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Movies about drugs and alcohol that will drive you to sobriety

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Addiction is sadly a relatable subject for many, but so many movies get it entirely wrong. However, some films really hit the nail on the head when portraying the real-life effects of addiction, an unpleasant trip or the disastrous effects on relationships.

With a massive amount of movies out there tempting you to get high, I thought I’d take a look on movies that does the opposite. Movie that portray just how devastating drugs can be, the dark corners of alcoholism, and the grim turn a bad trip can take. Here are 5 movies about drugs and alcohol that will make you want to stay sober.

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream movie about addiction

Director Darren Aronofsky made a big name for himself with his director debut Pi, so the pressure was on when Requiem for a Dream hit the cinemas back in the 2000s. He didn’t disappoint and Requiem for a Dream became the “tour-de-force” of movies depicting addiction. 

The movie centers on a small group of people, mainly Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), his mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn) and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans).The movie begins with Sara learning she has the chance to take part in a TV game show. This sets off an obsession of loosing weight, so the use of diet pills–strong amphetamines begins. Meanwhile, her son Harry and his girlfriend Marion have addiction struggles of their own. They spend their days desperately trying to score Heroin. When Harry and his best buddy Tyron become drug dealers, they all start to feel invincible. But things soon spiral out of control, as the drugs take them in an iron grip they can’t escape.

The movie is psychological torture in the rawest, realest form. It’s anxiety inducing portrayal of addiction leaves you feeling shocked, nauseated, and slightly insane. If you want to watch a movie where hope goes to die, Requiem for a Dream is it.

Blow (2001)

Blow Johnny Depp drug smuggler

Blow is based on the real-life person George Jung, who was a major figure in the cocaine trade in the USA. With simple beginnings he became a successful drug smuggler, probably the largest smuggler of cocaine in American History. He scored 100s of millions in the 70s and 80s, working as the middleman for Pablo Escobar and his Medellín Cartel.

We follow George Jung (Johnny Depp) who makes a transformation from being daddy’s little boy in a small town, to a drug lord with nerves of steel, to finally a wise but remorseful father. This insane real-life-story doesn’t sugar code anything, nor does it seek to understand all the “why’s”. Still, you’re left feeling great compassion for one of the world’s biggest drug smuggler. An unsettling paradox, masterfully executed.

Director Ted Demme made Blow, a movie portraying Jung without accusation, or judgment. The movie doesn’t question the moral side of his career, and it doesn’t explore the consequences of his doings. It simply, but in a very raw way, portrays the journey of one man. And that is more than enough to make this movie brilliant.

Climax (2018)

Climax 2018 movie about a bad trip

Gaspar Noé is definitely not a people pleaser. He doesn’t compromise when it comes to his art, even if it means many will despise it. On a poster it even said “You despised I Stand Alone, you hated Irreversible, you loathed Enter the Void, you cursed Love, now try Climax“. My only complaint with Climax was that it was not brutal enough. Having re-watched Irreversible just the day before I expected some gruesome violence, and of course being a Noé movie, we got it – but not to the extent I was hoping.

20 dancers gather in an abandoned school to have a 3-days dance repetition. Finishing 3 intense days, an epic dance takes place, followed by a party. Free flowing sangria and good vibes with great dance take place, until they realize someone spiked the sangria with psychedelic drugs. What starts off as kind of a feel-good-movie slowly intensifies, as does the signature Noé background bass. It felt almost pleasantly hypnotic, but unsettling at the same time. Jumping from one person’s trip to another, a range of emotions are experienced. Just as irreversible starts in chaos, Climax ends with it.

I actually really liked the movie, and to my delight it wasn’t as trippy as I was expecting. While the characters in the movie are tripping the movie itself is not very “trippy”. I didn’t mind the first hour of dialogue or long dance scenes. Getting to know 20 characters is a hard thing to accomplish, but the way they did it was brilliant in my opinion. As the first chapter of the movie ended, and the second began, I had the feeling I knew each and every one of them.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Leaving Las Vegas alcoholism

If Mike Figgis had retired and never made another film, Leaving Las Vegas would have made an excellent legacy. Unfortunately, nothing he did previously or after this incredible film came even close to the same cinematic brilliance. Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue perform effortlessly together, bringing the screenplay to life with their amazing chemistry.

Leaving Las Vegas centers on a man deep in his addiction to alcohol. When we first meet Ben (Nicolas Cage), we see him in a grocery store with a shopping cart filled with liquor. His wife has left him and taken their children. Ben’s alcoholism has taken control of him, and soon he’s offended all his friends and gotten fired from his workplace. With nothing left, and in social and emotional bankruptcy, he empties his bank account and heads to Vegas with the goal of drinking himself to death.

That’s when Ben meets prostitute Sera (Elisabeth Shue), who instantly becomes infatuated with Ben, much to his surprise. Together they form an unusual friendship, and a pact not to interfere with each other’s life choices. Having seen countless Hollywood romantic movies, their relationship gives you a form of relief, a sense of hope. But Leaving Las Vegas is far from a feel-good-movie about how the power of love heals everything. It’s a movie about accepting each other’s life decisions, at any cost.

Trainspotting (1996)

Trainspotting dark movie about drug abuse

Trainspotting has been accused of romanticising drugs, which I find absolutely absurd seeing the heroin hell these characters live in. Watching this movie for the first time as a teen there was absolutely no point where I thought “wow, cool – let’s try heroin”. The movie messes with you, makes you feel safe by desensitising you with help of the strong black humor, good music and edgy imagery. Just as you feel safe, Trainspotting turns it around and punches you in the stomach with the sad reality that is drug addiction.

The movie centers on a group of friends in Edinburgh, who spend their days escaping every-day-life with the use of drugs. At the heart of the movie is Renton (Ewan McGregror). He tells us to “choose life”, something he has a hard time doing. Trying to get his act together, he decides to get out of the drug-scene and get clean. But it’s easier said than done, choosing between his friends and his own life.

Trainspotting is a druggy nightmare, which with a perfect ensemble of dazzling soundtrack and edgy imagery finds the precise balance between an important message and the 90s teen culture. It’s a movie where every punch hurts and where shit actually stinks.

Also worth mentioning is that the same director Danny Boyle made T2 Trainspotting 20 years later. Following the same stellar cast, we get to see how they’re dealing with life since the last movie, as 20 years has passed. While it’s not as awesomely mind-blowing as the original, it’s certainly a sequel worth watching.

cinesister
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cinesister

I've always had a deep love and fascination for movies, being an especially strong advocate for the weird, foreign, underrated, under-budgeted and unfairly NC17 rated films of our world. Cinesister is the embodiment of this passion (which some might call an obsession).

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