Cheers (1982 – 1993)
Where else to start than the place where everyone knows your name? The opening title sequence of the American sitcom perfectly captured the warm glow that comes with finding a drinking hole that feels like home. The song proved to be such a hit with viewers that singer and composer Gary Portnoy re-recorded ‘Where Everyone Knows Your Name’ and the track made it into the UK and US charts.
Strange Brew (1983)
Culminating at Oktoberfest, Strange Brew is a strange mix of comedy and Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. Based on popular characters from their comedy troupe, the film picks up the story of brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) who begin working for a brewery plans to poison its customers with a mind-controlling beer. There’s a supernatural element, too, with a ghost revealing the masterplan via an arcade game. As if all that wasn’t odd enough, the villain of the piece is played by legendary Swedish actor Max von Sydow. A surreal blast from the past.
The Simpsons (1989 – )
The show that has made Duff into a byword for beer, The Simpsons is packed with some of the best depictions of modern drinking on screen. Moe’s Tavern is the place to go for head of the family Homer, and Duff Gardens is the holiday destination of choice for the family. So many plots of the long-running animates series revolve around alcohol that it’s hard to pick one. Just watch the smartly written prohibition episode (which opens with Bart getting wasted on live TV) to see what a dull place Springfield would be without a tipple or two.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
A sobering reminder about the darker sides of alcohol and Las Vegas. Nicolas Cage stars as Ben, a man intent on drinking himself to death in the City of Sin. It’s uncomfortable viewing, not least because we rarely see film characters so ready to push away any sort of redemption. Cage won the Best Actor Oscar for his moving performance, managing to show reckless abandon as well as a caring side. The film is also worth watching for Elizabeth Shue’s turn as a hooker with a heart.
Billed as ‘Fight Club with beer games,’ this comedy follows two American brothers who go to the German home of Oktoberfest itself and stumble upon an ancient competition they resolve to win at all costs. Facing off against Bavaria’s finest drinkers, the siblings recruit three of their likeminded compatriots to take on the locals at their own game. Beerfest isn’t subtle, but it does at least thrust you into the action and give you some sense of what Oktoberfest is all about.
The stress of buying drinks for a party is bad enough, but when you’re trying to use a fake driver’s license emblazoned with the name McLovin, styling it out is the only option. Enter Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who has taken on the task of supplying pals Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) with all the drinks they can handle. Things go well for the unlikely Lothario, or at least they do until a stick-up ruins his plans… and his face.
The Hangover (2009)
There’s regret – and then there’s the inescapable sense of terror that comes with having royally messed things up just before your best mate’s wedding. The Hangover (the clue is in the title) follows four guys as they head off into the Nevada desert for one last hurrah, though two inferior sequels slightly undermined that set up. The morning after the night before features a tiger, one missing groom, and an irate Mike Tyson. Messy.
The Other Guys (2010)/The Heat (2013)
Both these comedies about unlikely law enforcement partners feature glorious sequences in which friendships are formed over the course of a boozy night out. In The Other Guys, straight-laced Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and straight-shooter Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) bond over gunfire and beer.
It’s a similar story for FBI agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and motor-mouth cop Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), who initially hate one another, but begin to get a sense of what each other is about after a bar shut-in. Both scenes prove that booze is the great equaliser.
One of the funniest films of the last decade, Bridesmaids boasts a great drunken performance from Kristen Wiig as the frazzled Annie. On a stressful flight to a bachelorette party she can’t afford, and goaded by the smug Helen (Rose Byrne), Annie gets drunk on a combination of prescription pills and drink supposed to help her “relax”. Well it works, and Annie is ready to PAR-TAY! We’re not sure the rest of the passengers are as happy when the flight to Vegas is re-routed because of the outrageous antics onboard.
Drinking Buddies (2011)
A comedy set in a brewery understandably features a fair amount of drinking. In this oft-forgotten romance starring Olivia Wilde, Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston, two co-workers realise they are perfect for one another, but each already has a long-term partner. When all four go on a break together, alcohol-fuelled flirting results in more than a few home truths emerging.
The World’s End (2013)
The final part of Edgar Wright’s cornetto trilogy follows a group of buddies as they try to recreate the ultimate pub crawl – and affirms, once again, that friendship rules above all else. Real-life teetotaler Pegg arguably puts in his best performance yet as he convincingly portrays the many stages of a drunken night out. The film is full of the local humour that brought Pegg and Frost a global audience with Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.