stuff your mince pies and brandy butter, we’re talking real Yuletide over-indulgence.

You roll into work on Christmas Eve drunk, put on your Santa costume, beat up stuffed reindeer and scare the little ’uns off sitting on your knee (“I think I peed myself!”). It’s not a ‘wonderful life’ and Mrs Claus is filing for divorce.

Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend

Full-blown alcoholism isn’t pretty. The sweats, shakes and withdrawal pangs can reduce grown men to jelly.

Ray Milland’s attempt to evict Mr Jack Daniels kicks off with a bad dose of the DTs and progresses to rats gnawing out of the walls and bats circling his head. Then comes the SCREAMING. It’s enough to drive you to drink.

Will Ferrell, Old School

Ever get that sinking feeling? You know, when you wake up hung-over the morning after and try to piece together the night before?

So you’re saying I downed a keg of beer, then I got naked, then I got up on stage with Snoop Dogg and tried to get him naked too, then I went streaking??! Frank the Tank, the idol of misguided beer monsters everywhere.

Nicholas Cage, Leaving Las Vegas

‘Cage’s alcoholic screenwriter stumbles through 12 steps to death. “You can never, ever, ask me to stop drinking,” he tells Elisabeth Shue. “I know,” she replies sadly, watching him slip away with each glug of grog.

An inebriated love story that’ll curl your liver, it’s best watched with a tissue… and a glass of water.


    • Chinaski

      Oct 20th 2008, 10:28

      What, no Mickey Rourke in Barfly?

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    • quentintarantado

      Oct 20th 2008, 16:00

      Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, Under the Volcano, directed by John Huston with Albert Finney as the lead drunk. Also Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as married drunks in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses. John Belushi in Animal House. Charlie Chaplin and his drunk rich friend Harry Myers in City Lights. Jackie Chan as The Drunken Master. Anthony Quinn in Fellini's La Strada. Toshiro Mifune in Seven Samurai. You only have one token old movie, The Lost Weekend. The rest are movies in the 80's and newer. And they're American. Expand your world.

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    • RoughTrade77

      Oct 20th 2008, 19:04

      W.C. Fields in The Bank Job, Edmond O'Brien in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ("Courage can be purchased at yon tavern!"). City Lights is a great pick. qt, it's worth noting both that Withnail & I is not an American film and also that alcoholism as we understand it is arguably a particularly American thing, hence the lack of foreign films.

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    • RoughTrade77

      Oct 20th 2008, 19:08

      Oh yeah, and The Thin Man... Nick and Nora can really put em down.

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    • magnolia12883

      Oct 21st 2008, 2:01

      Mickey Rourke in BARFLY (shoulda won an Oscar) Albert Finney in UNDER THE VOLCANO (hell yeah!) and of course Henry Gibson in MAGNOLIA (a stretch, but his creepy elf that sits at the bar taunting William H. Macy is classic!)

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