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1988, Romance/Comedy, 1h 44m

What to know

Critics Consensus

There are no surprises in Cocktail , a shallow, dramatically inert romance that squanders Tom Cruise's talents in what amounts to a naive barkeep's banal fantasy. Read critic reviews

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Cocktail videos, cocktail   photos.

Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise) wants a high-paying marketing job, but needs a business degree first. Working as a bartender to pay for college, Flanagan is mentored by his veteran boss, Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown). Together, their showy tricks and charisma command large crowds and tip payments -- until Flanagan and the cynical Coughlin have a falling out. Flanagan moves to Jamaica to raise enough money to open his own bar, where he falls in love with artist Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue).

Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama

Original Language: English

Director: Roger Donaldson

Producer: Robert W. Cort , Ted Field

Writer: Heywood Gould

Release Date (Theaters): Jul 29, 1988  original

Release Date (Streaming): Aug 10, 2016

Box Office (Gross USA): $77.3M

Runtime: 1h 44m

Distributor: Touchstone Pictures

Production Co: Touchstone Pictures, Interscope Communications

Sound Mix: Surround, Stereo

Cast & Crew

Brian Flanagan

Bryan Brown

Douglas 'Doug' Coughlin

Elisabeth Shue

Jordan Mooney

Laurence Luckinbill

Kelly Lynch

Kerry Coughlin

Gina Gershon

Roger Donaldson

Robert W. Cort

John Mellencamp

Original Music

J. Peter Robinson

Dean Semler

Cinematographer

Neil Travis

Film Editing

Donna Isaacson

John S. Lyons

Production Design

Art Director

Hilton Rosemarin

Set Decoration

Ellen Mirojnick

Costume Design

Heywood Gould

Screenwriter

News & Interviews for Cocktail

50 Worst Summer Movies of All Time

Critic Reviews for Cocktail

Audience reviews for cocktail.

A classic that helped launch Tom Cruise's career. I have never seen this before but I really enjoyed it and I can see why many others also enjoyed it.

cocktail tom cruise cast

So hilariously bad I can't even explain it. There aren't words to describe how awful this is, but I think it's at least deliberately awful...there's no way anyone could've thought this wasn't going to be terrible while they were making it.

This is actually one of my favourite Tom Cruise films.

What has Mr Cruise done to blokes over the years huh. He made us all wanna join the military so we could play with fighter jets and have a cool nickname, play/hustle nine-ball for a living, be a NASCAR driver...but at one point he also made all men wanna become bartenders. The image...behind a slick neon lit bar, fast money and easy sex, who would say no?. Well the plot in this ever so 80's flick is a cocktail of drama in itself!. Kicks off as a loose dumb story about a young guy who learns to be a bartender and throws bottles around awful looking swanky yuppie/suit type bars. From there we get cheating, backstabbing and escapism to Jamaica where a soppy love story breaks out. More backstabbing follows as we proceed to more heartbreak and the involvement with older rich women, much more fun then. Yet more breakup, death of a friend and eventual makeup leading to the obvious happy ending. A veritable rollercoaster of a plot which is totally uninteresting and rather cringeworthy. Watching Cruise pose and strut around with his wide toothy grin and hair that can't decide to be straight or curly is somewhat painful at times. The bar scenes are really quite crap looking back, I remember how people thought this stuff was sooooo cool (laugh out loud!). The cast is also another odd cocktail of choice. Aussie Bryan Brown who never really made much of a splash in Hollywood is a bizarre choice. Whilst Shue was never very attractive in my book and hardly sells her character, so dreadfully vanilla and dull!! geez!!. Brown is just totally uncool and annoying whilst Shue is a wet fish. Add to that the constant flow of hyped over acting and mugging by Cruise...oh god it makes you wanna vomit in your Singapore Sling!. A film for the ladies I think as the only things that interested me was a few female arse shots and the thought of what life would be like as a sex toyboy for a rich middle aged business woman (I would of stuck it out). In places this film is very awkward to watch, bordering on embarrassing. So completely and utterly dated (in a bad way) and serves no purpose other than a history lesson on 80's social gatherings and what people thought was cool employment at the time. A time when Cruise's ego was sky high alongside his over acting, mind you what's new.

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"Cocktail" tells the story of two bartenders and their adventures in six bars and several bedrooms. What is remarkable, given the subject, is how little the movie knows about bars or drinking.

Early in the film, there's a scene where the two bartenders stage an elaborately choreographed act behind the bar. They juggle bottles in unison, one spins ice cubes into the air and the other one catches them, and then they flip bottles at each other like a couple of circus jugglers. All of this is done to rock 'n' roll music, and it takes them about four minutes to make two drinks. They get a roaring ovation from the customers in their crowded bar, which is a tip-off to the movie's glossy phoniness. This isn't bartending, it's a music video, and real drinkers wouldn't applaud, they'd shout: "Shut up and pour!" The bartenders in the film are played by Tom Cruise , as a young ex-serviceman who dreams of becoming a millionaire, and Bryan Brown , as a hard-bitten veteran who has lots of cynical advice. Brown advises Cruise to keep his eyes open for a "rich chick," because that's his ticket to someday opening his own bar. Cruise is ready for this advice.

