Top Ten Alcoholics in Film

I don’t pretend to know much about Ireland or their traditions. As a Jamaican I’ve never really experiences St. Patrick’s Day except through what I see in film and television whenever they have an episode.

In every film and television reference to St. Patrick’s Day it all involves everyone going out and getting really drunk just because it’s an Irish holiday.

Saint Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17, the date of Patrick’s death. It is celebrated both in and outside of Ireland, as both a liturgical and non-liturgical holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland it is both a solemnity and a holy day of obligation and outside of Ireland, it can be a celebration of Ireland itself.

I refuse to make it sound anymore stereo-typed but since today’s St. Patrick’s Day I’ll give you my TOP TEN ALCOHOLICS IN FILM:


10. Bad Blake – Crazy Heart (2009)

I don’t know why but whenever someone asks me about this movie I immediately say, “it’s when drunk bastards hit on single moms”. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the film, and still don’t support Bridges winning the Best Actor award that year, however he made up for it with Rooster Cogburn this last year and I think that’ll be good enough for me. With that said, that doesn’t mean I can’t see the brilliant performance that he gave in this movie. It’s not my favourite of his, or of that year, but it’s still worthy of mentioning.

9. Quint – Jaws (1975)

There’s something about mentioning Robert Shaw in a list that makes it feel better. Some may question this selection since it’s really just one scene where you see Quint go at the bottle, where he delivers that great monologue about his experience during Pearl Harbor, but that scene alone is enough to get it done.

8. Arthur Seaton – Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)

Albert Finney is one of the best actors working today, no matter what role you put him in his charm and eloquence makes it his own. Back in 60s he starred in a film about an alcoholic who was angry at everything. Even though the narrative structure of the film bothered me, the performance is brilliant and nothing less would be expected from Finney.

7. Miles – Sideways (2004)

I’ve always loved Sideways and this was the first movie in which Giamatti really impressed me and I keep looking for him to repeat this level of a performance without seeming trite. Somehow Giamatti was able to do what the story of most alcoholics do. They start out as so loveable and fun that you want to root for them, then you find out about this problem and you try to look past it and you keep giving him chance after chance to change but eventually you realise that’s not as easy as it seems and Giamatti was able to give this character just enough to keep us on his side without giving up on him too quick.

6. Barry/Blind  Sikh – Beerfest (2006)

This is still my favourite film from the Broken Lizard group and unlike all the other films with alcoholics this isn’t an apologetic one. It’s got the alcoholic that we’re ashamed to know if we do but we just can’t do anything but point and laugh, like the film.

5. The Dude – The Big Lebowski (1998)

How can I do this list without mentioning The Dude. C’mon Man. “There’s a beverage here!”

4. Shooter – Hoosiers (1986)

People hail this as one of the greatest sports films of all time, and guess what, they’re right. It’s great. Looking back however, what I remember most isn’t some rousing speech that Hackman gives his players, not that point where the team is at rock bottom or when Hackman and the town clash heads for the umpteenth time. What I remember is Dennis Hopper as Shooter, the drunk who noone believes in and the guy who in the end comes around thanks to Hackman.

3. Willie – Bad Santa (2003)

He’s unabashedly horrible. He knows he’s an asshole and he doesn’t care. As long as he gets some ass, some money and most of all a bottle he’s okay with it all. He’s the anti-hero if you ever saw one.

2. Ben Sanderson – Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

When Nicolas Cage, Mr. I can’t act without amping it up to the power of ten, wins an Oscar for a performance it’s probably a sign that this may not be the (nowadays) common place Nic Cage performance. He’s just gotten fired and that sounds like a good enough reason to cash in all his cheques and drive out to Vegas to drink himself to death, literally. It’s a performance for the books and will never be forgotten.

1. Doc Holiday – Tombstone (1993)

Have I mentioned how much I love westerns? Kilmer is an acting talent that’s been wasted in recent days, but this movie is without a doubt on of his best. He plays the role of a card playing, gunslinging drunk who happens to fall into the good graces of the lawmen who’ve moved into a lawless town in the west. It’s brilliant, it’s perfect and I’ll always be you’re Huckleberry.

Who’s your favourite on screen drunk?

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