The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (2022)

Drug and alcohol addiction is a topic that has been explored in cinema for decades. It is a sensitive subject that must be handled with care to depict the brutal truths about addiction. These films can be hard to watch due to the physical and emotional agony that the characters go through. Many films, such as Beautiful Boy, starring Timothee Chalamet, are based on true memoirs from those who struggled with addiction. Other films may be pure fiction, but honestly portray the suffering that one goes through while suffering from substance abuse. Regardless, it is important to see the struggles that people face through substance abuse and it creates good, thought-provoking cinema.

Many times, actors will use their own experiences to create an honest performance in a movie about addiction. Ben Affleck used his personal struggles with alcohol to portray a suffering alcoholic in The Way Back. It takes hard work and emotional range to portray someone facing addiction on camera. Many times, we will watch a journey through addiction that ends with recovery. In other cases, there is no happy ending to the film, and the characters are either destroyed or right back to where they started. Unfortunately, not everyone can overcome addiction, so the films have to be honest to that truth. After some tough cuts, let's take a look at the most brutally honest films depicting addiction, ranked.

Updated, August 2022: To keep the article fresh and relevant by adding more information and entries, this article has been updated by Rafa Boladeras.

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11 Flight

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (1)

Captain William “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an airline pilot with alcohol addiction (he also likes cocaine quite a lot). Although he's under the influence, he saves this plane from crashing with an incredible maneuver saving almost everyone and avoiding a bigger tragedy. He looks like a hero, until the hospital reveals his blood test and the legal circus around him starts. Flight is Washington’s movie through and through. You can see in every scene how his will is broken time and time again, as the need for alcohol is absolutely irrational and stronger than him. He might be a respected pilot, with a lot of money, but he’s also an addict that can’t stop. He might find ways to hide it, and appear almost functional, but in the end, the consequences caught up with him.

10 The Lost Weekend

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (2)

Don Birnham (Ray Milland) is an alcoholic writer who tells his brother and girlfriend he wants to stop drinking. The instant he’s left alone, he’ll do whatever it takes to get a drink. That drunk plan will steal his whole weekend, even if he doesn’t remember it. The Lost Weekend was one of the first times Hollywood tackled alcoholism realistically, and people took notice. The movie doesn’t pull away from the worst parts of the addiction, as Birnham will do anything for his next drink. Back then, it was a movie that shocked audiences and became difficult to forget.

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9 Drugstore Cowboy

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (3)

Based on the autobiographical novel by James Fogle, Drugstore Cowboy tells the story of a group of heroin addicts that rob pharmacies to pay for their dangerous habit, but also how they organize themselves, their superstitions, and the ritual of getting high. Matt Dillon gives his best performance as Bob Hughes, showing how his addiction dictates all the actions, feelings, and ideas he has. The movie also has some dark humor in it, because even in the darkest times people try to make some jokes. This film was also the one that presented Gus Van Sant to Hollywood and the world at large.

8 The Panic in Needle Park

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (4)

Adapted by the great Joan Didion and John Gregory from the novel by James Mills, The Panic in Needle Park tells the story of Bobby (Al Pacino, in his first lead role) and Helen (Kitty Winn), a couple that will do anything for their next score. The movie is a character study that shows realistically what can happen when heroin is in your life, and the consequences of what someone can do to get it: prison, sex work, anything really. It’s also shot following a documentary style, which gives it even a stronger punch. About shooting that way, director Jerry Schatzberg told Indiewire: “I just felt it was so honest, and that’s the way I wanted to work.”

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7 Beautiful Boy

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (5)

Beautiful Boy was based on the memoirs of Nicolas Sheff and chronicled his years of battling drug and alcohol addiction. It depicts the personal turmoil that drugs create while also focusing on how it affects those around you. Steve Carell plays David Sheff, Nicolas' father, who spends years trying to understand what his son is going through, while also trying to help him. It is a heartbreaking story that honestly depicts drug addiction, and Timothee Chalamet gives one of his greatest performances to date.

