Five Movies About Addiction

Five Movies About Addiction And Recovery That Get It Right

With the opioid epidemic raging out of control and alcohol abuse being a leading cause of 2.3 million deaths annually, it’s no surprise that substance abuse and its fallout has become popular subject matter for film and television. Here are five movies about addiction and recovery that we believe do a good job in portraying the various sides of addiction. They are stories about users, their families and friends, and the different ways addiction wreaks havoc in their lives and the ways in which a recovery journey is impacted by the behavior and decisions of everyone involved.


1. Basketball Diaries (1995)

Basketball Diaries, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is based on the true story of Jim Carroll, a high school basketball star whose promising future is upended by the downward spiral that accompanies heroin addiction. While the film focuses on Jim’s years as an addict, and the desperation that ultimately lands him in in prison for assault, robbery and possession, the full story of Jim Carroll’s journey is ultimately one of recovery after hitting bottom. The film is a study in how the lure of drugs as an escape from grief and pain is a dangerous illusion that leads to addiction that many cannot break free from without losing everything. Rated: R



2. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream provides a stark look into the desperate back and forth that plays out in the minds and bodies of heroin addicts. The movie, starring Jared Leto, Jennifer Connolly and Marlon Wayans follows Harry (Leto), Marian (Connolly) and Tyrone (Wayans) as they chase down their next high by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Harry’s mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, is battling her own addiction demons in the form diet pills, television and sugar. The film portrays addiction for what it truly is—invasive, controlling, destructive and ultimately leading users down a path of reckless self-destruction. Rated: R



3. Flight (2012)

Flight, starring Denzel Washington as airline pilot William “Whip” Whittaker, explores the inevitable moment in time when the world of a functional drug and alcohol user comes crashing down. Whip successfully lands a commercial plane in an emergency situation and is hailed a hero. But his subsequent injuries land him in the hospital where he tests positive for drugs and alcohol. The film explores the depths of Whip’s addiction as he grapples with whether to take responsibility for his actions and admit to his intoxication or lay the blame elsewhere and continue to deny his problem. His decision ultimately leads to redemption and recovery. Rated: R



4. Six Balloons (2018)

The enabler/addict dynamic between Katie and Seth, the brother and sister driving the plot of Six Balloons will be all too familiar for those whose lives have been impacted directly or indirectly by drugs or alcohol. Whether you are the addict, the enabler or the friends and family members who have cut ties and can now only stand by and watch the cycle of toxic behavior, you will recognize the damage and what’s at stake, while the most innocent victims – the children – suffer the most. Rated: NR




5. Beautiful Boy (2018)

Based on the memoirs of New York Times writer David Sheff and his son Nic, Beautiful Boy chronicles a father’s experience through the backsliding, frustration and confusion that come with trying to help a child caught in the throes of addiction. The film explores the ups and downs that come with a serious drug problem, and the recovery and relapse cycle that is so heartbreaking for a parent to witness. Rated: R

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