Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in ‘A Star Is Born’ (Warner Bros.)
September is National Recovery Month, a time to raise awareness of mental health and substance use struggles. This is also a time to raise awareness of the possibilities of treatment and other services—and to eliminate stigma. In observance of Recovery Month, we’re bringing you a list of the best movies about addiction and alcoholism.
This subject matter isn’t the easiest to translate to the screen. Addiction hijacks and reshapes the brain, making good people behave in a way that’s unlike themselves. It’s not easy to make something so internal cinematic, or to make audiences connect and sympathize. We’ve selected films that go above and beyond in their representation of a difficult topic.
This list includes many films about substance and alcohol abuse, and we’ve also included pictures about other addictions, like workaholism and sex addiction. Some of these films actively explore the process of recovery; others do not. The primary requisite for a spot on this list is a truthful, respectful depiction of a complex, often misunderstood disease that affects millions of American families.
Here are 25 of the best movies ever made about addiction and alcoholism. The plots of some films are discussed in detail.
Related: 10 of the Best Movies About Mental Health
Ray Milland in ‘The Lost Weekend’ (Paramount Pictures)
- 1. The Lost Weekend (1945)
- 2. A Star Is Born (2018)
- 3. Flight (2012)
- 4. Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
- 5. Notorious (1946)
- 6. Krisha (2016)
- 7. Trainspotting (1996)
- 8. Clean & Sober (1988)
- 9. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
- 10. Smashed (2012)
- 11. Traffic (2000)
- 12. Half Nelson (2006)
- 13. When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)
- 14. Gia (1998)
- 15. 28 Days (2000)
- 16. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
- 17. Rachel Getting Married (2008)
- 18. Sid & Nancy (1986)
- 19. The Panic in Needle Park (1971)
- 20. Ray (2004)
- 21. Shame (2011)
- 22. Phantom Thread (2017)
- 23. Chandelier (2014)
- 24. The Basketball Diaries (1995)
- 25. Ben is Back (2018)
- The 5 movies about alcoholism every drinker must see
- Movies About Alcoholism You Must See:
- Top 5 Movies About Alcoholism
- 1. Leaving Las Vegas (1995 )
- 2. Withnail And I (1987 )
- 3. Barfly (1987 )
- 4. When A Man Loves A Woman
- 5. The Lost Weekend (1945 )
- Inspired to take action by these movies about alcoholism?
- The Big List of Addiction & Recovery Movies
- Make the most of your AMC experience
- RE 65: Movies about alcohol, sobriety, recovery, drunkness, and getting sober
- 10 Movies That Depict Alcoholism Realistically
- 1. Leaving Las Vegas
- 2. 28 Days
- 3. Everything Must Go
- 4. Flight
- 5. 5. Country Strong
- 6. Crazy Heart
- 7. Arthur
- 8. The Spectacular Now
- 9. Blue Jasmine
- 10. A Star Is Born
- Let’s Keep the Conversation Going…
- 8. 28 Days (2000)
- 12 Best Movies About Alcoholism of All Time
- Top Netflix Movies/TV Shows About Addiction
- Top 10 Films About Alcoholics
1. The Lost Weekend (1945)
Billy Wilder‘s classic film noir is a touchstone for addiction on film: highly acclaimed in its day, and the winner of four Academy Awards including Best Picture. Ray Milland won Best Actor for his portrayal of an alcoholic New York writer. The Lost Weekend also shared top honors at the inaugural Cannes Film Festival.
Lady Gaga in ‘A Star Is Born’ (Warner Bros.)
2. A Star Is Born (2018)
Melodrama sometimes gets a bad rap, one it doesn’t inherently deserve. Something of a spiritual successor to the great pictures of Douglas Sirk—glossy on the outside, and profound the deeper you dig—Bradley Cooper‘s remake of—well—three movies, centers on a fading rock star (Cooper) who’s a depressed mess, and a rising pop star (Lady Gaga) he becomes involved with.
Cooper’s pop masterpiece is a grand entertainment—and it’s an emotional juggernaut for anyone who’s been around mental illness and addiction struggles, one that doesn’t hit a false note. The longer you sit with it, the more you’re struck by the audacity of the first-time feature filmmaker’s achievement. A Star Is Born was nominated for 8 Oscars, winning one for Best Song (“Shallow”).
Denzel Washington in ‘Flight’ (Universal Pictures)
3. Flight (2012)
A titanic turn by Denzel Washington and gripping, ambitious direction from Robert Zemeckis drive this viscerally affecting dramatic thriller. Washington plays Whip Whitaker, an alcoholic airline pilot who’s investigated following a near-disaster in the sky. The ending of Flight ties things up in too neat of a bow. It would have been more effective to cut immediately after Whip starts telling the truth, in court. Other than that, this is a virtually perfect piece of work, and a must-see.
Flight received two Oscar nods, for Best Actor and John Gatins‘ original screenplay.
Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ (Warner Bros.)
4. Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Written by JP Miller (adapted from his own teleplay) and directed by Blake Edwards (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), this drama stars Jack Lemmon as a problem drinker who ropes his romantic partner (Lee Remick) into his lifestyle. In 2018, Days of Wine and Roses was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in ‘Notorious’
5. Notorious (1946)
Arguably Alfred Hitchcock‘s most exquisite film (yes, Notorious really is on the same level as Vertigo), this elegant thriller cast Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman against type as bitter lovers tangled in a post-World War II spy mission in South America. Bergman plays a drunk with a haunted past. Selected by the Writers Guild of America as one of the finest screenplays ever written, Ben Hecht‘s script succeeds on multiple levels: it’s a chilling, enraged response to the horrors of the war that were only just sinking into the public conscious, and it’s a note-perfect psychological exploration of a romantic relationship that’s toxic in both directions.
Related: The 10 Best Alfred Hitchcock Movies Ever, Ranked
Krisha Fairchild in ‘Krisha’ (A24)
6. Krisha (2016)
Trey Edward Shults made his debut feature on a shoestring budget in his parents’ home, using his family as actors. Krisha tells the story of a troubled alcoholic who seeks to make amends with her family over Thanksgiving. Inventively using stylistic choices of horror cinema to heighten the drama, Krisha is a tiny movie that will knock you flat. At its heart, this gut-punch of an indie is about family.
Related: The 15 Best Underrated Movies on Netflix Right Now
Theatrical poster for ‘Trainspotting’ (Miramax)
7. Trainspotting (1996)
Based on a novel by Irvine Welsh, Danny Boyle‘s iconic adrenaline rush, depicting a posse of heroin addicts in Edinburgh, is all at once hilarious, fun, nightmarishly horrific, and stomach-turningly gross—often all within the same scene. That’s what makes it so effective, so true to life and exhilaratingly cinematic. This was the international breakthrough of star Ewan McGregor, and the picture received a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nod. A sequel, T2: Trainspotting, followed in 2017.
Michael Keaton in ‘Clean and Sober’ (Warner Bros.)
8. Clean & Sober (1988)
In a departure from his early work mostly in comedies, Michael Keaton starred in Glen Gordon Caron‘s drama about a real estate agent whose life becomes unmanageable.
In his positive 1988 review, film critic Roger Ebert (himself a recovering alcoholic) said:
“Although the subject matter of this film is commonplace in our society—for every celebrity who checks into the Betty Ford Center, there are thousands of ordinary people who check in somewhere else, or who pick up the phone and call AA. Everybody knows somebody like this.
But the actual process of surrender and recovery is hardly ever the subject of films, maybe because it seems too depressing.”
Matt Dillon in ‘Drugstore Cowboy’
9. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Gus Van Sant‘s harrowing second feature, based on an autobiographical novel by James Fogle, chronicles a network of drug addicts in the Pacific Northwest. Starring Matt Dillon, Drugstore Cowboy boasts a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Also worth watching: Van Sant’s relatively lighter addiction-themed Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. Starring Jaoquin Phoenix and based on the life of artist John Callahan, it’s somewhat shaggy and meandering, but overall a low-key charmer about the power of forgiveness, and strength in community.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul in ‘Smashed’ (Sony Pictures Classics)
10. Smashed (2012)
Leaving an impression in everything from offbeat genre pics (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Final Destination 3) to top-shelf, award-winning dramas (Fargo), Mary Elizabeth Winstead has always been great. She’s characteristically terrific (as is co-star Aaron Paul) in this drama about a schoolteacher who decides to surrender after a string of embarrassing incidents. Sometimes funny, and also sad, Smashed is a thoughtful exploration of the emotional resources required to do the work. Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman and Octavia Spencer co-star.
Related: Craig T. Nelson Talks Recovery, Life Lessons and Random Acts of Kindness
Catherine Zeta-Jones in ‘Traffic’ (USA Films)
11. Traffic (2000)
Based on a British television serial, Steven Soderbergh‘s epic drama won four Oscars: Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Benicio del Toro), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. Traffic explores the trade of illegal drugs from several perspectives.
Ryan Gosling in ‘Half Nelson’ (THINKFilm)
12. Half Nelson (2006)
Ryan Gosling earned a Best Actor Oscar nod for his portrayal of a middle school history teacher who smokes crack in this altogether brilliant drama directed by Ryan Fleck, co-starring Shareeka Epps and Anthony Mackie.
Related: Tim Allen Talks About Tom Hanks and Celebrating 21 Years of Sobriety
Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia in ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ (Buena Vista)
13. When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)
One of Meg Ryan‘s all-time great performances is front-and-center in this romantic drama about a wife and mother whose problem drinking leads her to rehab. Co-starring Andy Garcia, When a Man Loves a Woman examines alcoholism as a family disease, and the issue of enabling. Ryan received a SAG nomination for Best Actress for her work here.
Angelina Jolie in ‘Gia’ (HBO)
14. Gia (1998)
HBO’s acclaimed biopic stars Angelina Jolie as American supermodel Gia Carangi, who became addicted to heroin, and died of AIDS-related illness at the age of 26. Gia co-stars Faye Dunaway, and Mila Kunis appears, playing Carangi at age 11.
Related: Beautiful Boy Director Talks Addiction, Family and Holding on to Hope
Sandra Bullock in ’28 Days’ (Columbia Pictures)
15. 28 Days (2000)
Directed by Betty Thomas, this drama stars Sandra Bullock as a newspaper columnist who enters treatment after ruining her sister’s wedding in spectacularly disastrous fashion. 28 Days could cut deeper for sure, but the performances are quite good, and the film is so entertaining and accessible that it’s become a staple for counselors and patients alike. Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Elizabeth Perkins and Steve Buscemi round out the supporting cast.
Ellen Burstyn in ‘Requiem for a Dream’ (Lionsgate)
16. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Ellen Burstyn received an Oscar nomination for her role in Darren Aronofsky‘s highly stylized psychological chiller about four Coney Island residents who succumb to the horrors of drug addiction. Requiem for a Dream hammers where subtlety and nuance would have been preferable, but goodness knows it leaves a mark, and Burstyn is flat-out unforgettable.
Related: The Babadook is the Best Horror Movie So Far This Century. Here’s Why.
Anne Hathaway in ‘Rachel Getting Married’ (Sony Pictures Classics)
17. Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Oscar winner Jonathan Demme‘s acclaimed drama stars Anne Hathaway as Kym, who’s treated as the black sheep when she checks out of rehab for a few days to attend her sister’s wedding back home. Many critics called this Demme’s finest film since The Silence of the Lambs, and Hathaway received her first Academy Award nod, for Best Actress.
Chloe Webb and Gary Oldman in ‘Sid & Nancy’ (Samuel Goldwyn)
18. Sid & Nancy (1986)
Alex Cox‘s punk-rock biopic was a disappointment at the box office, but critics hailed it, and its reputation has grown over time. Gary Oldman stars as Sex Pistols bassists Sid Vicious; Chloe Webb plays his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. In 2003, Rolling Stone named Sid & Nancy the third-best rock movie of all time.
Kitty Winn and Al Pacino in ‘The Panic at Needle Park’ (Fox)
19. The Panic in Needle Park (1971)
Screenwriters Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne adapted this gritty romantic drama from James Mills‘ novel of the same name. Centered on a group of heroin addicts in Manhattan’s Sherman Square, The Panic in Needle Park marks the second film appearance of Al Pacino, his first lead role.
Jamie Foxx in ‘Ray’ (Universal Pictures)
20. Ray (2004)
Jamie Foxx won a Best Actor Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG Award, BAFTA and Critics’ Choice Award for his portrayal of R&B legend Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford‘s musical biopic. Charles struggled with heroin addiction for nearly two decades, before successfully kicking the habit in the 1960s.