He studies self-help books and believes that he'll be rich someday, if only he gets that big break. The movie is supposed to be about how he outgrows his materialism, although the closing scenes leave room for enormous doubts about his redemption.

The first part of the movie works the best. That's when Cruise drops out of school, becomes a full-time bartender, makes Brown his best friend and learns to juggle those bottles. In the real world, Cruise and Brown would be fired for their time-wasting grandstanding behind the bar, but in this movie they get hired to work in a fancy disco where they have a fight over a girl and Cruise heads for Jamaica.

There, as elsewhere, his twinkling eyes and friendly smile seem irresistible to the women on the other side of the bar, and he lives in a world of one-night stands. That's made possible by the fact that no one in this movie has ever heard of AIDS, not even the rich female fashion executive ( Lisa Banes ) who picks Cruise up and takes him back to Manhattan with her.

What do you think? Do you believe a millionaire Manhattan woman executive in her 30s would sleep with a wildly promiscuous bartender she picks up on the beach? Not unless she was seriously drunk. And that's another area this movie knows little about: the actual effects of drinking. Sure, Cruise gets tanked a couple of times and staggers around a little and throws a few punches. But given the premise that he and Brown drink all of the time, shouldn't they be drunk, or hung over, at least most of the time? Not in this fantasy world.

If the film had stuck to the relationship between Cruise and Brown, it might have had a chance. It makes a crucial error when it introduces a love story, involving Cruise and Elisabeth Shue , as a vacationing waitress from New York. They find true love, which is shattered when Shue sees Cruise with the rich Manhattan executive.

After the executive takes Cruise back to New York and tries to turn him into a pampered stud, he realizes his mistake and apologizes to Shue, only to discover, of course, that she is pregnant - and rich.

The last stages of the movie were written, directed and acted on automatic pilot, as Shue's millionaire daddy tries to throw Cruise out of the penthouse but love triumphs. There is not a moment in the movie's last half-hour that is not borrowed from other movies, and eventually even the talented and graceful Cruise can be seen laboring with the ungainly reversals in the script. Shue, who does whatever is possible with her role, is handicaped because her character is denied the freedom to make natural choices; at every moment, her actions are dictated by the artificial demands of the plot.

It's a shame the filmmakers didn't take a longer, harder look at this material. The movie's most interesting character is the older bartender, superbly played by Brown, who never has a false moment. If the film had been told from his point of view, it would have been a lot more interesting, but box-office considerations no doubt required the center of gravity to shift to Cruise and Shue.

One of the weirdest things about "Cocktail"' is the so-called message it thinks it contains. Cruise is painted throughout the film as a cynical, success-oriented 1980s materialist who wants only to meet a rich woman and own his own bar. That's why Shue doesn't tell him at first that she's rich. Toward the end of the movie, there's a scene where he allegedly chooses love over money, but then, a few months later, he is the owner and operator of his own slick Manhattan singles bar.

How did he finance it? There's a throwaway line about how he got some money from his uncle, a subsistence-level bartender who can't even afford a late-model car. Sure. It costs a fortune to open a slick singles bar in Manhattan, and so we are left with the assumption that Cruise's rich father-in-law came through with the financing. If the movie didn't want to leave that impression, it shouldn't have ended with the scene in the bar. But then this is the kind of movie that uses Cruise's materialism as a target all through the story and then rewards him for it at the end. The more you think about what really happens in "Cocktail," the more you realize how empty and fabricated it really is.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Film credits.

Cocktail movie poster

Cocktail (1988)

100 minutes

Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan

Bryan Brown as Doug Coughlin

Elisabeth Shue as Jordan Mooney

Lisa Banes as Bonnie

Laurence Luckinbill as Mr. Mooney

Directed by

  • Roger Donaldson

Produced by

  • Robert W. Cort

Screenplay by

  • Heywood Gould

Photographed by

  • Dean Semler
  • Neil Travis
  • J. Peter Robinson

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Cocktail

Where to watch

1988 Directed by Roger Donaldson

When he pours, he reigns.

After being discharged from the Army, Brian Flanagan moves back to Queens and takes a job in a bar run by Doug Coughlin, who teaches Brian the fine art of bar-tending. Brian quickly becomes a patron favorite with his flashy drink-mixing style, and Brian adopts his mentor's cynical philosophy on life and goes for the money.

Tom Cruise Bryan Brown Elisabeth Shue Lisa Banes Kelly Lynch Gina Gershon Ron Dean Ellen Foley Chris Owens Louis Ferreira James Eckhouse Laurence Luckinbill Paul Benedict Robert Donley Andrea Doven John Graham Richard Thorn Robert Greenberg Harvey J. Alperin Sandra Will Allan Wasserman E. Hampton Beagle Parker Whitman Richard Livingston Bill Bateman Jean St. James Rosalyn Marshall Jeff Silverman Rich Crater Show All… Marykate Harris Lew Saunders Jack Newman Diane Douglass George Sperdakos David Chant Dianne Heatherington Arlene Mazerolle Paul Abbott Ellen Maguire Larry Block Kelly Connell Gerry Bamman Reathel Bean Peter Boyden Luther Hansraj Kenneth McGregor Liisa Repo-Martell Adam Furfaro Kim Nelles David L. Crowley James Mainprize Gregg Baker Jaap Broeker Vivian Palermo Garry Pastore Andrew Shue Karen Starr

Director Director

Roger Donaldson

Assistant Directors Asst. Directors

Rob Cowan Kim H. Winther

Producers Producers

Ted Field Robert W. Cort

Writer Writer

Heywood Gould

Casting Casting

John S. Lyons Donna Isaacson

Editor Editor

Neil Travis

Cinematography Cinematography

Dean Semler

Camera Operator Camera Operator

Julian Chojnacki

Lighting Lighting

Chris Holmes

Production Design Production Design

Art direction art direction.

