Drug Movies
Recommended by Zak Fallows
Trainspotting
1996
This is without a doubt my favorite drug movie. This is a very fun movie, it gets very good reviews as a piece of entertainment, and the accurate depictions of drug use are just a fantastic bonus. It is rather graphic and inappropriate for some audiences.
Drugs depicted:
Mainly intravenous heroin use, plus amphetamine/methamphetamine, Valium, alcohol, cigarettes, methadone, and a wide range of non-heroin opioids.
Plot summary:
A heroin addict in Scotland decides to quit, then decides to start using again, and has all sorts of adventures. There is a famous depiction of heroin withdrawal. Note that heroin withdrawal does NOT cause hallucinations, and what appear to be hallucinations are not actually hallucinations, they are just depictions of what the character is thinking about.
Drugstore Cowboy
1989
I love this movie, it contains a huge amount of accurate information about drugs. One character is played by the terrific junkie/author William S. Burroughs. Some people find this movie a bit slow.
Drugs depicted:
Lots of intravenous use of pharmaceutical opioids, including Dilaudid (hydromorphone, a favorite of the characters and real opiate addicts alike) and oxymorphone (called "blues" by characters in the film, today it is sold under the brand name Opana). "Speed" also makes an appearance - they may be referring to methamphetamine or amphetamine.
Plot summary:
This film follows a crew of four intravenous opioid addicts who like to obtain their drugs by robbing pharmacies.
Go
1999
This movie is a lot of fun. It has been called "Pulp Fiction Lite" because of its nonlinear structure.
Drugs depicted:
Ecstasy, marijuana.
Plot summary:
This movie shows the events of one night from three different points of view. The movie follows a number of attractive young people in Los Angeles and Las Vegas as they sell drugs, take drugs, and have adventures.
Blow
2001
Starring Johnny Depp, this movie is quite entertaining. It is also a bit rabidly anti-drug, but this agenda does not blemish the accuracy with which drug use is depicted
Drugs depicted:
Cocaine, marijuana.
Plot summary:
This movie is based on the true story of a very large-scale cocaine smuggler from Massachusetts.
Goodfellas
1990
This Martin Scorsese film is about the mafia, and it happens to involve a bunch of accurately-depicted drug use.
Drugs depicted:
Cocaine
Basketball Diaries
1995
This is one of Leonardo DiCaprio's earlier films, it is rather depressing but good.
Drugs depicted:
Heroin, inhalants, stimulants.
Plot summary:
This movie provides a longitudinal view of addiction - it follows one young man as he grows up and progresses from inhalants to pills to snorted heroin to IV heroin and then finally to abstinence. It shows the full arc.
Leaving Las Vegas
1995
This extremely depressing film is about an alcoholic (played by Nicholas Cage) who goes to Las Vegas to commit suicide-by-alcohol.
Drugs depicted:
Ethanol
The Wackness
2008
Starring Ben Kingsley as a pot-smoking psychiatrist, this movie is rather strange.
Drugs depicted:
Marijuana, psychiatric medications
Withnail and I
1986
This British film about two young struggling actors has achieved cult status.
Drugs depicted:
Alcohol
Boogie Nights
1997
This is a fun film about porn stars in the 1970s.
Drugs depicted:
Cocaine
Maria Full of Grace
2004
This film follows the journey of a young Colombian woman who becomes a drug mule.
Drugs depicted:
Cocaine
Rush
1991
This film is about a pair of counter-narcotics officers, one of whom indulges a bit too much.
Drugs depicted:
Preludin (phenmetrazine), heroin
Less Than Zero
1987
This film stars Robert Downey Junior as a crack addict.
Drugs depicted:
Crack cocaine
Ray
2004
This movie is about the musician Ray Charles.
Drugs depicted:
Heroin
Spun
2002
This film is about meth addicts.
Drugs depicted:
Methamphetamine
Permanent Midnight
1998
This film is based on the autobiography of a heroin addicted TV writer from the 1980s. I honestly did not enjoy this movie too much, but it bears mentioning. I had a hard time appreciating Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in such serious roles, I think they are more fit for comedy.
Drugs depicted:
Heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana, Dilaudid (hydromorphone). This film depicts a woman injecting heroin into her femoral vein, and it also has a very graphic depiction of Ben Stiller dissolving his heroin with spit and then injecting directly into a vein on his neck.
Plot summary:
Jerry Stahl moves out to LA, gets married to a woman to help her get a green card, and then starts writing for a TV show. In the beginning he is smoking "enough pot to blind an ox", he moves on to stealing Percodans from his best friend, and ultimately he is shooting heroin. He eventually starts a 21-day methadone detox, but in the parking lot outside the clinic he gets introduced to crack cocaine. He has a short honeymoon with crack, gets fired from a second job, and eventually winds up shooting heroin again. Meanwhile, his sham wife becomes pregnant and gives birth to his daughter Nina.