Larger-Than-Life Movies About the Highs and Lows of Addiction

Movies are bigger, grander ways of expressing human experiences, and while there are fantasies that help us experience other worlds, there are also things that many can relate to—only to be romanticized or exaggerated.

Addiction, in its many forms, is somehow similar in their own ways—something large and complicated that it’s not exactly easy to cut them out as you would with organs when you do an operation. Every addiction, be it to drugs, alcohol, sex, or otherwise, has its own compulsion and habits that are rather difficult to get rid of.

Addiction, in all its different forms, can lead people to a downward spiral, and few can get out of it alive. Here are some films to remind you that there is no reason to throw your life away for these dangerous habits. Check out these amazing films tackling the mostly taboo, but ultimately real issue:

Drugstore Cowboy, 1989

Desperation can lead people to do unthinkable acts, but the problem is that even good people can become desperate. This Gus Van Sant film is exactly that—moral people stuck on doing immoral things. The film focuses on a strung-out, drugstopre-robbing gang of twenty-something-year-olds who drift between places on their search for prescription drugs.

Each member of the team is integral, but soon their leader tries to get sober and clean—an unwelcome change to the group, which then decides to abandon him and his leadership for another in a show of power, showcasing the look of a desperate person attempting to be good.

Gia, 1998

Angelina Jolie’s breakout performance centers on the life of model Gia Maria Carangi and her quick rise to the forefront of the modeling industry, complete with self-destructive patterns that destroyed not only relationships and her career but also caused her demise.

As it is with stories about rising to fame, Gia starts small, with a few lines of coke here and there. However, as her fame rises, so did her addiction. Coke turned into heroin, and her arms became needle points that shriveled her limbs as she becomes a supermodel whose life is spiraling downward in a bout of self-destruction.

Half Nelson, 2006

Ryan Gosling as a dedicated middle school teacher will make most women’s ovaries explode, but the story of Dan Dunne makes for a darker turn.

Gosling’s character tries to make his class eager to learn but his methods, while interesting, ignore the district-approved syllabus that gets him into trouble. And unfortunately for moms who probably have a crush on him, he is often strung out and high on cocaine. However, he does tell his student Drey that “one thing does not make a man” and this is the essence of the story—that an addiction cannot define you as a person.

Highlighting grey ideas about drugs, the story discuss how Dan Dunne is not the type of addict who would turn to a life of crime. He is flawed, yes, but his intentions are good, and sometimes good intentions are what we need in this world.

Don Jon, 2012

Why do men watch a lot of porn? It’s tacky, it’s disgusting, and highly unrealistic, that most of the time, the sex that comes after becomes more of a letdown.

And that’s exactly why in this film that many called as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s excuse to be in dozens of sex scenes with Scarlett Johansson, Don Jon is more addicted to porn than to actual sex because porn is simply more satisfying, insisting than sex—with tight condoms can ruin the mood and girls who are not willing to explore too many positions and even techniques used in oral sex, he admits that he can never “lose himself in them as he does in porn.”

The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013

Addiction does not come only in the form of alcohol and drugs. Sometimes, success is an addiction in itself. In the memoir of former stockbroker turned motivational speaker Jordan Belfort, the film is a shameless biopic about the high life: money, drugs, sex, and of course, more money.

Centering on Jordan’s quick rise to fortune through his penny stock scam, every scene spills machismo, testosterone, and stamina, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio as he attempts to rationalize his increasingly outrageous actions.