Michael Fassbender in ‘Shame’
21. Shame (2011)
12 Years a Slave helmer Steve McQueen set the high bar for sex addiction on film in this searing, brutal drama starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Fassbender’s performance is a masterclass, an embodiment of a man who is spiritually decomposing. In hindsight, it’s shocking he didn’t receive an Oscar nod.
Related: Parade’s Review of Wildlife
Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville in PHANTOM THREAD (Focus Features)
22. Phantom Thread (2017)
Workaholism is an anomaly among addictions. Because work is associated with so many good things and rewards, it’s an addiction that commonly gets a pass. But workaholism is not the same thing as working hard. The bottom line: it’s an all-consuming, unhealthy coping mechanism that can ruin lives. Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Oscar winning period piece Phantom Thread is, unequivocally, the best, richest movie about workaholism of all time. This is a bizarre, brilliant film whose triumphs are layered. That’s one of them. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a grief-stricken, toxic fashion designer who meets his match in a beautiful waitress (Vicky Krieps).
Related: Here Is Why You Should Watch Phantom Thread Over and Over (and Over)
23. Chandelier (2014)
This is a music video, but it’s way too important not to mention. With a hook of “1,2,3, drink” and staggering vocals, Sia‘s Grammy-nominated pop tune from the perspective of a “party girl” is an electrifying account of the release and demoralization of active addiction. The music video showcases precocious and haunting interpretative dance by Maddie Ziegler (11 years old when this was filmed), with disturbed expressions, movement suggesting she’s pulled by an unseen force.
This short-form has received universal acclaim, viewed over two billion times on YouTube. It can comfortably be called one of the best music video clips so far this century.
Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Basketball Diaries’ (New Line Cinema)
24. The Basketball Diaries (1995)
Based on Jim Carroll‘s autobiographical novel, Scott Kalvert‘s drama stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a high-school athlete who gets hooked on heroin. The drama is pretty conventional; the performance is something quite special, an early sign of things to come.
Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges in ‘Ben is Back’ (Lionsgate)
25. Ben is Back (2018)
Peter Hedges‘ drama stars son Lucas Hedges as an addicted teen who shows up at home unexpectedly for the holidays; Julia Roberts plays his mother. The plot of Ben is Back is too convenient at times, contrived, but individual moments and truth bombs make it worth watching. The best part is Roberts, explosively great here as a nerve-fried mother who will do anything to save her son—and must face the inevitable truth that she cannot, that such things are not in her control. Roberts keeps us invested, even when the strings of the storytelling show. So many parents who’ve been through this struggle will find much truth in this ripper of a performance.
McCaul Lombardi in ‘Sollers Point’ (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Honorable Mentions: Matthew Porterfield’s splendid, understated drama Sollers Point (2018) (more about the social ravages of addiction and drug trade than the disease itself), gambling drama Owning Mahowny (2003) starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas (1995), Crazy Heart (2009) starring Jeff Bridges, Permanent Midnight (1998) with Ben Stiller, Keanu Reeves in A Scanner Darkly (2006), TV film My Name is Bill W. (1989) starring James Garner and James Woods, electrifying and moving Elton John biopic Rocketman (2019) starring Taron Egerton, and Beautiful Boy (2018), an uneven, repetitive drama with strong, sympathetic turns by Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet.
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues and need outside help, a great place to start is the website and National Helpline for SAMHSA. There is no reason for stigma or shame—and there is hope.
Do you think we missed a film with this subject matter on this list? Let us know in the comments.
The 15 Best Movies of Summer 2019
The 5 movies about alcoholism every drinker must see
Movies About Alcoholism You Must See:
At my Quit Drinking Bootcamp’s I talk a lot about movies about alcoholism. I advise everyone to watch the movie ‘Click’ starring Adam Sandler. The film is not about alcohol but it’s very easy to replace the universal remote control that causes all the trouble with alcohol.
I encourage all my stop drinking members to watch videos, read books and become experts in how this evil drug managed to fool us so well.
For many drinking may be terrific fun. Simply to get plastered and have a giggle or just to unwind at the end of a working day with a frosty cold one.
Nevertheless, for many folks, drinking can easily invade their health and wellbeing and destroy their quality of life.
Top 5 Movies About Alcoholism
It compels the addict to do awful things to sustain their drinking routine and sometimes conceal their addiction. It trashes intimate relationships and household unions and is basically an omen of disaster.
I have selected five gallant blockbuster movies about alcoholism which deal with the topic critically and with a good understanding of the problem.
1. Leaving Las Vegas (1995 )
Perhaps one of the most famous movies about alcoholism. In leaving Las Vegas Ben is a screen author who has lost everything because of his problem with drinking. He goes to sin city to drink himself to death and whilst he is there, he builds a connection with Sera, a strip working girl.
They agree to a tense deal – Ben is not permitted to discuss Sera’s kind of work, and Sera is not allowed to get in the way of Ben’s alcohol consumption.
Movie Director Mike Figgis takes care never to make an ethical judgment regarding his characters. They are who they are which is their preference. The movie never dwindles to triteness. It is an illustrative and sincere demonstration of alcohol addiction and people who have given up all hope.
Nicolas Cage certainly was worthy of the Oscar for his character of Ben – he manages to communicate self-destruction and disaster in amazing torturous performing.
The chemistry in between him and Elizabeth Shue is incredible, and she gives a great performance as a girl caught in a horrible scenario, but completely recognizing of its implications. Gloomy, life-like and dismaying, however a remarkable movie.
2. Withnail And I (1987 )
This is another one of the great movies about alcoholism. The story of a couple of battling performers who inhabit a dirty flat whilst they wait on their vocations to blast off. Withnail is a showy alcoholic who is revolted at daily life and its prejudices.
He rails and blusters the whole movie. Marwood (the storyteller) is Withnail’s fellow star friend who stays with him and attempts to alleviate his most awful excesses.
These guys head off to live in a cabin owned by Withnail’s unusual gay uncle Monty where Marwood narrowly evades Monty’s focus. Withnail simply continues drinking his uncle’s expensive French wine. Recalled to the capital for Marwood’s audition, en route back home Withnail is caught driving a vehicle while drunk.
Withnail loses the gig and just drinks more.
Withnail and I is regarded to be among the best English cult motion pictures ever created. With great deals of quotable discussion and a frantically comical shift from Richard E Grant as Withnail, the movie is a fantastic witty encounter to enjoy.
It is, nevertheless, because of Withnail’s alcohol addiction, rather a depressing tale as well with considerable amounts of poignancy – like Marwood vanishing off into a greater life and Withnail left behind with his liquor container.
He quotes Hamlet at the end of the film. That makes Withnail a character of calamity and he recognizes it. This amazing movie is at the same time hilarious and sorrowful.
3. Barfly (1987 )
Barfly Henry Chinaski is a complete and total inebriate. He resides in a crummy flat in Los Angeles and spends his daily life drinking alcohol in pubs.
However, Chinaski also happens to be extremely smart and an author of novellas. He often antagonizes a hard barkeeper named Eddie, who one evening tosses him out of the pub for his intoxicated lunacy.
Henry visits one more pub where he meets fellow drunk Wanda. Now, Wanda is a kept woman and pays for her problem drinking with her partner’s cash. She takes a shine to Henry and tempts him back to her flat.
Henry is infatuated with Eddie. This winds up in aggression between both being brought out outside the bar, with customers gambling on who will win.
Bitterness burst out when Henry discovers Wanda had sex with Eddie. Nonetheless, Henry and Wanda stay and consume alcohol with each other. And he sends his manuscripts to publishing companies.
This is where Tully Sorenson, an affluent female publisher, locates Henry to consider distributing his portfolio of work.
She offers him an advance and they fall into bed together
Tully is of a separate class to Henry and he considers the upmarket lifestyle he might get if he tolerated her. However, eventually, that is a deception of his real self – a drunkard. He returns to Wanda who attacks Tully when she comes searching for him.
Tully understands she is throwing away her precious time on Henry and leaves.
Henry gets everybody in the pub a beer and reignites his fight with Eddie. The conclusion of the movie reveals them in one more brawl.
Mickey Rourke offers one of his finest turns as Henry Chinaski. He makes no attempt to hide his problems with the bottle. He is absolutely accepting of it and indulging in his alcoholism. Barbet Schroeder translates Charles Bukowski’s work in a way that angered the exceptional writer. However, it made a star of his hero Henry Chinaski.
The wrong crowd
Henry can not stand conformity and it is this that pushes him to consume alcohol and hang around with the wrong crowd.
As a drunkard, he feels right at home. Chinaski almost honors alcohol addiction as a lifestyle – as being the only genuine way to experience a person’s daily life. Regardless of what a sorrowful being he is, he can constantly conjure up a quip.
A more life-like image of the harmful edge of alcohol consumption – vomiting and awful mornings after would have made the movie more sensible.
4. When A Man Loves A Woman
Alice is a senior high mentor and her spouse Michael is an airplane captain. She has a kid from a former partnership and a kid with Michael.
Even though she is inherently a capable individual, booze makes Alice do dumb things. Eventually, she comes in tanked up, whacks one of her children. Then she falls through the glass pane of the shower. Her partner is notified and when she is in the emergency room, Michael firmly insists Alice heads to therapy.
Michael takes control of the home responsibilities and Alice flourishes in therapy. In her brand new clean role, Alice is less reliant on Michael and she is sturdier and more self-assured.
The remainder of the movie handles the rebalancing of their life.
The ending is positive and constructive. Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan come to grips with some fairly extreme feelings in this movie. Honestly, it is a lot more effective than I anticipated it to be.
It stays clear of the dexterous approach to alcohol addiction. I am clean for that reason. Every single thing is cheerful and fine in favor of exploring spousal relationship mechanics in between both leads in a more truthful and impacting method.
It is also invigorating to observe Meg Ryan as not merely some squeaky-clean girl next door. But in a meatier task where she whacks her children about, drinks in work, advise the neighbors to “f off” and stockpiles prescribed medicine!
Andy Garcia is outstanding in his capacity as the oppressed hubby in one of the best movies about alcoholism. His performance is extremely nuanced and complicated.
A considerate movie about co-dependency.
5. The Lost Weekend (1945 )
Our last one of the classic movies about alcoholism is The Lost Weekend.
Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend, 1945. Directed by Billy Wilder, this movie was the very first Silver screen motion picture to showcase alcohol addiction as a significant element of a movie. Don Birman is packing to leave for the weekend break with his sibling Wick. He draws in a bottle dangling outside the window.
At this point, we find out he is nothing more than an alcoholic.
Indeed, people, he is a drunk.
His partner Helen shows up. Don adores Helen but the partnership has major issues because of his alcohol consumption.
Don is propelled into an infernal weekend break attempting to get cash to maintain his addiction. This results in comprehensive deterioration. After he falls down the staircases. He is taken to the emergency room where he sees at first hand the monstrosities of alcohol addiction.
Movies About Alcoholism
Ultimately, Don chooses to quit drinking.
Ray Milland gives a remarkable performance as Don in the final of our movies about alcoholism. He changes himself into a raving junkie and he is not intimidated to reveal the despair and grubbiness of the alcoholic’s life. Drinking routines result in darkness, anguish, and devastation.
In 1945, this will have been an extremely provocative movie, alcohol addiction was a thing that took place behind closed doors. It had not been talked about in the open.
Billy Wilder depicted efficiently the failure of the alcoholic to drag himself together as well as the issue of enabling the alcoholic via shielding him from the most awful excesses of his issue (for instance, settling his rent and his expenses).
Inspired to take action by these movies about alcoholism?
If your own drinking has become something that worries you.
Don’t let the problem get as bad as the characters in some of these movies about alcoholism. .
Alcoholism is not funny. It is horrible, destructive and still woefully positioned as a “weakness” or “choice” despite its categorization as a disease for over 50 years by the American Medical Association. So, with this reminder that we shouldn’t make jokes, let’s make jokes.
When Bart Simpson won a wad of cash in his settlement from Krusty The Clown after swallowing a jagged metal “O” in his morning cereal, his young mind reeled in anticipation. He pictured himself at a roulette table, dressed in tie and tails, high ball in hand, buxom women hanging on either side of him. “$500 on red!” he declared, but the croupier (and lady luck) responded “Black.” His chips were taken, the women fled, and the busted young Simpson hung his head in despair. Dissolve back to the daydreaming Bart, gleam in his eye, who can only utter one word: “Cool!”
