Nov 13, 2014 | By Tim Stoddart

10 Best Movies About Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

Addiction & Recovery News

Best Movies About Addiction and Alcoholism

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

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

fear and loathing is las vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is an adaptation of the literary masterpiece written by Hunter S. Thompson.

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


Blow tells the story of the famous cocaine dealer in the 1970’s, George Jung.

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

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

basketball diaries

The classic film, Basketball Diaries features a young Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Wahlberg.

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


An adaptation of the novel written by Irvine Welsh, Trainspotting is set in an economically depressed area of Edinburgh, Scotland.

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

reqiuem 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 🙂

154 responses to “10 Best Movies About Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

  • Though not directly about drugs and addiction, “The Fighter” with Christian Bale was a fantasic look into addiction and how it tears apart a family.

  • The movie where Denzel Washington played an alcoholic pilot.

  • When a man loves a woman. Best depiction of how alcoholism tears families apart and the resilience of the human spirit.

  • Sharon Kathleen Johnson

    9 years ago

    The movie THIRTY DAYS starring Sandra Bullock was a great treatment of being IN treatment.

    • Melinda Marengo

      8 years ago

      It’s called 28 days, and yes, it’s an awesome movie! My favorite.

    • Debbie McEuin

      8 years ago

      Thanks for naming this movie. I couldn’t remember the name of it but remembered it had Sandra Bullock. Best one ever.Can’t believe it didn’t make the top 10!

  • Janis Ellington

    9 years ago

    “My Name Is Bill W.” Best movie of all times!

    • Danny Thomeczek

      8 years ago

      Wonderful movie! My wife bought me that for Christmas after I was 1 year sober. Strangely enough, I bought her “when love is not enough,” that very same Christmas without either of us knowing. That movie is the counterpart to “my name is bill w.” Written from the perspective of bill w.’s wife Lois. Both great movies!

    • Who stars in this movie? I appreciated this article as an addiction counselor I am always looking for good movies to show in group settings. I’ve also been watching the series Breaking Bad and every episode has me on the edge of my seat.

  • Rush. Hard to watch, too realistic but shows what can happen when going undercover becomes your life. When a Man Loves a Woman. Good movie about alcoholism.

  • Jennifer Schopflin

    9 years ago

    Rachel Getting Married, Flight, and Smashed!!!!! Some of my all time favourites.

  • Deborah Carter

    9 years ago

    “The Days of Wine and Roses”
    “My Name is Bill W.” (Hallmark)
    “When Love Is Not Enough” (Hallmark)
    “Bill W.” (Documentary)

    • ABsolutely. I wish this column had looked back further than 30 years. ‘The Lost Weekend,’ ‘Days of Wine and Roses,’ and even ‘I’ll Cry Tomorrow’ resisted delivering a sanitized version of addiction. Although Susan Hayward chomps the scenery at times in ‘Tomorrow,’ a story of alcoholic singing star Lillian Roth,’ the depths to which her character plunges are startling – especially for the ’50s. These films all get a little melodramatic at times, but they remain powerful today.

  • Holy Cow there are a ton of em Clean & Sober, Flight, Bill W., Sideways,Big Lebowski, and Doesn’t John Goodman supply most of these Roles! He’s The Man!!!

  • FLIGHT! Ft. Denzel Washington. Absolutely amazing, and compelling story of how even the most “maintained” addictions can destroy you.

  • This list is shit.

    Where was “Oslo August 31st”, “Flight”, “Smashed”, and “Thanks for Sharing”?

    Clearly the author needs to watch some more movies.

  • 1. “My Name is Bill W.”

    2. “The Days of Wine and Roses”.

  • eric aymer

    9 years ago

    You forgot drugstore cowboy and the naked lunch…both burroughs

  • Definitely Fight.!
    #2 Clean & Sober
    #3 28 Days
    #4 Basketball Diaries
    #5 Training Day
    And if you really wanna glorify it

  • Leaving Las Vegas is one of my favorites & very hard to watch. One that came to mind is Sid & Nancy. One of the first I had seen years ago about the horror of heroine.

  • Great list, but you forgot two of the early classics:

    Days of Wine and Roses
    Lost Weekend

  • “My Name Is joe” by Ken Loach
    “Clean and Sober” by Ron Howard
    “The Man With The Golden Arm” (Frank Sinatra won an Oscar for this one I think)
    “Naked Lunch” which isn’t a great adaptation of the novel by William Burroughs
    “Nil By Mouth” a great English film with Ray Winstone directed by Gary Oldman
    “Little Fish” an excellent Australian film with Cate Blanchett

  • Of wine and Roses…a kittle black and white old school film with a powerful messages

  • Oxy Morons depicts the onset of OxyContin hittin the Boston area…not glorified, but true.

  • ‘Flight’ would be a newer one I would add, otherwise very impressed, Requiem would be my #1 too

  • Ben Kingley was good as an Alcoholic hit man in YOU KILL ME..

