10 Awesome Movies about Drug Addiction

Whether you’re a drug user or not,  if you want to watch a movie that can make you sick to your stomach, watch a drug addiction movie.   I think one of the main draws to these movies is not only the excess they portray, but these movies dive into worlds that we never thought were possible.

I mean when you think your life is down, just see what happens to people who you think have lives twice as good as yours get completely wrecked by their addictions.   It’s truly disturbing and yet these movies are very important to relay how destructive drug addiction can be.

Here are 10 great movies about drug addiction.

Less than Zero

Drug Addiction

Interesting that in real life, this movie was pretty damned accurate concerning Robert Downey Jr.’s life.  Downey plays a guy named Julian who comes from a wealthy family in Beverly Hills.    Julian is involved with his ex best friend’s ex girlfriend Blair.  Blair warns his ex best friend, Clay, about Julian’s problems.  The movie gets pretty graphic and you certainly question the use of drugs.  It gave great exposure to the drug lives of young wealthy post college grads.

Rush

Drug Addiction

Just a disturbing movie all around.  Jason Patric plays an undercover cop set to bust a girl named Kristen (Jennifer Jason Leigh) when he winds up getting addicted himself and falling in love with Leigh in the process.

Trainspotting

Drug Addiction

One of my favorite movies about drug addiction, Trainspotting explores heroin at its finest.  The process of getting the drug, the ritual of doing the drug, and how the drug sucks you back in time after time.  And the backdrop is the poor town on Edinburgh.  Excellent supporting cast in Ewen McGregor’s first spotlight movie.

Permanent Midnight

Drug Addiction

This movie just messed me up all around.  Ben Stiller did an excellent job going from comedic actor to serious drug addict role.  There’s just too much detail in this movie for me to handle.  Lots of needle and insertion of needles.  And the scene in the office where Stiller and dealer are jumping against windows is insane.

Requiem for a Dream

Drug Addiction

Four people who are doing their best in the world wind up succumbing to drugs.  Despite the fact they have lofty aspirations, these four people wind up getting into the dirtiest, and most disturbing parts of the drug underworld.  One of Arnofsky’s finest cinematic accomplishments, Requiem remains and will remain a cult classic.  Great soundtrack too.

Traffic

Drug Addiction

Traffic takes a look at drugs from all angles.  From the source, to the fight against drugs, to drugs in the home, Traffic is one of the finest movies about drugs in history.  Of the three angles of drugs the movie portrays, I particularly find Erica Christensen’s character to relate to this article.  The movie sort of gives the message of “it just goes to show you, even the best and brightest can get sucked into the world of drugs.”  And not only that, be taken to the worst places imaginable, all under the eye of a drug czar.

Pure

Drug Addiction

In short the movie is about a boy who is trying to deal with his mother’s heroin addiction.    His mother is dependent on a pimp and dealer which forces the boy (who is 10) to take care of his mother and younger brother.  Even though he’s so young, the boy takes serious action to prevent his mother from dying (as his father did).

The Basketball Diaries

Drug Addiction

Great look at a true story here.  Leonardo Dicaprio plays a star basketball player and poet who falls into the sordid world of drug addiction in Manhattan.  He goes from being a high school phenom to complete junkie in a matter of months resorting to violence, stealing, and selling his own body just for a hit.  It’s an excellent story and Dicaprio is excellent (as is Mark Wahlberg as his prick friend).

Drugstore Cowboy

Drug Addiction

A “heroin driven” Bonnie and Clyde.   A couple must finance their drug habit and to do so they rob drug stores.  Eventually however, luck runs out.

Midnight Cowboy

Drug Addiction

One of the first movies that portrayed gritty, urban heroin addiction with all its associated despair on full display. It remains one of Dustin Hoffman’s finest roles, and the only movie with an “X” rating to ever receive an Academy Award for Best Picture.

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125 Comments

  1. There are some classics in here and they all have excellent acting. I have to say one film that iI saw which doesnt really do the right thing for drug addiction is Spun its just not really shocking for the topic. It does have a great Visual aspect to it but it really is too silly to be taken seriously as a movie about drug addiction.

  2. Maybe thats why Spun never made it to the Top 10. I liked the film in part. The boring, mundane, all on everyday nonsense of using, the wiredness and weirdness. Good cameo from Debbie Harry too.