Who among us can claim to have seen the desperate and downtrodden and not envied them? Think of the freedom! Maybe I’m revealing a bit too much about myself, but I keep wondering when I’ll have my year of absolute drunken depravity, getting into fistfights and living in transient hotels. Because, by God, the movies have made it look, in the words of that impressionable young idiot Bart Simpson, “cool!”
Undoubtedly the most romanticized poet-warrior-boozehound of the second half of the 20th Century is Charles Bukowski. (Important note: Hunter Thompson and his hallucinogens take a backseat to the madness found in distilled spirits. There’s something of a classicists’ edge to a demon found so easily in a bottle.)
When Barbet Schroeder met Bukowski he asked why the deeply autobiographical author had a several-year gap in his collections. “Because I was drunk,” he responded. “Great, let’s make a movie about it,” was the logical step they both took. The result is Barfly, a harrowing look into the mundane struggles of a drunkard – or so they would like you to believe! So what is Barfly really? A make-believe la la fable about just how awesome it would be to throw your life into drink.
Next time you see some wino on the street, be steadied in the knowledge that his life is not agonizing boredom tempered by lifesaving libations. It is a roller coaster ride filled with fisticuffs, picking up strange women, getting seduced by magazine editors, engaging in very important and highly emotional discussions over grave socio-political matters (albeit often slurred), not-unwelcome mixed company flatulence and having everybody love you if you can pay for a round. The only truly depressing thing about alcoholics one learns from Barfly is that if they make a film about it, it will jinx the lead actor, in this case Mickey Rourke, into never making another film half as good again.
As Henry Chinaski (Charles Bukowski’s longtime alter ego) Rourke is unstoppable. He gets under the skin of this role, exposing himself in the least flattering ways, sticking his belly out, farting (I mentioned that already), acting greedy and childish and needy and getting beat up a lot. By Sylvester Stallone’s brother, no less. There’s nothing cooler than a guy who gets beat up a lot. What romanticizes Chinaski’s alcoholism so much is that we know he’ll snap out of it, become a famous author and then write about his alcoholism – so, therefore, it is okay to root for him. We know it is temporary, so it loses its fatalistic edge. We can glow in these freewheelin’ days, and laugh as Chinaski blows what little money he has on a round for the house. And every lit major can raise a glass and quote Mickey Rourke: “To all my friends!!!”
Barfly came out in 1987. Just shy of a decade later, at the apex of American Independent Cinema’s Great Awakening (when phrases like “a Miramax movie” could be understood by more than just insiders), actor Steve Buscemi wrote, directed and starred in one of the greatest shaggy dog films of all time: Trees Lounge.
Trees Lounge is set in a strange blue collar paradise on the border between Long Island and Queens, New York that people may think is phony, but I know is real. Buscemi plays a loser named Tommy who hangs out at a bar. That’s it. That’s not enough of a story for you? Well fuck you and fuck your whole family.
Tommy’s a mostly lovable guy – an unemployed mechanic with a busted car, estranged from his relatives, the possible father of his ex-girlfriend’s baby and only gettin’ action from the 16-year-old daughter of his friend. The medical and social dangers of alcoholism take a backseat to this deadpan summer’s tale, though a thick fog of minty urinal cakes waft throughout the story. The bar is the only outlet for Tommy, the only thing happening in his life, the only place where Tommy even has the potential for feeling content. When Tommy has to leave the safe zone to go blunder through another day of poor decisions, there will usually be a can of beer close by, a visual aid for the film, but a vital crutch for Tommy. Tommy lives in a close circle of friends, all of whom hurt one another, but all of whom care for one another the way only working class people can – they understand each other.
Buscemi is such a good actor that this life, so depressing on paper, is somewhat… cuddly. We wind up envying Tommy for his freedom. Only in the movies would a drunk pose no threat to safety. Only in the movies could a drunk exist in a world totally ruled by his own code. The code: get booze, crack jokes, duke it out, go in for a hug.
Significantly less huggable, but upping the adventure ante, is 1971’s Wake In Fright. Newly rereleased (by Drafthouse Films! But this movie was on our list before we realized that), Wake In Fright is a descent into a beer-frenzied hell of misplaced machismo.
The Australian outback seems, at first, a welcoming place. Are you a mild mannered schoolteacher with some free time and a little wanderlust? But no money and no place to hang your hat? No problem – a fella from down the pub will invite you for a drink and introduce you to his friends. Next thing you know you’re tussling with bleeding kangaroos in their death throes and sleeping in a urine-soaked shack. More than any other film on this list Wake In Fright is the most typically cautionary about the dangers of alcohol abuse, but it is so peculiar in its specificity that even after suffering with the protagonist through his grueling odyssey, it’s hard to not want to try it out yourself. (Maybe wiser people disagree?)
The TCM lover’s (would be) cautionary drunk film, however, is Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend. The best picture/actor/director/screenplay Oscar winner from 1945 is a dark and somber film about a destructive loser who won’t rest until he pushes away everyone dear to him, including his former idealistic self. Who among us wouldn’t wish to spit in the face of charity and instead scratch the itch of self-pity?
Ray Milland plays the wan wino Don Birnam. He’s rude to his financially supportive brother, to the upwardly mobile Time Magazine-worker fiancée who loves him and to the dizzy dame down at Nat’s bar who sees in him a fellow lost soul and, perhaps, the path to her own redemption. All he sees in her is someone he can mooch for another ten bucks.
Milland’s Birnam takes and takes and takes, giving nothing back except the selfish desire to drink and cry over the writing career that once seemed so promising. There are crippling monologues describing the paranoid thoughts of a drunk, the fear one has that any morning may in fact turn out to be a Sunday, with liquor stores closed and bars opening late. A famous montage of increasing desperation ends with Birnam deciding to hock his typewriter, only to learn it is Yom Kippur and all the pawn shops are closed. Through it all he wears rumpled suits, smokes non-filtereds from a soft pack, is addressed as “Mr. Boi-num”, and begins sentences with “Say,”. Plus there’s the near-Shock Corridor scenes in the hospital’s withdrawal ward, where grown men whimper like children and cry out, “Beetles! Everywhere! Ya gotta help me, doc!”
The point is, if you’re gonna destroy yourself, do it with a little pizazz and style.
Let’s stick with that word “style.” Surely there are some truly irresponsible movies that present dependence on drinking in a positive light, right? There are two classics that instantly spring to mind.
I still remember seeing Arthur (the real Arthur, not the dipshit Russell Brand Arthur) in the theaters as a really young kid. I was completely oblivious to the fact that he was drunk. I guess I was a stupid kid; I thought that Arthur was just a noisy, funny, pain-in-the-ass, kinda like Woody Woodpecker, and it wasn’t until some time later I realized that he was a souse!
Arthur is the story of a spoiled but lovable drunken millionaire who has everything in the world except the love of a good, honest woman. Think of an emotionally crippled Richie Rich. The first act affords the brilliant Dudley Moore plenty of screen time to stumble around Manhattan society sucking down booze and cackling. For years after Arthur’s 1981 release one could not go to a party without hearing some joker try and affect his slurring-Brit voice (the oft-quoted line being, “You mean you’re a hooker? I thought I was doing great with you!?!”)
Moore spent years perfecting this bit, both as a world class lush and, as part of Derek and Clive, an astoundingly funny act from him and fellow alcoholic Peter Cook (who died somewhat young of liver disease.) Arthur is not just schtick, though. There are some touching relationships, particularly between Minnelli and her working class father and between Moore and his over-the-top patrician butler played by Sir John Gielgud. Also of note, everyone ends up happy and no one has to go through the DTs.
But for drunken elegance there are really only two words, and those words are Nick and Nora. There are a whole bunch of Thin Man movies and I get ’em all confused, but the first one, the best one, simply called The Thin Man, proves that you can be blitzed out of your skull and solve crimes at the same time.
This 1934 comedy-thriller based on a Dashiell Hammett novel is big honkin’ Hollywood Mann’s Chinese Theater stuff with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, so it’s understandable that there may be resistance to dig this one up. Trust me when I say it is hilarious and daring and really clever. Line up a few martinis and you’ll be quickly reminded how everyone is oh so charming and droll when plastered.
With that I hope I’ve done all I can to scare you away from those two most awful concepts, sobriety and moderation. More importantly, the next round’s on you.
This was written for the “Cheers! A Celebration of Pub Life” issue of Birth.Movies.Death. in honor of Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. See The World’s End at the Alamo Drafthouse this Friday.
The Big List of Addiction & Recovery Movies
This list of addiction movies, alcoholism movies and movies about recovery contains 30 films with related synopsis about the lives and times of people struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism. Some of the movies will make you laugh, some will make you cry, but they’ll all make you think. Special warning should be made that some depictions in these movies are extremely graphic and could serve as a potential relapse trigger. Avoidance, guidance or support while watching such films is strongly recommended.
These films about addiction and substance abuse are not meant to glorify addiction or alcoholism in any way; instead, they should serve as a reminder to all of us in recovery that where we once were, others are now. And if we don’t take care, we could be there again. If you have suggestions for similar movies about alcoholism, addiction or substance abuse that aren’t on this list, please let us know if the comments. Otherwise, please bookmark and share this page, and good luck getting your hands on all of these addiction & recovery movies; some are hard to find!
Affliction tells the story of Wade Whitehouse, a small-town policeman in New Hampshire. Detached from the people around him, including a dominating father and a divorced wife, he becomes obsessed with the solving of a fatal hunting accident, leading to a series of tragic events.
Henry Chinaski (Mickey Rourke) is a destitute alcoholic who lives in a rundown apartment and works menial jobs when he can find them. An intelligent man and keenly aware of his circumstance, he finds solace in expressing his feelings and perceptions of the world through writing poetry and short stories.
Basketball Diaries (1995)
As a member of a seemingly unbeatable high school basketball squad, Jim’s life centers around the basketball court and the court becomes a metaphor for the world in his mind. A best friend who is dying of leukemia, a coach (“Swifty”) who takes unacceptable liberties with the boys on his team, teenage sexual angst, and an appetite for cocaine and heroin all begin to encroach on young Jim’s dream of becoming a basketball star.
Betty (Claude Chabrol’s ) (1992)
Betty (Marie Trintignant), a young alcoholic woman, is caught cold while cheating on her bourgeois husband. Wasting no time, he and his family arrange a quick divorce settlement, ousting her from home and keeping her away from the two children the couple have. One night she ends up in a restaurant called Le Trou (The Hole), where she meets Laure (Stéphane Audran), an older woman, an alcoholic herself. Laure decides to take care of Betty after hearing the heart-breaking stories of her being a victim of a rich and ruthless society. Betty receives care and friendship from Laure, who’s in a relationship with Mario (Jean-Francois Garreaud), the restaurant’s owner. The envy toward Laure for Mario grows each day and will drive Betty to artfully contrive the means to conquer her new friend’s lover. Laure realizes she has made a mistake by trusting her new friend and things soon begin to tremble between them.
Crazy Heart (2009)
Otis “Bad” Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a 57-year-old alcoholic singer-songwriter who was once a country music star. He now earns a modest living by singing and playing his guitar at one-night stands, in small town bars, in the southwestern United States. Having a history of failed marriages (four that he admitted to, although Jean said five) Blake is without a family. He has a son, aged 28, with whom he has not had contact in 24 years. He is mostly on the road performing, staying in cheap motels and traveling in his old car alone.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Late one night, a drunken Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman) is out trying to recapture his glory days of high school sports by leaping hurdles on a track field, dreaming about his moments as a youthful athlete. Unexpectedly, he falls, leaving him dependent on a crutch. Brick, along with his wife, Maggie “the Cat” (Elizabeth Taylor), are seen the next day visiting his family in Mississippi, waiting to celebrate Big Daddy’s (Burl Ives) 65th birthday. Depressed, Brick decides to spend his days inside drinking while resisting the affections of his wife, who taunts him about the inheritance of Big Daddy’s wealth.
Clean and Sober (1988)
Daryl Poynter is a successful but self-destructive Philadelphia real estate salesman who is addicted to cocaine. He embezzles $92,000 of his company’s money from an escrow account and then loses $52,000 to his addiction and the stock market. Waking up one morning next to a girl who suffered a heart attack from a cocaine overdose, he tries to cover up the drug use, but the police make it clear that they know what happened. There is also the matter of the company’s money. Daryl tries to flee the country but all flights are held up due to bad weather. His colleague Martin also refuses to put him up for a couple of weeks. Daryl then learns of a drug rehabilitation program which lasts about a month and which guarantees anonymity.
Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Public relations man Joe Clay (Jack Lemmon) meets and falls in love with Kirsten Arnesen (Lee Remick), a secretary. Kirsten is a teetotaler until Joe introduces her to social drinking. Reluctant at first, after her first few Brandy Alexanders, she admits that having a drink “made me feel good.” Despite the misgivings of her father (Charles Bickford), who runs a San Mateo landscaping business, they get married and have a daughter named Debbie. Joe slowly goes from the “two-martini lunch” to full-blown alcoholism. It affects his work and, in due time, he and Kirsten both succumb to the pleasures and pain of addiction.
Drugstore cowboy (1989)
The story follows Bob Hughes (Matt Dillon) and his crew of drug addicts as they travel across the U.S. Pacific Northwest in 1971, supporting their habit by robbing pharmacies and hospitals. After a tragedy strikes the group, Bob decides to try to “go straight”, but finds that there is more to extricating himself from the drug user’s lifestyle than just giving up drugs.
Drunks centers on an AA meeting where a pensive man talks about his troubles, but then soon leaves the group. As he walks the streets lost in memory, the AA meeting goes on, with tales from the formerly drunken lives of its members overlaid on the memories of the protagonist, Jim.
Everything Must Go (2010)
Salesman Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is fired from his job of 16 years following an unspecified incident in Denver related to his alcoholism. He sits in the parking garage after leaving the office, drinking from a flask. He then takes the Swiss Army Knife he was given as a farewell gift and stabs it into his supervisor’s car tires, only to leave the knife (which has his name on it) and run away when he is unable to pull it back out from the tire. He immediately drives to a convenience store and buys a large amount of beer. When he returns home, he finds his wife is gone, the locks have been changed, and his belongings have been strewn all over his front lawn.
While he’s unemployed again and trying to score his next drink, Hank meets another female barfly, Laura, played by Marisa Tomei, who feels sorry for Chinaski and helps him procure some alcohol with the help of her wealthy “sugardaddy,” an eccentric older man named Pierre. After a strange misadventure on Pierre’s boat, Chinaski briefly returns to Jan whom he has located at a hotel where she’s working as a maid. By the film’s end, however, Chinaski finds that he’s most comfortable being alone with just his alcohol and his writing to keep him company.
The Fighter (2010)
Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is an American welterweight boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts. Managed by his mother, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo), and trained by his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), Micky has not had a particularly successful career: He’s become a “stepping stone” for other boxers to defeat on their way up. Complicating matters, Dicky, a former boxer whose peak of success was knocking Sugar Ray Leonard down in an HBO televised match, has fallen apart since then, becoming addicted to crack cocaine. He is now being filmed for an HBO documentary he believes to be about his “comeback”.
On October 14, 2011, Airline captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) awakens in his Orlando hotel room with flight attendant Katerina Márquez (Nadine Velazquez) after a night of sex, drinking, drug use, and very little sleep. After using cocaine to wake up, he boards SouthJet Flight 227 as pilot to Atlanta. After Whip threads the plane through severe turbulence at takeoff, copilot Ken Evans takes over while Whip discreetly mixes vodka in his orange juice and takes a nap. He is jolted awake as the plane begins its descent, and the aircraft goes into a steep dive.
Gia Carangi (Angelina Jolie) is a Philadelphia native who moves to New York City to become a fashion model and immediately catches the attention of powerful agent Wilhelmina Cooper (Faye Dunaway). Gia’s attitude and beauty help her rise quickly to the forefront of the modeling industry, but her persistent loneliness after the death of Wilhelmina drives her to experiment with mood-altering drugs like cocaine. Although she is eventually able to break her drug habit after much effort, she has already contracted HIV from a needle containing infected blood and dies from complications of AIDS in 1986 at the age of 26.
Home Run (2013)
Pro baseball player Cory Brand is forced into a rehabilitation program in his Oklahoma hometown after several alcohol related incidents. He is responsible for injuring his brother in an alcohol related crash. Cory reluctantly enters a Celebrate Recovery. He eventually finds new hope when he gets honest about his checkered past, and takes on coaching duties for a Little League team. Cory reunites with his high school girlfriend, starts a relationship with his son and rebuilds his relationship with his family.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
On his second day in Las Vegas, Ben meets Sera, on the street where he first met her, introduces himself and offers $500 to go to his room for an hour. Sera agrees to go to his room, but Ben does not want sex. Instead, they talk and create an odd relationship. Their relationship is doomed; Sera has to promise Ben she will never ask him to stop drinking, and Ben is not allowed to criticize Sera’s occupation. At first the two are stable, as Ben is “totally at ease with this (Sera’s prostitution).” However, each becomes frustrated with the other’s behavior. Sera attempts to get Ben to eat but Ben stumbles for more alcohol.
Less Than Zero (1987)
Clay Easton (Andrew McCarthy) is a college freshman who returns home to Los Angeles, California, for Christmas to find things very different from the way he left them. His high school girlfriend, Blair (Jami Gertz), has become addicted to drugs and has been having sex with his high school best friend, Julian Wells (Robert Downey, Jr.). Julian has become a drug addict and has been cut off by his family for stealing to support his habit. Julian is also being hassled by his dealer, Rip (James Spader), for a debt of $50,000 that he owes to him.
Clay’s relationship with Blair rekindles and Julian’s behavior becomes more volatile. His addiction is worsening and since he does not have the money to pay off his debt, Rip forces him to become a prostitute to work off the debt. After suffering through a night of being sick from not being able to score drugs and hiding from Rip, Julian decides to quit and begs his father (Nicholas Pryor) to help him.
The Lost Weekend (1945)
A shot of the Manhattan skyline to an apartment, with a whiskey bottle hung outside a window by a thin rope. Don and his brother Wick are packing for a weekend vacation. Wick believes that Don, a recovering alcoholic, has been on the wagon for ten days. After Don’s girlfriend Helen St. James arrives to wish them bon voyage, she lets it slip that she has two tickets to a Barbirolli concert, but is going alone. Don urges his brother to go with her and says they’ll take a later train for their weekend trip. Wick, having disposed of his brother’s hidden supply of drink, becomes suspicious of why he is being hustled out.
My Name Is Bill W. (1989)
Based on the true story of Bill W., James Woods – in an Emmy? award-winning performance – plays the successful stock broker whose life falls apart after the stock crash of the 1920’s. As a result Bill W. and his loving wife Lois (Jo Beth Williams) must come to grips with his depression and downward spiraling alcoholism. In Bill’s quest for recovery, he forms a support group with fellow alcoholic, Dr. Bob (James Garner), which eventually leads to the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous. In this inspiring portrayal, My Name is Bill W. movingly depicts the trials, trauma and triumph of people and loved ones coping and recovering from substance abuse.
Permanent midnight (1998)
Approaching the end of a drug rehabilitation program, Jerry Stahl (Stiller) quits his job at a fast food restaurant on an impulse when an attractive woman named Kitty (Bello) pulls up at the drive-through window. The two check into a motel, where Jerry tells her about his life in between bouts of sex. A series of flashbacks, intercut with their conversations, details his working life to this point.
Raised on a sharecropping plantation in Northern Florida, Ray Charles Robinson went blind at the age of seven, shortly after witnessing his younger brother drown. Inspired by a fiercely independent mother who insisted he make his own way in the world, Charles found his calling and his gift behind a piano keyboard, but soon ran into problems with drugs and alcohol, dying of liver disease shortly before the release of this film.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Sara Goldfarb, an elderly widow living alone in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, spends her time watching infomercials hosted by Tappy Tibbons. After a phone call announces she will be invited to participate in a game show, she becomes obsessed with regaining the youthful appearance she possesses in a photograph from Harry’s graduation, her proudest moment. In order to fit into her old red dress, the favorite of her deceased husband Seymour, she begins taking a regimen of prescription weight-loss amphetamine pills throughout the day and a sedative at night. Despite Harry’s warnings about amphetamine dependence, she passionately insists that the chance to be on television has given her a reason to live.
The Rose (1979)
In 1969, Mary Rose Foster is a famous rock ‘n’ roll diva known as The Rose. Although a success, she is burnt out and lonely but is kept working by her gruff, greedy manager and promoter Rudge Campbell. Though loud and brassy, Rose is an insecure alcoholic and former drug user who seems to crave approval in her life. As such, she is determined to return to her hometown, now as a superstar. After being humiliated by a country singing star named Billy Ray whose songs she performs in her show, Rose takes off with a limousine driver named Houston Dyer and begins a romance with him. Rudge thinks Houston is just another hanger on, but Rose thinks she has finally met her true love. Houston tells her that he is actually an AWOL sergeant from the Army, and she tells him of her past in Florida. They have a rocky relationship and her lifestyle of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll” and constant touring lead her to an inevitable breakdown.
As Raynor predicted, Cates is soon put into a position where she is forced to inject drugs in front of a drug dealer. Raynor tries to intervene and tell the dealer that “his lady doesn’t fix”, but the dealer insists at gunpoint. Cates first tries nervously to talk her way out of the situation, then yanks off her jacket and with shaking hands begins to prepare a heroin shot as Raynor had taught her. Seeing her high level of anxiety, Raynor takes the prepared needle from her and injects it into her arm. While the dealer watches approvingly and laughs, Cates quietly vomits off screen.
Soon enough, Cates is addicted to the drugs she has to use to maintain her cover, and Raynor arrives home one day to find Cates combing the carpet, desperately searching for any crumbs of drugs that may have fallen. Raynor nurses Cates through her withdrawal while appearing largely unaffected by his own drug use. However, over the course of the film he becomes even more addicted than she. Eventually, both are able to get clean, but remain traumatized and scarred by their drug experiences.
Tender Mercies (1983)
Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall), a washed up, alcoholic country singer, awakens at a run-down Texas roadside motel and gas station after a night of heavy drinking. He meets the owner, a young widow named Rosa Lee (Tess Harper), and offers to work in exchange for a room. Rosa Lee, whose husband was killed in the Vietnam War, is raising her young son, Sonny (Allan Hubbard), on her own. She agrees to let Mac stay under the condition that he does not drink while working. The two begin to develop feelings for one another, mostly during quiet evenings sitting alone and sharing bits of their life stories.
Mac resolves to give up alcohol and start his life anew.
The Boost (1988)
Lenny Brown is a real-estate hustler looking to strike it rich. He is married to Linda, a paralegal and amateur dancer. The two are poor in money but rich in love. Linda vows to stick with her husband until she “falls off the earth”. He moves to California and goes to work for a prosperous businessman named Max Sherman, selling lucrative investments in tax shelters.
Everything is suddenly first-class for Lenny and his beautiful wife, Linda. But when the tax laws abruptly change, they find themselves $700,000 in debt.
They become increasingly desperate, made worse by the fact that a friend, Joel Miller, turns them on to cocaine for “a boost.” Lenny and Linda both become addicted. They lose their home, car and jobs. Linda becomes pregnant, but falls and suffers a miscarriage after using cocaine.
Heroin addicts Mark Renton (McGregor) and Spud (Bremner) — known by his nickname — are running down Princes Street pursued by store security guards. Renton’s circle of friends are introduced: amoral con artist Sick Boy (Miller), simple-minded, good-natured Spud – both also heroin addicts — clean-cut athlete Tommy (McKidd), and sociopath Begbie (Carlyle), who picks extremely violent fights with people who get in his way. Renton decides to quit heroin. He buys opium rectal suppositories from Mikey Forrester (Welsh) to ease the transition. After this final hit (and a violent spell of diarrhea caused by cessation of heroin) he locks himself into a cheap hotel room to endure withdrawal.
When a man loves a woman (1994)
The movie chronicles one woman’s (Meg Ryan) alcoholism and her husband’s (Andy Garcia) efforts to help her.
Meg Ryan plays Alice Green, a school counselor who has a serious drinking problem and is married to Michael (Andy Garcia), an airline pilot. Though she’s lighthearted and loving, Alice is often reckless and, when drunk, even neglects her children, nine-year-old daughter Jess (Tina Majorino) from a previous marriage, and four-year-old daughter Casey (Mae Whitman), whose father is Michael.
28 days (2000)
Gwen Cummings borrows the limo at her sister’s wedding after ruining the reception with her drunken antics. She crashes the limo while she is on her cell phone trying to find a cake to replace the one she destroyed. She is given a choice between jail or 28 days in a rehab center. She chooses rehab. However, she is extremely resistant to taking part in any of the treatment programs they have to offer, refusing to admit that she is an alcoholic.