Related: These Are The Best Timothee Chalamet Movies, Ranked

6 Heaven Knows What

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (6)

The Safdie brothers' breakthrough film was also based on true accounts. Arielle Holmes' unpublished memoir Mad Love in New York City was the basis of the film, and depicted her days of living on the streets of New York while suffering from heroin addiction. It is a cold, hard look into the NYC drug scene that is brutal, honest, and sometimes hard to watch. The center of the film is her abusive relationship with another drug addict, Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones) who is the film's main antagonist. The Safdie brothers showcased their sheer talents that kicked off their impressive careers.

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5 The Basketball Diaries

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (7)

The Basketball Diaries was based on Jim Carroll's novel of the same name, and told the story of his years of heroin addiction on the streets of New York City. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a tour de force performance of Carroll as we watch him lose everything due to his addiction. One of the hardest scenes to watch in the film is when Carroll is going through heroin withdrawal. DiCaprio honestly portrayed the pain and torment that people go through when they pursue a life with drugs.

Related: 9 Times Leonardo DiCaprio Should Have Won an Oscar

4 Half Nelson

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (8)

Ryan Gosling gives one of his greatest and most underrated performances to date as a public school teacher and basketball coach who is addicted to crack cocaine. The film center is his relationship with a student of his, Drey (Shareeka Epps), who is conflicted when given a chance to work for a drug dealer. Half Nelson comes full circle at one point as Drey sells Dunne (Gosling) drugs in a motel room. It is an honest depiction of drug abuse with a somewhat optimistic ending.

3 Trainspotting

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (9)

Danny Boyle's Trainspotting is undoubtedly one of the most brutal films in history depicting heroin addiction. Although Boyle's direction creates an artistic and beautiful approach to the subject matter, the film is violent, heartbreaking, and hard to watch at some points. The story follows a group of friends living in Scotland, working tirelessly to fuel their addiction. Ewan McGregor gives a fantastic performance as the main protagonist, and the film is filled with his narration to describe the realities of drug addiction and how desperate addicts will become to get their next score. McGregor told The Hollywood Reporter: “Once I’d read it, I thought it was the part of a lifetime, and it turned out to be that.”

2 Leaving Las Vegas

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (10)

There has never been a film that depicted alcohol so harshly as Leaving Las Vegas. Nicolas Cage gives the greatest performance of his career as Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic screenwriter, who moves to Las Vegas to drink himself to death and falling in love with a prostitute named Sera (Elizabeth Shue) along the way. The physical effects of alcohol abuse are clearly shown throughout the film, and it is extremely shocking. Cage's performance gives you an honest depiction of what it means to be in the end stages of alcoholism. While we all hope to see Sanderson overcome his addiction, he is unable to, giving us one of the saddest endings in cinematic history.

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1 Requiem For A Dream

The Most Brutally Honest Films About Addiction (11)

Darren Aronofsky's Requiem For A Dream is a masterpiece showcasing the tragic effects of drug addiction. The film follows four characters with high hopes and big dreams, but we watch as all of their ambitions are crushed as they fall deep into the grasp of addiction. The film uses music and unique editing techniques to portray drug use and the pain that comes after it. Addiction is the film's main protagonist, and by the end, we see it has won against our four doomed characters. The terrifying climax is a montage of destruction laced together with the piercing, yet brilliant, score. Ellen Burstyn, in particular, gives one of the greatest performances of her career as a woman addicted to diet pills. Burstyn went on to earn an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

FAQs

What is the movie about a drug addict? ›

1. Trainspotting. Like many movies, Trainspotting is based on a novel with the same name. It is a favorite among those with a drug addiction, as well as some professionals who believe it is an accurate depiction of what life is like when you're addicted to drugs.

What is the most effective in treating addiction? ›

According to American Addiction Centers, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a valuable treatment tool because it can be used for many different types of addiction including, but not limited to, food addiction, alcohol addiction, and prescription drug addiction.

What is the most critical factor in addiction? ›

Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person's likelihood of drug use and addiction. Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person's life to affect addiction risk.

