Sure there's been tons of great substance abusing movie characters since Dr. Jekyll started chugging his secret formula, but even though there's been fantastically outrageous addicts from Tony Montana in Scarface to Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, none have had a more celebrated history than the alcoholic.  Here we play tribute to some of the all time great booze drinkers ever to appear in movies. 

ARTHUR as played by Dudley Moore

"Not all of us who drink are poets. Some of us drink because we're not poets"

Arthur Bach, the title character from the 1981 film Arthur is a rich and loveable sot, with little more ambition in life than to drink and spend his cash.  We should all be so lucky.  The simple fact that he spends time with Liza Minelli alone tells you what a raging drunk he was. 

BLUTO BLUTARSKI as played by John Belushi

BLUTO: "My advice to you is to start drinking heavily."
OTTER: "Better listen to him, Flounder. He's pre-med."


Perhaps nobody epitomized the "college drunk" more than Bluto Blutarski in Animal House. From chug-a-lugging an entire bottle of Jack Daniels, to smashing beer cans on his forehead, Bluto had more booze in his system than blood. 

DUDE as played by Dean Martin

Though Sinatra and the other Rat-Packers routinely teased Dean Martin for his drinking habits, it was his role in the 1953 Rio Bravo that brought one of the all time great alcoholics to the screen.  A masterful portrayal as a drunk gunman simply named "Dude" (and you thought The Big Lebowski did it first?), Martin showed he could act with the best of them.  He does such a good job, you can practically smell his character.

ALAN SWAN as played by Peter O'Toole

"You can watch me drink, or you can join me. One of them is more fun."

In the 1982 underappreciated classic, My Favorite Year, Peter O'Toole plays a great drunk movie legend who struggles through an appearance on a TV variety show.  O'Toole plays Alan Swan, who is loosely based on Errol Flynn, but if you've ever seen any of O'Toole's drunken real-life drunken appearances on late night talk shows, you'll know he had no trouble with the part.

BEN SANDERSON as played by Nicolas Cage

SERA: "Is drinking a way of killing yourself?"
BEN: "Or, is killing myself a way of drinking?"

Cage played the ultimate alcoholic in Mike Figgis' Leaving Las Vegas as a man who's given up on life to the point where he decides to drink himself to death.  Though thoroughly depressing, his ability to consume mass quantities are a sight to behold.  A favorite scene of mine is when he's at a grocery store and literally fills a shopping cart with booze.  That scene says a lot about the lengths anyone who's drinking has gotten out of control can go.

HENRY CHINASKI as played by Mickey Rourke

"Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance. Endurance is more important than truth."

Charles Bukowski's classic character Henry Chinaski was brought to life by Rourke in the film Barfly in a masterful fashion.  Valuing a good drink more than the company of others, Chinaski is a fascinating character, who lives to booze it up, fight, write, and drink some more.  If you haven't ever read any of Charles Bukowski's work, I can't recommend it enough. 

QUINT as played by Robert Shaw

"Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women."

Robert Shaw was incredible as Quint, the grizzled shark hunter with rum pumping through his veins.  According to co-star Roy Scheider, Shaw drank continually through the filming of Jaws, and it shows.  From his leading of drunk sea-chanteys, to the slurred but stirring tale of a historical massive shark attack, he's one tough drunk that I'd hate to meet in real life.  He had so much booze in his system that he was practically laughing as the shark chomped him to death.

BOB and DOUG McKENZIE by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas

"If I didn't have puke breath, I'd kiss you."

In Strange Brew, Bob and Dough Mckenzie did for beer what Cheech and Chong did for pot.  Their entire world revolves around beer, and after they get dream jobs at a brewery, they discover a brew that will control people's minds.  Like that was a discovery?  As the picture above shows, those wacky Canadians have more beer bottles than they have fingers while they film their show, "The Great White North."

WC FIELDS in nearly every film he's ever been in

"'Twas a woman drove me to drink. I never had the courtesy to thank her."

"I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast."

W.C.: "Bartender, did I spend $100 in this bar last night ?"
Bartender: "You sure did."
W.C.: "Good, I thought I lost it."

Ah, the loveable drunk antics of W.C. Fields.  There's been no better in film history.  From Never Give A Sucker an Even Break, to My Little Chickadee, Fields' disdain for children and love of alcohol made him the stuff of legend. 

DOC HOLLIDAY as played by Val Kilmer

COWBOY: You're so drunk, you can't hit nothin'. In fact, you're probably seeing double.
DOC: I have two guns, one for each of ya.

But my all time favorite movie drunk was Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday from Tombstone.  Under the influence throughout the film, he keeps his wits about him, and spouts off some of the most charming one liners ever uttered in a western.  He even twirls a shotglass on his finger to show-up Johnny Ringo's gun spinning antics in an unforgettable scene.  Of all the drunks mentioned in this article, at least Holliday had the best reason to drink his life away, as he was suffering from tuberculosis and coughed blood up repeatedly in the film.  Why not drink like crazy when you've got that going on, eh?

-Robert Berry
October, 2002

NOTE: For anyone who's drinking has gotten out of control, here's a link for you.


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