After getting to know some of the other patients, Gwen gradually begins to re-examine her life and see that she does, in fact, have a serious problem. Her sincere desire to get well complicates her relationship with long-time, live-in boyfriend Jasper. She befriends Andrea, a 17-year-old recovering heroin addict who occasionally harms herself. All of the other patients help her see herself in a different light while she tries to get sober and come to terms with her alcoholism.
Do you know of other recovery movies or movies about addiction that are not featured on this list? Let us know in the comments, or send us a message and if we include your suggestion we’ll let you know right away.
Make the most of your AMC experience
Something tells us that when the Oscars next televise one of their precious ‘tribute montages’ — like they do for ‘comedy,’ ‘westerns,’ or ‘trains’ — it won’t be to honor that most essential of cinematic characters: The drunk. And yet, flip through the history books and you’ll see that some of cinema’s greatest and most-honored performances have come from actors playing men (and women) who were a little heavy-handed with the bottle.
And so, in honor of the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition (December 5), we’ve rounded our favorite movie drunks up in one place for our tribute to the best alcoholics ever to practice their addictions on the big screen. Pour a glass of Scotch and enjoy. Make it a double. -CN
1. Mickey Rourke in Barfly
Genius and addiction have been friends-with-benefits since the Renaissance. Mickey Rourke draws on that legacy in a thinly-veiled tribute to Charles Bukowski as Rourke’s Henry Chinaski drinks his way into love, trouble, and money. Chinaski’s whiskey rebellion is directed firmly against societal expectations, and it leads him happily toward a lifestyle of fights and feuds, often with Frank Stallone. Society may want Chinaski to be something, but all he wants to do is drink, write, and buy a round for ‘All my friennnnds.’ We’ll get the next shot, Hank. -EM
2. Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas
Cage’s jaunt is worth it just for that dance down the liquor aisle. On the suicidal bender to end all suicidal benders, Nicholas Cage’s Ben Sanderson was a stiff, cold cloud of whiskey breath to what had been a career of minor drunken buffoons and dusty-jeaned drifters. Cage had played on his off-kilter charm in other roles but he learned how to moderate it with Sanderson, lacing his humor with a ghostly horror and the force of nature that appeared is one of the more painfully honest portrayals of someone drowning in grief… and gin. -CC
3. Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend
For creatively blocked writer Don Birnam ‘one’s too many and a thousand’s not enough’ as Burnam, an alcoholic’s alcoholic, crumbles fast during a weekend bender in New York City. Milland, previously seen in films as a lightweight romantic comedy lead, caused a sensation as a man who starts out hiding booze bottles in ceiling lights and ends up in a straight jacket in the Bellevue drunk tank with the DTs and shrieking in mad terror. Seeing a actor take a slug of cheap booze in a Hollywood film would never be the same. -PB
4. Matt Dillon in Factotum
Matt Dillon plays Hank Chinaski (the only character to appear twice on this list) but he may as well be playing Charles Bukowski himself, Chinaski’s real-world equivalent. Donning shirt sleeves, a scruffy beard, and a slouching, scowling demeanor, Dillon looks the part, but it’s his approximation of Bukowski’s unperturbed balance between his drinking and his writing lives that has us wondering if he’s been possessed by Bukowski’s ghost. This is the unglamorous edge of the writer’s life (at one point, he wakes, vomits, and cracks open a fresh beer, all in the same shot), and Dillon’s fictional portrayal of L.A.’s skid-row poet laureate is spookily uncanny. Compare the actor’s drunken shenanigans here with the real thing in the fantastic documentary Bukowski: Born Into This and you’ll be hankering for a cold one yourself. -JA
5. Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year
O’Toole brings a grandiose, exuberant panache to this bigger-than-life drunk act in My Favorite Year. Swann, modeled after swashbuckling matinee idol Errol Flynn, is a force of nature as his liver absorbs 1954 New York City in carefree abandon as he prepares for a live performance on King Kaiser’s hit variety show. O’Toole adds slapstick tomfoolery to his acting creds as Swann disrupts the Stork Club, a chic party, and a family dinner in Brooklyn. Never addled, always quick with the riposte, Swann can claim center stage even when he staggers into a ladies room by mistake. ‘This is for ladies only’ he is informed. Whereupon Swann zips down his pants and remarks, ‘And so is this, ma’am, but now and then I have to run a little water through it.’ -PB
6. Jack Lemmon in Days of Wine and Roses
A lot of younger moviegoers remember the late Lemmon as the fussbucket companion to Walter Matthau in such fare as Grumpy Old Men and (maybe) The Odd Couple. Not so fast. Lemmon was an act
or of laudable depth who could bring out every facet of the everyman — even the dark side. This is especially apparent in Days of Wine and Roses, as he and wife Lee Remick see their lives fall apart because of alcohol. The scene where a drunk Lemmon tries in vain to find a bottle of booze hidden in his father-in-law’s greenhouse is shattering proof of just how far the once-talented PR man has fallen. It’s also proof of a great actor in his prime. -PC
7. Albert Finney in Under the Volcano
John Huston’s film version of Malcolm Lowry’s ‘unfilmable’ novel is an unvarnished look at a thoroughly seamy alcoholic haze, as seen through Albert Finney’s staggering and staggered portrait of Lowry’s Geoffrey Firmin. The character is changed from Lowry’s novel from a writer to a diplomat, but the result is the same. Finney and Huston don’t blink and the audience is forced to endure the debilitating pain. Dark clouds of anguish consume the film and the last half hour is a festival of torment of a tortured soul. By the end of the film, when Finney says ‘Hell is my natural habitat,’ you believe him, and need a couple of drinks yourself. -PB
8. John Belushi in Animal House
You’d have to head to YouTube if you want to see someone else slug an entire bottle of whiskey in one go. Belushi’s Bluto is the kind of drunk that stereotypes are made of — but oh, what a stereotype he was. From the window peeping to the food fights, Bluto’s nothing but a sauced party on two stumbling legs. Too bad it looks like Belushi wasn’t exactly acting when he guzzled all that liquor. Belushi died from an OD a quick four years after Animal House was released. -CN
9. Paul Giamatti in Sideways
For me, an alcoholic is only as good as what gets him hammered. And, when one’s drink is as artfully described and defended as Miles Raymond (Giamatti) is, I drink to the lad. About Pinot Noir, he says, ‘Oh its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and… ancient on the planet.’ And, over dinner: ‘If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any fucking Merlot!’ (That statement alone is credited with sending Merlot sales plummeting.) Singular passion. He may not be a classic drunk, but he’s our kind of wino. -JB
10. Richard E. Grant in Withnail and I
In his first role, Richard E. Grant more slithers than strolls through writer/director/co-star Bruce Robinson’s acidic indictments of the end of Swinging London in a fog of addiction and empathy. Grant owns the film. Drugged and drunk on both his artistic ethos and any number of mixtures of bourbon and pills, Withnail provided the perfect decaying entity of 1960s Britain, the slow-moving disillusionment of the ‘love’ movement into the decade that would bring both disco and Margaret Thatcher. -CC
11. Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou
Lee Marvin won an Oscar for his performance (actually a dual role — he also plays notorious tin-nosed hired gun bad guy Tim Strawn) as Kid Sheleen, a once stellar gunfighter who even had a pulp western written about him, but is now a dissipated, pathetic, and cartoonish drunk, so drunk, in fact, that even his horse is gassed. Sheleen has lost his way and his marksmanship is a thing of the past — he literally can’t hit the side of a barn. This was a star-making film for Marvin and if you want to know why just look at the reactions he invests Sheleen with through The Kid’s alcoholic haze. -PB
12. Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa
For Thornton’s Willie, boozing is a year-round occupation. When he’s not drinking away the money he makes as a safecracker/shopping mall Santa, he steals booze from neglectful bartenders while bladder control becomes wishful thinking. God knows how many kids he’s permanently scarred, especially the neglected child (Brett Kelly) who, believing Willie to be the real Kris Kringle, invites the human parasite into his life — for the better. Thornton’s alternately riotous and human performance makes the miraculous happen: You root for Willie throughout, whether he’s sodomizing the Big and Tall crowd or pummeling adolescent punks who threaten his charge. -PC
13. Dudley Moore in Arthur
How many drinks would it take to get you into the sack with Liza Minnelli? Precisely. That’s how drunk Arthur Bach happily remains throughout most of this admittedly funny but somewhat troubling movie. Arthur drinks as if he were attempting suicide, and then, despite the fact he has a full-time chauffer, he gets in his fancy roadster and drives all over New York with an open vodka bottle between his knees. A comical imp with an obvious death wish. Weird. Will he ultimately learn his lesson and sober up? Not if sequel dollars beckon! -DW
14. Paul Newman in The Verdict
When we first meet hard-luck, hard-drinking lawyer Frank Galvin, played by Paul Newman in top form, in Sidney Lumet’s smoky, booze-soaked legal puzzler, he’s nursing a beer and a cigarette while trying his luck at a pinball machine at his local tavern. It’s the perfect introduction to Galvin, whose life is as dreary and lonely as the January morning outside, with pinball his version of religion and booze his only companion. Things get worse for Galvin — we feel his hangovers as much as he does — before a crooked case gives him a shot at jump-starting his career, his self-esteem, and maybe (or maybe not) at putting away the bottle. -JA
15. Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Edward Albee’s scathing rotgut satire of crumbling American values in which a college professor, continually badgered by failure from his harridan wife (‘You know what you are? You’re a flop. A big, fat flop.’) and seeking solace from ‘his inadequacies’ in a sea of booze, is usually played on stage as a meek, sarcastic shell of a man (eg. Arthur Hill, Bill Irwin) but Burton lends his George a towering Shakespearean intensity and hot acid cynicism. When George tangles with his equally smashed wife Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) during a drunken and debauched night of ‘get the guests,’ their verbal and physical grudge matches shake the heavens. Burton’s venomous offer of a drink to his wife (‘Rubbing alcohol for you?’) and his curdled riposte when she explains why George should be grateful to be married to her, that a person would give their right arm for that chance (‘Alas, Martha, the sacrifice is of a somewhat more private portion of the anatomy.’) is pure, dry malice. But nothing tops Burton’s snap out scene when he lunges at Martha and screams, ‘You satanic bitch’ and almost chokes her to death. A true marriage made in the whiskey bottle. -PB
16. Joan Allen in The Upside of Anger
Obviously, this one isn’t about a happy drunk. Anger is in the title, and that’s just what Joan Allen’s character feels after her husband disappears, presumably to be with a younger woman (but — as she discovers — one should never assume). She turns to Grey Goose to drown her sorrows bottle after bottle. Shake in a little Kevin Costner (shake not stir) and you have the ingredients for an eloquent, memorable vodka-fest led by one classy lady. Cheers! – BF
17. Dean Martin in Rio Bravo
For one brief, shining moment, Dean Martin proved that he could act with the best of them. In Howard Hawks’s minimalist western, Rio Bravo, Martin plays a roving bum alkie, once the best of the best as a gunfighter, now a local joke and riddled with self-loathing and self-contempt. In a brilliant opening sequence, directed as if Rio Bravo were a silent movie, Martin’s Dude slinks pathetically into the town saloon, desperate for a drink. The local hooligans throw a coin into a spittoon and Dude licks his lips, set on groping in the murk for it. At the last possible moment for complete degradation, John Wayne shows up and kicks the spittoon away, setting the stage for Dude’s redemption. -PB
18. Dan Castellanetta (voice) in The Simpsons Movie
OK, this one’s a bit of a cheat. Barney Gumble’s role in The Simpsons Movie consisted of a mere trifle of typical Gumble g
ags, but his body of work demands serious recognition. For 19 years, Barney (voiced by Dan Castellanetta) has been the most awesomely funny town drunk in pop culture — and animated, at that — frequently providing comic relief on a program that has never needed it. As long as the Duff is flowing, Barney will keep Moe’s Tavern a place where everybody knows your name, assuming he’s conscious enough to notice someone entered the room. -EM
19. James Mason in A Star is Born
True, Judy Garland’s walking-on-thin-ice crack-up intensity charges A Star Is Born with electric jolts, but it is James Mason’s washed up movie star collapsing into alcoholism that is the center of the universe in George Cukor’s 1954 film. Mason’s drunk act at first bemuses Garland’s Esther Blodgett (‘Mr. Maine is feeling no pain’) but she is soon swept away by Maine’s drunken charm, finding out too late that the amusing and likable booze hound is a facade for a suicidal, hopeless shell of a man. Screw Gary Cooper. This is the performance that should have walked off with the 1954 Best Actor Oscar. Any doubts? Check out Mason’s harrowing bust-up of an Academy Awards presentation in the film, begging the Hollywood big shots in the audience for another shot (‘I made a lot of money for you gentlemen in my time through the years, didn’t I? Well, I need a job now. I need a job. I need a job, that’s all’). -PB
20. Susan Hayward in I’ll Cry Tomorrow
Hayward barrels through I’ll Cry Tomorrow in full-tilt masochism as real-life nightclub performer and sometimes Hollywood actress Lillian Roth in Daniel Mann’s episodic biopic. The film ends up trumpeting Alcoholics Anonymous but not before dragging Hayward through a gauntlet of sleazebags that includes Jo Van Fleet, Richard Conte, and Ray Danton, a collection that would drive anyone to stupefaction. It certainly worked with Hayward, who attempted suicide for real at home two weeks before she was set to recreate Roth’s own real life suicide attempt on a Hollywood soundstage, making Robert De Niro putting on the pounds to play Jake LaMotta seem downright limp. -PB
Lifetime Achievement Award: W.C. Fields
How could you pick a single performance from the late, great W.C. Fields to honor? He essentially played a drunk wallowing in some state of dysfunction or another in every movie he made. Perhaps our favorite for the purposes of the drunk list? His role as Egbert Souse (‘soo-say!’) in The Bank Dick, a classic Fields film by any measure. The quotes attributed to Fields (in character and out of it) are a running homage to drinking, including his classic line: ‘A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her.’ No, W.C. Thank you. -CN
RE 65: Movies about alcohol, sobriety, recovery, drunkness, and getting sober
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In this episode Angela, with nearly 10 months of sobriety, shares how she did it.