    I liked “28 days”. Sandra Bullock in Rehab with a idiot very English boyfriend who doesn’t want to see her changing.

    Requiem for a Dream has to be the number one for me, the part of the mother was so graphic and sad, very well played. Yes the soundtrack is good and really drives the imagery along well.

  3. To the guy that mentioned fear and loathing- that movie wasn’t about drug addiction, it was about drug binging. Besides a lot of the drugs they were doing weren’t even addictive (ex: mescaline, lsd, amyl nitrate, and cannabis, and ether).

  4. Nice list, some movies I have not seen and will have to check out I think.
    I would recommend Adam and Paul as a must see about drug addiction also. It’s a very sad but also funny movie about 2 heroin addicts living in Dublin.

  5. Have to agree with Evan above. In the film ‘Rush’, both Jason Patric’s character and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s are undercover police officers, and they are both set to the task of busting a ring of drug criminals from petty dealers to the more powerful trafficker. (I won’t spoil it with any more details than that.)

  6. The List is good. I would ad Nacked Lunch as well as The Doors and Dune. Breaking on through to the other side is a deeply implemented wish of every human being in this universe.

  7. mmm..good list….Meg Ryan and Alex Rodriguiz “When a Man Loves a Woman…is a good one..and also…Clean and Sober with beattle juice guy…what’s his name..oh yeah Michael Keaton…

  8. Thank you Evan and Amy, for making the correction on Rush. I really like that movie.

    And thank you Kampi, for including Naked Lunch – which is a must, I think.

  9. Don’t forget “Clean and Sober”. Michael Keaton, doing a terrific – and manic – turn as a cocaine addict, wakes up one morning to find his girlfriend dead from an overdose. He has a really clever idea – he’ll hide out in a rehab facility and have his coke delivered there (addicts are like that – full of clever ideas).

  10. I watched “Requiem for a Dream” at a co-worker’s request. He didn’t know about my past. I just wanted to kill myself at the end. I watched a reflection of myself when I was doing the same kinda shit, and saw the toll that my addiction took on myself and everyone around me. It was a good movie, and it may have saved my life at a time when I was tempted to go back to the old monster that consumed my life, and what should have been
    the best years of my twenties. I owe my life to my true friends, who remembered that I was a good person underneath, and eventually brought me back to life, a stronger and wiser person.

  11. requiem for a dream was great.
    all the dreams of the characters just colide with the main problem of the world… the drugs.
    that movie had great actors
    (jared leto, jenifer connelly ,ellen burstyn and marlon wayans)
    great drama music ,great dialogs

    my MSN: x.c0v3rm3d4rkn3ss.x@hotmail.com
    yeah I know is wierd but special
    anyway you can copy & paste
    XD

  12. If you had experienced what the people in these movies experienced then watched them, I highly doubt you would label them as “awesome.” Drug addiction is not fun.

  13. Norm – I’m pretty sure he’s labeling the films as awesome, as in a great work of cinema. The reason they’re awesome is due to the realistic portrayal of the addicts and thir demons.

    Not to mention that “awesome” on its own simply means “inspiring awe”, and not necessarily in a positive way. One can be awestruck by extremely negative experiences too.

  14. Love the list, must have been tough to narrow it down to just ten. One worth checking out if you guys haven’t seen it “The Salton Sea” With Val Kilmer.

  15. requiem for a dream definitely induced a relapse for me.
    probably a relapse that was just waiting to happen, but still…
    a year clean & watching movies like these does the opposite of what it should for me
    they make me want to use again.
    cheers to heroine, fantastic movies about addiction & the numbing fact that i’m willing to lose it all again. just to get high.

  16. Hey how about Blow? And You want a movie with alot of drugs? Check out Wonderland with val kilmer, Awesome movie, plays a good addict in this one

  17. Good calls everybody- This was my list of all time favorites and I think every one was mentioned. Even the rare ones no one ever knows:
    Christiane F.
    Trainspotting
    Permanent Midnight
    Panic in Needle Park
    Requim…
    Candy
    Sherry Baby
    I was an opiate kind of guy, so now years down that road I still find it fascinating. Some of these nail it pretty well. How about some good documentaries? I used to have a few pretty good ones but I can’t find them.

  18. Candy! The book is also brilliant; there’s a lot of humour in it.

    em4jay – an independent Australian movie about two heroin addicts which isn’t bad.