What should I watch on Netflix about addiction? ›

In this edition of Netflix Mondays, I bring you six shows with addiction recovery arcs—and not all of the drug and alcohol nature.
...
  • Love. Credit – Netflix. ...
  • Flaked. Credit – Netflix. ...
  • Recovery Boys. Credit – Netflix. ...
  • Feel Good. Credit – Netflix. ...
  • White Girl. Credit. ...
  • 28 Days. Credit.
6 Apr 2020

How do you overcome movie addiction? ›

It takes time to change behaviors, so be gentle with yourself and don't get too discouraged if you slip along the way.
  1. Keep track of how much you watch. ...
  2. Explore your reasons for watching TV. ...
  3. Create specific limits around TV time. ...
  4. Distract yourself. ...
  5. Connect with others.
29 Jan 2020

Is addicted movie on Netflix? ›

Watch all you want.

Are beautiful boys inappropriate? ›

Extremely heavy with good messages. Based off of a true story, Beautiful boy is a very heavy and dramatic movie with extreme drug/substance abuse, some sex, plenty language, and overall intense themes.

How long does it take a person to overcome their addiction? ›

Most addicted individuals need at least three months in treatment to get sober and initiate a plan for continued recovery. Research shows that the best outcomes occur with longer durations of treatment. Lengthier treatment programs can seem intimidating at first, but they may end up bringing you the best results.

How can I free myself from addiction? ›

5 action steps for quitting an addiction
  1. Set a quit date. ...
  2. Change your environment. ...
  3. Distract yourself. ...
  4. Review your past attempts at quitting. ...
  5. Create a support network. ...
  6. For more information on finding an effective path to recovery, check out Overcoming Addiction, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
14 Jan 2021

What is the first stage in the cycle of addiction? ›

The first step to addiction is trying the substance. It can be as fast as taking the first drink or smoking a cigarette. Or, people may have used drugs in the past without developing a dependency, but are now moving on to a more addictive substance.

What are the 4 levels of the addiction process? ›

While there are many factors that contribute to drug and alcohol addiction, including genetic and environmental influences, socioeconomic status, and preexisting mental health conditions, most professionals within the field of addiction agree that there are four main stages of addiction: experimentation, regular use, ...

What are the 4 elements of addiction? ›

Some people take their time while others go from zero to 60 in a short period of time. No matter how long your journey is, most rehabilitation counselors agree that there are four main stages of drug addiction: experimentation, regular use, risky use/abuse, and drug addiction and dependency.

What part of the brain is responsible for addiction? ›

The part of the brain that causes addiction is called the mesolimbic dopamine pathway. It is sometimes called the reward circuit of the brain.

What is the name of the drug show on Netflix? ›

Netflix's bilingual series, Narcos, focused its first two seasons on the rise of Pablo Escobar. Chronicling the Colombian drug lord's wide-reaching operation and the DEA's attempts to stop him, the show has since taken a broader view of the “war on drugs” in that South American country.

What is recovery Boys movie about? ›

Does Netflix have 28 days? ›

How to Watch 28 Days. Right now you can watch 28 Days on Netflix. You are able to stream 28 Days by renting or purchasing on Vudu.

What was Joker's mental illness? ›

Ledger described his character as a 'psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy', and Paul Levitz, president of DC Comics in 2002–2009, said, 'I keep coming back to the way he physically incarnates madness'.

What disorder did Harley Quinn have? ›

Everyone knows Harley Quinn as the Jokers' girl, but how did she become Harley Quinn? Personality Disorder, specifically, Histrionic Personality Disorder plays a key part in Harley Quinn's life.

What disorder does Joker have? ›

He also shows the symptoms of pseudobulbar affect due to traumatic brain injury. This apparent co-occurrence of both mental disorder and a neurological condition may be confusing for audiences trying to understand mental illness.

What happens to your brain when you stop watching TV? ›

While watching TV the frontal lobe becomes underdeveloped through disuse. With underdeveloped frontal lobe you also become less able to control your behavior and outburst of uncontrollable anger and lack of self-discipline are more likely to occur.

How do you cut a TV out of your life? ›

Limit your TV viewing every day.

If cutting TV out immediately is a big stretch, start off by limiting your TV viewing. If you're a heavy TV viewer, limit to 2-hours a day first. Then go down to 1.5 hours, then slowly 1-hour, then 30 minutes. Soon it'll be easy to just stop watching altogether.