Dan Davis Vlasta Svoboda

Set Decoration Set Decoration

Hilton Rosemarin

Special Effects Special Effects

Michael Cavanaugh

Title Design Title Design

Penelope Gottlieb

Stunts Stunts

Branko Racki Michael Estler

Composer Composer

J. Peter Robinson

Sound Sound

Richard L. Anderson David J. Hudson Mel Metcalfe Terry Porter John Dunn Kim Maitland Richard Lightstone Mark Pappas James Christopher Burness Dembrowski

Costume Design Costume Design

Ellen Mirojnick

Makeup Makeup

Rick Sharp Linda Gill

Hairstyling Hairstyling

Paul LeBlanc

Interscope Communications Touchstone Pictures Silver Screen Partners III

Primary Language

Spoken languages.

English Portuguese Spanish

Releases by Date

29 jul 1988, 01 dec 1988, 12 jan 1989, 18 jan 1989, 20 jan 1989, 02 feb 1989, 03 feb 1989, 08 feb 1989, 10 aug 1989, 23 feb 2021, 12 dec 1990, 22 jan 2003, 15 may 2013, 30 jan 2002, releases by country.

  • Theatrical M
  • Theatrical 14
  • Theatrical U
  • Physical VHS
  • Physical DVD
  • Physical Blu-Ray
  • Digital Disney+
  • Theatrical 16
  • Theatrical 15
  • Theatrical T

Netherlands

  • Theatrical 6
  • Theatrical R

104 mins   More at IMDb TMDb Report this page

Popular reviews

Sandy Settle

Review by Sandy Settle ★★½ 26

Story time.

Back when I was single (for context, I've been in a monogamous relationship for nearly 7 years), I worked at a gelateria with an espresso and liquor bar. Eventually I'd come to learn to bartend there myself, a job I got quite good at, though I can't say I ever enjoyed it beyond the actual making of drinks (bartending is actually a very difficult job, specifically for women, on account of the emotional labor one has to perform every night--emotional labor that does not lend itself much to personal relationships). But for awhile, when I was just a barista there, our bartender was a fresh-faced 22-year-old named Alejandro. I can't remember if he actually looked much like Tom…

isaac

Review by isaac ★★½ 4

tired: cocktail (1988) is a bad 80s movie about a bartending

wired: cocktail (1988) is a bad movie that unintentionally provides insight into capitalism in the reagan era and heteronormativity in the 80s

inspired: cocktail (1988) is a gay tragedy about two men, one who's lead down a path of self-hatred due to his inability to correctly conform to what capitalist patriarchy expects of him, and the other who learns to assimilate into it because of the outcome of his former lover's inner demons

Patrick Willems

Review by Patrick Willems ★★ 7

This sure does take a turn when Tom Cruise moves to Jamaica

amaya

Review by amaya ★ 2

me in the kitchen when i was 13 after mixing half a bottle of cough syrup and apple juice

SARAH🦕

Review by SARAH🦕 ★★★

cocktails and dreams is the worst name for a bar I’ve ever heard I’m sorry

Charlie

Review by Charlie ★½ 1

Me : hey I’ll just have a rum and co — Tom : I am the world's last barman poet! I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make. America is getting stinking on something I stir or shake. The Sex On The Beach...the Schnapps made from peach! The Velvet Hammer...the Alabama Slammer! I make stuff with juice and froth, the Pink Squirrel...the 3 Toad Sloth. I make drinks so sweet and snazzy, the Iced Tea...the Kamakazi! The Orgasm...the Death Spasm. The Singapore Sling...the Ding a Ling. America your just devoted to every flavor I got, but if you want to get loaded...why don't you just order a shot! Me:  sir! SIR! SIR CAN I PLEASE  JUST HAVE A RUM AND COKE

Casey Malone

Review by Casey Malone ★★★½ 3

I have some critiques but I feel like I lost the moral high ground when I spilled two full drinks on myself while watching this.

megs

Review by megs ★★½ 1

i can’t lie, Tom Cruise making cocktails is a very attractive thing to watch

Kat

Review by Kat ★★ 11

Im really looking forward to Cocktail 2. I hear Tom Cruise makes a martini while on fire and parachutes down a cliff!

Ruben

Review by Ruben ★½ 12

Complete and total shit, really funny doe

Josh Lewis

Review by Josh Lewis ★★★ 4

Sorta feels like if all the various cliches and dramatic arcs Cruise spent the 80s honing from Risky Business -> The Color of Money (including the lessons in capitalism via coming-of-age sexual awakening and ego-driven, soundtrack-heavy male rivalry contests) were nonsensically... mixed/shaken together... into a... Anyway, way more fun and successful than I expected as a simple yacht rock hangout movie about a cocky, dancing, grindset bartender-poet, and basically as interminable as advertised when it tries to transition into an earnestly romantic soap opera with narrative decisions so extreme and ridiculous they just became funny. Shouldn't work and arguably doesn't, but pure Cruise star power in this era truly was just a sight to behold so fuck it I'm throwing an extra star on here.

sneh

Review by sneh ★★ 2

this movie sucks so much. i love it

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10 Stirring Facts About Cocktail

By roger cormier | jan 23, 2017.

