People love movies about drug or alcohol addiction because, unlike an alien invasion, or a martial arts extravaganza, many people have either overindulged in drugs or alcohol themselves, or else no someone who has. We empathize with a character struggling with addiction, especially if they’re otherwise relatable and charming. We groan when they make poor choices, and cheer when they ultimately succeed. Or, the addicted protagonist(s) could become comic heroes, made ridiculous by their over use of drugs or alcohol.
Let’s take a look at three of the best movies dealing with addiction:
The Lost Weekend
Plot summary: Don Birnam is a talented New York city writer, and an alcoholic that’s been clean for ten days at the start of the movie. He seems to be through the worst when something changes and his cravings grow stronger than ever. He blows off a weekend get away with his brother, Wick, and his girlfriend, Helen, in favor of a four-day drinking binge. The rest of the movie is told in flashbacks, during which we get to see exactly what Don’s alcoholism has done to his life. It looks like this will be Don’s last binge, one way or the other.
To find out which, you’ll just have to go watch the movie.
The Lost Weekend, which won four Oscars and numerous other awards, highlights an important aspect of addiction: even if you “fall off the wagon”, you’re not a bad person, or a lost cause. The road to recovery is full of set backs and the potential for relapse. If you do relapse, it’s important not to beat yourself up. Instead, get more help and examine why the relapse occurred.
Plot summary: Two days before his wedding, Doug Billings, his two best friends, Phil Wenneck and Stu Price, and his fiancÃ©e’s brother, Alan Garner, head down to Los Vegas for an epic bachelor party. Phil is an overgrown teenager, Stu constantly worries about his controlling girlfriend Melissa, and Alan is, well, just strange. Still, they’re determined to have a great time, and they might have, but they just don’t remember it. When they wake up in their hotel room the next day, the groom is missing, the room is trashed and being prowled by Mike Tyson’s tiger, Stu’s missing a tooth, and there’s a baby in the closet. Now, they must piece together what happened so they can find the groom and get him back in time for his wedding.
Although staged as a comedy, The Hangover depicts the kinds of terrible decision-making to which abusing drugs and alcohol lead. If you know someone in real life that has these kinds of stories (even semi-regularly) they should seek addiction treatment for their binging.
Plot summary: A police lieutenant, played by Harvey Keitel, goes through the motions of investigating his homicide cases, though his mind is really on his vices: drugs, gambling, and prostitution. He has massive debts accrued by betting on baseball games and his bookies are running out of patience. He does colossal amounts of drugs, and uses his position as a police officer to take advantage of girls. Yet, when he investigates the rape of a nun, the lieutenant begins to think about his lifestyle and the possibility of change.
Clearly, the movie is appropriately named and the lieutenant is very “bad.” Not only does he gamble and do drugs, but manipulating his position as a police officer to take advantage of women is actually rape. Still, just like The Lost Weekend, this movie shows that no one is beyond redemption. If this man can change, anyone can.
Something to Remember
Although movies and TV often make drug addiction look funny (like The Hangover), or life-affirming (like The Lost Weekend or Bad Lieutenant), it’s important to remember that addiction is a serious topic. It’s a disease that can slowly and painfully destroy lives””the lives of the addicted people and the lives of their loved ones. If you suspect someone has a drug or alcohol addiction, please don’t hesitate””get them help immediately.