    * 28 days * = EXCELLENT movie!

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – it’s not so much about addiction, just a great drug movie.

    trainspotting made me want to try heroin, Requiem for a Dream pushed me far, far away from it!

  19. midnight cowboy has nothing to do with heroin addiction or drug addiction whatsoever, so it’s weird that its on this list. Stupid infact.

  20. Candy IS the best movie I’ve ever seen. My ex-boyfriend and I once being in almost the same situation as Abby and Heath, it means so much to me every time I watch it. It covers the steps of heroin addiction being Heaven, Earth, and Hell. Even if you can’t relate, it’s a beautiful movie about love in general. A must-see!

  21. I cannot believe I read this entire list and never once came across the film Jesus’ Son. Many brilliant actors in this indie flick that Portrays addiction to herion, alcohol, hallucinations and more. It’s based on a book of short stories that are woven together seamlessly, in a flick with the sad reality of life as an addict as well as humor and the courage of living through loss and getting clean.
    By the by, the main character’s name is F*^+head. I found this hilarious!!!

  22. I’m trying to remember the name of this movie.
    plot. a heroin addicted girl in the inner city. od’s in a guys apartment he puts her in the hallway. she meets a black lady photographer who has beaten her own addiction. at the end she relapses and dies. whats the movie?

  23. I like all of these, especially requiem of a dream, but how can you forget about “Christiane F”?? It’s a great movie based on a true story about a girl that get into heroin and prostitution at the age of 12.

  24. Jake …what kind of an idiot are you? Every drug is addictive ,like weed its a gateway drug that leads almost everyone to something harder . Booze to weed to mescaline to acid to speed to crank to coke thash with opium to presciption drugs ether just to try it to more booze to more weed to more booze to herion etc.etc.

  25. I just watched Requiem for a dream…. It for sure woke me up! It was a freaky but good movie. It didnt really help that I was high while watching it.
    But, im thinking that RENT should be on here too….
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of the best movies like ever.
    Maybe Shrooms should be on the list too??? Givin it aint the best movie but it does deal with adiction.

  26. logunknight: the movie you’re referring to is “Acts of Worship”. This comment should be removed, because it gives the ending of the film away. Even so, it is one hell of a movie. I work in a rehab, and every time I show it, no one is sorry they saw it if they can stay till the end.

  27. Can’t remember the name, but there is this film about a girl, who works as a waitress. She dreams of becoming a singer, and she has some talent. Her ex-boyfriend put her to drugs (heroin), and she went down to the bottom. Eventually she recovered and kicked him away, but he couldn’t handle. Now he’s mad, he goes to the restaurant she works with a gun and mess around with the place. Anyone know the name?

  28. I take my words back partially.. Spun is more humorous and unrealistic.. I found it funny at times, but seriously someone coming out that movie who hasn’t tried bumped/snorted/smoked shards would have a huge shock if they decided to get spun, especially when it comes to the comedown.

    Completely off topic, what you reckon will be big on the drug scene in your country next?

    I live a 5 minute walk from a fair junkie suburb in Melbourne. I personally see a lot of smack addicts moving to shards (although heroin will always be around.) Heroin is just so exy and cut, compared to shards.

    I can see prescriptions like oxys, benzos (i’m not really too sure on this one) and rits (one of my cousins was making this into some sort of weak crack) spreading too

  29. @ Mike. You are wrong mate. Not all psychoactives are addictive. That is a fallacy.
    @ laughandpassion. I know what you mean. Pulp fiction and trainspotting have almost messed up my recovery too, almost.

    I’m trying to find a film I watched in young offenders years ago. I think it was called “Needles”. It was set in Liverpool. It was a home office produced cautionary tale about heroin and the dark places it takes you to, and it was in my humble opinion the best film I have ever seen about heroin addiction. Very true to life and very real. Sadly I cannot find it anywhere on line. Does anyone else know the film I am talking about?