YouTube

One of cinema's greatest guilty pleasures, Cocktail starred Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan, a young man who unexpectedly achieves some fame as a "flair bartender" in New York City along with his mentor, Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown). Brian eventually takes his bottle-flipping skills down to Jamaica, where he falls for Jordan (Elisabeth Shue), a vacationing artist. Here are some facts about the Tom Cruise staple, in accordance with Coughlin's Law.

1. BRIAN FLANAGAN WAS ALMOST TWICE AS OLD IN THE BOOK.

Yes, Cocktail was originally a novel; it was written by Heywood Gould, and based on the dozen years he spent bartending to supplement his income as a writer. Whereas Tom Cruise's Brian Flanagan is in his twenties, Gould's protagonist was described as a "38-year-old weirdo in a field jacket with greasy, graying hair hanging over his collar, his blue eyes streaked like the red sky at morning." As Gould told the Chicago Tribune , "I was in my late 30s, and I was drinking pretty good, and I was starting to feel like I was missing the boat. The character in the book is an older guy who has been around and starting to feel that he's pretty washed-up." Disney and Gould—who adapted his book for the screen—fought over making Brian Flanagan younger, with Gould eventually relenting .

2. THERE WERE AT LEAST 40 DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE SCRIPT.

The script went through a couple of different studios, and dozens of iterations. According to Gould , "there must have been 40 drafts of the screenplay before we went into production. It was originally with Universal. They put it in turnaround because I wasn't making the character likable enough. And then Disney picked it up, and I went through the same process with them. I would fight them at every turn, and there was a huge battle over making the lead younger, which I eventually did."

Bryan Brown explained that when Cruise came on board, the movie "had to change. The studio made the changes to protect the star and it became a much slighter movie because of it."

Kelly Lynch, who played Kerry Coughlin, was much more forthright about how Gould's vision for the story changed under Disney, telling The A.V. Club :

"[Cocktail] was actually a really complicated story about the ’80s and power and money, and it was really re-edited where they completely lost my character’s backstory—her low self-esteem, who her father was, why she was this person that she was—but it was obviously a really successful movie, if not as good as it could’ve been. It was written by the guy who wrote Fort Apache The Bronx, and it was a much darker movie, but Disney took it, reshot about a third of it, and turned it into flipping the bottles and this and that."

3. FOR A BRIEF SECOND, DISNEY WASN'T COMPLETELY SOLD ON TOM CRUISE IN THE LEAD.

Recounting the kind of story that only happens in Hollywood, Gould told the Chicago Tribune about one of his early meetings with Disney heads Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg. "Someone mentioned that this might be a good vehicle for Tom Cruise," Gould recalled. "Eisner says, 'He'll never do this, don't waste your time, he can't play this part.' And then Katzenberg says, 'Well, he's really interested in doing it,' and without skipping a beat Eisner says, 'He's perfect for it, a perfect fit!' That's the movie business: I hate him, I love him; I love him, I hate him!"

4. BRYAN BROWN'S AUDITION WAS "DREADFUL."

Director Roger Donaldson specifically wanted Bryan Brown to audition for the role of Doug. Brown flew from Sydney to New York and, almost immediately after his 20-plus-hour flight, was sitting in front of Donaldson. "He did the audition and he was dead tired and it was dreadful," Donaldson said . "After he did it I was like, ‘Bryan, do yourself a favor—we’ve got to do it again tomorrow.’ And he said, ‘No, no, I’m catching a plane back tonight.’ I couldn’t persuade him to stay and do it again, so I didn’t show anybody the audition." Instead, Donaldson told the producers and studio to watch Brown's performance in F/X (1986); clearly, they liked what they saw.

5. CRUISE AND BROWN PRACTICED THEIR FLAIR BARTENDING, AND USED REAL BOTTLES ON SET.

Los Angeles TGI Friday's bartender John Bandy was hired to train Cruise and Brown after he served a woman who worked for Disney who was on the lookout for a bartender for Cocktail . Bandy trained the two stars in the bottle-flipping routines , and Gould took Cruise and Brown to his friend's bar to show them the tricks they used to do . Donaldson claimed they used real bottles—and yes, they did break a few .

6. JAMAICA WASN'T KIND TO TOM CRUISE

The Jamaica exteriors were shot on location, where it was cold, and Cruise got sick. When he and Shue had to shoot a love scene at a jungle waterfall, it wasn't pleasant. "It’s not quite as romantic as it looks,” Cruise told Rolling Stone . “It was more like ‘Jesus, let’s get this shot and get out of here.’ Actually, in certain shots you’ll see that my lips are purple and, literally, my whole body’s shaking.”

