15 Best Movies About Addiction and Alcoholism
Author: Thomas Roth
Last Updated: 8/11/2022
There are dozens of great movies about addiction and alcoholism but the 15 movies listed below are among the best. These movies focus on addiction and alcoholism in a way that other films do not.
The movies describe how it feels to suffer from these conditions, what it does to someone’s life, and how to get treatment. Some of these films can also be used as inspiration for treatment.
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1. Trainwreck (2015)
Trainwreck is a 2015 movie produced by Judd Apatow. The movie focuses on a young writer (Amy Schumer) who is in a rut. She’s going through issues with alcoholism and addiction but decides it’s time to clean herself up when she begins writing a piece about a successful sports doctor, Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). The film follows Amy through her attempts to clean up and get Aaron Conners to feel the same way about her. Trainwreck can be viewed on popular streaming services like YouTube Premium, Vudu, Amazon Prime, and Google Play.
While the movie had a funny and appealing plot it wasn’t the most popular film. The Rotten Tomatoes audience score is 84% and critics claim that the plot feels rushed and doesn’t connect enough with Amy’s struggle with addiction. That said, the film has a star-studded cast of people like Amy Schumer, John Cena, Bill Hader, LeBron James, and Vanessa Bayer.
Trainwreck uniquely handles alcoholism compared to other films. Alcoholics are typically portrayed as unwilling to work, depressed, and at the end of the road. Instead of following these tropes, Trainwreck follows the journey of Amy’s recovery and refocuses on life/love. This can help people feel inspired to get clean. The film has 6.2 stars on IMDB.
2. The Spectacular Now (2013)
The Spectacular Now is a 2013 film produced by James Ponsoldt. This movie features a well-rounded cast including Miles Teller, Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler, Shailene Woodly, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The Spectacular Now is a film about two teenagers coming of age. In the film, two seniors in high school are preparing for adulthood and struggle with addiction, free will, and love. The movie raised almost $7 million at the box office and maintains a high IMDB score of 7.1/10 stars. Therefore, it was a popular movie for its time and well-received by most critics.
The Spectacular Now’s main idea is to express the anxiety, awkwardness, and fear that comes with becoming an adult. Therefore, the purpose of the film is to express this and based on its popularity it accomplished this goal. Individuals can watch The Spectacular Now on Amazon Prime.
When it comes to addiction and alcoholism the movie portrays it in a way that most movies do for young adults. Teenagers take part in binge drinking and other unhealthy drinking habits. While these issues are solved towards the end of the film, they’re evident throughout the story. The film can help people in the young adult age group understand the dangers of alcohol.
3. 28 Days (2000)
28 days is a female-led film released in 2000. The film was produced by Betty Thomas and it follows the journey of a journalist with a drinking problem. In the film, the journalist doesn’t realize that she has a drinking problem until she knocks over a wedding cake and gets into a drinking-induced car accident with a limousine. From there, she goes through rehab and focuses on taking her addiction seriously.
28 Days focuses on alcoholism and how it can take over someone’s life without them realizing it. The journalist didn’t realize her issue until in rehab and that’s the main premise of the film. That said, the movie can help those in a similar situation understand that alcohol is an addictive substance and that there are rehab options that can help.
28 days also has a star-studded cast with Sandra Bullock as the lead actress. Some other notable actors and actresses include Dominic West, Azura Skye, Elizabeth Perkins, Diane Ladd. The movie has an IMDB score of 6.1/10 stars but it wasn’t a very popular movie. It only has a rotten tomato score of 30%, which is low. Critics claim that it didn’t portray its theme of addiction well enough and the mixture of comedy and addiction could be a trigger for some people.
4. Smashed (2012)
Smashed is a 2012 film produced by James Ponsoldt. The movie takes place in Los Angeles and follows schoolteacher Kate and her husband. The two characters both have drinking problems and engage in binge drinking. One night, the drinking goes too far and Kate realizes that she has a drinking problem. She agrees to attend Alcoholics Anonymous groups and seek treatment for her addiction. Kate is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and her husband is played by Aaron Paul. Some other notable stars include Mary Kay Place, Octavia Spencer, and Nick Offerman.
