Art is a powerful way to deliver a message. Whether it’s an oil painting, a 1960s soul song, a great novel or a film that pulls at your heartstrings, art has a way of reaching the spirit and conscience in a way that mere words and statistics can never match. Over the years there have been some great films that do a fine job of capturing what it’s like to live with addiction. Both from the perspective of the person with a substance use disorder (SUD) and from the people who love them. There is rarely a dull moment when active addiction is in play and sometimes laughter is the best medicine. At other times, we may need to be reminded of the tragic possibilities and feel the weight of what’s at stake. Movies about addiction can do all of that and then some.
Here are 5 movies about addiction that you really must see:
Beautiful Boy (2018)
Beautiful Boy was based on the memoirs of Nicolas Sheff and chronicled his years of battling drug addiction. It depicts the personal nightmare of active addiction and the impact it has on the soul, while also doing a great job of showing how it impacts the people who care about us most.. Steve Carell plays David Sheff, Nicolas’ father, who spends years trying to make sense out of what his son is experiencing as an addict and why and desperately trying to save him. It hits close to home for anyone who has been through addiction, but also for the loved ones who have tried desperately to save them. Timothee Chalamet delivers a brilliant performance in it too.
Rocketman tells the true story of a man named Reggie Dwight and how, against all odds, he became the internationally, multi-generationally famous rock star, Elton John. It’s a wild ride with some spectacularly choreographed musical scenes and poignant emotional moments. It delivers some powerfully resonant lessons about self-realization and self acceptance. Elton John’s battles with drugs and alcohol are a prominent theme throughout the film, as they were in his real life. It’s an emotional rollercoaster at times, but a truly fascinating story. Even if (somehow) you don’t know Elton John or his music well, he is a fascinating character and this movie about alcoholism, addiction, fame and triumph is well worth 2 hours of your time.
Walk the Line (2005)
Another rock and roll biography in film, Walk the Line opens a window into the life of Johnny Cash. Based on two autobiographies written by the eponymous Man in Black, it covers his early life, his 30+ year relationship with singer June Carter, all the way through the peaks and valleys of his wild career and rockstar life. If there was ever a musician who embodied the torment of alcoholism, it’s Johnny Cash. The man was practically the poster child for hard living. There are few things as uniquely American as a Johnny Cash tune. To this day, his distinctive baritone voice is immediately recognizable. This movie about alcoholism and the rise, fall and rebirth of an American icon will give you food for thought and we think maybe a little inspiration too. If you’re not already a Johnny Cash fan, chances are you will be before the film is over.
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Based on the autobiography by James Fogle, Drugstore Cowboy isn’t about a celebrity, but ordinary, garden variety addicts. This makes it more accessible in some ways than the celebrity stories perhaps. Drugstore Cowboy is the story of a band of heroin addicts in the 80s who rob pharmacies to fuel their spiraling habits. But the heists are more than a means of staying high for them. They are a part of the ritual of getting high, a part of their culture, almost like a religion that only they share and a pact that keeps them all sick and in almost constant danger. It can be hard to watch in parts, but the truth in it is undeniable and that’s probably part of why. A young Matt Dillon gives a staggering performance as Bob Hughes. There’s some dark humor in it as well that people in recovery (or active addiction) are likely to appreciate.
Sticking with our music theme, the 2004 film, Ray, is the story of legendary rhythm and blues artist Ray Charles. Lots of people know Ray Charles’ music and he’s one of the most famous blind musicians of the 20th century, if not all time. The pain, struggle and passion of Ray Charles’ life runs throughout the soulful crooning, strings and percussion of every record he ever recorded. What a lot of people don’t know about Ray Charles though is that early in his career he battled heroin addiction which almost destroyed him.
Help for Addiction in Real Life
We hope you enjoyed our look at films about addiction. We think you’ll find more than mere entertainment from them. They can be inspiring and motivating too. If you believe you or someone you care about may have a substance use disorder, Southeast Addiction wants to help. Even if you’re not certain whether or not treatment for addiction is needed, we can answer your questions and help you decide what to do next. Give us a call at (888) 981-8263 to learn more about what Southeast Addiction can do for you and the people you love.
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