The stylish art of bartending is something that Hollywood has tried to capture, with iconic movies about bartending like Tom Cruise’s Cocktail and Tom Hardy’s The Drop depicting the glamor, grit, and thrill of the bartending profession.
When we think of bartenders, we think of immaculately dressed people flipping bottles dexterously while entertaining guests and making friendly conversation. This reputation was first popularized by the Father of American Mixology (and the most famous bartender of all time), Jerry Thomas.
Bartending is all that and more, like a decadent cocktail of knowledge, practiced skill, careful execution, and elevated taste, not to mention charisma, flair, and therapist-like listening and advice-giving chops. It takes skill, style, and a whole lot of confidence.
Here at Broken Bartender, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite movies about bartending, and we took some inspiration from the experts. Three bartenders from across the globe gave us their takes on the best movies about bartenders and top movies about female bartenders—their personal picks, anything laugh-worthy, and which films impacted them the most.
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No list of the best movies about bartending would be complete without the inspiring documentary Hey Bartender leading the charge, following real-life stories of two men trying to achieve their bartending dreams.
Many viewers shared stellar, “it-completely-changed-my-perspective-on-bartending” type reviews, and our global bartender experts agree.
Aidan Powrie, distiller of Bombay Sapphire Gin in Laverstoke, UK and previous brand ambassador of Bacardi Portfolio of Cape Town, South Africa says that Hey Bartender is also one of his top picks as it showcases “the dedication it takes to get into our industry.”
For aspiring bartenders and veterans with a passion for the art and a penchant for style, Broken Bartender recommends the 1 More Shot T-Shirt ($30), which is comfortable, cool, and dizzyingly delightful.
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2. Coyote Ugly
You’ve probably seen one of the more well-known movies about bartending, Coyote Ugly, also one of the first movies about female bartenders that shows some of the real challenges that women behind the bar have to deal with.
Piper Perabo, Maria Bello, and John Goodman star in this glamorous and gritty film, which features a young woman named Violet Sanford, an aspiring songwriter who moves to New York city to chase her dreams. While there, she lands a bartending job at a NYC nightclub run by ambitious, badass, and sexy women, and the result is an entertaining, raucous success.
Starring a young Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, and Elisabeth Shue, Cocktail is a delight of a film and one of the most iconic movies about bartending.
The plot follows a talented bartender from New York who moves to Jamaica and works at a bar. He soon strikes up a fast friendship with a veteran bartender and falls in love with a beautiful, young waitress.
With flamboyant tricks on display and many good laughs to be had, experts love this movie. Gabriel Gliga, former beverage manager of SoHo Hospitality and restaurant general manager at Havana Social in Bangkok, Thailand, says that Cocktail is “definitely” one of the best, and Jad says that the film “makes me laugh.” Looks like Cocktail is a must-watch on our list of movies about bartenders!
For the badass bartenders in your life, Broken Bartender recommends the Smallest Cocktail Shaker Ever (Necklace) ($69.95), so they can shake and mix in swag. And yes—it’s a real, tiny shaker that actually opens up!
Source: Broken Bartender
4. Trees Lounge
Next on our list of the best movies about bartending is Trees Lounge, featuring the talented Steve Buscemi, who plays hopeless alcoholic Tommy. The movie, Buscemi's first foray into directing, is a humorous yet melancholy look at an alcoholic’s life and the characters who give meaning to his life.
Caught for stealing from his boss, Tommy loses his job. He feels purposeless and soon takes up the position as the local ice cream man, despite hating children with a passion. He finds himself in and out of bar-related drama and wonders if he could ever stop drinking.
While the plot doesn’t revolve around a bartender, local dive bar Trees Lounge—which Tommy frequents daily—takes center stage and is where most of the film’s fantastic dialogue takes place.
Bartenders are everywhere, even in space. The sci-fi romantic drama Passengers, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, showcases one of film’s smoothest and most debonair bartenders, brought to life by the talented Michael Sheen.
After a sleeping pod on a spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet malfunctions, it wakes up one passenger 90 years early, and he is left alone with his thoughts and no one to talk to—except elegantly dressed robot bartender Arthur who expertly and smoothly dishes out some of that famous “bartender wisdom” to the distressed passenger.
