9 TV and Movie Bars We Love (But Terrify Us Anyway)

Monday, March 17 by
Lloyd prefers the term "mixologist" these days.  

“Authentic” dive bars seem to be pretty fashionable these days, which seems to be a backlash against the Buffalo Wild Wings and other manufactured restaurants and bars that seem to be devoid of character. And in TV and movies, nothing quite sets the stage like an encounter (romantic or otherwise) in a dimly lit dive bar with a jukebox and surly patrons.

Of course, there’s a downside to that seedy character. Namely, some bad shit is probably gonna go down. The trope of Chekov’s Gun posits that if you reveal a gun in the first act, it better be fired by the third. Similarly with these dangerous watering holes, if you reveal it in the first act, something terrible will happen there later on. Maybe there’s something to be said for knocking a few back at your local Applebee’s.

9. Paddy’s Pub – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia


Ok. So the first entry here doesn’t exactly inspire fear in the hearts of its viewers, but think about what’s gone down at this poorly-run establishment: Insurance fraud, service to minors, illegal gambling, Russian roulette, a fake funeral for a baby, unlicensed modeling contests, etc. Even if you can get past the history of this place, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s home to five of the most depraved sociopaths ever depicted on television.

8. The Gold Room – The Shining

While many of the bars on this list are haunting because of their illicit activities, this posh spot at the out-of-season Overlook Hotel has absolutely nothing going on. IN case you haven’t seen The Shining (What the hell is wrong with you, in that case?) we learn that the absence of activity can be just as dangerous, leaving a man with his thoughts.

Toss in some alcohol, real or imagined, and a gaunt, enabling bartender named Lloyd, and you’ve got all the ingredients necessary for a family crisis. “Crisis” being a euphemism for “ax murdering.”

7. The Titty Twister – From Dusk Til Dawn

The distasteful name is the least of this border town biker/trucker bar’s transgression. What else is wrong with it? Well, it caters to vampires, trapping all the patrons in so that the staff, band, and dancers may feast on their blood. And the restrooms aren’t very clean either.

Of course, on the plus side, you get patrons with names like Sex Machine, and Salma Hayek dances there on the reg. So, it’s a judgment call, really.

6. The Double Deuce – Road House

The bar that could only get tamed by Patrick Swayze’s Dalton. Remember, Dalton isn’t a bouncer. No, no, no. He’s the Dalai Lama of bouncers. He’s the cooler. (I still don’t know what exactly a cooler is.) But when he finds his way to that dinky redneck town, he steps into a job opening that comes with a fair share of hazards, not the least of which are drug dealers, whores, people who chuck bottles at blind lap steel guitarists, and slashed tires.

Thank God Dalton’s able to stich himself up.

5. Bada Bing – The Sopranos

While a lot of behind the scenes conspiring and decision making takes place upstairs in Sylvio’s office, the front of house can be overtly intimidating as well. The giant Georgie, who always seems to be screwing up something or another regularly has Tony take out his own frustrations on him, be it beating him with a phone or a pool cue.

Sure, the view might be nice at this strip club, but a glance in either direction down the bar will probably clue you in that you’re persona non grata unless you got your wings.

4. The Last Resort – Total Recall

Pros: Tri-breasted space whores

Cons: Alien turncoat cab drivers, midget strippers who fire machine guns and stab you.

I’m guessing this place is called the last resort for a reason. I can’t imagine this place being anyone but a total degenerate’s first choice.

3. The Winchester – Shaun of the Dead

On a good night, the Winchester is downright pleasant. It’s got fruit machines, pleasant atmosphere, and…beer. However, it’s a not a great place to go have a pint while the zombie apocalypse “blows over.” In fact, maybe a second story bar would have been a better locale to hold out while the undead roam the streets.

Sure, most of the Shaun of the Dead characters made it out ok, but that’s not a high bar to clear.

2. The Gem Saloon – Deadwood

Any place owned by Al Swearengen is bound to be bad for your health. And this particular entry is notable because both it and its proprietor, Al Swearengen, actually existed. In fact, the fictitious Gem was pretty similar to the real one, as was Swearengen, who made his way conning transients and pimping out women.

So aside from the rough and tumble patrons from a mining town, you still had to deal with the management, which may have been the biggest threat there at any given time.

Oh, and if you have an aversion to bad language, DO NOT GO TO THE GEM.

1. Mos Eisley Cantina – Star Wars

And of course, perhaps the most family-friendly work on this list has the bar that would have Patrick Swayze sweating bullets. The Mos Eisley cantina is a refuge in a pirate city on Tatooine, and discriminates against droids by not letting them enter.

Fights are breaking out, most of the patrons’ faces look like butts, and occasionally, you get a handsome, vested rebel shooting an alien in cold blood. Apropos of nothing, Han just shot him. That’s the type of place the Mos Eisley Cantina is.

PS – The service was great, but the band didn’t branch out much.

Do you like this story?

More about...