The Big List of Addiction & Recovery Movies
This list of addiction movies, alcoholism movies and movies about recovery contains 30 films with related synopsis about the lives and times of people struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism. Some of the movies will make you laugh, some will make you cry, but they’ll all make you think. Special warning should be made that some depictions in these movies are extremely graphic and could serve as a potential relapse trigger. Avoidance, guidance or support while watching such films is strongly recommended.
These films about addiction and substance abuse are not meant to glorify addiction or alcoholism in any way; instead, they should serve as a reminder to all of us in recovery that where we once were, others are now. And if we don’t take care, we could be there again. If you have suggestions for similar movies about alcoholism, addiction or substance abuse that aren’t on this list, please let us know if the comments. Otherwise, please bookmark and share this page, and good luck getting your hands on all of these addiction & recovery movies; some are hard to find!
Affliction tells the story of Wade Whitehouse, a small-town policeman in New Hampshire. Detached from the people around him, including a dominating father and a divorced wife, he becomes obsessed with the solving of a fatal hunting accident, leading to a series of tragic events.
Henry Chinaski (Mickey Rourke) is a destitute alcoholic who lives in a rundown apartment and works menial jobs when he can find them. An intelligent man and keenly aware of his circumstance, he finds solace in expressing his feelings and perceptions of the world through writing poetry and short stories.
Basketball Diaries (1995)
As a member of a seemingly unbeatable high school basketball squad, Jim’s life centers around the basketball court and the court becomes a metaphor for the world in his mind. A best friend who is dying of leukemia, a coach (“Swifty”) who takes unacceptable liberties with the boys on his team, teenage sexual angst, and an appetite for cocaine and heroin all begin to encroach on young Jim’s dream of becoming a basketball star.
Betty (Claude Chabrol’s ) (1992)
Betty (Marie Trintignant), a young alcoholic woman, is caught cold while cheating on her bourgeois husband. Wasting no time, he and his family arrange a quick divorce settlement, ousting her from home and keeping her away from the two children the couple have. One night she ends up in a restaurant called Le Trou (The Hole), where she meets Laure (Stéphane Audran), an older woman, an alcoholic herself. Laure decides to take care of Betty after hearing the heart-breaking stories of her being a victim of a rich and ruthless society. Betty receives care and friendship from Laure, who’s in a relationship with Mario (Jean-Francois Garreaud), the restaurant’s owner. The envy toward Laure for Mario grows each day and will drive Betty to artfully contrive the means to conquer her new friend’s lover. Laure realizes she has made a mistake by trusting her new friend and things soon begin to tremble between them.
Crazy Heart (2009)
Otis “Bad” Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a 57-year-old alcoholic singer-songwriter who was once a country music star. He now earns a modest living by singing and playing his guitar at one-night stands, in small town bars, in the southwestern United States. Having a history of failed marriages (four that he admitted to, although Jean said five) Blake is without a family. He has a son, aged 28, with whom he has not had contact in 24 years. He is mostly on the road performing, staying in cheap motels and traveling in his old car alone.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Late one night, a drunken Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman) is out trying to recapture his glory days of high school sports by leaping hurdles on a track field, dreaming about his moments as a youthful athlete. Unexpectedly, he falls, leaving him dependent on a crutch. Brick, along with his wife, Maggie “the Cat” (Elizabeth Taylor), are seen the next day visiting his family in Mississippi, waiting to celebrate Big Daddy’s (Burl Ives) 65th birthday. Depressed, Brick decides to spend his days inside drinking while resisting the affections of his wife, who taunts him about the inheritance of Big Daddy’s wealth.
Clean and Sober (1988)
Daryl Poynter is a successful but self-destructive Philadelphia real estate salesman who is addicted to cocaine. He embezzles $92,000 of his company’s money from an escrow account and then loses $52,000 to his addiction and the stock market. Waking up one morning next to a girl who suffered a heart attack from a cocaine overdose, he tries to cover up the drug use, but the police make it clear that they know what happened. There is also the matter of the company’s money. Daryl tries to flee the country but all flights are held up due to bad weather. His colleague Martin also refuses to put him up for a couple of weeks. Daryl then learns of a drug rehabilitation program which lasts about a month and which guarantees anonymity.
Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Public relations man Joe Clay (Jack Lemmon) meets and falls in love with Kirsten Arnesen (Lee Remick), a secretary. Kirsten is a teetotaler until Joe introduces her to social drinking. Reluctant at first, after her first few Brandy Alexanders, she admits that having a drink “made me feel good.” Despite the misgivings of her father (Charles Bickford), who runs a San Mateo landscaping business, they get married and have a daughter named Debbie. Joe slowly goes from the “two-martini lunch” to full-blown alcoholism. It affects his work and, in due time, he and Kirsten both succumb to the pleasures and pain of addiction.
Drugstore cowboy (1989)
The story follows Bob Hughes (Matt Dillon) and his crew of drug addicts as they travel across the U.S. Pacific Northwest in 1971, supporting their habit by robbing pharmacies and hospitals. After a tragedy strikes the group, Bob decides to try to “go straight”, but finds that there is more to extricating himself from the drug user’s lifestyle than just giving up drugs.
Drunks centers on an AA meeting where a pensive man talks about his troubles, but then soon leaves the group. As he walks the streets lost in memory, the AA meeting goes on, with tales from the formerly drunken lives of its members overlaid on the memories of the protagonist, Jim.
Everything Must Go (2010)
Salesman Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is fired from his job of 16 years following an unspecified incident in Denver related to his alcoholism. He sits in the parking garage after leaving the office, drinking from a flask. He then takes the Swiss Army Knife he was given as a farewell gift and stabs it into his supervisor’s car tires, only to leave the knife (which has his name on it) and run away when he is unable to pull it back out from the tire. He immediately drives to a convenience store and buys a large amount of beer. When he returns home, he finds his wife is gone, the locks have been changed, and his belongings have been strewn all over his front lawn.
While he’s unemployed again and trying to score his next drink, Hank meets another female barfly, Laura, played by Marisa Tomei, who feels sorry for Chinaski and helps him procure some alcohol with the help of her wealthy “sugardaddy,” an eccentric older man named Pierre. After a strange misadventure on Pierre’s boat, Chinaski briefly returns to Jan whom he has located at a hotel where she’s working as a maid. By the film’s end, however, Chinaski finds that he’s most comfortable being alone with just his alcohol and his writing to keep him company.
The Fighter (2010)
Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is an American welterweight boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts. Managed by his mother, Alice Ward (Melissa Leo), and trained by his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), Micky has not had a particularly successful career: He’s become a “stepping stone” for other boxers to defeat on their way up. Complicating matters, Dicky, a former boxer whose peak of success was knocking Sugar Ray Leonard down in an HBO televised match, has fallen apart since then, becoming addicted to crack cocaine. He is now being filmed for an HBO documentary he believes to be about his “comeback”.
On October 14, 2011, Airline captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) awakens in his Orlando hotel room with flight attendant Katerina Márquez (Nadine Velazquez) after a night of sex, drinking, drug use, and very little sleep. After using cocaine to wake up, he boards SouthJet Flight 227 as pilot to Atlanta. After Whip threads the plane through severe turbulence at takeoff, copilot Ken Evans takes over while Whip discreetly mixes vodka in his orange juice and takes a nap. He is jolted awake as the plane begins its descent, and the aircraft goes into a steep dive.
Gia Carangi (Angelina Jolie) is a Philadelphia native who moves to New York City to become a fashion model and immediately catches the attention of powerful agent Wilhelmina Cooper (Faye Dunaway). Gia’s attitude and beauty help her rise quickly to the forefront of the modeling industry, but her persistent loneliness after the death of Wilhelmina drives her to experiment with mood-altering drugs like cocaine. Although she is eventually able to break her drug habit after much effort, she has already contracted HIV from a needle containing infected blood and dies from complications of AIDS in 1986 at the age of 26.
Home Run (2013)
Pro baseball player Cory Brand is forced into a rehabilitation program in his Oklahoma hometown after several alcohol related incidents. He is responsible for injuring his brother in an alcohol related crash. Cory reluctantly enters a Celebrate Recovery. He eventually finds new hope when he gets honest about his checkered past, and takes on coaching duties for a Little League team. Cory reunites with his high school girlfriend, starts a relationship with his son and rebuilds his relationship with his family.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
On his second day in Las Vegas, Ben meets Sera, on the street where he first met her, introduces himself and offers $500 to go to his room for an hour. Sera agrees to go to his room, but Ben does not want sex. Instead, they talk and create an odd relationship. Their relationship is doomed; Sera has to promise Ben she will never ask him to stop drinking, and Ben is not allowed to criticize Sera’s occupation. At first the two are stable, as Ben is “totally at ease with this (Sera’s prostitution).” However, each becomes frustrated with the other’s behavior. Sera attempts to get Ben to eat but Ben stumbles for more alcohol.