Smashed received good reviews among viewers and critics. It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 81%, which is above average. The movie also has a good IMDB score of 6.8/10 stars. While it only had a $500,000 budget the movie performed well and became quite popular during the mid-2010s. The movie drew many people in with its main theme of addiction, finding help, and turning life around from rock bottom.
Smashed is a helpful movie for alcoholism treatment because it teaches people that everyone can be impacted by alcoholism. The film also shows how AA groups can help people get clean without committing to a rigorous rehab program. Overall, Smashed handles alcoholism well and leaves viewers with a sense of hope.
5. A Star is Born (2018)
A Star is Born is a 2018 film produced by Bradley Cooper. The film features a star-stuffed cast including Bradley Cooper, Andrew Dice Clay, Lady Gaga, Dave Chapelle, and Sam Elliott. A Star is Born was a popular film that won awards like BAFTA Award for Best Original Score and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Actress. The film has a 7.6/10-star IMDB score and maintains a score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a popular movie that left a lasting impression on the audience.
A Star is Born is a popular movie because of its plot. Jackson, the main character, coaxes Ally into the spotlight to become a star. The movie follows their journey and how alcoholism and addiction take a toll on Jackson and Ally. This is also the main point of the movie, albeit with a sad conclusion of Bradley Cooper’s character’s demise.
A Star is Born handles alcoholism in a way that shows how dangerous it can be. The movie follows Jackson and Ally’s story and shows viewers how alcoholism can ruin relationships, careers, and even end lives. While the film doesn’t offer pointers to help, the warning is enough to help motivate people to seek treatment.
6. Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Days of Wine and Roses is an older film that was released in 1962. While the film is dated, it’s one of the best films about alcoholism and addiction. Some notable stars in the movie are Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Alan Hewitt, and Jack Klugman. The screenplay was written by JP Miller and the movie was directed by Blake Edwards. During the 1960s the movie was popular and it maintains popularity today. It has an IMDB score of 7.9/10 stars and has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Days of Wine and Roses follows the story of Joe Clay and Kristen Arnesen. Both people are successful in business and fall in love with each other. From there, the couple is happy for a brief period. Then, Joe encourages Kristen to drink with him. Eventually, they become dependent on alcohol and it ruins their love life, work-life, and relationships with other people. The main theme in Days of Wine and Roses is that alcohol can cause your life to spiral into a disaster if you become dependent on the substance.
That said, Days of Wine and Roses serves as a warning to people. It negatively handles alcoholism and there are no positives. While some movies associate humor with alcohol, Days of Wine and Roses does not. It serves as a warning for people not to drink or give in to peer pressure. These teachings can prevent people from picking up the habit.
7. Krisha (2015)
Krisha is a movie about an older woman (in her 60s) who suffers from a past of addiction and alcoholism. It’s a sad film that follows Krisha as she tries to get closer to her family on Thanksgiving. She became estranged from her family because of her frequent drinking and alcohol abuse. The film ends with her giving into alcohol abuse and being removed from the home.
Krisha was directed and produced by Trey Edwards Shults. The film was released in 2015 and was based on the earlier 2014 short film with the same name. While the cast was small, some notable stars include Krisha Fairchild, Robyn Fairchild, and Bill Wise. The movie received an IMDB score of 7.1/10 and maintains a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. While it’s a popular film, some critics claim that the alcoholism and addiction themes were toned down by comedic situations.
Kisha is a good movie to show someone who’s progressing towards alcoholism. It handles addiction and alcoholism by showing viewers how it can destroy families and cause people to fall into depression. While it doesn’t help people with alcohol and addiction treatment, it’s more of a warning to those who drink alcohol every day.
