Best Bartender Movies: Wild Tales to Cocktails

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: January 20, 2024
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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Bartending is an art form combining dexterity, charisma, and knowledge to create a symphony in a glass. This craft has inspired filmmakers worldwide, creating some iconic bartender movies that perfectly capture the profession’s thrill, drama, and charisma.

From raunchy and wild films to more serious ones, these movies dive into the lives of those behind the bar. Whether you’re an aspiring bartender or just looking to enjoy a good story with a few drinks, there’s a film on this list for you.

TV Series and Movies Mentioned

  • “Cocktail” (1988)
  • “Coyote Ugly” (2000)
  • “Trees Lounge” (1996)
  • “Hey Bartender” (2013, Documentary)
  • “Cheers” (TV Series)
  • “The Sopranos” (TV Series)
  • “Star Trek” (TV Series)
  • “Casablanca” (1942)
  • “Bartender” (Japanese Anime Series)
  • “The Drop” (2014)
  • “Deadwood” (TV Series)
  • “The Simpsons” (TV Series)
  • “The Love Boat” (TV Series)

Iconic Bartenders in the Movies

Cocktail (1988)

Our journey begins with a classic, the 1988 film “Cocktail,” (watch on Amazon) starring a young Tom Cruise. Cruise’s character, Brian Flanagan, is an ambitious, aspiring bartender who learns the tricks of the trade from his mentor, Doug Coughlin, played by Bryan Brown. Their exciting, high-energy antics behind the NYC bar and Cruise’s charm and bare-chested scenes have made “Cocktail” a staple of bartender movies. Despite its fun ride, the film takes a more serious tone as Flanagan’s life revolves around his bartending job, complicated love life, and strained friendship with Coughlin.

Tom Cruise (born July 3, 1962) was around 25 or 26 when the movie was released, a similar age to his character Brian Flanagan.

Coyote Ugly (2000)

Coyote Ugly” is another great movie worth mentioning. This wild film makes for an entertaining watch, focusing on Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo), an aspiring songwriter who ends up working at the raunchy Coyote Ugly bar. As a female bartender in a dive bar where women ran the show, Violet’s journey highlights the struggles and triumphs of working in one of NYC’s most exclusive bars. The film shows that bartending isn’t just about serving drinks; it’s also about putting on a show and keeping the audience entertained. Watch Coyote Ugly on Amazon here.

Trees Lounge (1996)

If you’re in the mood for an independent film, “Trees Lounge” is a must-watch. This critically acclaimed film, directed by and starring Steve Buscemi, explores the life of a self-destructive alcoholic who slowly begins to find solace in his local bar. The story shows the possible dark sides of bartending, as Buscemi’s character’s life revolves around the Trees Lounge, getting lost in a world of drinking, love, and loss. Watch Trees Lounch on Amazon.

From Docs to Drama to Anime

Hey Bartender (2013)

For documentary lovers, “Hey Bartender” (watch on Amazon) offers an inside look into the lives of two renowned bartenders, focusing on their journey to become the best in their field. This critically acclaimed documentary paints a realistic picture of the bartending world, showing how bartending can become a thriving career.

The Drop (2014)

Last but not least, “The Drop” stars Tom Hardy as Bob Saginowski, a bartender who stumbles into the world of crime when his bar is used for a money drop. Far removed from Tom Cruise’s Cocktail, this gritty film highlights the darker sides of bartending, with Saginowski’s life taking a dangerous turn. Watch The Drop on Hulu

Casablanca (1942)

For a different kind of drama, “Casablanca” (1942), which won the Best Picture Oscar, takes us back to World War II. Nightclub owner Rick Blaine, played by the great Humphrey Bogart, serves drinks in his bar while grappling with the invading Nazis and his complicated past with his old girlfriend, Ilsa. This film reminds us that every bar has a story, and the bartender is often at the centre of it all. Watch Casablanca on Amazon.

Bartender (2006)

Bartender” (watch on Amazon) is a Japanese anime series that follows a genius bartender who uses his skills to solve his customers’ problems. It provides a unique perspective on bartending, depicting it as a noble profession that requires a deep understanding of human emotions and the art of conversation.

Bartenders on the Small Screen

Beyond these well-known bartending movies, TV has featured some of the best-known bartenders in popular culture.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Turning our attention to the realm of TV, the popular series “Cheers” (watch on Amazon) features one of the most iconic fictional bartenders, Sam Malone (Ted Danson). A former baseball player turned bar owner, Sam’s life revolves around his Boston bar, where he serves his regular customers with wit and charm.

This series lasted for over a decade and highlighted how a bartender could become the centre of a community, providing solace, company, and, of course, a good drink.

The Sopranos

The great James Gandolfini, in “The Sopranos,” (watch on Amazon), gave us a different perspective on the world of bars. His character, Tony Soprano, frequents the Bada Bing, a strip club where bartenders serve drinks amidst the chaos and debauchery. This critically acclaimed series shows how bars can serve as a backdrop for intense dramas and complicated relationships, where every drink served could be the start of a new plot twist.

Star Trek

In the world of sci-fi, we have the iconic “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (watch on Amazon) series featuring the character Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) as the wise bartender aboard the Starship Enterprise. While not strictly a bartender in the traditional sense, Guinan’s character uses her wisdom and knowledge to guide the crew, showing that a good bartender is much more than someone who serves drinks.

These are just a handful of the many bartending movies and television series that offer a captivating portrayal of the profession. Each tells a unique story, from the raunchy and wild film antics of “Coyote Ugly” to the thought-provoking “Hey Bartender,” all providing an in-depth look at the life behind the bar.

The Flaming Homer Mo

Beyond these, there are many other films and series featuring bartender characters, from Al Swearengen in “Deadwood” to Moe Szyslak in “The Simpsons” and Isaac Washington in “The Love Boat.” The bartender character has become a staple of Hollywood, often providing comic relief, wisdom, or a friendly ear to the main characters.

Bartenders’ Role in Culture: Beyond the Screen

These movies and TV shows highlight bartenders’ essential role in our culture. They are the keepers of secrets, dispensers of advice, and masters of their craft, always ready with a drink and a comforting word. So the next time you find yourself at your local bar, raise a toast to your bartender, remembering all the unforgettable characters you’ve encountered in these bartending movies.

In conclusion, beyond introducing us to up-and-coming actors like young Tom Cruise or Woody Harrelson or established comedians like Whoopi Goldberg, bartending movies offer a fascinating insight into a profession that is often overlooked. They highlight the art of mixing drinks, the charisma required to keep customers entertained, and the stories that unfold across the bar counter.

Whether you’re a film enthusiast or someone interested in bartending, these movies provide an engaging and entertaining perspective on the world of bars, bartenders, and the patrons they serve. So grab a cocktail, get comfortable, and enjoy these bartender movie classics. You never know; you might even pick up a few drink recipes along the way!