7. THE FILM SCORE WAS ENTIRELY REWRITTEN IN A WEEKEND.

Three-time Oscar winner Maurice Jarre ( Lawrence of Arabia ) was Cocktail 's original composer, but the producers didn't think his score "fit in" with the story. They particularly didn't like one cue, so they called in J. Peter Robinson to fix it. Donaldson liked what Robinson did so much, that he asked the composer to take over and do the rest of the work. "All this was happening on a Friday," Robinson said . "I was starting another film on the following Monday and told Roger that I was going to be unavailable. 'We're print-mastering on Monday, mate!!' Roger said. So from that point on I stayed up writing the score and delivered it on Monday morning at around five in the morning."

8. "KOKOMO" WAS WRITTEN FOR THE MOVIE.

While it was The Beach Boys, by then minus Brian Wilson, that recorded the song which brought the group back into the spotlight, "Kokomo" was penned by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas; Scott McKenzie, who wrote “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”; producer Terry Melcher, Doris Day's son; and Mike Love. Phillips wrote the verses, Love wrote the chorus, and Melcher penned the bridge. The specific instructions were to write a song for the part when Brian goes from a bartender in New York to Jamaica. Off of that, Love came up with the "Aruba, Jamaica ..." part .

9. ROGER DONALDSON IS SORRY ABOUT "DON'T WORRY BE HAPPY."

Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" hit number one thanks to its inclusion on the Cocktail soundtrack. The director heard the song on the radio one day while driving to the set. “I heard it and thought it would be perfect for the film," he said . "And suddenly it was everywhere. Sorry about that."

10. THE REVIEWS—INCLUDING TOM CRUISE'S—WERE HARSH.

To conclude his two-star review, Roger Ebert wrote , "The more you think about what really happens in Cocktail, the more you realize how empty and fabricated it really is." Richard Corliss of TIME said it was "a bottle of rotgut in a Dom Perignon box."

In 1992, even Tom Cruise admitted that the movie "was not a crowning jewel" in his career. And Heywood Gould wasn't pleased with it at first either. "I was accused of betraying my own work, which is stupid," Gould said . "So I was pretty devastated. I literally couldn't get out of bed for a day. The good thing about that experience is that it toughened me up. It was like basic training. This movie got killed, and then after that I was OK with getting killed—I got killed a few more times since then, but it hasn't bothered me."

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Cocktail Is Tom Cruise's Poorest-Reviewed Movie. The Guy Who Wrote It Might Get Redemption.

He's writing a sequel that takes place 20 years after the events of the original.

Bartender,

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Tom Cruise’s first and greatest hot streak as an actor lasted from 1986 to 1990, starting with Top Gun , followed by The Color of Money , Rain Man , Born on the Fourth of July, which got him his first Best Actor nomination, and Days of Thunder . But smack in the middle of that run was one major stinker: Cocktail .

In the 30 years since its theatrical release, Cocktail has not earned a reappraisal from critics. No one is saying: Actually, it was ahead of it's time . But it also hasn't faded away. Over the years, the movie has maintained a loyal audience, including in Hollywood. Some of which you might even call admirers of the film. The producer of one of this year’s buzzy award-nominated films told me members of his social circle spent the weekend Cocktail hit Netflix last spring watching the movie and exchanging messages about it. Matthew Rhys, the star of The Americans , also told me , possibly half-joking, that Cocktail is an all-time favorite.

In case you haven’t seen Cocktail , or haven’t seen it in a while, you should know it’s kind of insane. It takes place in three acts, across New York and Jamaica. Cruise’s character is a working-class guy from Queens, who’s striving to become an '80s era yuppie, yet he settles for a relatively quiet life owning a small bar and raising a family—an enormous shift his character makes in a few minutes. There’s a suicide. There’s a waterfall sex scene. There’s a very angry father who appears in a third act that wraps up way too quickly.

Tom Cruise in Cocktail

But I love the movie. Tom Cruise remains the most exuberant actor on the screen, and in Cocktail he’s at his second-most exuberant, behind only Jerry Maguire . (In fact, there’s some Brian Flanagan in Jerry.) Plus, Bryan Brown, who plays Cruise's mentor in the film, is so good they could've just made the movie about him. Elisabeth Shue, no surprise, is an absolute breath of fresh air.

And so last summer, I emailed Heywood Gould, who wrote both the movie and the novel upon which it’s based, asking to chat. He responded promptly, and one afternoon I spent an hour talking to the guy who wrote Cocktail about the movie’s plot, his reaction to its sour reception in 1988, Tom Cruise, and where the characters might be today. During our conversation, Gould dropped a bombshell: The 76-year-old is working on a sequel.

“I have a long treatment,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Here’s the plot of Cocktail : Tom Cruise’s character, Brian Flanagan, returns home to New York from the military in search of an executive-level job. This was a common trope in the ‘80s: If you’re a white guy, you don’t necessarily need a college degree or even experience to land a cushy corporate job. But in Flanagan’s case, no one is biting, so he ends up at a TGI Friday’s, where Doug Coughlin, played by Bryan Brown, gives him a job despite having never tended bar.

Tom Cruise And Bryan Brown In 'Cocktail'

Bartending, it turns out, suits Flanagan, and he quickly becomes locally famous for a routine with Coughlin that involves tossing bottles in the air. One thing leads to another and Flanagan lands in Jamaica, where he meets Elisabeth Shue’s Jordan Mooney, and, after breaking her heart, heads back to New York where Coughlin takes his own life. At the same time, Mooney, who’s pregnant with Flanagan’s baby, turns her back on her wealthy father to be with Flanagan. The movie ends with Flanagan opening his own saloon, and Mooney revealing she’s having twins.

Like I said, it’s kind of insane. But what’s most surprising is how shockingly unfocused the movie is for a Tom Cruise project. His movies are usually taut and to the point. This one lists in search of ballast and never decides if it wants to rebuke '80s greed or revel in it.

(One question that’s long dogged me about the plot is the timeline: over how long a period does this movie take place? Gould told me Flanagan spends between four and six months in Jamaica, which would mean the movie itself occurs over the span of about 18 months.)

Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Shue in Cocktail

The sequel, according to Gould, takes place 15 to 20 years after the events of the original film. Flanagan is a "star in the big club world,” Gould said. But he’s divorced and estranged from his twin daughters. “Now that he’s older, he’s trying to reform himself, rehabilitate his marriage and relationship with his daughters.”

To be clear: Gould hasn't pitched the sequel to anyone. The money people, as he calls them, haven’t signed on. “If anyone wants to see it they can,” he said.

I need to pause for a moment to tell you that Heywood Gould is like a boozy Forrest Gump of pre-Giuliani New York. In the '60s and '70s, he covered the crime beat for the New York Post , served in Vietnam, returned to New York and became a professional poker player, drove a cab, wrote books, articles, and TV and movie scripts—he co-wrote the 1977 movie Rolling Thunder with Paul Schrader—got himself into serious gambling debt and worked it off as a bartender at the Hotel Diplomat's nightclub in Times Square, all the while writing Cocktail (and other books). In 1984, he published Cocktail , which Universal bought. Then he adapted the novel into a screenplay that Disney acquired from Universal.

White-collar worker, Businessperson,

The book is semi-autobiographical, according to Gould, who said the two main characters are composites of people he'd met behind the bar. He is neither Flanagan nor Coughlin, although in conversation Gould occasionally sounds like Coughlin.

At last year’s Sydney Film Festival, Bryan Brown said in an interview that the original script for Cocktail was one of the “very best” he’d ever read. “Very dark ... about the cult of celebrity and everything about it,” he said. But when Cruise signed on for the film, Disney sought to lighten up the script.

This is an image

“They gave me a bunch of notes about making Brian more likable,” Gould recalled. “There were fights along the way, big battles with Disney about how likable to make him.”

A sequel that casts a shadow on the main character, adding nuance and depth to Brian Flanagan, would certainly be redemption for Gould. And in the age of reboots, it might be just the thing for Hollywood. (I mean, a dark reimagining of the Cocktail story is definitely something I'd see—and no worse an idea than at least half the reboots of the last decade.) But Gould isn't looking to redeem himself.

At this point in his life, he doesn’t harbor any ill will towards Disney or, for that matter, Cruise, who’s never said a negative word about Cocktail . Gould said he hung around with Cruise during the filming of the movie. Cruise, he said, would have him over to his loft on 13th Street for dinner parties. They even paired up for two-on-two basketball at the Carmine Street gym and once held the court for an hour and a half, according to Gould. “He’s a really good ball player,” Gould said. “I had to quit and get a cigarette because I was dying.”

(Look, I get it: Cruise is 5’7” and Gould was apparently a heavy smoker, but I love this story and I choose to believe it.)

Photography, Camera operator, Stock photography, Black-and-white, Cinematographer, Monochrome,

When the movie came out to bad reviews, Gould fell into a brief depression. “They hated it. They hated me. They hated everything,” he said. “I was pretty shook to tell you the truth.” Gould hung around the house for a couple days, until his wife came back from the grocery store with good news: She’d overheard two people saying the movie made them think. This snapped him out of it. (He’s told versions of this story in the past. Sometimes it’s his wife who overheard people discussing the film. Sometimes it’s him.)

But he earned good money from the movie, continued to write screenplays as well as direct. In the early '90s, he directed two movies he wrote, One Good Cop starring Michael Keaton and Trial by Jury starring Gabriel Byrne. After 19 years in L.A., Gould moved back to New York when, he said, "the money ran out." Today he continues to write and still collects checks thanks to Cocktail . Its appearance on Netflix also goosed his book sales. On the first night Cocktail appeared on Netflix, Gould said he sold 47 copies of his book. “I was stunned,” he said. “Netflix has been great for me.”

Gould told the Chicago Tribune in 2013 that he was not happy with the movie when it came out. So I asked him how he felt about it today, whether he had any regrets or would do anything differently. “It’s become an institution,” he said about the movie. “I get a lot of letters from people about it. I’m happy people like it. You don’t have to see great profundity in what I do; I’m just glad you like it.”

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Brian Flanagan

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Movie poster for Cocktail (1988)

How old was Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail?

Tom Cruise was 25 in Cocktail when he played the character 'Brian Flanagan'.

That was over 36 years ago in 1988.

Today he is 61 , and has starred in 86 movies in total, 70 of those since Cocktail was released.

How old do you think he looks in the movie?

In Cocktail, I think Tom Cruise looks:

Did you know?

  • Director Roger Donaldson has worked with Tom Cruise just once in his career.
  • Tom Cruise's first movie was as 'Billy' in Endless Love, released in 1981 when he was 18
  • Cocktail scores 6.06 out of 10 on TMDB .

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10 Things You Didn’t Know about the Movie “Cocktail”

10 Things You Didn’t Know about the Movie “Cocktail”

Cocktail is mostly about a young man’s ambitions that go awry when he decides to try and partner up with an older man that has a very cagey and suspect attitude towards the whole thing. Doug tends to think that Brian, played by Tom Cruise, is going to steal what little thunder he has left and manipulates his young friend more than once during the movie, to disastrous results each time. Eventually however Brian gets himself under control and for the love of the woman that he wants in his life, and the mother of his eventual children, finds himself starting his own business using the same name that his friend wanted to call his own bar, as a way of respecting the man that taught him so much.

Plus it’s a cool movie about tending bar.

10. Gina Gershon was incredibly ticklish.

Tom Cruise knew this and wouldn’t relent, which led to them falling off of the bed, which is in turn the take that was used.

9. Flair bartending is a real thing.

It’s something that’s only done by trained professionals but it’s very impressive to watch if a person knows what they’re doing.

8. There were a lot of women vying for the part of Jordan.

Jennifer Grey, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore, and Daryl Hannah were just a few that either wanted the role or were given consideration.

7. Robin Williams was almost considered for the role of Brian.

I could see him playing the part of Doug but not Brian so much. He could have easily pulled off the experienced but bitter mentor.

6. The film was released four years after the book was published.

That’s a fairly quick turnaround for a screen adaptation of any book.

5. The film won two Razzies.

This is about the worst award a film can get. Cocktail won for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay. It took a while to become a cult classic.

4. Tom Cruise and his wife fought off-set constantly.

He was married to Mimi Rogers at the time and apparently their fighting never stopped when the cameras weren’t rolling.

3. The book and the film were inspired by the life of a New York bartender.

This seems like a big gimme since few people would write about being a bartender that had never been one before.

2. You’ll see that almost every bottle that’s handled during the bartending scenes is Bacardi Rum.

This is largely because in flair bartending being able to keep a grip on the bottle is pretty important. If you have a bottle that doesn’t offer a sure grip or is shaped oddly like say a bottle of Midori or even a bottle of Vox vodka or Chambord, one little slip is all it takes to lose about $40-$60 worth of alcohol that could bring in about two or three times that much when being poured. Bacardi is also fairly cheap so breaking a bottle wouldn’t cost much.

1. The bottle tossing was not scripted. 

The actors wanted to feel like real bartenders so they started tossing bottles to one another for authenticity.

As great as it looks, this is not the average bartending experience.

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A lover of great stories and epic tales, Tom is a fan of old and new-school ideas. As a novelist and a screenwriter, he enjoys promoting one story or another. With 18k+ articles and 40 novels written, Tom knows a little something about storytelling.

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COMMENTS

  1. Cocktail (1988)

    Full Cast & Crew See agents for this cast & crew on IMDbPro Directed by Roger Donaldson ... (directed by) Writing Credits ( WGA) Cast (in credits order) verified as complete Produced by Music by J. Peter Robinson ... (music by) Cinematography by Dean Semler ... director of photography Editing by Neil Travis ... (edited by) Casting By

  2. Cocktail (1988 film)

    It stars Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown and Elisabeth Shue. It tells the story of a young New York City business student, who takes up bartending in order to make ends meet. Released on July 29, 1988, by Buena Vista Pictures (under its adult film label Touchstone Pictures ), Cocktail features an original music score composed by J. Peter Robinson.

  3. Cocktail (1988)

    1h 44m IMDb RATING 5.9 /10 91K YOUR RATING Rate POPULARITY 2,229 654 Play trailer 2:23 3 Videos 99+ Photos Comedy Drama Romance A talented New York City bartender takes a job at a bar in Jamaica and falls in love. Director Roger Donaldson Writer Heywood Gould Stars Tom Cruise Bryan Brown Elisabeth Shue See production info at IMDbPro RENT/BUY

  4. Cocktail

    Flanagan moves to Jamaica to raise enough money to open his own bar, where he falls in love with artist Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue). Rating: R Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama Original Language:...

  5. Cocktail movie review & film summary (1988)

    The bartenders in the film are played by Tom Cruise, as a young ex-serviceman who dreams of becoming a millionaire, and Bryan Brown, as a hard-bitten veteran who has lots of cynical advice. Brown advises Cruise to keep his eyes open for a "rich chick," because that's his ticket to someday opening his own bar. Cruise is ready for this advice.

  6. Cocktail (1988)

    Cocktail (1988) - Cast & Crew — The Movie Database (TMDB) Overview Fandom Share Cocktail (1988) ← Back to main Cast 57 Tom Cruise Brian Flanagan Bryan Brown Douglas "Doug" Coughlin Elisabeth Shue Jordan Mooney Lisa Banes Bonnie Kelly Lynch Kerry Coughlin Gina Gershon Coral Ron Dean Uncle Pat Ellen Foley Eleanor Chris Owens Soldier Louis Ferreira

  7. Cocktail (1988) Cast and Crew

    Cocktail (1988) Cast and Crew "When he pours, he reigns." R 1 hr 44 min Jul 29th, 1988 Comedy, Romance, Drama Movie Details Where to Watch Full Cast & Crew News Buy on Amazon Cast T Tom...

