When we think of how addiction and Hollywood go hand-in-hand, pictures of Lindsay Lohan, Robert Downey, Jr., Charlie Sheen and other celebrities falling from grace immediately come to mind. However, all the industry’s internal struggles and first-hand experiences with addiction have enabled it to tell some great stories and birth films that depict the struggles and consequences of addiction. True, many movies make drug and alcohol abuse look glamorous and leave out grittiness and helplessness that addiction is really like, but for every Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, there’s a Kids that shows the reality and destruction that substance abuse can cause. Here are five examples of movies that accurately portray the pain and ruin that drug use can cause.
Requiem for a Dream – Arguably one of the most famous movies about addiction in the past 15 years, this Darren Aronofsky film starring Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly chronicles the downward spiral of four people battling their own individual demons and addictions. One character is caught in a cycle of taking weight-loss amphetamines during the day and sedatives to sleep at night, whereas other turn to drug dealing and prostitution to fuel their heroin addictions. None of the characters meets a happy fate, as the movie concludes with each person falling deeper and deeper into their addictions, succumbing to insanity, health problems, crime and increased desperation.
Midnight Cowboy – One of the first movies to accurately portray the throes of heroin abuse and addiction, the 1969 Academy Award winner for “Best Picture” tells the story of a Texan who moves to New York City and finds himself trapped in a gritty life of drugs, prostitution and poverty. The movie does a great job of balancing the allure of a life filled with glamorous parties, drugs and sex, with the despair, hopelessness and death one caught in a cycle of addiction can face.
The Basketball Diaries – Based on protagonist Jim Carroll’s juvenile diaries, The Basketball Diaries is an example of how a person can seem to have it all and maintain the semblance of a normal, productive life while struggling with addiction. Carroll was a key member of a seemingly unbeatable team with a promising future, yet battled personal demons and other uncontrollable factors in his life that contributed to his increasing drug use, which included a heroin habit that began when he was only 13 years old. After serving time in jail, Carroll was able to kick his addiction, obtain a healthier mental and emotional state, and reclaim his life.
Pure – Told from the perspective of the young son of a heroin addict, Pure provides viewers a look at what it’s like from “the other side,” depicting the effect addiction has on loved ones. The film depicts the struggle that 10-year-old Paul must endure while serving as the caretaker of his mother and younger brother, as well as trying to find a way to keep his mother from succumbing to her addiction strongly enough that she will either abandon the family or die.
Trainspotting – Trainspotting depicts the daily life of a drug addict and his friends, from the recognition that he is living an irresponsible life on the fringe unlike many of his peers to the realization that he must quit drugs to the promise to quit after “one last fix” to the anguish of withdrawal. The movie further chronicles the protagonist’s difficult journey in his commitment to remain clean amidst the life of crime and drugs, and circle of addicted friends he has created for himself. In the end viewers are led to believe the he remains committed to recovery, but his future is left unclear.