8. Clean & Sober (1988)
Clean & Sober is a 1988 film produced by Glen Gordon Caron. The film has many notable stars like Michael Keaton, Kathy Baker, Tate Donovan, and even a young Morgan Freeman. Clean & Sober maintains an IMDB score of 6.7/10 but a Rotten Tomatoes score of only 57%. While the movie raised over $8 million at the box office, critics claimed that it lacked substance and that some parts of the plot felt rushed.
Clean & Sober is about a man who sells homes. Daryl is the main character and while he’s good at his job he also suffers from cocaine addiction. He wakes up next to someone who overdosed one day and checked himself into rehab to prevent getting arrested. In rehab, he falls in love and realizes he has a drug addiction. He eventually commits to living a sober life. The main point in Clean & Sober is to show people that getting help with addiction is important, even if you don’t think you need it.
Clean & Sober handles alcohol and addiction in a way that encourages people to be open about addiction and seek treatment. While the style of rehab won’t work for everyone, it does a good job of showing people what rehab could look like. It also doesn’t add too many layers of comedy and reflects how alcoholism is a dark problem.
9. Traffic (2000)
Traffic is a film made in the year 2000. It has an IMDB score of 7.6/10 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92%, which is above average. The movie raised millions at the box office and became a popular movie. While critics have mixed reviews the overall sentiment is that Traffic is a good movie. Some notable actors and actresses include Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Traffic is about drugs, addiction, and how drugs make their way around the world. The film follows separate stories of people like a state Supreme Court Judge and a Mexican cop. These stories serve as a way to show people how widespread drugs are and how dangerous they can be. Another group that’s followed is two DEA agents who are chasing the wife of a jailed drug baron. This portion of the movie shows how brutal narcotics can be and how dangerous the people who sell them are.
Overall, Traffic’s main point is straightforward. The film shows viewers how drugs are distributed, why it’s dangerous, and who it affects. While alcoholism isn’t at the forefront of the movie, the film presents points for similar drugs and addictions.
10. Half Nelson (2006)
Half Nelson is a 2006 film directed by Ryan Fleck. The film includes notable cast members like Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, and Anthony Mackie. The film was popular and won several awards. One of these awards includes the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. Half Nelson maintains a 91% on Rotten and Tomatoes and has an IMDB score of 7.2/10.
Half Nelson is about a history teacher, Dan Dunne, and a female student named Drey. The teacher and student develop a friendship when she catches him drinking and getting high after a basketball game. The story follows their relationship and how Dan Dunne tries to mentor her about her brother that sells drugs. The main theme in the film is how alcoholism can affect anyone, even those who seemingly have everything together.
Half Nelson darkly handles alcoholism and addiction. While there is some comedy, the movie focuses on the horrors of addiction and what it can do to someone’s life. While it doesn’t help people with treatment, the film brings awareness to alcoholism.
11. Gia (1988)
Gia is a 1988 film directed by Michael Christopher. The film has notable stars like Angelina Jolie, Faye Dunaway, and Elizabeth Mitchell. It debuted on HBO and it’s found on platforms like Vudu Movies. Gia has an IMDB score of 7/10 stars and maintains good ratings across other outlets. Gia was popular at the time of its release and is still popular today.
The movie Gia follows the story of Gia Carangi, who moves to New York City to become a fashion model. The story follows her decline through drugs like cocaine, heroin, and even alcohol. She burns through relationships and attempts to get clean using substances like Methadone. Gia then goes back to drugs, chooses drugs over her girlfriend, and ends up in the hospital with HIV that progresses to AIDS from sharing needles. The main point of the film is to show viewers how dangerous drugs are and how they can ruin lives.
Gia darkly handles alcoholism, darker than most films. The decline of Gia is putrid and takes viewers on an emotional roller-coaster. In some cases, critics say that the film was too much at times because of how dark and dreary its themes are. Gia is also one of the few films that show the reality of addiction, which is that treatment doesn’t always work and it might take more than one attempt to stop using.
12. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Requiem for a Dream is a depressing film that was released in the year 2000. The movie was directed by Darren Aronofsky and features stars like Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, and Ellen Burstyn. It maintains a rating of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and has an IMDB score of 8.3/10. Critics claim that it was dark, disturbing, and even gut-wrenching. It was a popular film at the time of its release.
Requiem for a Dream is a sad and disturbing movie that provides viewers with graphic information about addiction and what it does. The movie follows several people and how addiction affects their lives. One couple is addicted to heroin and the woman sells herself for money and the main character’s (Jared Leto) mother has an addiction to stimulants that drives her insane. The story ends with everyone ending up in a mental hospital, jail, or hospital. Requiem for a Dream’s main point is to avoid alcohol and drugs at all costs. It can be found on platforms like Vudu Movies and HBO.
Requiem for a Dream disturbingly handles addiction. Instead of being gentle with viewers, the film shows viewers how addiction can ruin lives, end up in death, and ruin relationships. There is no happy ending in this film and many viewers claim that it leaves a lasting impression, which is how it prevents people from abusing substances.
13. Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Rachel Getting Married was made in 2008 and features notable stars like Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, and Debra Winger. The film was directed by Jonathan Demme and was nominated for several awards like the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The film maintains an IMDB score of 6.7/10 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 84%.
Rachel Getting Married has a unique story about Rachel’s sister Kym getting out of rehab in time for her wedding. While Kym claims to be clean there is a lot of resentment among her family members as many issues come to the surface. The main theme of the film is centered around how alcohol and drugs can ruin families.
Rachel Getting Married handles alcoholism and addiction in a dark but comedic way. There are comedic elements within the film but the movie focuses on keeping the theme of alcoholism dark and dreary. As for treatment, the movie helps those who need it by showing how well addiction treatment modalities can work.
14. Uncut Gems (2019)
Uncut Gems is a 2019 film with Adam Sandler as the lead role. Some other notable stars include Kevin Garnett, Julia Fox, and Eric Bogosian. The film was popular among audiences and won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. It was directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie. Uncut Gems has an IMDB score of 7.4/10 and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 92%. Another rating source, Metacritic, has the film at 91%.
Uncut Gems follows the story of a Jeweller who has a gambling addiction. The plot of the movie is him trying to hedge a bet and become set for life, which was the whole reason he imported the gem. Uncut Gems follows the lead through interactions with mafia members, famous athletes, and his relationships with his ex-wife and family.
The main themes in Uncut Gems are how addiction can change your life for the worse, which is evident in the main character’s relationship with his family. That said, it also has themes that tie into risk-taking and gambling addiction, which are less well-known and talked about addictions. As for treatment, it doesn’t encourage viewers to seek help for substance abuse.
15. Flight (2012)
Flight is a movie that was made in 2012. It has an IMDB score of 7.3/10 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 77%. Robert Zemeckis was the director of the film and some notable stars include Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, and Bruce Greenwood. Flight won the Satellite Award for Best Visual Effects and raised over $150 at the box office.
Flight is about a commercial airline pilot who struggles with drugs, alcohol, and addiction. While he was able to fly well in the past a mechanical malfunction caused the plane to crash and 6 lives were lost. While the pilot did an amazing job bringing the plane down safely, the investigation puts him in a bad position because they found drugs and alcohol. The main theme of the movie is how alcoholism and drugs can take over your life and ruin your career.
Flight strangely handles alcohol and drugs. While the main character struggles with addiction he’s still a great pilot and able to land the plane. Problems only begin for him when the investigation about the crash begins. That said, the movie shows viewers that it’s important to make a change and get sober before something forces you.
How Does Addiction Theme Movies Help for Alcoholism Treatment?
Treatment for alcohol abuse disorder (AUD) varies but some popular modalities include behavioral therapy, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups, detoxes, inpatient rehab, and outpatient rehab. These alcohol treatment methods are effective because they help people understand their addictions, co-occurring disorders, and manage symptoms of withdrawal.