Back to our experts—Passengers is one of Aidan’s top picks for best movies about bartending as it showcases the kind of hospitality bartenders are known for showing their customers.
For the bartenders who enjoy thrilling stories of espionage, romance, and war, Broken Bartender recommends the Negroni Trucker Hat ($30), which makes a strong statement in a bold and passionate red color (and don’t forget the little caption!).
6. The Drop
Living a quiet life as a bartender, Bob Saginowski (played by Tom Hardy) finds himself caught in an illegal criminal scheme in The Drop—the bar he works at is a cash “drop bar” for criminal operations.
He’s supposed to look the other way, and that’s what he does, in his quiet way, but his cousin (played the late James Gandolfini) stirs the pot—he was once the bar’s owner and vows to get it back from the mafia.
With superb acting from Hardy and Gandolfini, The Drop is an iconic movie about bartending that you mustn’t miss.
In a list about movies about bartending, we had to break the rules and mention a television series, and we know bartenders and bar lovers alike will agree—after all, Cheers is the bar where everybody knows your name!
In this classic TV series, Ted Danson stars as Sam Malone, the bartender and owner of the Bostonian bar Cheers, where the lives of neighbors and friends and colleagues intersect everyday.
Full of laughs and lows, Cheers has cemented its spot as a classic in shows and movies about bartending.
While Burnt is technically not a movie about bartending, it is a movie about the service industry, where chefs, bartenders, and servers face similar pressures and challenges.
Bradley Cooper stars as Chef Adam Jones, a brilliant two-star Michelin chef whose career backslid because of his problems with addiction (and attitude). In Burnt, he’s determined to come back into the scene and open a restaurant in London, which he hopes will bring him his third Michelin star.
Gabriel, one of our expert bartenders, weighs in—”Burnt inspires me to be a better bartender [and] to always reach perfection through the team you build, and only they can make you achieve your goals.” “It’s the most inspiring because it depicts the exact life in the hospitality industry,” he adds.
For the bartenders who might feel burnt out, overwhelmed, or challenged in life and career, Broken Bartender recommends the Scotch Ness Critter (Whisky Stone) ($29.95), which is sure to lift spirits, put a smile on anyone’s face, and remind them of why they love being a bartender in the first place. It doesn’t come with the glass, but that critter is adorable!
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Every bar has a story, and Humphrey Bogart’s bar in the classic film Casablanca certainly had a thrilling one, set in the early stages of World War II.
While most think of Casablanca as a love story (and it is!), it is also very much a movie about a bartender and a bar that becomes a haven for refugees seeking to find their way to America. The bartender has to face a tough decision—whether or not to help his former lover and her new husband to escape the Nazis.
Last on our list of the best movies about bartending is a special mention—a Japanese anime all about bartending that wanders into the realm of fantasy, an animated series called Bartender.
Bartender tells the tale of Eden Hall, a little bar nestled in the quiet alleys of Ginza's bustling district and run by the mysterious Ryuu Sasakura, a renowned bartender known for concocting the most extraordinary cocktails. It is said that if you look for Eden Hall, you will not find it; rather it must find you.
In the anime, bartender Ryuu possesses an uncanny ability to mix the perfect cocktail to comfort and offer guidance to each troubled soul who walks through his bar’s doors. But no one knows how he knows.
For the bartender-wizards out there who know exactly what kind of drink you need before you even say anything (and who can dish out the best life advice!), Broken Bartender recommends the whimsical Once Upon a Hangover T-Shirt ($30), because not all fairy godmothers (or godfathers!) wear wings.
Source: Broken Bartender
Before we bring our list of the best movies about bartending to a close, here are some special mentions that you also absolutely must check out—
- The Simpsons (bartender Moe Szyslak)
- Japanese anime Death Parade
- Award-winning TV show The Sopranos
- The Shining (Lloyd the Bartender)
- TV series Star Trek (sci-fi bartender Guinan played by Whoopi Goldberg)
- The Slammin’ Salmon
- The Big Lebowski
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