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For St. Patrick's Day, the Best Drinking Movies Ever Made

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I love St. Patrick's Day. It's so inclusive. By that I mean that though it's a bona fide religious holiday, you don't need to be particularly pious to enjoy it.

Beyond its religious significance, Wikipedia aptly describes March 17th as a celebration of Irish history and identity, including "...prominent displays of the color green, feasting, copious consumption of alcohol, religious observances, and numerous parades."

That kind of says it all, doesn't it? St. Patrick's Day gives us all an excuse to wear something green and over-imbibe.

A fondness for spirits is, of course, an integral part of the Irish character. There are lighter and darker sides to this truth. But the Irish hardly have a monopoly on the use and enjoyment of alcohol. It is in fact pretty much universal -- and universally, it can be a source of joy and fun, as well as misery.

Not surprisingly, the best movies about drinking reflect both sides of the equation, sometimes making us laugh, but also reminding us how alcohol can unleash a ravaging, devastating disease for those genetically pre-disposed -- a disease that causes suffering not just for the victims, but in almost equal measure, their families and friends.

Wishing everyone a safe and (reasonably) responsible holiday, I present my own candidates for the top drinking movies of all time.

The Thin Man (1934): The quintessential martini movie, Powell and Loy's chic sleuths have fun, solve a murder, and hold their liquor -- but just barely. "Ammunition!"

The Bank Dick (1940): It's always fun hanging out with Egbert Souse (accent grave over the "e") at the immoral (and immortal) Black Pussycat Café.

The Lost Weekend (1945): Billy Wilder's shattering, groundbreaking drama about an alcoholic writer's disintegration. Ray Milland's Oscar -- and he earned it.

A Star Is Born (1954): James Mason's turn as Hollywood star turned drunk is one for the ages. Highlight: when he accidentally slaps Judy at the Awards ceremony. Unforgettable.

Rio Bravo (1959): Dean Martin's boozing deputy may just be the best thing he ever did on film. And yes, that includes all those celebrity roasts! It's hard to overshadow the Duke, but this is really Dino's movie.

Days Of Wine And Roses
(1962): Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick break your heart as married tipplers. The scene where Jack destroys the greenhouse still packs a wallop, half a century later.

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966): Liz and Dick's finest hour happens at cocktail hour, with alcohol fueling Edward Albee's corrosive dialogue. "Never mix- never worry!"

National Lampoon's Animal House (1978): Gloriously nutty college farce, with John Belushi's Bluto the poster boy for nihilistic excess consumption. "To-ga! To-ga!"

My Favorite Year (1982): Overlooked comedy set in the golden age of live television with Peter O'Toole playing a former swashbuckling movie star turned lush. Best line: "Of course he's beneath us. He's an actor!"

The Verdict (1982): Paul Newman is brilliant as an alcoholic ambulance chaser who lands a big case he's unlikely to win, but which gives him one last shot at reclaiming his career and self-respect.

Under The Volcano (1984): Albert Finney gives a tour-de-force performance as a dissolute diplomat whose alcoholism is spiraling out of control in a small, seedy Mexican town.

Withnail and I (1987): Richard E. Grant shines as a broke, bitchy, drunken actor in this scathing black comedy, which has (deservedly) attained cult status.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995): Nicolas Cage snagged an Oscar for his intense, haunted turn as a screenwriter in despair who goes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death.

The Big Lebowski (1998): The dude abides, even in the midst of a bizarre case of mistaken identity. And can he pack in those White Russians! A Coen Brothers peak.

Bridesmaids (2011): By combining booze and pills, maid of honor Kristen Wiig flips out on a plane to Vegas, paving the way for one wildly eventful bachelorette excursion. It's one of the funniest movie scenes in years.

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