While the common treatment modalities are effective, watching movies also helps with alcoholism. Movies can create emotional responses that provide encouragement and the push to begin the process of getting sober. The themes present within movies can also teach people about the dangers of living life with alcoholism and how living a sober life is healthier.
Who are the Sober Celebrities?
Several sober celebrities don’t drink alcohol or use drugs. One of the most prominent sober celebrities is Bradley Cooper. Bradley Cooper struggled with alcohol throughout his 20s and has been on several podcasts about his addiction struggles. Cooper was interviewed by GQ in 2013 and spoke about how if he continued down the path he was going he would have lost himself to the lifestyle.
Another sober celebrity is Elton John. John was someone who partied a lot in his 20s but he’s been sober for the last 28 years of his life. Music legend Elton John decided to get sober in 1990 after seeing what the HIV and AIDS epidemic took a toll on society. Ever since John has remained sober and doesn’t experiment with drugs or alcohol. He got sober by stopping drinking.
Demi Lovato is another celebrity who remains sober. Lovato rose to fame from songs and her voice but she struggles with mental health conditions like self-harm, bipolar disorder, and bulimia. Lovato has been through rehab programs and support groups to help her remain sober. She’s been sober since 2012.
Some other notable sober celebrities include Dax Sheppard, Tyer, the Creator, and Zac Efron.
Are There any Documentaries for Alcoholism?
Documentaries are one of the best outlets for alcoholism treatment and recovery. These forms of media are personal, professional, and informational, which sets them apart from movies. Several documentaries help with alcoholism recovery and explore the problems it causes.
The first example is Risky Drinking, which premiered on HBO in 2016. Risky Drinking received an IMDB score of 6.6 out of 10 and has a popular reception among most audiences. It explores the national epidemic of alcohol consumption through the intimate stories of four different people. Risky Drinking documentary is 1 hour and 23 minutes long.
Another alcoholism-related documentary is Recovery Boys. Recovery Boys has an IMDB score of 6.6 out of 10 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 100%. The documentary follows four men who support each other as they rebuild their lives from the damage caused by alcohol addiction. It was released in 2018 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 29 minutes.
The last documentary about alcoholism to look at is Addiction. Addiction is a 2007 documentary that’s split up into several parts. Each segment follows a different type of alcohol addiction and how it has to be managed. It can be streamed on HBO and has an IMDB score of 6.5 out of 10. Overall, these documentaries can be used to learn more about alcoholism and alcoholism treatments.
What are the Other Artworks for Alcoholism Besides Movies?
Besides movies, there are other types of art and literature that you can use for alcoholism. These include the media types that are listed below.
There are also other types of media about alcoholism like YouTube videos, blogs, and online resources.
What are the Alcoholism-Related Podcasts Besides Movies?
Alcoholism-related podcasts are long-form types of entertainment based on conversations between individuals. Podcasts are a raw form of entertainment that makes them relatable and great for recovery.
The Bubble Hour; by Jean McCarthy, is one of the best podcasts for alcoholism because it uses personal experiences to convey the message of sobriety. This is accomplished through Jean McCarthy having special guests on the show to share their experiences. It’s a popular alcoholism podcast and the length of each podcast lasts for about 1 to 2 hours.
Another alcoholism-related podcast to consider is the Sober Guy Podcast. The podcast is hosted by Shane Ramer and each episode runs for about an hour or a little over an hour. Shane Ramer speaks to his audience about alcoholism recovery and speaks from personal experience as he’s in the recovery process. He also has special guests to speak about their experiences with alcoholism. Some special guests are celebrities.
The last podcast to look at is Breaking Free: Your Recovery, Your Way. This podcast focuses on helping individuals recover from alcoholism on their own terms. The podcast brings together real-life experience, evidence-based treatment modalities, and other forms of alcoholism treatment. It’s hosted by Liv and Tiffany and the podcast runs for about 2 hours.
These podcasts have hours of content and personal stories you can listen to about alcoholism.
What are the Alcoholism-Related Songs Besides Movies?