  30. Hello

    You all seem to know your movies! I am desperately trying to find the name of a (Probably made for t.v.) movie- about a young boy (whom is a “good” son)- who becomes involved with a girl that is using heroin and she has him try it with her….before you know it, he is totally addicted, lost his job, failing in school, stealing from his family, etc. They stay together at some body else’s place-because she loses her apartment.. the girl has sex for heroin while he is gone trying to get money—- his family sees his condition and keep him at home where he “kicks” cold turkey– then he wants to go rescue his girlfriend– but it is too late- she has over-dosed.
    It was a very good movie and very realistic – I can not remember the name of ANY of the actors– but it is a movie I MUST find, as it is hitting very close to home and I need my sister to watch it so she can realize what is happening to her son. PLEASE HELP ME FIND IT– how else can I search for it?
    Thank you so much and I hope that any of you whom are struggling can find a way to make it. Good luck to you.
    Thanx again===hope you can help me?

  31. haha dear Mike im sorry but Every drug is NOT addictive, and the though that people go from smoking pot to shooting dope or free basing meth is ridicules. its like saying kids who shoot BB guns at cans are going to use ak’s at cops, and who the hell can even get masculine these days mike??? Anyway most all the good drug films have been named but here are some of my faves.
    Easy Rider
    Man with the Golden Arm
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
    Christine F
    Spun
    Panic in Needle Park
    Rockers
    Withnail And I
    Rush
    Pusher
    New Jack City
    Blow
    My Own Private Idaho
    Performance
    Narc
    The Basketball Diaries
    Requiem for a Dream
    Trainspotting
    Drugstore Cowboy
    Cocaine Cowboys
    Gridlock’d
    Midnight Express
    Alice in Wonderland(original)
    Naked Lunch.
    as far as just fucked up visual drug inspired movies “The Holy Mountain”, or any thing buy Dir. Alejandro Jodorowsky will blow any of the aforementioned movies and your mind away!! really insane stuff here!
    and best anti authority movie and my fave “Over the Edge”!
    in closing legalizes all drugs and tax and oversee them like liquor and lotto and the world will be a safer place.

  32. @Lisa. Google ‘movies about heroin, find the names of any that you can, then look them up in IMDB to see if any of them have the plot you’re thinking of 🙂 I can’t help you name the movie, but doing this should help you- do you remember if it was a mainstream movie with mainstream actors? That may help narrow down your search too, I’m sure there are more indie movies about drug addiction than we can even imagine.

    Good luck on your search and I hope your nephew finds his way- heroin is tough to kick, I know firsthand, and you have to want help to get better. I hope your sister/his mom can stick by him and help him see that he doesn’t want the life he’s living, not really, (I think right now I’m trying to convince myself of that, too)

    And a word of advice I like to spred around- REALLY think out your decision if anyone decides to turn to methadone maintenance to help their addiction. I wish I hadn’t started it.

  33. I only disagree that they must be ALL english spoken movies. The angle on heroin use seen by other european moviemakers is also an interesting universe itself. Christiane F remains as one of the best german dramas ever.

  34. Im searching for a movie about this 6 or 7 year old boy who is stolen by his meth addicted mother from a religious home, as they are out on the road sleeping in the car sometimes in motels with strange guys who rape the boy when the mother is not around, The boy is a bed wetter and is made to sleep in the bathtub. The mother lets strangers beat him if he wets. She leaves him alone in rural homes were there are meth labs in the basement. The movie seems tragically endless and not getting better for the boy who in the end becomes used to getting violated. and begins to solicit sex later and put on makeup. Sex pistol songs are part of the sound track.

  35. how about Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault with Don Cheadle. True story about an up and coming bb star that got into some crazy stuff

  36. people keep mentioning candy, but I personally loved the book so much that the movie was ruined for me the very first time I saw it. It does have good acting, but doesn’t portray how bad things got for them and just rushes through the whole story. I suggest if you watch the movie, read the book afterwards, because the book is amazing. 100 times better then the movie. I’ve read it 3 times.

  37. life is hot in cracktown is a really good movie a/b addiction-obviously crack and heroin and others and about the cruel nature of humanity as well….to the person who said they had a year clean and trainspotting made them use again (I think you said trainapotting) I can totally identify…everytime I see drug use like that in a movie it makes me run out and do anything I can to fix…I can be okay for weeks and then all a fucking sudden I see it in a movie and I’m fucked! two hours of watching people get high and I’ve got it stuck in my brain…nothing will make me stop

  38. not going to say you forgot it but heres one i like not top ten but not bad.