Here are some great movies about alcohol, sobriety, recovery, drunkenness, and getting sober!
Thank you to Marueen from Cafe RE who helped put this list together!
- Burnt (2015) Bradley Cooper 1 hour, 40 minutes Comedy/DramaSynopsis:
Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior. He cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.
Director: John Wells
Writers: Steven Knight (screenplay), Michael Kalesniko (story)
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Brühl | See full cast & crew “2. Smashed (2012) Aaron Paul 1 hour, 21 minutes DramaSynopsis:A married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of alcohol gets their relationship put to the test when the wife decides to get sober.
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers: Susan Burke, James Ponsoldt
Stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Nick Offerman | See full cast & crew “3. Everything Must Go (2010) Will Farrell
When an alcoholic relapses, causing him to lose his wife and his job, he holds a yard sale on his front lawn in an attempt to start over. A new neighbor might be the key to his return to form.
Director: Dan Rush
Writers: Dan Rush, Raymond Carver (short story “Why Don’t You Dance”)
Stars: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Christopher Jordan Wallace | See full cast & crew “
4. Shakes The Clown (1991) Bobcat Goldthwait Drama/Comedy/Murder
Shakes plods about his duties as party clown, and uses all of his free time getting seriously drunk. Binky, another clown, wins the spot on a local kiddie show, which depresses Shakes even more, and his boss threatens him with unemployment if he can’t get his act under control. When someone murders Shakes’ boss and makes it look like Shakes did it, he goes undercover, posing as a hated mime, and tries to find information that will clear his name.
– Written by Ed Sutton <
5. My Name Is Bill W. (1989) James Woods
Drama (TV Movie)
Based on the true story of Bill W. (James Woods), a successful stock broker whose life falls apart after the stock crash of the 20’s and how he comes to grips with his alcoholism. Along with a fellow alcoholic (James Garner) he forms a support group that would eventually become Alcoholics Anonymous.
– Written by Humberto Amador
6. Barfly (1987) Mickey Rourke
Drama 1 hour, 40 minutes
Based on the life of successful poet Charles Bukowski and his exploits in Hollywood during the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Director: Barbet Schroeder
Writer: Charles Bukowski
Stars: Mickey Rourke, Faye Dunaway, Alice Krige | See full cast & crew “
7. Crazy Heart (2009) Jeff Bridges,
Drama/Music/ Romance 1 hour, 52 minutes
A faded country music musician is forced to reassess his dysfunctional life during a doomed romance that also inspires him.
Director: Scott Cooper
Writers: Scott Cooper, Thomas Cobb (novel)
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell | See full cast & crew “
8. Days of Wine And Roses (1962) Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick
An alcoholic falls in love with and gets married to a young woman, whom he systematically addicts to booze so they can share his “passion” together.
Director: Blake Edwards
Writer: J.P. Miller (as JP Miller)
Stars: Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford | See full cast & crew “
9. Drunks (1995) Richard Lewis, Liza Harris Drama
At the beginning of a nightly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Jim seems particularly troubled. His sponsor encourages him to talk that night, the first time in seven months, so he does – and leaves the meeting right after. As Jim wanders the night, searching for some solace in his old stomping grounds, bars and parks where he bought drugs, the meeting goes on, and we hear the stories of survivors and addicts – some, like Louis, who claim to have wandered in looking for choir practice, who don’t call themselves alcoholic, and others, like Joseph, whose drinking almost caused the death of his child – as they talk about their lives at the meeting.
– Written by Gary Dickerson <[email protected]>
10. Rachel Getting Married (2008) Anne Hathaway
Drama 1 hour, 53 minutes
A young woman who has been in and out of rehab for the past 10 years returns home for the weekend for her sister’s wedding.
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writer: Jenny Lumet
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger | See full cast & crew “
11. Unguarded – The Chris Herren Story (2013) Chris Herren
Chris Herren was a “can’t miss” basketball superstar until drug addiction eventually destroyed his career. With the support of his wife and family, Herren struggles to conquer his demons and reclaim his life.
Director: Jonathan Hock
Stars: Chris Herren, Rick Pitino, Bill Reynolds |See full cast & crew “
12. 28 Days – Sandra Bullock (2000) Drama/Comedy 1 hour, 43 minutes
A big-city newspaper columnist is forced to enter a drug and alcohol rehab center after ruining her sister’s wedding and crashing a stolen limousine.
Director: Betty Thomas
Writer: Susannah Grant
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West | See full cast & crew “
13. When A Man Loves A Woman – Meg Ryan, Andy Garcia (1994)
Drama 2 hours, 6 minutes
An airline pilot and his wife are forced to face the consequences of her alcoholism when her addictions threaten her life and their daughter’s safety. While the woman enters detox, her husband must face the truth of his enabling behavior.
Director: Luis Mandoki
Writers: Ronald Bass, Al Franken
Stars: Meg Ryan, Andy Garcia, Ellen Burstyn | See full cast & crew “
14. Leaving Las Vegas – Nic Cage, Elizabeth Shue (1995)
Drama 1 hour, 51 minutes
Nicolas Cage garnered a Best Actor Oscar for his hauntingly disturbing “Leaving Las Vegas” is a dark and tragic film that shows you how low you can fall and just how bad things can get. It portrays a dead-on picture of alcoholism and what exactly one goes through when they’ve hit rock bottom. As tragic as it is, this is a very beautiful and well-done film that keeps your attention to the bitter end.
Ben Sanderson (Nicholas Cage) is an alcoholic who has nothing left to live for but the very booze that seems to be the only happiness he can find. His friends want nothing to do with him and women are disgusted by him. After being let go from his job, Ben burns all of his possessions and moves to Las Vegas, where his only plan is to drink himself to death. In a short amount of time he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a lonely hooker who has been through it all. An unexpected bond is formed between the two and love falls upon them that can only end in tragedy.
Boy, was this a hard movie to watch, but it was so well-done and executed. You are able to sympathize with both Ben and Sera, despite the paths they have chosen. Nicholas Cage was amazing and brilliant. No wonder why he won an Academy Award for his performance. You really buy into the fact that he is this sad character who wants nothing more but to destroy himself by the only thing that can bring him some sense of false happiness. Shue is also terrific in her role and should be applauded as well. The two are explosive as a team and can really bring the house down.
The DVD is fair; nothing too special. You can have your choice of either watching the movie in widescreen or full screen. The picture for the most part looks good; not the best, but good. The main special feature this DVD offers is a trailer for the film and a bonus secret page.Read more ›
15. Clean And Sober – Michael Keaton (1988)
Drama 1 hour, 51 minutes
Nicolas Cage garnered a Best Actor Oscar for his hauntingly disturbing
A hustling drug addict checks himself into rehab to escape trouble with the law, and realizes that it’s exactly what he needs.
Director: Glenn Gordon Caron
Writer: Tod Carroll
Stars: Michael Keaton, Kathy Baker, Morgan Freeman | See full cast & crew “
16. The Basketball Diaries – Leonardo DiCaprio (1995)
Drama/Biography 1 hour, 42 minutes
Nicolas Cage garnered a Best Actor Oscar for his hauntingly disturbing
A teenager finds his dreams of becoming a basketball star threatened after he free falls into the harrowing world of drug addiction.
Director: Scott Kalvert
Writers: Jim Carroll (novel), Bryan Goluboff (screenplay)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Bracco, Marilyn Sokol |
17. The Lost Weekend (1945) Drama 1 hour, 41 minutes
The desperate life of a chronic alcoholic is followed through a four day drinking bout.
Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Charles R. Jackson (from the novel by), Charles Brackett (screen play) |1 more credit “
Stars: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry | See full cast & crew
18. Shame (2011) Drama 1 hour, 41 minutes
In New York City, Brandon’s carefully cultivated private life — which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction — is disrupted when his sister arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.
Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: Steve McQueen, Abi Morgan | 1 more credit “
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale | See full cast & crew “
19. Postcards From The Edge (1990) Drama 1 hour, 41 minutes
A substance-addicted actress tries to look on the bright side even as she is forced to move back in with her mother to avoid unemployment.
Director: Mike Nichols
Writers: Carrie Fisher (book), Carrie Fisher (screenplay)
Stars: Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, Dennis Quaid | See full cast & crew
20. Flight (2012) Drama
2 hours, 10 minutes
An airline pilot saves almost all his passengers on his malfunctioning airliner which eventually crashed, but an investigation into the accident reveals something troubling.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: John Gatins
Stars: Denzel Washington, Nadine Velazquez, Don Cheadle | See full cast & crew
21. Thanks For Sharing (2013) Drama/Comedy 2 hours, 10 minutes
A romantic comedy that brings together three disparate characters who are learning to face a challenging and often confusing world as they struggle together against a common demon: sex addiction.
Director: Stuart Blumberg
Writers: Stuart Blumberg, Matt Winston
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow | See full cast & crew
22. Suck It Up Buttercup (2014) Drama 1 hours, 27 minutes
Drug addiction’s collateral damage is starkly revealed when a former honor student, newly addicted to prescription pills, triggers a chain of events that devastates her friends and threatens to tear her family apart.
Director: Malindi Fickle
Writers: Malindi Fickle, Kris Lienert
Stars: Lacy Marie Meyer, Robyn Ross, Gregory Konow | See full cast & crew
23. Half Nelson (2006) Drama 1 hours, 46 minutes
An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret.
Director: Ryan Fleck
Writers: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Shareeka Epps | See full cast & crew
24. Amy (2015) Documentary 2 hours, 8 minutes
The story of Amy Winehouse in her own words, featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks.
Director: Asif Kapadia
Stars: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Mark Ronson | See full cast & crew
25. The Anonymous People (2013) Documentary 1 hour, 28 minutes
Recovery is OUT – to change the addiction conversation from problems to SOLUTIONS. An independent feature documentary about the over 23 million Americans living in long-term recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions.
Director: Greg D. Williams
Writers: Aaron Cohen, Bud Mikhitarian | 2 more credits “
Stars: Tom Coderre, Tara Conner, Laurie Dhue | See full cast & crew “
Here are some movie titles I recommend to shy away from in sobriety!
Beer Fest, American Pie 1-11, PCU, Teen Wolf, Mean Girls, Rules of Attraction, Dazed and Confused, Boogie Nights, Trainspotting, Eurotrip, Weird Science, Clueless, Superbad, Sixteen Candles, Old School, House Party, Bachelor Party, Roadtrip, Revenge of the Nerds, Can’t Hardly Wait, Animal House, 21 and Over, Project X, Great Gatsby, This is the End, 21/22 Jump Street and Wolf on Wall Street.
Don’t isolate yourself and join the discussion in the Recovery Elevator Private Forum.
