I love bars. And by “bars”, I mean bars, taverns, pubs… anything but clubs. I like the kind of dives that belong in a Charles Bukowski novel. When I walk into a place, I want to see a floor that hasn’t been in its’ prime since the Eisenhower administration. I want to see six or seven hunched over dark lumps at the bar drinking their lives away. I want Johnny Cash on the jukebox ten times in the same evening. And there are a healthy batch of movie bars that fit the bill. Here are my favorite movie dive bars.
The Golden Horn, Barfly
By the way, the name of that movie is pronounced “Bar Fly”- two words. It’s not pronounced, phonetically, “barflee”- as in “something that’s full of barf” or “barf-like”. The Golden Horn is the bar in the image at the top of this entry. Look at that place. And if you want to see the long-term effects that a bar like that can have on someone, look at Mickey Rourke. Think about how he looks now. Look again at how he looked then (1987). That’s what hanging out in a good dive bar for two decades can do to you. At any rate, I referenced Bukowski in my preamble. How could I not include the bar from the movie that’s actually about Charles Bukowski?
The Winchester, Shaun of the Dead
It’s run by a former member of the North London mafia. It has guns, a jukebox that’s loaded with three decade-old songs, and a never ending supply of Hog Lumps™. I can’t think of a better place to discuss whether or not dogs can look up. (Yes, Nick Frost. They can.)
The Bamboo Lounge, Goodfellas
Smokey, full of mobsters, resting gently on NYC’s gritty streets, and they’ll let you run up a ridiculously large tab if you’re funny like a clown, if you’re there to amuse them. What’s not to love?
Nat’s Bar, The Lost Weekend
This bar is full of so much divey goodness that it can launch you into an epic bender for the ages. Just ask Ray Milland. The bartenders don’t cut you off even when they know they should.
The Dexter Lake Club, Animal House
If you can find me a movie bar with better music in it than this one, I’ll give you a shiny nickel. Because it can’t be done. On a random weekday evening, Otis Day and the Knights played there. You can’t top that.
Tree’s Lounge, Tree’s Lounge
When you talk about movies where characters are pickling themselves until the end of days, this is the king of the category. Tree’s Lounge is the most realistic look at bar culture that I’ve ever seen. It has it all- elderly patrons drinking in the middle of the day, desperately promiscuous people in their 30’s and 40’s, grizzly bartenders past their expiration date, underaged patrons, hokey/crappy bar jokes, and people who look like Steve Buscemi (who, frankly, is as realistic a bar patron as you’ll ever see in a movie). And here’s an interesting fun fact- seemingly half of the cast of The Sopranos is in Tree’s Lounge.
The Slaughtered Lamb, An American Werewolf in London
It’s full of delicious pints, whiskey, dirty wooden tables, a boatload of regular patrons… oh, and also their logo is a wolf with bloody teeth and they have a pentagram on the wall. There are some good times to be had there. And let’s face it- the English know how to drink.
Mos Eisley Cantina, Star Wars: A New Hope
Earlier, I offered up a shiny nickel if someone could come up with a better band than Otis Day and the Knights. No, the Mos Eisley band doesn’t count. But it does add to the “ambiance”. And if you drink like you’re supposed to in these places, every bar patron will eventually look like the freaky bar aliens in Mos Eisley. And did I mention that Bea Arthur is the bartender?
The Gold Room at the Overlook Hotel, The Shining
At first blush, you’d think it’s too classy of a bar for a list like this. The bartender wears gloves and a bow tie, the patrons wear tuxedos and ball gowns, almost everything about it says “class”. Everything, that is, except for the fact that the patrons are murderers or half dead. It makes the list, if only by a nose.