Why is stranger things so addictive? ›

The game process is not only entertaining but also triggers a release of dopamine during the wins. Pretty much the same thing happens when the next episode of your favorite show is released. Waiting and then watching a new season is definitely a burst of happiness.

Is Addicted based on a true story? ›

The new indie comedy Addicted to Fresno, out Sept. 4, stars Judy Greer and Natasha Lyonne as sisters Shannon and Martha, and while the story of sex addiction and accidental murder might sound a little too good to be real, believe it or not, Addicted to Fresno is based on a true story.

Where can I see the movie Addicted? ›

Right now you can watch Addicted on Epix or Hulu Plus.

Who made the movie Addicted? ›

Addicted is a 2014 American erotic thriller drama film directed by Bille Woodruff from a screenplay by Christina Welsh and Ernie Barbarash, based on Zane's novel of the same name. It stars Sharon Leal, Boris Kodjoe, Tasha Smith, Tyson Beckford, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and William Levy.

Is the Boys appropriate for 13 year olds? ›

Amazon makes it clear that the series isn't for children. It carries an 18+ (or a TV-MA) rating. This means it's, well, for 18 or older.

Are boys inappropriate? ›

It would most likely be rated: R- Graphic violence and bloody images, sexual content, some graphic nudity and drug use and pervasive language. OVERALL —— Hilarious but dark and disturbing, it's riveting and a perfect diversion of the genre, even if it's a diversion only aimed for older teens.

What percentage of addiction is genetic? ›

Scientists estimate that genetic factors account for 40 to 60 percent of a person's vulnerability to addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is currently supporting a major research effort to identify gene variations that make a person vulnerable to drug addiction.

How long does it take dopamine to recover? ›

These factors may vary by person but generally involve how long it may take to restore dopamine levels to normal and natural levels. Typically, it takes about 90 days to notice a difference with experiences of pleasure and dopamine levels.

How long do dopamine receptors take to heal? ›

Research has found that it is not easy to adjust dopamine levels after extensive use of dopamine-heavy drugs. So how long for dopamine receptors to heal? On average, it may take approximately 14-months to achieve normal levels in the brain with proper treatment and rehabilitation.

How does addiction affect the brain? ›

When someone develops an addiction, the brain craves the reward of the substance. This is due to the intense stimulation of the brain's reward system. In response, many users continue use of the substance; this can lead to a host of euphoric feelings and strange behavioral traits.

What is drug abuse? ›

Drug Abuse. Drug abuse exists when a person continually uses a drug other than its intended purpose. This continued use can lead to drug dependence, a state of physical and psychological dependence or both on a dangerous drug.

Can you have an addiction to food? ›

Up to 20% of people may have a food addiction or exhibit addictive-like eating behavior ( 1 ). This number is even higher among people with obesity. Food addiction involves being addicted to food in the same way as someone with a substance use disorder demonstrates addiction to a particular substance ( 2 , 3 ).

What are the three levels of addiction? ›

In the review, the authors break down addiction into three main stages: binge and intoxication, withdrawal and negative affect, and preoccupation and anticipation.

What are the 10 stages of addiction? ›

The 10 Stages of Relapse
  • Stage 1: Denial. ...
  • Stage 2: Avoidance and Defensiveness. ...
  • Stage 3: Crisis Building. ...
  • Stage 4: Immobilization. ...
  • Stage 5: Confusion and Overreaction. ...
  • Stage 6: Depression. ...
  • Stage 7: Behavioral Loss of Control. ...
  • Stage 8: Recognition of Loss of Control.

How do I know if I'm addicted? ›

General signs of addiction are: lack of control, or inability to stay away from a substance or behavior. decreased socialization, like abandoning commitments or ignoring relationships. ignoring risk factors, like sharing needles despite potential consequences.

What are the 5 stages of the addiction cycle? ›

What Are the Five Stages of Change? The five stages of addiction recovery are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.

What are the 7 steps of the cycle of addiction? ›

Understanding each stage and the behaviors associated with each is a valuable way to identify when someone is at risk for an addiction or has already developed one.
...
These seven stages are:
  • Initiation.
  • Experimentation.
  • Regular Usage.
  • Risky Usage.
  • Dependence.
  • Addiction.
  • Crisis/Treatment.