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10 Movies That Depict Alcoholism Realistically
Addiction to alcohol is a prevalent issue in the United States, 1 in 8 people will abuse alcohol. Female alcohol abuse is on the rise and underage drinking has seen an increase in recent years.
Movies can get a lot of things right; mental illness, beauty standards, and much more. In relation to addiction and alcoholism, these ten movies hit the nail on the head. Alcoholism is a prevalent disease, so why not depict addiction realistically? The following movies about alcoholism are worth your time and attention.
1. Leaving Las Vegas
Watch it here.
Nicolas Cage stars as a down on his luck man who has the bright idea to move to Vegas in order to drink himself to death. Like all great love stories, he falls in love with a prostitute (played by the charming Elizabeth Shue) who urges him to seek help. Leaving Las Vegas shows the toll alcoholism plays on the human body, and how addiction can negatively affect those around us.
2. 28 Days
Watch it here.
28 Days depicts a group of struggling addicts, led by Sandra Bullock’s character whose drunken antics landed her in rehab. The movie accurately describes addiction and recovery while creating a sense of hope that each character can overcome their obstacles. While, it wasn’t a critically acclaimed movie, it does do a service to those struggling with addiction.
3. Everything Must Go
Watch it here.
Laid off and kicked out of his house, Nick Halsey is having a hard time. He was fired from his job of 16 years for a unspecified event due to his alcoholism. Losing a job to addiction isn’t rare and Everything Must Go displays why a character, or person, struggles with keeping their personal and professional lives in tact, while fighting addiction.
Watch it here.
Denzel Washington plays airline pilot “Whip” Whitaker Sr. who struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. When the airplane he is piloting malfunctions, he saves the lives of everyone on board by maneuvering the plane upside down. Deemed a hero, Whip is a media sensation. But, his use of alcohol the night before slanders his name and soon he’s on trial. Flight proves that addiction can overpower our better judgement and ultimately, ruin lives.
5. 5. Country Strong
Watch it here.
Gwyneth Paltrow sought advice from Robert Downey, Jr. for her role as recovering alcoholic, Kelly Canter. The movie didn’t receive the best reviews but Paltrow’s portrayal of a woman struggling publicly with her internal demons was a necessity in a mainstream movie.
6. Crazy Heart
Watch it here.
Otis Blake is a fallen country star, whose career and personal life has been affected by his alcoholism. He hasn’t seen success in years and plays small bars to sustain his lifestyle. Journalist, Jean Craddock interviews the down-on-his-luck country crooner only to strike up a relationship with him. Jean’s young son, Buddy, soon accepts Otis as a father-figure. Audiences see the decline alcohol brings to relationships, careers, and self-worth in this visually striking film.
Watch it here.
Arthur Bach is a alcoholic millionaire who has no concept of money or sobriety. When he falls in love with middle-class, Linda, his inheritance is on the line. Sobriety and alcoholism are a key ingredient in Arthur’s character development. Pain, anger, and mourning result in a drinking binge but self-acceptance and determination get him back on track in this 1981 hit.
8. The Spectacular Now
Watch it here.
A fantastic movie that comes highly recommended, The Spectacular Now discusses alcoholism in youth and how drinking at a young age can establish addiction in later years. Starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley as two young people from different High School caste systems who end up falling in love. The book, and movie, are important forms of entertainment that people of all ages need to consume.
9. Blue Jasmine
Watch it here.
Unfortunately, Blue Jasmine was written and directed by Woody Allen but it’s a fine film nonetheless. Jasmine has hit rock bottom. Her husband swindled millions of dollars out of clients and killed himself in prison. Now, Jasmine must lean on her working-class sister in San Francisco. Jasmine turns to anxiety medication and alcohol to curb her nervous breakdown but turns into a full-fledged alcoholic.
10. A Star Is Born
Watch it here.
In anticipation for the latest remake, visit Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson 1976 version of A Star is Born. John Norman Howard, a famous singer, has self-destructive tendencies due to his battle with alcoholism. Addiction plague the couple but through love and support, the characters show that those struggling need a strong support system.
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Alcohol can be great fun – just to get drunk as a fart and have a laugh or merely to relax at the end of a working day with a nice cold beer. However, for some people, alcohol can encroach upon their wellbeing whenever they drink to excess. Alcoholism snatches away happiness, forces the drinker to do terrible things to maintain their habit and in some cases hide their habit. It wrecks relationships and family bonds and is generally a harbinger of doom. I have picked eight thoughtful movies about alcoholism which treat the subject seriously and with good insight into the condition. I hope that you enjoy them.
8. 28 Days (2000)
Gwen Cummings makes a complete drunken arse out of herself at her sister’s wedding. She ruins the reception and the wedding cake, and in attempting to put things right, she crashes the wedding limo in her drunken state. When faced with jail time or a 28 day rehab programme, she opts for the latter, thinking it is the easy way out. When she is at rehab, she refuses to join in with the activities, reasoning that she isn’t an alcoholic. However, after getting to know the inpatients, she accepts that she does indeed have a pretty bad drink problem. She has to face the complications of her long time boyfriend Jasper and how he impacts on her drinking. Gradually, Gwen begins to see the appeal of an alcohol free lifestyle and resolves to give sober living a try. Sandra Bullock shows that she can tackle the meaty roles if she tries hard enough. There is very good ensemble acting In the film – but it is full of all of the rehab stereotypes. It is, nonetheless, an entertaining look at rehab. People expect rehab and mental hospitals to be dour places, but they are in fact packed with blackly comical situations as 28 Days shows. It is a good example of how functional alcoholics operate. Gwen has a high powered career as a newspaper columnist but still spends her life p*ssed up. It is a very slick film which plays out just like a TV movie but nevertheless, if you want a bit of alcohol based drama it is adequate enough to satisfy.
12 Best Movies About Alcoholism of All Time
Too much of alcohol may not be good for health but it is definitely great for cinema. Alcoholics receive more audience attention than any other ordinary character. It feels like alcoholism adds layers to the character and gives a dark edge to the story. Sometimes, we hate such characters while in other instances, we pity them. Either way, they bag a lot of attention. Alcohol seems to be such films’ medicine. It is yet unclear the extent to which actors can go to be an ideal alcoholic on the screen. Actors often get tipsy trying to get into the skin of these alcoholic characters.
Although there have been several great performances wherein actors have played alcoholic characters, it still is a big challenge for any talented actor. While drinking actual alcohol is an easy way to do it, it’s not the most correct one. Alcoholism has been mostly used to add layers to the characters and develop them thoroughly. There are very few films which genuinely try to explore the various facets of alcoholism. With all that said, here is the list of top movies that deal with alcoholics and alcoholism. You can watch some of these best movies about alcoholism on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
12. Barfly (1987)
‘Barfly’ shows the drunkard alter-ego of the famous poet/author Charles Bukowski. It doesn’t give the exact insight into the life of the author but does explain in general how life tends to go south for them. The film perfectly uses the subject of alcoholism to its advantage while Mickey Rourke gives a highly appreciable performance as the drunkard.
Read More: Best Teacher-Student Relationship Movies of All Time
11. Scent of a Woman (1992)
A prep school student becomes the caretaker of a blind retired army man named Slade. Slade is a reckless alcoholic and this nature of his continuously troubles the student but they eventually develop a bond. The film gives a general idea of how a retired army man’s life loses purpose and he drowns himself in alcohol for this reason. The film received multiple accolades with Al Pacino bagging the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the blind lieutenant colonel.
Read More: Best Chick Flicks of All Time
10. Dev.D (2009)
Anurag Kashyap is known to produce some really dark stuff and ‘Dev.D’ is a prime example of that. It is a modern-day realistic version of ‘Devdas’. Abhay Deol dons the role of an alcoholic who’s depressed after his breakup. Kashyap’s excellent direction and crisp screenplay are almost faultless, with the soundtrack elevating the experience to a whole different level. The film must be seen by not just lovers but the entire youth population of India.
Read More: Best Female Revenge Movies of All Time
9. Drunken Master (1978)
‘Drunken Master’ is unlike all the other entries on this list for it doesn’t show alcoholism in a bad light. It tells the story of a young and mischievous Wong Fei-hung (played by Jackie Chan), who always tends to get in trouble. Then, Beggar so (the Drunken Master) comes along and teaches him Drunken Boxing. The action sequences are hilarious and cool at the same time. A laugh-ride for every Jackie Chan fan!
Read More: Best Movie Detectives of All Time
8. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Nicolas Cage hasn’t had a really successful career as an actor but this film displays his true potential. Portraying an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter in the lucrative city of Las Vegas, he simply owns the role. In this heart-touching tale, he and Elisabeth Shue share a very emotional chemistry and we can’t help but feel empathetic for them. The film received numerous accolades and widespread praise from critics.
Read More: Movies That Are Way Better Than the Books They Are Based on
7. Pollock (2000)
Biopics on alcoholics are both rare and interesting. That is why when you come across a film like ‘Pollock’, which reflects the pain and suffering of an alcoholic painter, you preserve it. Starring Ed Harris in the titular role, this film explores the life of a painter and his early struggles to become successful. While Marcia Gay Harden won the Academy for Best Supporting Actress in the film, I truly feel that it was Harris’ performance that made the film so appreciable.
Read More: Best Sci-Fi Movie Franchises of All Time
6. Devdas (2002)
As always, whenever you mention ‘Devdas’, you face a dilemma over which one of the films to mention. But I choose this one because here, Shah Rukh Khan’s performance is so raw that you can’t help feeling sad about his character’s fate. Madhuri Dixit not only impresses with her elegance and dance moves but also her strong acting skills. This is one film where most of the characters are at loss and hence, great pain emerges from it.
Read More: Best Slapstick Comedy Movies of All Time
5. When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)
Everyone knows Andy Garcia as Terry Benedict from ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ but this film has him in a completely different role. He portrays the loving husband of an alcoholic wife, Alice Green (played by Meg Ryan), who is reckless and doesn’t care about anything when she’s drunk. The film makes an honest attempt to show the ill-effects of alcoholism on one’s family life and credit goes to Meg Ryan for making the film what it is. It shows that when a man loves a woman, they can deal with all the problems in the world.
Read More: Best Disney Movies Ever
4. Ironweed (1987)
An immediate reason for affinity towards this film is the pairing of Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, two of the most acclaimed actors in Hollywood history. And then, all this is packaged along with a great story to put up a really entertaining film. Nicholson plays a washed-up baseball player who has just lost his son and finds solace in her lover/drinking companion.
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3. Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Way back into the era of black-and-white released a film which showed the plight of two alcoholics in a time when alcoholism wasn’t such a huge issue. ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ has its strength in its wonderful screenplay, which, accompanied by the performances of the two leads, makes it a must-watch. It also gives us confidence on how it is possible to let go of an evil like alcoholism. The ending is the best part of the film as it makes us cry through the alcoholics’ separation but simultaneously gives us hope of their reconciliation in the future.
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2. The Spectacular Now (2013)
Director James Ponsoldt shows his extensive understanding of the subject of alcoholism in this novel adaptation. ‘The Spectacular Now’ highlights the adverse effects of alcohol on teenagers, but it mostly focuses on the romance between a high school alcoholic and his shy, reserved girlfriend. Miles Teller is at his savvy best as the party animal while Shailene Woodley plays the shy girl with rather ease. It is one of those teenage romantic dramas you can’t miss out.
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1. Smashed (2012)
‘Smashed’ is a beautiful romantic film coated with the issue of alcoholism. James Ponsoldt again delivers a very enriching film although this time, he consciously focuses on alcoholism and the attempts of a couple to get sober. Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a career-best performance as the wife who chooses to mend her ways and get rid of alcohol. What we see is the dark reality of how alcoholism destroys the personal as well as social life of a person. A well-wrapped lesson for all those alcoholics who are trying to go sober.
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Top Netflix Movies/TV Shows About Addiction
There is more content than ever in the media that deals realistically with issues of addiction and depicts the struggles of recovery, relapse and the sometimes harrowing experiences of substance abuse. Netflix offers some hard-hitting dramas, documentaries and even comedies that discuss addiction and include characters that are relatable protagonists who are vulnerable to their own relationship to alcohol or drugs. The most effective stories of addiction in the media can show both the redemption of recovery and the dangers of falling into the pattern of abuse. These are some of the best movies and TV shows available on Netflix that deal with addiction.