    Another day in paradise

    also just because a movie has drugs in it does not mean it should be on a top ten addiction list i no heaps of movies about or that involve drugs but i don’t go around saying you forgot romeo and juliet it would just be moronic.

    thanks for the list ill be watching permanent midnight tonight

  39. This is actually probably the greatest list I have seen that accurately portrays true drug “addiction” and not binging like mentioned above with F&L, movies like that, etc…

  40. i remember a film i think was black and white, a couple who were heroin addicts who were trying,painfully to stay clean, but were both holding out on each other,it took place in one depressing room and it was called”H” or so i believe. it was not asian, but might have been foreign.help me find this please.

  41. No one’s mentioned Bird, I don’t think, the sensationalized story of Charlie Parker. It disappointed me because it focused more on his heroin addiction & less on him as a musician & composer. True, he was a junkie, but c’mon–the flick did his genius & artistry an injustice.

    Let’s Get Lost–about junkie/trumpeter/singer Cher Baker–same thing–sensationalized his drug use. It even gets into a weird fashion photography aesthetic. But it does have some music. BTW, folks who know say he was pushed…

    Down to the Bone–excellent, fairly realistic portrayal of crack & heroin addiction, rehab, relapse, recovery.

    Movies already listed: I thought Ben Stiller in Permanent Midnight was amazing! Perfectly captures the addict trying to get over.

    Drugstore Cowboy & Christiane F my personal favorites, especially DC. Requiem for a Dream & Trainspotting also fantastic. Panic in Needle Park has some colorful extras–people who were probably real users, but the plot is static and the acting is amateurish (except for Pacino, who’s pretty convincing).

  42. Can anyone tell me which one of these movies mentioned including all your suggestions which actor really played the drug addiction very well to the bone . Thank you

  43. any movies one knows of thats made for the high viewer? Like
    Eraser head,Pi and Tideland; one of the best!!!!
    Please REPLY I’M BORED.- and looking for some real movie magic.

    1. Natural born killers, leaving las vegas(not about drugs but i watched it while on keta and was blown away)! Only lovers left alive. k-pax. The million dollar hotel (all these movies are in my top ten movie list sow i garentee they have soomething special, you just have to see it).

  44. Marijuana is not a gateway drug, under certain circumstances recreational use is fine. stupid people who make bad decisions is the gateway. btw marijuana is not a drug its a substance that is illegal in the U.S. because big businesses would lose to much money (tobacco,rope,paper ect…) Be smart make good decisions kids….

  45. im looking for this movie saw it a couple yrs ago, not really a “movie” it was funny, kept telling you how to get out of jams with the law with different drugs but what was really funny was, the parties, whenever you goto a party always bring 2 bags of coke, one party bag, because you KNOW youre not gettin anything by the time it comes back to you if it even stays around, and one bag for personal use, where you dont really care about the little bag you gave out and when they see if you have anymore you tell em i gave you the whole bag and ta da you have your own.lol
    thats really the only part i remember, it was funny as hell..any help would be greatly appreciated, it was on HBO i believe
    thx again

  46. “Down to the Bone” with Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Love in a Time of money); “Virgil Bliss” about drugs and an ex con who’s trying to keep it together. “Twelve”; “Where the Day Takes You” is an oldie but a goodie, with, among others, Rickie Lake and Alyssa Milano.

  47. Broken Vessels is the best of all drug related movies. Todd Fields deserves an Oscar for his performance. If you haven’t seen it, you need to do so. You will not be disappointed!!!

  48. has anyone seen a movie about four heroin addicts that rob a bank, it was funny but i don’t think it was a comedy. I can’t remember to many details except that towards the end two guys are trapped in an armored car.

  49. in response to “bill”… that movie was called “High Life” and it was a great comedy/drama with Timothy Ollyphant in the lead. It was very true to life, yet somehow was a bit humorous as well (which I suppose IS true to life)! Also another responder talked about a movie called “H” I think this is a French /Canadian film that was based on a play or book, it is quite good as well! The reason I ended up here was I was trying to find a film from the UK that was a pretty stark drug movie that used the song “Not an Addict” by the band K’s Choice in the soundtrack. I am fairly certain the movie was German or Belgian, but I don’t remember to many details….
    Great list, and interesting comments ….

    Peace to all….

  50. where is Gia? I am a grateful recovering addict and if i could make kids watch all of the movies listed, i think there would be less addiction. I may be in a pink cloud but if they actually paid attn. And took n that it causes so much disaster and grief it may change a life.

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