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11 Movies About Addiction You Shouldn’t Miss

For better or for worse, today’s world is controlled by the internet. With the touch of a button, you have access to every movie, TV show, and YouTube video available. As the production of movies increases, so too does public consumption. And while this can be one of the best ways to distribute information and art, it can also be a faulty means of portraying people and addiction in an incredibly negative and incorrect light. 

Though there are hundreds of movies about addiction and recovery, there are very few that actually portray the struggles of this disease accurately. When you or a loved one has experienced substance abuse, it can be important to feel that you and your disease are accurately portrayed in recovery movies. The following list is a compilation of some of the best movies about addiction

Requiem For a Dream (2000)

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Actors: Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Conelly, Jared Leto, and Marlon Wayans

Based on the book written by Hubert Shelby Jr., Requiem for a Dream follows four people, all connected, as they deal with their own addictions. Harry and Tyrone are friends who embark on a drug-induced journey to becoming big-time dealers while Harry’s girlfriend, Marion, gets swept up in their lifestyle and becomes addicted as well. While all of this is going on, Harry’s mother develops an addiction to weight loss pills that push her deeper into psychosis. None of the characters have a happy ending in this hyper-realistic and sad reality of how destructive drug addiction can be to the lives of the addicted and to those around them.

A Star is Born (2018)

Director: Bradley Cooper

Actors: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga

A Star is Born follows the romance of singer Jackson Maine and song-writer Ally. The two sing together and work to push Ally’s music career forward, but Jackson’s drinking, drug addiction, and mental struggles cause problems for their personal relationship. This movie shows how alcoholism complicates relationships and affects everyone around them. 

Beautiful Boy (2018)

Director: Felix van Groeningen

Actors: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet

This movie is based on a true story written in memoirs by David and Nic Sheff about their father-son relationship as Nic battles with addiction. The movie not only details Nic’s experience with addiction and relapse, but it also shows how those affect the family unit and especially his father. Beautiful Boy shows just how heartbreaking it can be when you don’t know how to help your own child as they struggle with this disease alone.

Traffic (2000)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Actors: Michael Douglas, Benicio del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones

This movie follows several different storylines involving drug use. Point of view switches between Robert, who has been appointed to deal with the U.S.’s war on drugs, his daughter who has become addicted to heroin, DEA agents, the wife of a man in jail for distributing drugs, and a Mexican cop. This movie tackles issues dealing with drugs from the top of the food chain to the bottom, showing how it affects every single aspect of life.  

Walk The Line (2005)

Director: James Mangold

Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin

This is based on Johnny Cash’s life story and his struggle with addiction. It follows how he first began writing and singing when he was in the air force and how romance blossoms with June Carter despite being married with children. Their romance falters because of his addiction, but it’s ultimately June who helps him get and stay sober.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Director: Mike Figgis

Actors: Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue

Leaving Las Vegas follows the story of screenwriter Ben Sanderson after his wife and child leave him. He begins drinking in excess and moves to Las Vegas so that he can “drink himself to death.” The movie focuses on Ben’s impending death as he continues to drink despite the worry of Sera, a prostitute that he forms a relationship with. 

Ben is Back (2018)

Director: Peter Hedges

Actors: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges

Ben is Back follows a family and the surprising return of Ben Burns on Christmas Eve. He had previously been in rehab but left to spend the holiday with his family. Unfortunately, because of his addiction and struggle with drugs and people in the drug world, he puts his family in danger. His mother cannot let him go and does what she can to help him and protect the rest of her family. 

Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Director: Abel Ferrara

Actors: Abel Ferrara, Zoë Lund

Bad Lieutenant follows a police lieutenant who struggles with various types of addiction: drugs, gambling, and sex. He starts to think about these complications as he tries to solve the case of a nun’s rape. 

Basketball Diaries (1995)

Director: Scott Kalvert

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Bracco

This movie follows a teenager, Jim, and his struggle with addiction that causes complications when it comes to his dreams of being a basketball star. He starts embarking on a dark path with heroin and struggles to deal with his teenage years.

28 Days (2000)

Director: Betty Thomas

Actors: Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West

28 Days is about Gwen and her struggle with addiction. After ruining her sister’s wedding, she is forced into a rehab center for 28 days where she meets all kinds of people just like her. This movie might bring in some comedic aspects, but it shows that despite how difficult addiction can be, there are still moments in life that bring joy. This movie also shows how community amongst people struggling with similar addictions can be more beneficial in one’s recovery journey.

The Sound of Metal (2019)

Director: Darius Marder

Artists: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke

Ruben has been sober for four years and has spent his time working on music with his girlfriend. When he loses his hearing and has to learn how to live with this new disability, he struggles to keep his sobriety. Only through meeting people with similar disabilities is he able to remain sober and find purpose.

Rocketman (2019)

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Actors: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden

Rocketman is the movie about Elton John’s life from before he was “Elton John.” It details his struggles with drugs and alcohol and how people that were closest to him enabled this addiction and contemplation of suicide. But it also shows how he overcame that addiction and has worked to lead a sober lifestyle since then.

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