Gimme 5! Top 5 Addiction Movies

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Lacey Jackson-Matsushima
Jul 15, 2021

September is around the corner and with it comes Autumn leaves and National Recovery Month. It can be an opportunity to increase your awareness of addiction and rehab for addiction. Many movies are not afraid to bring addiction, alcoholism, and rehabilitative treatment to the forefront of the big screen.

So, which are the top 5 movie choices to learn about addiction in a realistic setting?

1.  A Star Is Born (2018)

This film actively explores not just a diction but the process of recovery, and that in between process of the impact addiction has on friends and family and the path that individuals sometimes take before they recognize the addiction in themselves.

This film is a remake of previous films by the same title but in this emotional drama you get to watch as an otherwise normal and successful individual sees a significant life change where they are decreasingly relevant, popular, and loved. The same character battles with depression, a common symptom in people who face addiction.

From your seat you will watch the downward spiral, the impact on loved ones, and the serious challenge of coping with and enduring treatment on your own.

2.  28 Days (2000)

The subject matter of addiction is a difficult one because addiction reshapes the connections in the brain and alters people’s behaviors in a way that makes them almost unrecognizable. It can be difficult to manifest this internal change on the cinematic screen especially in a way that helps viewers really connect with the changes that are taking place and sympathize.

This is a respectful depiction of a disease that is truly misunderstood and something that affects millions of people. 28 Days, not to be confused with a horror film by a similar name of 28 Days Later, portrays Sandra Bullock as a woman forced into rehabilitation. Unfortunately, when people don’t make the choice to enter into rehab on their own, they might truly not believe that there is a problem at all. This is a common manifestation of addiction and something accurately portrayed in this film.

Over the succession of multiple interactions with other individuals the main character has to come to terms with her alcoholism. All the while, as the viewer, you are seeing the impact that addiction can have in its many forms whether it is sex addiction, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, or other addiction on individuals and their lives.

3.  Basketball Diaries (1995)

An older film starring a young Leonardo DiCaprio, this movie depicts a more difficult facet of addiction, that which affects athletes. It is quite common for individuals who rise to fame whether it is through music or sports, to succumb to addiction. But that addiction can have lasting impacts on their lives.

Through this film you get to see the portrayal of a young teenager who becomes a basketball star and addicted to drugs. As the addiction gets worse, the young star is involved in more than just one type of drug and is no longer a basketball star but homeless and relying on the worst ways to get money for drugs.

Not only does this film accurately portray the problem of drug addiction to one substance spiraling into addiction to multiple substances, but it shows the negative effect that drug abuse has on young people. The star of the film is regularly in danger given his drug based environment, something that is true of all drug addiction.

4.  Requiem for a Dream (2000)

This is a graphic and uncomfortable film that depicts the dangerous road on which addiction leads individuals. Understanding the mental changes, the internal structural changes to the brain and behavior can be difficult for most people. However, this movie portrays it with a jarring splice of scenes that reflect the time loss individuals might face when they get high, waking up with no memory of the last 3 days.

The scenes often show recklessness, the way in which family members are impacted too; in one scene an otherwise loving grandson continues to steal from his older family members without any recognition or remorse for his actions because he needs to sell things like televisions for drugs. It offers an accurate, if at many times uncomfortable, view of addiction.

5.  Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

An older Classic, this drama stars the famous Jack Lemmon who is an alcoholic and drinks to avoid his problems. However, in this film, the audience gets to see the spider web connection that addiction can have on loved ones, especially romantic partners.

In many cases people with addiction will end up with partners who also face addiction and it becomes a cycle where if one person tries to get treatments or quit whatever substance it is, the other person ends up bringing them back. Then, the other person might attempt the same thing but that first person is now the one who brings them back into addiction.

Those who do not have addiction, may end up just as addicted to a substance or abusive of a substance because of their romantic partner. This film, selected by the national film registry for preservation demonstrates the problems of Alcoholics bringing their romantic partners into an addictive lifestyle.

Honorable Mention

  1. Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946)
  2. Krisha (2016)
  3. Trainspotting (1996)
  4. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
  5. Traffic (2000)

Lacey has worked for over a decade as a writer, in conjunction with having worked around the world in poor social and economic living conditions to provide sustainability programs through numerous non-profits. Her efforts focus on making a difference in people's lives one small step at a time.

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