The 10 Best Drunk Sequences in Movies

You’ve seen it countless times before–the drunk montage. Nobody really knows where it began. It was certainly present in the 1940s, and it may even go back to the German Expressionist era of the 1920s and 1930s. A character gets annihilated and then stumbles around town late at night often on rain-soaked streets. All the while, neon signs for seedy establishments float in the air, superimposed behind the drunkard, implying the sheer insanity of their evening. The drunk sequence has evolved over the years, with films from a variety of genres absorbing it as their own. Here are the 10 best.

The Lost Weekend (1945)
The sight of Ray Milland stumbling around the city streets with the train rumbling overhead, looking for an open pawn shop to ditch his typewriter in an effort to drink, is one of the most iconic drunk montages in movie history. It’s also one of the most influential.

Silent Movie (1976)
Mel Brooks subverts the trope hilariously as Mel Funn, a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon at a key moment in the movie. This leads to a hysterical montage featuring hobos and a gigantic bottle.

Moontide (1942)
The whole film revolves around the drunk scene. It’s what leads Bobo (Jean Gabin) to believe that he may have killed a man, which sets the plot in motion. The beauty of this particular drunk scene is how committed director Fritz Lang was to making it work. He even called in Salvador Dali to help, which would certainly explain the distorted clocks. Apologies, but the best clip I can find is in Russian.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
The Coens have done it a few times, but I prefer this one because it remains most true to the cliché. Instead of neon signs floating through the air, it’s the severed floating heads of Paul Newman and Jennifer Jason Leigh punctuating his failure. Then we’re treated to American flags and the voice of President Eisenhower, also hammering away at Norville. You have no idea how many times my fear of letting down the president has led me to inebriation.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Terry Gilliam takes the trope to a whole new level by adding mescaline and acid to the booze. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they’re behind the wheel cruising down the brightly-lit Las Vegas strip.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
If you’re counting at home, he gets drunk; gets his best friend drunk; plays games; watches TV; and falls over. It’s like my four years of college, brilliantly condensed into one excellent scene. Plus, it’s the lovable E.T. and Elliot getting drunk. It’s shooooo shweeeeeet.

Beerfest (2006)
The clip begins with Barry (Jay Chandrasekhar) losing horribly at a game of Asshole, and it ends with him in bed as the recipient of a little “slap n’ pickle” with Cherry (Mo’Nique). What makes this drunk montage so great is the juxtaposition of what Barry is actually doing and what Barry sees in his own head. As you’d expect from a movie named “Beerfest”, it’s one of several drunk montages in the movie, and it’s also the best.

North by Northwest (1959)
Only Hitchcock could take the fun of drinking a whole bottle of bourbon and turn it into something suspenseful. Of course, there’s a ton of humor in there as well, especially when Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) slurs through his booking at the police station.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
What makes this particular drunk sequence stand out is the furious editing, coupled with the usual comedy found in these type of scenes. The scene goes from right side up to upside down, double time to slow motion. And in the end? The natural conclusion, with everyone passed out and begging for a hangover.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
This is the one sequence on this list that can rival The Lost Weekend for sheer depression. The sequence runs the gamut of drunken despair- drunk driving directly next to a cop, strip clubs, wobbly legs, slurred speech, and prostitutes. Fair warning- there’s nudity in the clip.


24 Comments

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24 responses to “The 10 Best Drunk Sequences in Movies

  1. This list is great. THE LOST WEEKEND and LEAVING LAS VEGAS still terrify me as really depressing movies. Thought there would be a mention of THE FIRE WITHIN, then I realized there aren’t actually many, if any, drunk scenes in that movie, which I need to rewatch.

    LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS is and will always be my favourite comedy film of the 90s. Sooooo fucking hilarious.

    • He definitely has the meltdown at the party, right after the café scene where he fights falling off the wagon… and fails.

      • Oh I remember that scene now. God, that was amazing. That whole movie is amazing, but especially the last 30 minutes or so. Not ashamed to say I got a little teary-eyed at the very end.

  2. HAHAH Brilliant!! I forgot about ET!

    🙂

  3. Great list. I’d also include most of Trees Lounge, one of my favorite movie depictions of functional alcoholism.

    • That movie is tremendously realistic. I mean… if I knew about such things, like being a boozy bar regular. Not that I would. I definitely don’t.

  4. hello, tdylf,

    i remember that after watching Leaving Las Vegas, i felt despondent and queasy myself. Nicholas Cage portrayed the character in a manner that it left a bitter taste in my tongue, huh. ^^ i didn’t like that movie. ^_^

  5. Superb list! Now let’s have a drink! Oops it’s 8:30 AM and I’m at the office… Whatever.

  6. Why is there always a saxophone? Especially montage with floating neon..always a sax.

  7. Fear and Loathing takes the cake for me. That movie is just one insane, drugged out, boozy binge. I still need to see The Lost Weekend and Leaving Las Vegas… thanks for the reminder.

  8. goregirl

    Great list!…although I have not seen Moontide. Will have to seek it out…I have loved every Fritz Lang film I’ve seen thus far.

  9. What a great list! I have to add a personal favorite, which is an obscure nature film called Animals are Beautiful People. Animals getting drunk scene in that one is so hysterically funny. It has to be seen to be believed.

  10. Fear and Loathing is a given!

  11. manilovefilmsdylan

    Love the wide range of films on display here – proving that folks get wasted in high(er) art and lowbrow fare alike! 😉

    I’d like to add Mikey making 10,000 calls and messages to some random girl whose number he gets in Swingers. So painful-yet-funny.

    • I was surprised at how many 90s films I put on the list. Not that I did it on purpose, though. I guess people just loved getting hammered on film in the 90s. And Swingers fits right in there, too.

  12. Skip

    Jim Lahey from Trailer Park Boys belongs on this list

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