5 Movies That More Accurately Depict Addiction

October 25, 2021

3 min read

Hollywood is known for exaggerating and overdramatizing a wide range of health and social issues, and addiction is no exception. Some movies about addiction are overly dark to create shock value, while others are unrealistically positive to ensure a happy ending for audiences.

For someone dealing with addiction, movies about substance abuse probably won’t cheer them up, but they can learn about themselves by seeing someone else facing similar struggles. Similarly, a friend or family member might be able to better understand their loved one’s addiction when they see it on the big screen.

The challenge is to find movies about drug abuse or alcoholism that accurately depict addiction. Here are five movies about addiction that paint a mostly realistic picture of substance abuse.

1. Trainspotting (1996)

Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller

Trainspotting is a British comedy-drama that follows a group of heroin addicts living in a rundown area in Edinburgh. Critically and commercially successful, Trainspotting is known for vivid emotional expressions that can make you feel what the character is feeling in each scene.

Trainspotting is known for being funny, disgusting, provocative, and horrific, capturing the consequences of substance abuse on relationships, behavior, and decision-making. In one of the more harrowing scenes, a baby dies as a result of being neglected by her drug-addicted parents.

2. A Star Is Born (2018)

Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott

This recent drama might be best-known for steamy musical performances by Lady Gaga and Cooper but also shows the different ways addiction can affect a person’s life. Cooper plays Jack, a facing rock star who is battling opioid and alcohol addiction when he starts a romantic relationship with a waitress and singer played by Lady Gaga.

A Star Is Born shows how addiction contributes to depression, violence, public intoxication, and other destructive behavior, as well as the dangers of poor treatment and leaving rehab too early. Given Jack’s career as a rock star and celebrity, his addiction is accepted as normal, causing him to sink deep into substance abuse before seeking help.

3. Flight (2012)

Denzel Washington, Nadine Velazquez, Don Cheadle

Flight is a dramatic thriller that tells the story of pilot Whip Whitaker, played by Washington, who has taken illegal drugs to get through long hours with little sleep. During a flight, he takes a nap after drinking alcohol and is suddenly awakened when the plane goes into a steep descent. 

An emergency landing in a field results in six fatalities, while his copilot is seriously injured. Whip is investigated when a drug test reveals he was intoxicated at the time. After lying about the circumstances surrounding the cause of the crash, Whip comes clean and ends up in prison.

Flight highlights the potential impact of addiction on a person’s ability to function and perform at work, especially when the job has a direct impact on the safety of others.

4. Traffic (2000)

Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benecio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Winner of four Oscars, Traffic is the most critically acclaimed movie about addiction on the list. What makes Traffic unique is that it uses three overlapping storylines to explore substance abuse and trafficking from multiple perspectives, including users, Mexican drug lords, law enforcement, and even politicians.

In many ways, Traffic shows why the war on drugs was a losing battle, creating a never-ending cycle of crime, pain, and punishment. All characters are affected by drugs in some way, yet society often fails to help people suffering with addiction.

5. Clean and Sober (1988)

Michael Keaton, Kathy Baker, Morgan Freeman

In this movie about addiction, Michael Keaton plays Daryl Pointer, a successful real estate agent who is addicted to cocaine. 

When a series of poor personal and financial decisions, combined with substance abuse, make his life unmanageable, he tries to flee the country. After a friend refuses Daryl to hide in his home, he checks into a rehab facility that guarantees anonymity, hoping his legal troubles will disappear.

While in rehab, Daryl wakes up to the fact that he is suffering from addiction and his life is out of control. He also gets involved with other patients and sees how their lives are being affected by addiction. 

Clean and Sober shows how substance abuse can create a fantasy world and ruin relationships while also highlighting how the right rehab facility can provide valuable support when patients are at risk of relapse.

DetoxLA Provides Real-World Help

Although movies about addiction can provide unique insights into the struggles and consequences of substance use, they’re rarely enough to make someone stop using. The co-ed program at DetoxLA’s Los Angeles detox center is here to help you take your first step toward recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our co-ed medical detox services.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Dane is the Director of Brand Strategy for Never Alone Recovery, where he helps brands in the mental health, addiction, and recovery industries connect with their audiences. Dane’s interests include technology, the film industry, travel, marketing, music, and coffee.

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