    • I think You Kill Me is one of my favorite movies about alcoholism and recovery. And certainly entertaining.

  • what about the movie ” GIA” true story, ” the lost weekend” , ” less than zero” ” when a man loves a woman” ” my name is Bill W” ” I’ll cry tomorrow” ” when love is not enough”

  • Paul Drohan

    9 years ago

    Days of Wine and Roses: terrific story of one alcoholic who made it and one who didn’t.

    The Lost Weekend: Older but, nevertheless, significant. DT scenes are sure to scare one sober.

  • 28 days
    Clean and sober
    Submarino(Danish movie)
    Thanks for sharing

  • cassandta

    9 years ago

    The top movie that should be on your list is 28 Days with Sandra Bullock….I watched this movie when I was in my disease of addiction & watched it in rehab….

  • Gridlock’d starring Tupac Shakur and Tim Roth. Not only does it pertain to the horrors of addiction, but also the very real struggle of trying to get clean.

    • I was waiting for someone tome toon this. Yes Gridlocked is an excellent movie about the hoops people have to jump through just to get drug treatment.

  • Another great movie about addiction is “Bar Fly” with Mickey Rourke. It focuses on alcoholism, and is very unsettling to watch. Also, “Less than Zero” withy Robert Downey Jr.

  • The Fighter with Mark Wahlburg, it’s a great movie and a true story.

  • Flight with Denzel Washington. As an alcoholic, when I watched this movie I swore they wrote the script based off my own character. It was powerful, one of the few movies capable of leaving me in tears.

  • Crazy Heart is a very powerful movie which deals with alcoholism, and its effects. Jeff Bridges won an Academy Award for his role in the movie.

  • Drugstore Cowboy. Maybe the reviewer was too young to have seen this one. Starred Matt Dillon. A classic. Poignant, funny, real. Was one of Roger Ebert’s favorites. Should have been at the top of the list.

  • Struggling to believe The Lost Weekend didn’t make the top 10…

  • Johnny aggro

    9 years ago

    The Man with The Golden Arm. Worth a mention as it cut new ground in 1955

    • Rachel Markham

      8 years ago

      Yes. The Man With the Golden Arm is one of the firsts. And I also love The Days of Wine and Roses. And, When a Man loves a Woman.

  • Good list but I would try and get Withnail and I in over half baked. It’s good but too much of a stoner comedy…a vast largely crappy genre with some stand out greats admittedly. Also Gridlocked. Good list though, solid choices and summations.

  • Michael O'Morah

    9 years ago

    You forgot about Floundering (1994) an incredible Indie Film about hitting absolute rock bottom and clawing one’s way out again!

  • OK, uh, Scarface anyone? If Blow is on the list, then Scarface should be at the top!

  • RAY
    The Man with the Golden Arm
    A Star is Born (Judy Garland version)
    My Favorite a Year
    The Helen Morgan Story
    I’ll Cry Tomorrow
    The Valley of the Dolls

  • Documentaries
    The Anonymous People (Greg Williams)

    Dear Amber (Nick Hamer)

  • Barry Coccomo

    8 years ago

    Great List! “One of my favorites is” Tender Mercies” a 1983 American drama film directed by Bruce Beresford. The screenplay by Horton Foote focuses on Mac Sledge, a recovering alcoholic country music singer who seeks to turn his life around through his relationship with a young widow and her son in rural Texas. Robert Duvall plays the role of Mac; the supporting cast includes Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Wilford Brimley, Ellen Barkin and Allan Hubbard.” Wikipedia

  • Savages is a great movie also…depicts what happens when your addiction gets you in trouble with the cartels.

  • Richard Lewis – Drunks
    Thanks for Sharing
    Chris Herren – Unguarded
    Charles Dutton – On the Corner miniseries

  • To write love on her arms. Is a powerful movie about addiction. If you haven’t seen it I suggest you watch it.

  • Michelle Humann

    8 years ago

    Party Monster featuring Macaulay Culkin. It is the true story of Michael Alig who was a New York party promoter whoes drug addiction made his life spiral out of control

  • There’s one not mentioned that’s a sleeper. It was made in 2005 starring Kevin Costner called “The Upside of Anger” Its an excellent movie about alcoholism & reinvention of love.

  • Shrooms. It’s not exactly about addiction but it does show how drugs can make you a 100% different person

  • Walk the Line ( Johny Cash story played by Joachim Phoenix ) is an outstanding portrayal of the destructive impact of alcohol on family , career and relationships

  • GO… Great movie about how drug culture in the rave scene can go horribly wrong.

  • Country Strong. I’m not a huge Gwenyth Paltrow fan but she did an amazing job in that role.

  • “When Love is Not Enough, The Lois Wilson Story”
    This is a fantastic movie about Bill W’s story from his wife’s point of view.

