Whether the plot centers on debonair spies or derelict writers, the movie industry has always had an intimate relationship with alcohol. Perhaps it’s the voyeuristic aspect of liquor that allows us a glimpse inside the soul of a character—or maybe it’s simply the laughs we get from a pickled protagonist. Whatever the reason may be, these big-screen boozers have made their mark in Hollywood history.
1. The Dude, The Big Lebowski (1998)
Actor: Jeff Bridges
Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. Jeff Bridge’s portrayal of the Dude in the 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski goes down as one of the most memorable characters of the past 20 years. Why did he resonate so well with moviegoers? Because the Dude’s world was a simple one where all you need to be happy is a quality rug, bowling night with your pals and, of course, White Russians. His Dudeness was so enamored with the creamy cocktail that he even made do with non-dairy powdered creamer—resilience at its finest.
Booziest Line: “Careful, man, there’s a beverage here!”
2. James Bond, Goldfinger (1964)
Actor: Sean Connery
Perhaps the most legendary male movie role in Hollywood history, James Bond has fed the alter-ego fantasies of millions of men for decades. A fictitious spy who could defeat the bad guy, save the world, and get the girl—all while indulging in a steady flow of cocktails. The iconic Vodka Martini line has been echoed by many incarnations of the Bond character over the years, but none did it quite as well as Sir Sean Connery in 1964’s Goldfinger.
Booziest Line: “A martini, shaken not stirred.”
3. Arthur Bach, Arthur (1981)
Actor: Dudley Moore
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to give a child a bottle of bourbon? Fortunately, Dudley Moore answered that question for us as the lovable lush Arthur Bach in the 1981 comedy Arthur. Never one to say no to a drink, Arthur was so believable in the wedding speech scene, you would swear Moore must have been loaded during filming. Given the playful Brit’s penchant for wetting his beak, that’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Booziest Line: “Everyone who drinks is not a poet. Maybe some of us drink because we’re not poets.”
4. Withnail, Withnail and I (1987)
Actor: Richard E. Grant
Often regarded as one of Britain’s greatest cult films, Withnail and I follows two unemployed actors as they set out for a holiday in the countryside. What ensues is a glimpse into the angst and despair that resides on the cusp of adulthood. Richard E. Grant played the role of Withnail with an incredible degree of drunken gusto, particularly the scene where he downs a bottle of lighter fluid and then asks for an anti-freeze chaser.
Booziest Line: “I feel like a pig shat in my head.”
5. Henry Chinaski, Barfly (1987)
Actor: Mickey Rourke
Channeling the grittiness of writer Charles Bukowski is no easy task, but Mickey Rourke did just that in 1987’s Barfly. The flick, loosely based on Bukowski’s own life, is centered on the hard-living character Henry Chinaski who is hell bent on filling his days with nothing but drinking, fighting, and writing. Rourke perfectly captured this world by delivering 100 minutes of booze-fueled homage to the iconic poet.
Booziest Line: “Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance. Endurance is more important than truth.”
6. Don Birnam, The Lost Weekend (1945)
Actor: Ray Milland
The big screen adaptation of The Lost Weekend, based on the 1944 novel by Charles R. Jackson, starred Ray Milland as alcoholic writer Don Birnam. The Oscar-winning picture shadows Birnam on a four-day bender that culminates at the crossroads of life and death. To prepare for the dramatic role, Milland reportedly spent a night at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital to study the effects of extreme alcoholism.
Booziest Line: “It shrinks my liver, doesn’t it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yeah. But what it does to the mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar.”
7. Ben Sanderson, Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Actor: Nicolas Cage
Not many romantic dramas involve the words “suicidal drunk.” But Nicolas Cage pulled it off as Ben Sanderson in this 1995 film about the perils of depression and alcoholism. Cage was so dedicated to nailing this role that he studied movies featuring half-crocked characters, including Dudley Moore in Arthur. The result was an Oscar-winning performance that allowed viewers to fully fathom the world of a self-destructive alcoholic.
Booziest Line: “I came here to drink myself to death.”
Devin Pratt is a U.S.–based writer and editor who has held various editorial roles at National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Men’s Fitness, FHM and Runner’s World. He’s traveled extensively, including hiking and whitewater rafting in Bosnia and Croatia. When not on assignment, he can be found exploring the great outdoors.
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