10 Classic Addiction and Recovery Films

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Whether we go to the movie theater, run to Redbox, or switch on Netflix, we watch movies in order to escape the stresses of our everyday lives. While movies provide us a sense of escape and wonder, movies can also provide us the spark to think deeply about our lives and what goes on in the world around us. This is particularly true regarding movies that center on drug and alcohol addiction. The following are 10 classic films that focus on drug addiction and recovery.

The Lost Weekend (1945)

Released in 1945, The Lost Weekend was considered groundbreaking in its’ time since the topic of alcoholism and addiction was considered controversial for films that were made during that time. The movie centers on the struggles of a man (Ray Milland) who goes on a weekend bender and ends up in the hospital and confronts his own personal demons. While the portrayal of alcoholism and addiction can be seen as dated by today’s standards, the film’s portrayal of the self-violence that often accompanies addiction was accurately presented.

Less Than Zero (1987)

This seminal 80’s film was adapted from the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name and was an often disturbing portrayal of the excess and decadence of the “me first decade”. The film follows three young people as they navigate the social scene of Southern California and experience first-hand the devastating consequences of drug use. One of the film’s stars was a young Robert Downey Jr., and given his own battles with drug and alcohol abuse, Less Than Zero may have been an accurate reflection of his experiences during that period.

28 Days (2000)

28 Days starts Sandra Bullock as a big-city newspaper columnist who is forced to enter a 28-day rehab facility following her arrest for crashing a limo during her sister’s wedding while under the influence of alcohol. While initially resistant to participate in treatment at that start, Bullock’s character gradually comes to the realization that she does have a drinking problem and begins in earnest to work towards sobriety. The themes of resistance in a rehab setting is something that many alcoholics and drugs addicts can relate to when watching this film.

The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)

This film was an adaption of the novel of the same name written by Nelson Algren. Like The Lost Weekend the decade before, The Man With the Golden Arm was considered controversial for its time. In fact, the Motion Picture Association of America refused to certify the movie because it graphically showed drug abuse. Frank Sinatra stars in the movie and plays an ex-can who battles a heroin addiction while caring for his wheelchair-bound wife and harboring love for another woman. Despite the controversial subject matter, the movie was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

The Days of Wine and Roses documents the lives of a couple (portrayed by Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick) as they struggle with alcoholism. The film shows Lemmon’s and Remick’s characters gradual slide into alcoholism and the consequences alcoholism brings. While Lemmon’s character struggles with and eventually becomes clean and sober, Remick’s character refuses to believe she has a drinking problem. The film received four Oscar nominations, including nominations for Best Actor and Actress.

When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)

This film revolves around the story of Alice and Michael Green, who are played by Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan. The main plotline revolves around Alice’s continued slide into alcoholism and Michael’s continued enabling of her behaviors. As Alice enters rehab after endangering the life of her child, the couple must address their respective issues in regards to the development of her alcoholism. When a Man Loves A Woman shows how addiction is considered a family disease and how a family member’s substance abuse can cause great dysfunction in the family unit.

Trainspotting (1996)

Based on the novel of the same name by author Irvine Welsh, the film follows the lives of young heroin addicts in Edinburgh, Scotland. The film is full of disturbing imagery and symbolism that is connected to heroin use and abuse. The film also explores themes of poverty and the squalor that accompanies it, and it also tackles themes of what happens when people get clean and sober but still have to deal with friends that still use drugs.

Clean and Sober (1988)

In this film, Michael Keaton plays an addict and alcoholic who chooses rehab to avoid the law. When he enters a 30-day rehab facility that guarantees anonymity, he meets a fellow addict (played by Morgan Freeman) who doesn’t buy into his deceit or denial and helps Keaton’s character discover the courage to face his addiction–even though it comes with a huge price. The film is excellent in portraying the themes of codependency and manipulation as well as the fact that people die due to the disease of addiction.

Requiem For A Dream (2000)

Released in 2000, this psychological drama was based on the novel written by Hubert Selby Jr. and starred Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto and Jennifer Connolly. The film depicts the journey of a mother and son (Burstyn and Leto) who sink deeper into their own substance abuses. For the mother it is weight-loss medications and sedatives, and for the son it is heroin. Throughout the film, the decent into the madness and consequences of addiction are front and center. Requiem for a Dream not only shows the effects of addiction on the individual, it shows how drug addiction destroys the lives of others.

My Name Is Bill W. (1989)

This T.V movie starring James Woods and James Garner is based on the true story of William Griffith Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, M.D. Bill Wilson comes home from the War with a drinking problem, which ultimately costs him everything. In a hospital, Wilson strikes up a friendship with Dr. Smith, and eventually the two organize a small band of chronic drinkers who have an honest desire to stop drinking, and in the process stay sober themselves.

Drug and alcohol addiction ruins lives, and it can affect ANYONE regardless of their background. If you or a loved one need help in addressing and overcoming your addiction, Ocean Breeze Recovery Center can help. Our treatment programs are evidenced-based, proven to work and delivered by experienced addiction professionals who can create a treatment plan that perfect fits your unique needs. Call Ocean Breeze Recovery Center today.

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