  • My fave is Holiday Heart. Very moving and realistic. So, yeah, heartbreaking.
    A drag queen takes in a drug addict and her daughter and helps raise the daughter. Starring Ving Rhames and Alfre Woodard.

  • “Wild” with Reese Witherspoon portraying Cheryl Strayed (Nyland), a real life story about a woman’s addiction to heroin, sex, and alcohol due to inner pain…she
    goes on a 100 day hike ionthe Pacific trail to find herself or better yet, create herself. #loveyanyland

  • “Thanks for Sharing,” and “What Doesn’t Kill You” are two good recovery movies.

  • No name this time

    8 years ago

    Another good pot comedy that appears not to moralize then sends it all up at the end – literally – in a blaze of glory: “Saving Grace” with Brenda Blethyn.

    • I was gonna mention this one too. One of Robert Downey Jr’s best films

  • #1 in my book is Ironweed. A great movie regardless of theme, and tops for alcoholism.

  • Permanent Midnight…. Ben Stiller plays a heroin addict… decent flick… Alice in wonderland….

  • When a Man Loves a Woman

    starring Meg Ryan as an alcoholic … great movie !

  • Billy Wilder’s Academy Award-winning–The lost weekend will make your skin crawl. Also, days of wine and roses.

  • Lady Sings the Blues with Diana Ross and Richard Pryor about Billie Holiday’s spiral into drugs which led to her death.

  • Barfly with Mickey Rourke, the champ with Faye Dunaway actually she’s in both movies , Salton sea, another day in paradise with James woods

  • The Rose
    Drugstore Cowboy
    My name is Bill W

    I’m sad that these great movies were not on the list!

  • Young Adult and Smashed are both films about addiction that I have found very true. Also the documentary Somethings wrong with Aunt Diane.

  • Berlin Calling with Paul Kalkbrenner is pretty good. Awesome soundtrack too.

  • For the less obvious, and movies you can show in a recovery center without triggering: The Last Samurai & Warrior.

    Champion, the documentary about Danny Trejo and May I Be Frank are excellent documentaries that every treatment center should own.

  • Pleasures Unwoven, Thanks for Sharing, Anonymous People, Unguarded, Acts of Worship, Flight, 28 Days, Facing the Dragon

  • You Kill Me (2007)
    The stuff with Ben Kingsley as an alcoholic hit man and Luke Wilson as his sponsor is priceless.

    Clean and Sober (1988)
    Boy meets Girl#2 and Girl’s boyfriend on AA campus after Boy causes Girl #1 to O.D. You get the picture.

  • I believe it was Frontline did a documentary called Children of the Night. OMG, all these years later I can’t forget it.

  • I saw a really great British film – about alcoholism called ‘Come on Eileen’. In this film the female lead falls off the wagon and destroys the relationships with her children. No sentimentality here. I saw myself so many times in her – made me sit up and take note 😉

  • Joseph W Merola

    7 years ago

    As a drinker needing recovery, the first time I tried to watch “Leaving Las Vegas” I had to turn it off about 30 minutes into it. The next time I tried was my first time trying recovery and it scared me to see so much of me on the big screen. No wonder Nicholas Cage won an Oscar for that.

    I remember an older movie late sixties early seventies where a group of “hippies” put LSD in the water supply of the town and then take it over.

  • Evangelist Sylana

    7 years ago

    Losing Isaiah……with Holly Berry. No one mentioned this movie.

  • Ada Hulthen

    7 years ago

    The Days of Wine and Roses – a very old movie but a powerful and fearless look at what the journey of alcoholism really means.

  • Tim Lampman

    6 years ago

    Leaving Las Vegas was NOT A GOOD FILM. It was abour burning ones life to the ground but absolutely nothing abour recovery. No Hope! Good movie but not in the top 10.

  • Tim Lampman

    6 years ago


  • Christine Rufkahr

    5 years ago

    The headline is misleading. This is a list of movies about drug addiction except for one of the movies.

  • 1945 film “The Lost Weekend”…Writer Don Birnam is on the wagon. Sober for only a few days, Don is supposed to be spending the weekend with his brother, Wick, but eager for a drink, Don convinces his girlfriend to take Wick to a show. Don, meanwhile, heads to his local bar and misses the train out of town. After recounting to the bartender how he developed a drinking problem, Don goes on a weekend-long bender that just might prove to be his last.
    Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

24/7 Rehab Help (866) 207-7436 Sponsored | Who Answers

Contact Sober Nation's Sponsored Hotline

If you are seeking drug and alcohol related addiction rehab for yourself or a loved one, the hotline is a confidential and convenient solution.

Calls to any general hotline (non-facility) will be answered by Behavioral Health Innovators

Alternatives to finding addiction treatment or learning about substance:

If you wish to contact a specific rehab facility then find a specific rehab facility using our treatment locator page or visit

To learn more about how Sober Nation operates, please contact us