In the cold open of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs—the part your miserly friend brings up every time you attempt to close out a bar tab—the word “fuck” is uttered 27 times in the course of about seven minutes. That averages out to nearly two “fucks” every 30 seconds.
This scene is directly followed by the film’s iconic title sequence, the one where Keitel, Buscemi, Madsen and the rest of the booted-and-suited crew slow-mo strut across a parking lot, backed by “Little Green Bag.” If you’re playing the Reservoir Dogs drinking game, which requires you take a sip every time the English language’s most versatile curse leaves a character’s lips, by this point you’re probably already, well, fucked.
Whether it’s the violence, the twisted storyline or the coarseness of the dialogue, Tarantino’s breakthrough is an enduring selection when it comes to pairing cinema with alcohol consumption.
While other boozy diversions aim to foster a party vibe or ape the intensity of sports, movie drinking games are more staid and cerebral in approach—the sensitive indoor kid to beer pong’s flexing ball-capped bro. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, a vibrant and engaged movie drinking game community can be found online.
“Movie drinking games are so appealing because they really celebrate what’s great about the movie . . . It takes all of the awesome, odd or hilarious things you love about that flick and puts them front and center,” says Stephanie D’Agostino, co-proprietor of Drinking Cinema.
An editor by trade, D’Agostino and her engineer husband, TJ, first became familiar with movie drinking games about 10 years ago, when they’d get tipsy watching Road House. Since then, the Berkeley-based couple has created original rule sets for dozens of films, paired with D’Agostino’s illustrations, streaming links and even a Netflix-like section suggesting similar titles. Recent features include Avatar (drink anytime someone explores the psychedelic forest), Jurassic World (drink anytime dinosaurs fight) and board game-turned-bawdy ensemble comedy Clue (drink anytime one character “sexually annoys” another).
The fact that anyone can play their games is a major plus. “It’s like Bingo, but with less chain-smoking,” says D’Agostino, who usually goes with Miller High Life when playing. (Some movies, like the cultish Super Troopers or the insane Japanese rockabilly zombie comedy Wild Zero, actually boast built-in drinking games as part of their DVD extras.)
This sense of pop-culture populism, embodied so adroitly by the format, is what inspired the hosts of the Alcohollywood podcast. In each episode—they are up to about 250—longtime friends Jared Latore and Clint Worthington go deep discussing a movie (“the classics as well as the crap”), developing both rules and original cocktails to go along with the conversation. They keep the format very simple—three ongoing rules per movie, plus a one-time cue to finish whatever you’ve got in your hand. (You can probably guess what scene in The Warriors triggers the latter action.)
Whether they’re mucking around the low-brow shelf or analyzing haute auteurs, the Chicagoans dedicate ample thought to the pursuit. See, for reference, their work on 1949’s The Third Man, considered a cinematic masterpiece. The associated drink nods to the movie’s European setting with spirits like aquavit, genever and Cherry Heering; the directives instruct viewers to tip it back whenever Sir Carol Reed drops a Dutch angle, or whenever composer Anton Zaras’ dulcet zither tones drop in.
“Our goal is to use the drinking rules as springboards for discussion…they don’t exist purely for their own sake,” says Latore. “Why do you think there so many Dutch angles in The Third Man? What does that impart to the story? For that matter, why are there so many Dutch angles in Thor?”
Worthington, who reviews movies for Consequence of Sound, says he and Latore “hit upon the drinking game format as a unique way to ‘game-ify’ film criticism”—to stand out in a field that suffers no shortage of highly opinionated observers, cultivating an engaged audience via the power of communal boozing. “My primary passion is cinema,” he adds. “Though drinking’s fun, too.”
As an all-purpose launching point, I love the trio of default rules established by the site For Your Inebriation: Drink whenever a character drinks on screen; drink when a character speaks of “his or her severe daddy issues” (beware this when watching Wes Anderson movies); and drink for titular lines. After mastering those, move onto this list of my personal favorite movie drinking games.
This is one of the most popular game-ified movies on the Internet. Variations abound, but I’d go with the version introduced to me by my friend Molly. If someone says “goblin,” take one drink. If someone says “Goblin City,” take two drinks. If someone says “Goblin King,” take three drinks. Anytime someone name-drops the character Hoggle, everyone must yell “HOGGLE,” and the last person to do so must drink. Anytime David Bowie’s Jareth says or does something creepy around Jennifer Connelly’s Sarah? Drink. Also, drink when something is not as it seems. Those last two should get you there pretty fast.
Tarantino’s early-career classic is another title with drunken admirers aplenty, but the simplest are the best. The aforementioned F-bomb rule could very well lead you to a Mr. Orange-like fate. Instead, Reel Drinking Games suggests each member of your group randomly choose a character from a hat, and then drink every time that character curses, says a color or says the word “diamond.” Finish your drink if/when your character dies.
The Big Lebowski
Quirky and immersive, Coen Brothers movies are particularly ripe for drinking game conversion. Alcohollywood has deadly-simple guidelines for this one: Drink anytime anyone says “dude” and anytime anyone says “man.” Also drink whenever an item, such as a rug that really ties the room together, is disrespected.
Martin McDonagh’s nihilistic Christmas movie is bleak and darkly funny enough to encourage heavy drinking all on its own, but For Your Inebriation has some reasonable suggestions, like drinking whenever Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) say each other’s names and whenever the script broaches the topic of nationality.
The Fast & Furious Movies
The Alcohollywood crew technically only wrote game rules for the sixth installment of what’s probably the most culturally diverse movie franchise we’ve got, but they can really apply to any of the seven (so far) installments. All you really have to remember: Drink anytime a vehicle is destroyed. I also recommend drinking twice as much if Ludacris is in any way involved, as a celebration of his contributions.