Music can help you feel better, improve your mood, and even get help for alcoholism. Several alcoholism-related songs share personal experiences and have themes about alcoholism and what it does to someone’s life. While there are dozens of songs, some are better than others.
One of the best songs for alcoholism is Breaking the Habit, by Linkin Park. Linkin Park created the song to speak out about alcoholism. The song goes over the band’s experiences with alcoholism and focuses on getting sober. It was released in 2003 and has a runtime of three minutes and sixteen seconds.
One Day at a Time, by Joe Walsh, is another excellent song about alcoholism. One Day at a Time is about Joe Walsh’s personal experiences with alcohol and other drugs like cocaine. Joe Walsh sings about his recovery and the steps he had to take to get his life back and get clean. The song was released in 2012 and is part of Walsh’s Analog Man album. The song has a runtime of three minutes and forty seconds. It’s known as one of the best songs about alcoholism.
Piano Man, by Billy Joel, isn’t directly about alcoholism but the sad tone and focus on drinking in a dive bar negatively displays alcohol. Piano Man has many lyrics about how people could have been successful but got trapped drinking in a dive bar. The only bright spot about the people in the songs’ lives is that they don’t have to drink alone. Piano Man was released many years ago and has a runtime of five minutes and 39 seconds.
Music touches every aspect of life and affects us. Songs composed on topics such as alcohol addiction and recovering are listed below.
What are the Alcoholism-Related Memoirs Besides Movies?
Memoirs are pieces of art that feel more personal to those who read them. One of the best memoirs about alcoholism is Lit: A Memoir, by Mary Karr. Lit: A Memoir is a story about Mary Karr’s struggle with alcoholism and how she fell into the cycle of drinking every day. The memoir also explores Mary Karr’s revival. The memoir was published in 2009 and had a positive reception among most critics.
Another alcoholism-related memoir is Dry, by Augusten Burroughs. Dry explores the life of Augusten Burroughs and his struggles with alcoholism. The memoir explores how it happened to him, what it did to his life, and how he was able to escape from alcoholism’s tight grip. Dry is a great memoir because it’s personal, raw, and doesn’t hold back. It was published in 2003 and there are several follow-ups that Burroughs created. Some examples are Magical Thinking. Running with Scissors is another work by Burroughs that preceded Dry.
The last alcoholism-related memoir to look at is Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir by Lisa F. Smith. In her book, Smith talks about her story with alcoholism. Tell her experiences as a young adult with anxiety, her stress from the workload, and her recovery process. She faces all the harm alcohol gives her in the detox facility and changes her life. The book is 219 pages long and has a Goodreads score of 4.2 out of 5.
What are the Alcoholism-Related Books Besides Movies?
Alcoholism-related books are one of the best methods for finding help with addiction in art and literature alcoholism-related books include:
Blackout: Remembering The Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola: Hepola herself has a history of alcoholism that she drinks wine from her parents’ glasses secretly. And when she is an adult, her drinking turns into blackouts. In her book, she tells her story with self-deprecating humor. The book is 209 pages long and has a Goodreads score of 4.5 out of 5.
We are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life by Laura Mckowen: Mckowen, who defines people who drink casually as lucky during the process of trying to quit drinking, realizes that when she quits drinking, she is the lucky one because she can experience her feelings honestly and as she wants. The book is 252 pages long and has a Goodreads score of 4.4 out of 5.
The last book to look at is The Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, by Annie Grace. In this book, Annie Grace focuses on how someone can control alcohol and prevent it from becoming an addiction. She uses her background to explain how addiction works and how you can overcome it. For alcoholism prevention and treatment, it’s one of the best options. It was released in 2015 as a self-help book that’s 274 pages in length. It maintains a 4.3 out of 5 Goodreads score, a 4.7 out of 5 Google Play score, and a 5 out of 5 from Barnes & Noble.
If you’re looking for treatment advice or treatment for alcoholism, reading books is one of the best ways to get started. Books about alcoholism work better than other types of media because you can reference them at any time and relate to the words.