What are the three main gateway drugs? ›

For the purpose of this discussion, we will focus on substances that are commonly referred to as gateway drugs:
  • caffeine.
  • alcohol.
  • tobacco.
  • marijuana.

What drugs can cause permanent damage? ›

Many drugs can cause permanent or severe brain damage, including but not limited to:
  • Alcohol.
  • Heroin.
  • Amphetamines.
  • Marijuana.
  • Hallucinogens.
  • Opioids.
  • Inhalants.
  • Cocaine.
16 Jun 2022

What does the Bible say about addictions? ›

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. Godis faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Is Drug Addiction a Brain Disease? ›

Because changes in brain structure and function are fundamental to the development and expression of addiction, it qualifies as a brain disease--a brain disease expressed as compulsive behavior. It's the quintessential biobehavioral disorder.

Can the brain heal itself after drug use? ›

Our brains have an incredible ability to adapt and repair – even after prolonged AOD use and addiction. The brain continues to build brain cells and neural pathways throughout our life, and its ability to adapt and change – called neuroplasticity – allows it to modify, grow and reorganise itself after addiction.

What is the most critical factor in addiction? ›

Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress, and parental guidance can greatly affect a person's likelihood of drug use and addiction. Development. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person's life to affect addiction risk.

What is the single factor that predicts addiction? ›

No single factor can predict whether or not a person will become addicted to drugs. Risk for addiction is influenced by a person's biology, social environment, and age or stage of development. The more risk factors an individual has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction.

Is addicted movie on Netflix? ›

Watch all you want.

What is the name of the drug show on Netflix? ›

Netflix's bilingual series, Narcos, focused its first two seasons on the rise of Pablo Escobar. Chronicling the Colombian drug lord's wide-reaching operation and the DEA's attempts to stop him, the show has since taken a broader view of the “war on drugs” in that South American country.

Is four good days on Netflix? ›

Watch Four Good Days | Netflix.

Is Ben is back on Netflix? ›

Ben Is Back is now streaming on Netflix.

Is Addicted based on a true story? ›

The new indie comedy Addicted to Fresno, out Sept. 4, stars Judy Greer and Natasha Lyonne as sisters Shannon and Martha, and while the story of sex addiction and accidental murder might sound a little too good to be real, believe it or not, Addicted to Fresno is based on a true story.

Where can I see the movie Addicted? ›

Right now you can watch Addicted on Epix or Hulu Plus.

Who made the movie Addicted? ›

Addicted is a 2014 American erotic thriller drama film directed by Bille Woodruff from a screenplay by Christina Welsh and Ernie Barbarash, based on Zane's novel of the same name. It stars Sharon Leal, Boris Kodjoe, Tasha Smith, Tyson Beckford, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and William Levy.

Does Netflix have Dopesick? ›

The Dopesick miniseries is exclusive to Hulu, with all eight episodes available through the subscription service.

Does Netflix have euphoria? ›

Where to Watch Euphoria's Seasons 1 and 2? As Euphoria is not available on Netflix, you can watch it conveniently on Hbo Max or Amazon Prime Video. But you will have to pay up for these streaming platforms.

Which Narcos is best on Netflix? ›

Both series are best in their own ways. However, Narcos takes the first position because of the great influence of Pablo Escobar. The way he climbed the cartel ladder and the struggle of American DEA & Colombian police to arrest him makes everyone wonder. In my opinion, it is Narcos.

Why is 4 good days Rated R? ›

Four Good Days is rated R by the MPAA for drug content, language throughout and brief sexuality.

Is the movie Four Good Days a true story? ›

Directed and co-written by Rodrigo García, the film is based on Eli Saslow's Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post article, "How's Amanda? A Story of Truth, Lies and an American Addiction," which chronicled Alexander's experience with daughter Amanda Wendler.

What is the film Four Good Days about? ›

Why is Ben Is Back Rated R? ›

“Ben is Back” (103 min, Rated R for language, thematic elements involving drugs, and some violence).

How much is Julia Roberts worth? ›

As of 2020, Roberts' net worth was estimated to be $250 million. People magazine has named her the most beautiful woman in the world a record five times.

What is Ben Is Back the movie about? ›

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