Less Than Zero (1987)
Clay Easton (Andrew McCarthy) is a college freshman who returns home to Los Angeles, California, for Christmas to find things very different from the way he left them. His high school girlfriend, Blair (Jami Gertz), has become addicted to drugs and has been having sex with his high school best friend, Julian Wells (Robert Downey, Jr.). Julian has become a drug addict and has been cut off by his family for stealing to support his habit. Julian is also being hassled by his dealer, Rip (James Spader), for a debt of $50,000 that he owes to him.
Clay’s relationship with Blair rekindles and Julian’s behavior becomes more volatile. His addiction is worsening and since he does not have the money to pay off his debt, Rip forces him to become a prostitute to work off the debt. After suffering through a night of being sick from not being able to score drugs and hiding from Rip, Julian decides to quit and begs his father (Nicholas Pryor) to help him.
The Lost Weekend (1945)
A shot of the Manhattan skyline to an apartment, with a whiskey bottle hung outside a window by a thin rope. Don and his brother Wick are packing for a weekend vacation. Wick believes that Don, a recovering alcoholic, has been on the wagon for ten days. After Don’s girlfriend Helen St. James arrives to wish them bon voyage, she lets it slip that she has two tickets to a Barbirolli concert, but is going alone. Don urges his brother to go with her and says they’ll take a later train for their weekend trip. Wick, having disposed of his brother’s hidden supply of drink, becomes suspicious of why he is being hustled out.
My Name Is Bill W. (1989)
Based on the true story of Bill W., James Woods – in an Emmy? award-winning performance – plays the successful stock broker whose life falls apart after the stock crash of the 1920’s. As a result Bill W. and his loving wife Lois (Jo Beth Williams) must come to grips with his depression and downward spiraling alcoholism. In Bill’s quest for recovery, he forms a support group with fellow alcoholic, Dr. Bob (James Garner), which eventually leads to the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous. In this inspiring portrayal, My Name is Bill W. movingly depicts the trials, trauma and triumph of people and loved ones coping and recovering from substance abuse.
Permanent midnight (1998)
Approaching the end of a drug rehabilitation program, Jerry Stahl (Stiller) quits his job at a fast food restaurant on an impulse when an attractive woman named Kitty (Bello) pulls up at the drive-through window. The two check into a motel, where Jerry tells her about his life in between bouts of sex. A series of flashbacks, intercut with their conversations, details his working life to this point.
Raised on a sharecropping plantation in Northern Florida, Ray Charles Robinson went blind at the age of seven, shortly after witnessing his younger brother drown. Inspired by a fiercely independent mother who insisted he make his own way in the world, Charles found his calling and his gift behind a piano keyboard, but soon ran into problems with drugs and alcohol, dying of liver disease shortly before the release of this film.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Sara Goldfarb, an elderly widow living alone in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, spends her time watching infomercials hosted by Tappy Tibbons. After a phone call announces she will be invited to participate in a game show, she becomes obsessed with regaining the youthful appearance she possesses in a photograph from Harry’s graduation, her proudest moment. In order to fit into her old red dress, the favorite of her deceased husband Seymour, she begins taking a regimen of prescription weight-loss amphetamine pills throughout the day and a sedative at night. Despite Harry’s warnings about amphetamine dependence, she passionately insists that the chance to be on television has given her a reason to live.
The Rose (1979)
In 1969, Mary Rose Foster is a famous rock ‘n’ roll diva known as The Rose. Although a success, she is burnt out and lonely but is kept working by her gruff, greedy manager and promoter Rudge Campbell. Though loud and brassy, Rose is an insecure alcoholic and former drug user who seems to crave approval in her life. As such, she is determined to return to her hometown, now as a superstar. After being humiliated by a country singing star named Billy Ray whose songs she performs in her show, Rose takes off with a limousine driver named Houston Dyer and begins a romance with him. Rudge thinks Houston is just another hanger on, but Rose thinks she has finally met her true love. Houston tells her that he is actually an AWOL sergeant from the Army, and she tells him of her past in Florida. They have a rocky relationship and her lifestyle of “Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll” and constant touring lead her to an inevitable breakdown.
