Ranking TV And Film’s Best Bartenders For National Beer Day

There’s an old saying that goes, “Sometimes you meet someone that makes your life better — these people are called bartenders.” In films and on television, these characters have served to offer advice, friendship, or just a simple place to go and relax, usually as supporting players to the main characters (though there are exceptions to that rule). From the mountains of Nepal, to a luxury cruise ship, and even an abandoned resort hotel in Colorado, some of pop culture’s most beloved characters have stood behind a bar serving drinks. In honor of National Beer Day, here’s a look at our favorites.

12. Gary – The Big Lebowski

You don’t see much of Gary (Peter Siragusa) throughout The Big Lebowski, but he’s always there to keep the beers cold and The Dude’s (Jeff Bridges) glass filled with White Russians. There’s something to be said for a bartender who doesn’t hog the spotlight, though he makes it in at the buzzer thanks to his note-perfect response of “That’s right, Dude,” which was exactly what The Dude (Jeff Bridges) needed from him.

11. The Gang – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia 

They drink on the job, are rude to customers, and just never seem to get anything done (the episode “Charlie Work” notwithstanding), but everyone who’s watched an episode of FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has imagined what it’d be like to belly up at Paddy’s Pub at least once. If nothing else just to watch the chaos unfold up close.

10. Eddie – Barfly

Though he embodied everything that Henry (Mickey Rourke, playing a fictionalized Charles Bukowski) hated, including obviousness and unoriginal macho energy, Eddie (Frank Stallone) still seemed like a crowd favorite among the down-and-out regulars of his dimly lit dive bar. The fact that he kept letting Henry inside even after all the trouble he caused seems to go against common sense, though, not to mention official policy.

9. Holling – Northern Exposure

In the early days of Northern Exposure, Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) was a fish out of water in Cicely, Alaska. The first person who was welcoming toward him was Holling (John Cullum), the town’s unelected mayor and owner of The Brick. It was warmth and hospitality that made Holling a world-class bartender, always making sure the patrons of his establishment were full of good food and just the right amount of alcohol-induced well being.

8. Lloyd – The Shining

“The best goddamn bartender from Timbuktu to Portland, Maine… or Portland, Oregon, for that matter,” says Jack (Jack Nicholson), heaping praise onto Lloyd (Joe Turkel), the imaginary (?) bartender serving him rounds of Jack Daniel’s on the rocks in The Shining. Regardless, Lloyd serves as a perfect example of someone at the top of their bartending game: He’s well-dressed, polite, and he knows his customer by name, and more importantly, by what they drink. He might have even ranked higher had he been, you know, real.

7. Guinan – Star Trek: The Next Generation

There may not have been any alcohol aboard the Starship Enterprise, but at the Ten Forward Lounge, Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) was there to dole out sage advice to Starfleet personnel on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Being an El-Aurian, a species known for their ability to listen, gave her an advantage working a job where a sympathetic ear is a necessary requirement.

6. Al Swearengen – Deadwood

A fictional bartender based on a real person, Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) was the tough-talking, tougher-acting, owner of The Gem Saloon in HBO’s Deadwood. Swearengen used his bar as a base for all the nefarious operations and shrewd business deals that helped him amass power and political influence. Despite all his despicable behavior, there was something truly charismatic about the man, and as long as your transaction with him didn’t last longer than a simple shot of whiskey, he might very well come off as downright charming.

5. Isaac – The Love Boat

When you think of the ’70s and ’80s TV staple The Love Boat, what image comes to mind? In almost every case, it’s bound to be the always-smiling bartender, Isaac (Ted Lange). Friendly, dapper, and never short on tiny umbrellas, Isaac was the gatekeeper to a good time onboard The Pacific Princess. Lange also managed to cement the character’s stature by creating a drink of his own, aptly named “The Isaac,” exclusively for Princess cruise lines.

4. LaDonna – Treme

The owner of Gigi’s, a New Orleans bar that was owned by her father, LaDonna (Khandi Alexander) works to keep it open in the wake of Katrina while her family lived in Baton Rouge. Despite the adversities thrown at her — and there were a lot — she still emerged a strong, successfully business owner, and the kind of bartender who treated her regulars like family, which not only made her a great bartender, but in some ways the heart of the show.

3. Sam Malone – Cheers

As a relief pitcher for the Red Sox, Sam Malone (Ted Danson) may have been a footnote in baseball history. But as the owner/bartender of Cheers, he was nothing short of a hero. With his suave demeanor, instant rapport with his customers, and reputation as a ladies’ man, Sam simply embodied everything cool about being a bartender.

2. Marion Ravenwood – Raiders of the Lost Ark

When we’re first introduced to Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), owner of The Raven bar in the mountains of Nepal, she takes down a formidable-looking opponent in a shot drinking contest. While The Raven burns down not long after, she spends the rest of the film alongside Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) on a quest to find the fabled Ark of the Covenant, an obsession of Marion’s father. Still, the crowd’s reaction to her victory is enough to earn her the number two spot on this list.

1. Moe – The Simpsons

As a bartender, Moe is always pretty lenient about letting his customers run a tab — even Barney, who drinks so much that he’d later need NASA to help calculate the total. At the end of the day, Moe loves his dank little bar full of lowlifes, even though he’d be the last person to admit it.