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Here's 10 movies that scream—nay, belch—beer!
By David Riedel
You know what they say about beer. You're not buying, you're renting. HA HA HA HA HA. GET IT?
Look, I don't know a lot of beer jokes. Or at least I don't know a lot of beer jokes that are funny. Here's what I know: Drink too much and the evening that begins innocently enough at The Other Room in Tribeca ends six weeks later with you in a rural Kansas motel room cooking heroin on a switchblade because you accidentally melted your spoon.
So how about we leave the beer jokes for the movie peeps? I combed through my extensive drinking history—may it rest in peace—and between blackouts found some flicks that manage to make beer funny (and some that don't).
- MGM / UA Entertainment Co.
Few seem to remember Strange Brew, but we can probably blame that on blacking out, too. Anyway, what's not to love about this tale of two moron Canadian brothers, Bob and Doug Mckenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), trying to swindle free beer? Consider this: The villain is played by Max von Sydow (fucking Max von Sydow!); there's a dog named Hosehead who flies like Superman; and significant chunks of the plot are lifted from Hamlet. (I'm not even kidding. The beer in it is called "Elsinore.") Plus, Bob pees in a vat of beer and then drinks the whole thing. This movie is the best.
- Magnolia Pictures
I'm no Joe Swanberg fan (in fact, some of his movies, such as Happy Christmas and Digging for Fire, I downright loathe), but Drinking Buddies isn't just a great movie; I consider it one of the best movies ever made. This story of will-they-or-won't-they friends and co-workers (Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson) and their significant others accurately portrays the perils of keeping some friendships platonic and others ... not. It doesn't earn its happy ending, but it earns everything else, including my undying respect.
- De Laurentiis Ent. Group
You could argue David Lynch's last linear screenplay (and first masterpiece) is about beer the same way Denis Villeneuve's Enemy is about spiders, but you'd be missing the point. Lynch's tale of just-beneath-the-surface suburban evil is a wild ride of sex, violence, abduction, but above all, PABST. BLUE. RIBBON! Plus, any movie that puts Dennis Hopper back on the map and treats Heineken with unironic affection must be great.
- Metro Goldwyn Mayer
What! No Beer?
What's funnier than Prohibition-era movies about illegal breweries? Lots of things, but few of them star Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante in pre-Code comedies. Buster and Jimmy get into all sorts of shenanigans when they mistakenly think Prohibition is over and start a brewery. Tragically ironic, possibly apocryphal anecdote: Keaton showed up drunk for filming most days because his personal life was in the toilet. Bonus: His character's name is "Butts," which frankly, always makes me laugh. Non-Durante fans would be best off avoiding this. People who mistake Jimmy Durante for Danny DeVito can go ahead and look.
- Focus Features
The World's End
I enjoy the first half of Edgar Wright's weirdo sci-fi end-of-world fantasy when it's a funny but surprisingly serious look at alcoholism and broken relationships. But as Wright's movies are wont to do, The World's End takes a left turn into the absurd (and in this case, absurdly stupid) and never returns. I've wondered what this movie would feel like if it didn't take that android-filled bathroom break, but I've never wondered too much because who gives a shit? The first half is great, and you can salvage the second half by turning it into a drinking game: Chug each time one of the characters does, and by the time you get to the bathroom scene you'll be having your stomach pumped at the local hospital and the dumb plot twist will be the last thing on your mind.
- Orion Pictures
Not to be confused with Beer: The Movie (no, really), this ho-hum satire of the advertising industry features a young and a not-young but then-little-known Rip Torn. Plus, Loretta Swit makes one of her few memorable non-Hot Lips Houlihan performances. The only reason I'm listing it here is because I'm hoping it will eventually end up on the "How Did This Get Made?" podcast. Unfortunately, there are considerably worse movies that will come before it.
- Universal Pictures
Smokey and the Bandit
It's less about beer (illegally hauling Coors across the country) and more about Burt Reynolds' body hair, but for a Reynolds racing vehicle (ha), the first Smokey entry is the apex. No joke, it's actually funny when it means to be! It's not the cinematic equivalent of brain surgery, but it's the best car-race movie of its era (a low bar, but still). Plus, it was nominated for an Oscar for best editing (also not a joke) but lost to Star Wars. With the it's-not-shit exception of Sharky's Machine, this is the last watchable movie Burt made before Boogie Nights, a spectacular 20-year dry spell unrivaled by anyone. (Even Stallone broke things up with Cliffhanger.)
- IFC Films
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
A documentary about the personal problems of a bunch of asshole millionaire spoiled musicians? Who wants to watch that? For starters, me, over and over. After all, our problems, no matter what they are, are real to us, and directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky humanize the until-that-point larger-than-life band that looked like it had everything. In fact, in 2001 Metallica's members hated each other and the band was on the verge of breaking up, their fragility fueled in large part by frontman James Hetfield's descent into full-blown alcoholism. Only downside? Learning Metallica's song "Sweet Amber" isn't about beer, but moral trade-offs and betrayal. Best (unintentionally?) funny moment: Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, after imploring Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich to stop sniping at each other, slapping his forehead when Ulrich tells Hetfield, "You're just sitting here being a complete dick."
- Warner Bros. Pictures
Broken Lizard, the vampires of comedy groups—because they suck the fun from everything—made a movie about drinking games. Much like their other films, it's laugh-free. (Super Troopers is held in high esteem by some people; those people are idiots.) I guess you could make a drinking game out of Beerfest, though. Each time a good actor appears on screen, clearly slumming it, chug a pint. Considering Nat Faxon, Will Forte, Mo'Nique, Jürgen Prochnow and Cloris Leachman act in this dog shit, you'll do a faceplant by the one-hour mark.
- Sony Pictures
Dazed and Confused and/or Superbad and/or Booksmart
Each of these movies is about the end of the school year (Superbad and Booksmart about graduating seniors, Dazed and Confused about incoming seniors hazing incoming frosh), and each has its share of super drunkenness. Two of them are also drug movies (Dazed and Confused and, to a degree, Booksmart), but as any good alcoholic will tell you, the alcohol is the gateway to everything else, man. Each of these movies is laugh-out-loud funny, whether oddly nostalgic (Dazed and Confused), kinda gross (Superbad) or surprisingly sweet (Booksmart). My suggestion: Plan a night in with a sixer and all three flicks. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday.