Addiction is a compelling topic for literature, art and film.
It’s a subject that speaks to the human condition and translates through every culture and society. Many movies have tackled the subject of addiction and obsession. Some of these movies can be hard to watch. For obvious reasons, this subject doesn’t always have the most upbeat and positive story lines. However, many of these films will leave a lasting impact on you as a human being.
*NOTE – These films are just the opinion of the author, and if anyone else has other movies they would like to add, please leave your opinion in the comments section. Let’s get right to it. Here is the Sober Nation top 10 list of movies about addiction.
10 – Half Baked
We are starting off our list on a light note.
Half Baked may not dive deep into the world of drugs and addiction, but it is funny as hell. The story is about a group of friends who smoke lots of weed and come up with ways to try and get their friend out of jail.
It is a lighthearted movie that centers around marijuana use and friendship. I never get sick of laughing at Half Baked. As we all know Dave Chappelle is a comedic genius, and he finds a way to take a ridiculous plot line and turn it into a great story. The movie lets you get to know and like these ridiculous characters. Never get’s old.
9 – Traffic
Traffic is stuffed with an all-star acting crew, and the directing is great.
The movie centers around a conservative judge who is appointed by the President to spearhead America’s “War on Drugs.”
Over the course of the film, he discovers that his teenage daughter is a drug addict, and we see how it affects his values and his beliefs. Personal experience will change your opinion of many things, but especially addiction. The tale is interconnected by the “War on Drugs”, and dives deep into the underground world of drug sales, business, politics and how all of this affects everyday people.
The film does a good job at questioning what is right and wrong, what works and what doesn’t work in our outlook on drugs and the drug war.
8 – Fear and Loathing is Las Vegas
Books are usually better than the movies, but this film does give Hunter S. Thompson the respect he and his book deserve. It’s centered around the character Raoul Duke, played by Johnny Depp, who is a drug addled gonzo journalist.
He and his large Samoan lawyer, played by the brilliant Benico del Toro, head to Vegas to cover a motorcycle race as an article for his magazine. The situation escalates into him and his psychotic attorney searching for the American dream, aided by almost every drug known to man in the boot of his red convertible.
Although the film is unorthodox, it gives a great look at how drugs and environment can quickly escalate a situation from bad to worse.
7 – Spun
If there is anyone reading this who knows what a 3-day speed run feels like then you can respect how Spun portrays the speed and intensity of amphetamines.
The movie uses a lot of camera tricks designed to simulate the experience of a high. Trust me, it almost feels real. Although the fast and intense cinematography becomes a little overwhelming at times, it will leave you as an audience member relating to the experience of the characters.
In short, the movie plot revolves around a crystal meth user who embarks on a drug-fueled three day adventure with other dealers and users. It is a film that recovered crystal meth users may want to avoid.
It’s not the most critically acclaimed film, however it is a unique and accurate portrayal of the life of a crystal meth addict.
6 – Candy
Drug users often times become just as addicted to each other as they do for their drugs.
There is an intoxication in love that is fueled by drug use. Candy tells this story in a deeply realistic way.
A poet falls in love with an art student who gravitates to his bohemian lifestyle, and his love of heroin. Hooked on one another as much as they are the drug, their relationship alternates between states of oblivion, ecstasy, self-destruction and despair.
Throughout all the pain and heart ache that you feel in this film, it leaves you with a sense of empowerment and gives testimony to the inner strength that addiction and pain can build. Great movie.
5 – Blow
George comes from a small family that struggles to make ends meet. In his childhood, George vows to never share the same fate as his family. He slowly climbs the ranks in the drug trade and eventually is responsible for 85% of the American cocaine market in the 1980’s.
George starts to lose control with his own cocaine habit, and as is always the case with drug kingpins, too much is never enough. This movie gives testament to the fast and hard lifestyle of the drug world and reminds us that there is no such thing as a successful drug addict.
Eventually, it all comes crashing down.
4 – Leaving Las Vegas
Leaving Las Vegas tells the story of Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his drinking.
He arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera.
The relationship that Ben and Sera form is beautiful and they are both exactly what the other one needs. However, at the root of it all, this movie shows the power and control that alcoholism can have over a person.
3 – Basketball Diaries
Even as young actors Leo and Marky Mark give great performances that range from excitement and jubilation to despair.
Jim Carroll is a high school basketball player. His life centers around basketball and his dream is being a basketball star. Once in a while he gets stoned with his friends, and step by step, he falls into the dark world of crime and drugs.
Once his mother expelled him out of the house, he goes into the streets of New York. As the time passes, Jim’s situation becomes worse. It looks like he will never get out from under his drug addiction. A must watch.
2 – Trainspotting
Trainspotting follows a group a young heroin addicts and explores the underground urban poverty in culturally rich Edinburgh. The film focus’s on Mark Renton, played by a young Ewan McGregor, and his personal attempt to kick his habit.
Mark focuses on how his addiction affects his family, friends and life in general. Trainspotting is not for the faint of heart. It is graphic and deeply personal and doesn’t shy away from any aspects of what heroin addiction is really like.
The film is ranked number 10 of the Top Ten British Films of all time.
1 – Requiem for a Dream
This movie is truly amazing. No film has come close in depicting what life as a drug addict is really like.
Subjects such as heroin use, amphetamines, societal norms, sex, money, power, obsession, prison and love are all brought right to the users attention. For those who haven’t seen the film before, be ready, because Requiem for a Dream will haunt you.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the film uses a patented cinematography style that shows short fast clips in between scenes to depict what the characters are experiencing and feeling. Requiem has a haunting sound track and the use of speed and music is an amazing interpretation of the psyche of a drug addict.
It’s a tough movie. In watching the addicts spiral out of control, we bear witness to the dirtiest, ugliest portions of the underworld addicts reside in, which in this film is in Coney Island, Brooklyn.
It is shocking and eye-opening but demands to be seen by both addicts and non-addicts alike. Without a doubt, one of the most powerful movies you will ever see.
If there are any movies you think we left off the list, don’t forget to leave your opinion in the comments section below 🙂