  8. ‎Cocktail (1988) directed by Roger Donaldson • Reviews, film + cast

    Cast. Tom Cruise Bryan Brown Elisabeth Shue Lisa Banes Kelly Lynch Gina Gershon Ron Dean Ellen Foley Chris Owens Louis Ferreira James Eckhouse Laurence Luckinbill Paul Benedict Robert Donley Andrea Doven John Graham Richard Thorn Robert Greenberg Harvey J. Alperin Sandra Will Allan Wasserman E. Hampton Beagle Parker Whitman Richard Livingston ...

  9. Cocktail (1988)

    Douglas "Doug" Coughlin Elisabeth Shue Jordan Mooney Lisa Banes Bonnie Kelly Lynch Kerry Coughlin Gina Gershon Coral Ron Dean Uncle Pat Ellen Foley Eleanor Chris Owens Soldier View More

  10. Cocktail (1988)

    Quotes. [Last Barman poem] Brian : I am the last barman poet / I see America drinking the fabulous cocktails I make / Americans getting stinky on something I stir or shake / The sex on the beach / The schnapps made from peach / The velvet hammer / The Alabama slammer. / I make things with juice and froth / The pink squirrel / The three-toed sloth.

  11. 10 Stirring Facts About Cocktail

    One of cinema's greatest guilty pleasures, Cocktail starred Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan, a young man who unexpectedly achieves some fame as a "flair bartender" in New York City along with...

  12. Watch Cocktail

    X-Ray R Comedy · Drama · Emotional · Heartwarming Available to rent or buy Rent HD $3.99 Buy HD $17.99 More purchase options Rentals include 30 days to start watching this video and 48 hours to finish once started. Details Customers also watched Subscribe, rent, or buy Rent or buy Buy Rent or buy Rent or buy Rent or buy Rent or buy Buy Rent or buy

  13. 25 Things You Never Knew About Cocktail

    Truly keeping it in the family. 1. They made up the term 'flugelbinder'. There's a scene in Cocktail in which the term 'flugelbinder' is used to describe the plastic part at the end of the shoelace, and made their inventor a millionaire. It's an interesting story with one minor flaw: 'flugelbinder' isn't a real word.

  14. The Guy Who Wrote Cocktail Says He's Working on a Sequel

    Mondadori Portfolio // Getty Images The screenplay for Cocktail was revised to make Tom Cruise's character more likeable, according to the writer. But I love the movie. Tom Cruise remains...

  15. Cocktail

    Cocktail Cast & Crew Tom Cruise Brian Flanagan Bryan Brown Douglas 'Doug' Coughlin Elisabeth Shue Jordan Mooney Lisa Banes Bonnie Laurence Luckinbill Mr. Mooney About Cocktail DRAMA

  16. Cocktail: Revisiting Tom Cruise as the world's greatest bartender

    By Chris Bumbray. March 19th 2023, 11:01am. In 1988 Tom Cruise was arguably the biggest star in the world. Top Gun came out in 1986 and was the year's top-grossing movie. It wasn't only a hit ...

  17. Cast of Cocktail (1988 vs 2023)

    Hello and Welcome to The Rewind Zone! Today we head back to 1988's Cocktail, starring Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, Elisabeth Shue and others. We meet up with the...

  18. Cocktail (1988)

    Summaries A talented New York City bartender takes a job at a bar in Jamaica and falls in love. Bent on becoming a successful millionaire, ambitious ex-military man Brian serves drinks at a New York City tavern and studies for his degree while waiting for his big break.

  19. How old was Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail (1988)?

    Tom Cruise was 25 in Cocktail when he played the character 'Brian Flanagan'. That was over 36 years ago in 1988. Today he is 61, and has starred in 86 movies in total, 70 of those since Cocktail was released.

  20. 10 Things You Didn't Know about the Movie "Cocktail"

    This is about the worst award a film can get. Cocktail won for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay. It took a while to become a cult classic. 4. Tom Cruise and his wife fought off-set constantly ...

  21. In the '80s movie Cocktail, Tom Cruise made a splash as a star

    Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown and Elisabeth Shue star in "Cocktail." a new drama directed by Roger ("No Way Out") Donaldson. A Touchstone Pictures presentation in association with Silver Screen Partners III, "Cocktail" is produced by Robert W. Cort and Ted Field from a screenplay by Heywood Gould, based on Gould's novel of the same name.

  22. Tom Cruise

    Tom Cruise. Actor: Top Gun. In 1976, if you had told fourteen-year-old Franciscan seminary student Thomas Cruise Mapother IV that one day in the not too distant future he would be Tom Cruise, one of the top 100 movie stars of all time, he would have probably grinned and told you that his ambition was to join the priesthood. Nonetheless, this sensitive, deeply religious youngster who was born ...

  23. Cocktails & Dreams (2015)

    A comedic version of 1988's "Cocktail" starring Tom Cruise, featuring comedian Chris Fairbanks as a desperate bartender named Chris who tries and fails to start a business with the main characters from the original movie, which leads to fist fights, stalking, and eventually murder. The film features Mike Upchurch's distinct style of film parody, digitally adding actors and props to old footage ...