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The 12 Most Iconic Bars in Film and TV History

From gallivants across the galaxy to animated adventures, film and television can offer an escape from real life. Still, they offer glimmers of reality, and those often come in the form of bars and restaurants. Just like us, our favorite characters have their own local haunts where they mingle, toss back a few drinks, and occasionally wreak havoc.

But while many movies and TV shows depict their protagonists enjoying drinks at their preferred establishments, some fictional bars have become more iconic than others. Many of these made-up watering holes are so notorious that they’ve inspired real-life bars for fans to belly up to. Without further ado, here are 12 of the most iconic bars from film and TV history.

The Most Iconic Bars in Movies

Rick’s Café Americain: ‘Casablanca’

Credit: © Warner Bros.

Set against the backdrop of World War II, “Casablanca” is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. It’s also the movie that introduced Rick’s Café Americain, one of the most well-known “gin joints” in pop culture. The bar, which is frequented by refugees, outlaws, and soldiers, is the main setting for the film and where one of cinema’s most memorable scenes takes place. In 2003, retired U.S. diplomat Kathy Kriger opened a real Rick’s Café in Casablanca designed to look nearly identical to its on-screen inspiration.

Mos Eisley Cantina: ‘Star Wars’

Credit: © Lucasfilm

Located in the lawless spaceport of desert planet Tatooine, Mos Eisley Cantina is described by Obi-Wan Kenobi as being “a wretched hive of scum and villainy.” The bar, which has only been depicted a handful times in the “Star Wars” universe thus far, remains iconic among fans and offers a peek at the expansiveness of the Skyriver galaxy. The bar’s popularity on screen has translated to real life, with several operations like Detroit’s Space Dive and L.A.’s Scum and Villainy Cantina modeled after the fictional cantina.

The Alamo: ‘Last Night at the Alamo’

Credit: © IFC Films

Eagle Pennell’s “Last Night at the Alamo” follows a ragtag group of regulars as they gather for one final night at their beloved Houston dive bar, The Alamo. Taking place over the course of one singular evening, the black-and-white film showcases the group’s antics before Cowboy gives one last shot at saving the bar. While The Alamo featured in the film is not a real destination, filming took place at the Old Barn, an east Houston tavern.

Coyote Ugly: ‘Coyote Ugly’

Credit: © Touchstone Pictures

While some films depict fictional bars in their imagined universes, others are based on real-life places of the same name. This cult classic was inspired by “The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon,” an essay by writer Elizabeth Gilbert, who tended bar at the original Coyote Ugly in New York City’s East Village. Now best known for its employees dancing on the bar, the wild watering hole is still operational, and has prompted the opening of 27 locations around the globe.

The Leaky Cauldron: The ‘Harry Potter’ Franchise

Credit: © Warner Bros.

The site of London’s secret entrance to Diagon Alley, The Leaky Cauldron marks the intersection of the wizarding and muggle worlds. The pub first appears in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” when Harry learns of Voldemort and his true background for the first time. The tavern appears several more times throughout the iconic series, along with the equally notable Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. For fans of the franchise, Universal Orlando boasts a real-life The Leaky Cauldron that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner alongside pumpkin juice and butterbeer.

New York Bar: ‘Lost in Translation’

Credit: © Focus Features

New York Bar is one of Tokyo’s most famous watering holes thanks to Sophia Coppola’s iconic film. Situated on the top floor of the Park Hyatt hotel, it’s where Bill Murray’s Bob and Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte first bond over their shared loneliness. The bar is just as glamorous in real life as it is on camera, offering sweeping views of the city’s skyline and nightly live jazz.

The Most Iconic Bars in TV

Cheers: ‘Cheers’

Credit: © Paramount

Despite a near-cancellation after its first season, “Cheers” went on to run for 11 seasons, securing 28 Emmy awards in the process. The show — which takes place in a Boston bar of the same name and follows the friendships of the bar’s servers, bartenders, and regulars — was inspired by real-life Boston bar Bull & Finch Pub. Some scenes were even filmed at the bar itself, leading owner Thomas Kershaw to name the bar’s second outpost after the series.

Moe’s Tavern: ‘The Simpsons’

Credit: © 20th Century Television

Said to be the only bar in fictional Springfield, Moe’s Tavern has been frequented by Homer Simpson and other series regulars since the show’s premiere in 1989. Aside from its signature grime, Moe’s Tavern is also home to pool tables, a dart board, a bull-riding machine, and plenty of the now famous fictional brew Duff Beer. Thirsty to visit Moe’s for yourself? Universal Orlando is also home to a real-life Moe’s Tavern.

Bada Bing!: ‘The Sopranos’

Credit: © HBO

When “The Sopranos” debuted on HBO in 1999, it didn’t take long for the show and its fictional New Jersey haunts to rack up buzz. One of the most famous is Bada Bing!, a topless bar where Tony Soprano’s crew holds court throughout the series. While the club doesn’t actually exist, scenes set there were filmed at the still-operational Lodi bar Satin Dolls. The on-screen bar is also said to have been modeled after Wiggles, another N.J. bar owned by Vincent “Vinnie Ocean” Palermo, who is widely considered to be one of the inspirations for Tony’s character.

MacLaren’s: ‘How I Met Your Mother’

Credit: © 20th Century Fox Studios

Over the course of the series’ nine seasons, Barney, Ted, Robin, Lily, and Marshall spend a considerable amount of time at MacLaren’s, the pub beneath the show’s famed apartment. It’s estimated by fans that the group of friends spent roughly three nights a week slinging back drinks in their favorite booth following the pilot. While it’s not a real bar, MacLaren’s is said to be an amalgamation of four New York City bars the show’s co-creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, frequented — most notably McGee’s Pub on West 55th Street.

Paddy’s Pub: ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’

Credit: © FXX

Proclaimed to be “the worst bar in Philadelphia,” the filthy Paddy’s Pub is home to cheap beer, a pool table, and Charlie’s “bad room,” where he goes to smash bottles and be alone when he’s angry. Over the show’s 16 (and counting) seasons, Paddy’s Pub has transformed into a gay bar, an underage hot spot, and a gambling parlor in some of the gang’s desperate attempts to generate more money. While Paddy’s Pub doesn’t actually exist, Philadelphia’s Paddy’s Old City Pub claims to be the inspiration for the fictional bar’s name.

The Alibi Room: ‘Shameless’ (U.S.)

Credit: © Showtime

Set in Chicago’s South Side, “Shameless” follows the dysfunctional Gallagher family. One of their most frequent haunts is The Alibi, a failing pub operated and later owned by next-door neighbors Kevin and V. Though it’s not a real-life watering hole, the bar was visited by John Taffer and the “Bar Rescue” team in the show’s eighth season.

*Image retrieved from fergregory via

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