7 most brutally honest movies about drug addiction


Drug addiction and alcoholism is a topic that has been explored in cinema for decades. It is a sensitive subject that must be treated with care to portray the brutal truths about addiction. These films can be difficult to watch due to the physical and emotional agony the characters go through. Many films, like Handsome boy, with Timothée Chalamet, are based on true memories of those who fought against addiction. Other films may be pure fiction, but honestly portray the pain one goes through when suffering from drug addiction. Either way, it’s important to see the struggles people face through drug addiction and it creates good, thought-provoking cinema.

Many times the actors will use their own experiences to create an honest performance in a drug addiction film. Ben Affleck used his personal struggles with alcohol to portray a suffering alcoholic in The way back. It takes hard work and an emotional range to portray someone with a camera addiction. Many times we will witness a journey through addiction that ends in recovery. In other cases, the film does not have a happy ending and the characters are either destroyed or sent back to their starting point. Sadly, not everyone can overcome addiction, so movies need to be honest with this truth. After some tough cuts, let’s take a look at some of the most brutally honest movies depicting addiction, ranked.

seven Handsome boy

Amazon Studios

Handsome boy was based on the memoirs of Nicolas Sheff and recounted his years of struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. It portrays the personal turmoil that drugs create while focusing on how they affect those around you. Steve Carell plays David Sheff, Nicolas’ father, who spends years trying to figure out what his son is going through, while trying to help him. It’s a heartbreaking story that honestly portrays drug addiction, and Timothée Chalamet gives one of his greatest performances to date.

Related: Everything We Know About Timothée Chalamet’s Willy Wonka Prequel

6 God knows what


The breakthrough film by the Safdie brothers was also based on real storytelling. Unpublished Memoirs of Arielle Holmes Crazy love in New York was the basis of the film and depicts her days living on the streets of New York City as she suffered from heroin addiction. It’s a cold, harsh look at the New York drug scene that’s blunt, honest, and at times difficult to watch. The center of the film is his abusive relationship with another drug addict, Ilya (Caleb Landry Jones) who is the film’s main antagonist. The Safdie brothers showcased their talents which launched their impressive careers.

5 Basketball newspapers

New Line Cinema

Basketball newspapers was based on the novel of the same name by Jim Carroll and told the story of his years of heroin addiction on the streets of New York City. Leonardo Dicaprio gives Carroll a tour de force as we see him lose everything due to his addiction. One of the most difficult scenes in the movie to watch is where Carroll goes through heroin withdrawals. Dicaprio honestly described the pain and torment that people go through when they lead lives with drugs.

4 Demi Nelson


Ryan Gosling is giving one of his greatest performances to date as a crack addict public school teacher and basketball coach. The center of the film is his relationship with one of his students, Drey (Shareeka Epps), who is in conflict when given the chance to work for a drug dealer. Demi Nelson It comes full circle at one point as Drey sells drugs to Dunne (Gosling) in a motel room. It’s an honest description of drug abuse with a somewhat upbeat ending.

3 Trainspotting

Review_206_Photo_2 _-_ Trainspotting_ (1996)
PolyGram filmed entertainment

Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting is without a doubt one of the most brutal films in history depicting heroin addiction. Although Boyle’s direction creates an artistic and beautiful approach to the subject matter, the film is violent, heartbreaking, and difficult to watch at times. The story follows a group of friends living in Scotland, working tirelessly to fuel their addiction. Ewan McGregor gives a fantastic performance as the main protagonist, and the film is filled with his storytelling to depict the realities of addiction and how desperate addicts will become to get their next score.

2 Leaving Las Vegas

MGM / UA Distribution Co.

There has never been a movie that has portrayed alcohol as harshly as Leaving Las Vegas. Nicolas Cage gives the greatest performance of his career as Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic screenwriter, who moves to Las Vegas to get drunk to death and fall in love with a prostitute named Sera (Elizabeth Shue) along the way. The physical effects of alcohol abuse are clearly shown throughout the film and it is extremely shocking. Cage’s performance gives you an honest description of what it means to be in the later stages of alcoholism. While we all hope to see Sanderson overcome his addiction, neither can he, giving us one of the saddest endings in movie history.

Related: Nicolas Cage Teases Funny, Unique Dracula Performance In Renfield

1 Requiem for a dream

Craft entertainment

that of Darren Aronofsky Requiem for a dream is a masterpiece showcasing the tragic effects of drug addiction. The film follows four characters with high hopes and big dreams, but we see all of their ambitions dashed as they fall deep into the grip of addiction. The film uses unique music and editing techniques to describe drug use and the pain that follows. Addiction takes on the role of the main protagonist of the film, and at the end we see that the addiction has won against our four doomed characters. The terrifying climax is a montage of destruction mixed with the piercing, yet brilliant score. Ellen Burstyn, in particular, is giving one of the greatest performances of her career as a woman addicted to diet pills. Burstyn went on to win an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

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