Heaven Knows What
Ben and Joshua Safdie directed this dark drama centered around junkies surviving on the streets of New York City. This is a remarkable film in that it stars a real life former heroin addict discovered by the directors and many of her own experiences were used as inspiration for the story including her relationship with her boyfriend Ilya who died of an overdose in Central Park. Although at times painful to watch because of the subject matter, the gritty realism makes this a memorable depiction of addiction.
This movie follows the story of a young college student who becomes entangled in substance abuse and the NY drug world after falling in love with a cocaine dealer. Cocaine begins to take over her life as she descends deeper into addiction and struggles to make enough money selling drugs to get her boyfriend out of jail. The film also takes a hard look at issues of race and privilege that can dictate who experiences more repercussions for using and selling drugs.
Will Arnett co-created, wrote and directed this Netflix comedy/drama series which largely draws on his own experiences with alcoholism and divorce while living in Venice, CA. The show depicts the main characters regularly attending AA meetings throughout the series and coping with their sometimes tenuous relationship with sobriety. Arnett maintains some mystery about the main character’s past which draws you into his story and struggles with alcohol.
Too Young to Die
This documentary series focuses on the stories of beloved celebrities whose lives were cut short, many of them due to addiction and overdose. Episodes of the series discuss stars like Kurt Cobain, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Belushi and Heath Ledger who were all unable to escape their drug abuse until it eventually turned fatal.
Tags: addiction, Alcohol Addiction, drug addiction, prescription drug addiction
I’ve been sober for almost a decade now, and I’m obliged by tradition (and also by my own inclination) not to go into detail about my specific situation publicly; so I’ll just say that I interact daily with addicts in recovery. As a result, I can’t process a movie like “Recovery Boys” with the detachment that a person who can drink or use recreational drugs safely might be able to muster.
The narrative Ms. Sheldon constructs invites the civilian viewer to speculate as to which of the four subjects has the best chance to “make it;” I could not look at the story in that way. What the film powerfully demonstrates is that — and this is something that’s hard to say without sounding glib, but it’s just the way it is — you never can tell. The person seeking recovery who seems to come in with the best possible attitude versus the person who comes in looking beyond hopeless prods the viewer to make a distinction that is ultimately false.
The beauty of the West Virginia landscapes captured by Ms. Sheldon’s camera puts the struggles of the movie’s subjects into melancholy relief. “Recovery Boys” depicts a tough battle, but one that is not necessarily Sisyphean.
“The Pain of Others,” a new documentary directed by Penny Lane that had its debut on Fandor on July 1, is a much more disquieting hardship story. Ms. Lane’s film, which is made up almost entirely of found footage — personal videos posted online, and TV news reports and interviews — by and about those suffering from Morgellons. These people describe symptoms that include skin rashes and threads of an unidentifiable fabric emerging from the sores. The condition is self-diagnosed and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention described it as an “unexplained dermatopathy.” Many in the medical field believe it’s a delusion.
But the subjects in this picture, mainly the three women who documented their condition in self-made videos, are clearly suffering from something. Their stories, intercut in linear progression in this short feature, seem like descents into madness. One woman shaves her head on camera. Another, describing a solution that she thinks works, tells the camera “Yeah, drink your pee, it’s awesome.” One of them takes a thread that she says emerged from her lesions and puts it in extreme close-up under her camera, and narrates as the thread undulates, spelling out, according to her, a word. It’s only at this point that the movie seems to overtly editorialize, with its electronic music score (by Brian McOmber) growing more low-key and menacing.
Top 10 Films About Alcoholics
Alcoholism has always fascinated me more than any other drug addiction. It is separated in its legality and social acceptability, so thus there exists a legion of alcoholics far greater in number than junkies of any other sort. An entire subculture, one that’s often miserable, exists within almost every human civilization – the culture of the alcoholic. Though I’ve never suffered from alcoholism, as part of my court probation I’ve been ordered to attend, and participate in, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings multiple times a week. I’ve been going for over a year now and as a result I’ve seen a new reality to alcoholism. Though often glorified or embellished, some films offer a revealing peek into the lives of alcoholics. Keep in mind, the difference between these films and other films about substance abuse is the gigantic number of alcoholics in the world. Their lives are legal and often balked at by friends or family as an acceptable nuisance. Whether you realize it or not, it’s more than likely that you’ve known or know an alcoholic. Here are ten exceptional examples of films that revolve around alcoholics. Please comment if you’re a recovering alcoholic (or a current one for that matter) and tell us your stories or what you think about the accuracy of those films on the list which make an honest attempt at expressing the life of an alcoholic. (Or add to the list!)
10 Bad Santa
This movie often gets a bad rap but I consider it to be pretty solid. Though it’s a comedy, the film doesn’t really make light of the main character’s alcoholic state. In the film the main character Willie T. Stokes is a bitter, lonely alcoholic. Willie works the holiday seasons as a mall Santa along with his dwarf friend, Marcus, who works as Santa’s elf. Every Christmas Eve, the two of them disable the security alarm after the mall closes and rob the mall safe; afterwards, Marcus returns to living with his wife, while Willie goes to Miami and spends all his money on booze. The Christmas season that year begins like any other but outside forces make sure it doesn’t end the same. The portrayal of the hopeless alcoholic lifestyle in this film gives you a really bad taste in your mouth. Though it’s embellished a fair amount, the aesthetic effect of the “alcoholism” scenes give you a dirty feeling that can be true to what “rock-bottom” looks like.
9 Strange Brew
When I was researching for the list I kept running into this movie and people really seem to love it. Here is a synopsis of the premise the movie begins with. Two unemployed brothers, Bob and Doug McKenzie, are in a bind when they give away their father’s beer money and then run out of beer. The brothers place a mouse in a beer bottle in an attempt to get free Elsinore beer from the local beer store, but are told by the no-nonsense clerk—under threat of being shoved into a bottle themselves—to take up the matter at the Elsinore brewery instead. After presenting the evidence to management at Elsinore brewery, the brothers are given jobs on the line inspecting the bottles for mice. They take this opportunity to drink lots of free beer off the line; later, they surprise their parents with a van full of Elsinore products. Then, along with some ridiculously cheesy, plot twists; hilarity ensues.
8 Days of Wine and Roses
This is a classic cautionary tale. Days of Wine and Roses is the quintessential piece of cinema for warning people of the dangers of alcoholism. It’s often loaned from person to person in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings all over, and is suggested viewing in many other programs designed for recovering alcoholics. The film centers on Joe Clay, who meets and falls in love with Kirsten Arnesen, a bright, non-drinking secretary. They marry, conceive a child and make a home for themselves. It’s then that Joe introduces Kirsten to social drinking and its pleasures. Reluctant at first, after her first few Brandy Alexanders, she admits that having a drink “made me feel good.” Joe slowly goes from the “two-martini lunch” to alcoholism and in due time both succumb to the pleasures and pain of alcohol addiction. The movie is old fashioned and can feel preachy, but its draw is in its honesty and genuine nature. It’s a good example of how the motives of Hollywood film making have changed over the years – it was produced with talented actors, talented filmmakers, and a solid budget for its time, and still has a positive moral motive. It’s a good film and it shows the downward spiral that alcoholism can be.
I wouldn’t say this film contains the most honest portrayal of an alcoholic, but this list isn’t necessarily based on realism. In the movie the late Dudley Moore (a real-life alcoholic) plays Arthur, a thirty year old alcoholic who will inherit 750 million dollars if he complies with his family’s demands and marries the woman of their choosing. Arthur falls in love with Linda, a tie stealing waitress from Queens and has to choose between true love and his inheritance. His father and fellow millionaire Burt Johnson plot to have him marry Burt’s daughter, Susan. If he doesn’t he loses the 3/4 of a billion dollar family fortune of his father and Aunt Martha. But Arthur gets a push in the right direction from his Gentleman’s Gentleman, Hobson. The movie is genuinely funny and heartfelt, despite the fact it can make light of alcoholism.
6 Leaving Las Vegas
This is film based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name and written by an alcoholic writer. It’s easy to imagine why the best of these stories of alcoholism come straight from the source. Leaving Las Vegas begins with an introduction to Ben Sanderson, a late-stage alcoholic who has hit rock bottom. Trashing all personal and professional ties to his L.A. existence, he sets off for the lights of Vegas on a mission: to drink himself to death. There he meets Sera, a beautiful, seen-it-all hooker. Drama and romance ensue. Tragically John O’Brien, the author of the novel, committed suicide just before the film was to be made. The often over-the-top Nicolas Cage does a fantastically believable job playing the drunken Ben Sanderson and, like many other films dealing with alcoholics, his performance makes the movie.
5 Under the Volcano
Under the Volcano isn’t necessarily an amazing film, but Albert Finney’s subtle and scrupulous portrayal of alcoholic Geoffrey Firmin is unmatched in its ironically graceful stupor; is in itself is amazing. Against a background of war breaking out in Europe and the Mexican fiesta Day of Death, we are taken through one day in the life of the lead character Firmin, a British consul living in alcoholic disrepair and obscurity in a small southern Mexican town in 1939. The Consul’s self-destructive behavior is a source of perplexity and sadness to his nomadic, idealistic half-brother, Hugh, and his ex-wife, Yvonne, who has returned with hopes of healing Geoffrey and their broken marriage. It is based on the 1947 novel of the same name, which is a semi-autobiographical account the author, Malcolm Lowry’s, life.
4 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
At the time of its release Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was considered very controversial and progressive for a big Hollywood production because of its brassiness and vulgar language. In the film an associate professor of history has turned to alcohol to deal with his mean and vituperative wife. Early on an acquainted couple are invited over for drinks, and over the course of the evening, the polished veneer of the hosts’ tarnishes grotesquely. The repartees of the history professor’s consummately sophisticate wife degenerate into increasingly violent verbal abuse of both her husband and her guests, leading to the physical and emotion crumbling of the professor’s apathetic façade. Soon the guests begin mirroring their hosts in mutual antagonism, giving voice to buried resentments and alcohol-fueled revelations. Though the films age has made it seem a bit preachy, its construction and acting is more than enough for it to retain its greatness. It feels like honest portrayal of alcoholism’s consequences.
Factotum is a film based on (the late) Charles Bukowski’s novel of the same name. In the film, the main character Hank Chinaski (based on Bukowski himself – a real life alcoholic) is working toward becoming a writer, and follows his own advice that “If you’re going to try, go all the way.” The film follows Chinaski’s various jobs and relationships with women. The only things consistent in his life seem to be his drinking and his writing. He has a more lasting relationship with one woman, Jan who is also a broke alcoholic. As the film unravels it seems it will be impossible for Chinaski to stop ending up where he started, or make any reasonable progress at all. No bother to him of course, he knows what kind of life he’s living and never seems to consider any other option. This is probably my favorite film on the list because there aren’t any tricks or fireworks; it’s simply about a man who is an alcoholic; one that knows he’ll never live any other way and deals with it accordingly.
2 House of Sand and Fog
House of Sand and Fog doesn’t revolve solely on alcoholism, but the obliviously selfish nature of the main character is a common, and damaging, aspect of alcoholism. In the film Kathy Nicolo is a recovering drug addict and current alcoholic living in a small house near the coast in Northern California. She and her brother inherited the house from their father. Abandoned by her husband and trapped by a malaise that has left her depressed and unresponsive to her surroundings, she ignores a number of notices threatening her with eviction for an alleged nonpayment of business taxes. She only becomes aware of her precarious situation when the police forcibly remove her and her belongings from the house and put it up for auction. The movie unfurls as she quarrels with her old house’s new residents while attempting to regain ownership of her home. This is one of my favorite plot oriented films and Jennifer Connelly delivers one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen as Kathy.
The praise for Barfly seems so universal I felt as though it had to be number one. This is the second film on the list based on a Bukowski novels, centered on his alter ego Henry Chinaski (or Hank Chinaski in Factotum). The film focuses on the alcoholic life of Chinaski, who writes poetry and short stories, which he submits to literary magazines. Drinking and fighting is how he spends his nights. Chinaski is officially “discovered” when one of his submissions is published. The publisher, Tully Sorenson immediately takes a fascinated interest with the proudly adamant alcoholic author and his lifestyle, which results in an altercation in the end of the film with another woman, Wanda, an alcoholic who has been living with Chinaski. Barfly is a high caliber film with a top notch job by Mickey Rourke in the lead. You can actually empathize with Chinaski which is quite an incredible feat, considering how perplexing his lifestyle can seem to a non-alcoholic. That reason alone could justify its position at number one, but it has much more to offer besides that; I think it’s a pretty easy number one.