As Raynor predicted, Cates is soon put into a position where she is forced to inject drugs in front of a drug dealer. Raynor tries to intervene and tell the dealer that “his lady doesn’t fix”, but the dealer insists at gunpoint. Cates first tries nervously to talk her way out of the situation, then yanks off her jacket and with shaking hands begins to prepare a heroin shot as Raynor had taught her. Seeing her high level of anxiety, Raynor takes the prepared needle from her and injects it into her arm. While the dealer watches approvingly and laughs, Cates quietly vomits off screen.
Soon enough, Cates is addicted to the drugs she has to use to maintain her cover, and Raynor arrives home one day to find Cates combing the carpet, desperately searching for any crumbs of drugs that may have fallen. Raynor nurses Cates through her withdrawal while appearing largely unaffected by his own drug use. However, over the course of the film he becomes even more addicted than she. Eventually, both are able to get clean, but remain traumatized and scarred by their drug experiences.
Tender Mercies (1983)
Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall), a washed up, alcoholic country singer, awakens at a run-down Texas roadside motel and gas station after a night of heavy drinking. He meets the owner, a young widow named Rosa Lee (Tess Harper), and offers to work in exchange for a room. Rosa Lee, whose husband was killed in the Vietnam War, is raising her young son, Sonny (Allan Hubbard), on her own. She agrees to let Mac stay under the condition that he does not drink while working. The two begin to develop feelings for one another, mostly during quiet evenings sitting alone and sharing bits of their life stories.
Mac resolves to give up alcohol and start his life anew.
The Boost (1988)
Lenny Brown is a real-estate hustler looking to strike it rich. He is married to Linda, a paralegal and amateur dancer. The two are poor in money but rich in love. Linda vows to stick with her husband until she “falls off the earth”. He moves to California and goes to work for a prosperous businessman named Max Sherman, selling lucrative investments in tax shelters.
Everything is suddenly first-class for Lenny and his beautiful wife, Linda. But when the tax laws abruptly change, they find themselves $700,000 in debt.
They become increasingly desperate, made worse by the fact that a friend, Joel Miller, turns them on to cocaine for “a boost.” Lenny and Linda both become addicted. They lose their home, car and jobs. Linda becomes pregnant, but falls and suffers a miscarriage after using cocaine.
Heroin addicts Mark Renton (McGregor) and Spud (Bremner) — known by his nickname — are running down Princes Street pursued by store security guards. Renton’s circle of friends are introduced: amoral con artist Sick Boy (Miller), simple-minded, good-natured Spud – both also heroin addicts — clean-cut athlete Tommy (McKidd), and sociopath Begbie (Carlyle), who picks extremely violent fights with people who get in his way. Renton decides to quit heroin. He buys opium rectal suppositories from Mikey Forrester (Welsh) to ease the transition. After this final hit (and a violent spell of diarrhea caused by cessation of heroin) he locks himself into a cheap hotel room to endure withdrawal.
When a man loves a woman (1994)
The movie chronicles one woman’s (Meg Ryan) alcoholism and her husband’s (Andy Garcia) efforts to help her.
Meg Ryan plays Alice Green, a school counselor who has a serious drinking problem and is married to Michael (Andy Garcia), an airline pilot. Though she’s lighthearted and loving, Alice is often reckless and, when drunk, even neglects her children, nine-year-old daughter Jess (Tina Majorino) from a previous marriage, and four-year-old daughter Casey (Mae Whitman), whose father is Michael.
28 days (2000)
Gwen Cummings borrows the limo at her sister’s wedding after ruining the reception with her drunken antics. She crashes the limo while she is on her cell phone trying to find a cake to replace the one she destroyed. She is given a choice between jail or 28 days in a rehab center. She chooses rehab. However, she is extremely resistant to taking part in any of the treatment programs they have to offer, refusing to admit that she is an alcoholic.
After getting to know some of the other patients, Gwen gradually begins to re-examine her life and see that she does, in fact, have a serious problem. Her sincere desire to get well complicates her relationship with long-time, live-in boyfriend Jasper. She befriends Andrea, a 17-year-old recovering heroin addict who occasionally harms herself. All of the other patients help her see herself in a different light while she tries to get sober and come to terms with her alcoholism.
Do you know of other recovery movies or movies about addiction that are not featured on this list? Let us know in the comments, or send us a message and if we include your suggestion we’ll let you know right away.