Movies about drug addiction, alcoholism, and recovery can be hard-hitting. Even triggering for some. However, they do serve as a strong reminder of how addiction can impact all areas of life.
Recovery from drug and substance abuse addiction is an active process, that we must observe daily to remain thriving in sobriety.
Movies about addiction and recovery can serve as stark reminders of where we’ve been and serve to remind us of how we never want to get to that place again.
That being said, here’s s list of some great movies that touch on the topic of addiction and substance use.
9 Movies About Addiction Related to Drugs or Alcohol
1. Barfly (1987)
Barfly is a semi-autobiography about poet and author Charles Bukowski. The film portrays the main character Mickey Rourke as an alcoholic with an alter ego called Henry Chinaski. The play was actually written by Bukowski himself.
In the film, Henry lives in a rundown apartment and works menial jobs. He finds solace in writing poetry to express his emotions. In the evening Henry would go to local bars and often get in trouble, hence the name, Barfly.
2. Affliction (1997)
Affliction is a film adaptation of a novel by the same name written by Russell Banks. The main character of the film is Wade Whitehouse, who is a policeman in New Hampshire.
In the movie, Wade is played by Nick Nolte, a man who is isolated from his dominating and abusive alcoholic father and ex-wife, and becomes obsessed with the notion of solving a crime involving a fatal hunting accident.
3. Betty (1992)
Genre: Psychological drama
Betty is played by Marie Trintignant, who is a young married alcoholic woman with two children. She has a bourgeois husband who finds out that she’s been cheating.
Betty is quickly removed from the family home by the rich family and separated from her children. Betty is taken in by Laure, who is played by Stephane Audran, and has a partner who owns the restaurant that they met in.
Betty later plots to steal Laure’s partner and is yet again ousted from that relationship.
4. Crazy Heart (2009)
Crazy Heart is a film based on a novel by the same name, written by Thomas Cobb. The film follows Otis “Bad Boy” Blake, a 57-year-old alcoholic singer-songwriter who lives on the road.
In the film, Blake is played by Jeff Bridges and he has a string of failed marriages (4 or 5) and a son that he hasn’t contacted for 24 years. He meets a woman by the name of Jean and begins to get his life together.
Unfortunately, his drinking starts again and a drunk driving accident lands him in the hospital. Blake ends up going through a rehab program and finally manages to get sober.
5. Clean and Sober (1988)
Clean and Sober is a movie about a successful real estate agent named Daryl Poynter (played by Michael Keaton) who suffers from substance abuse.
Poynter is addicted to cocaine and loses a lot of his companies money to addiction. He ends up in a sticky situation when he wakes up next to a woman who has had a heart attack. As he attempts to flee the situation, Poynter checks into a rehab center to hide.
During his time at the treatment center, Poynter realizes that his life is a mess and he is indeed an addict. Poynter falls in love with Charlie who dies in a car crash, and this almost led him to relapse.
6. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Genre: Crime Drama
Drugstore Cowboy is an autobiographical story based on a novel by James Fogle, who was a long time drug user and dealer.
The main character in the film is Bob Hughes and he is played by Matt Dillon. Hughes travels across the Pacific Northwest with a group of drug addicts, robbing pharmacies as they go to support their habit.
The film covers theft, crime, overdose and the complexities of life as s a group of young drug addicts.
After Hughes witnesses his friend’s death by overdose, he decides to get clean. However, things get complicated and he can’t escape his connections to the drug world.
7. Everything Must Go (2010)
Genre: Comedy Drama
Everything Must Go is a film inspired by Raymond Carver’s short story titled “Why Don’t You Dance?”
The main character Nick Halsey is played by Will Ferrell who gets fired from his job of 16 years due to incidents connected to alcoholism. Then his wife leaves him, his company car is taken back and his credit cards no longer work. Nick then gets a permit to hold a yard sale from his AA sponsor, whereby he sells his belongings so that he will have some money.
Nick is broke and has to go without alcohol which leaves him experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms. The film follows Nick as he struggles with divorce, relationships and where to live, because of his destructive alcohol misuse.
8. Trainspotting (1996)
Genre: Black Comedy Crime
Trainspotting is a film based on a novel by the same name written by Irvine Welsh. The film is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK and follows a group of heroin addicts.
The film centers around the themes of living through poverty, addiction, friendship, and relapse.
The main character of the film is 26-year old Mark Renton who still lives with his parents. The story follows the group of heroin addicts as Renton attempts to become sober.
9. When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)
Genre: Romantic Drama
When a Man Loves a Woman is a film starring Meg Ryan as Alice Green, a school counselor with alcohol use disorder. When drunk Green is wreckless and neglects her two young daughters.
Alice’s husband Michael (Andy Garcia) is an airline pilot who helps her confront the truth about her problem drinking and she enters a rehabilitation center.
The story has a twist when her husband cannot deal with Alice’s newfound freedom. Then they realize that he was codependent and he has failed to listen to what was really going on.
Final Thoughts on Movies About Drug Addiction and Alcoholism
Many of the movies about drug addiction and alcohol are heart-wrenching and difficult to watch for some people.
This might be perhaps because they are based on novels that were written by people who have suffered from the problems first hand and they are true to life.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of movies about addiction, but there some good films on the list to entertain for the next movie night.
If you or a loved one suffer from addiction or substance abuse, it’s important to reach out for help, and hopefully these movies will motivate some people to do just that.
Many important books and films were produced as a reflection of real life as it touched the creators of the works.
Substance use and addiction impacts people from all walks of life and as such, it has been a popular topic for many years in Hollywood in real life and on the big screen.