Drugs. Dangerous, addictive, and illegal. No wonder Hollywood has produced so many movies with drugs as the central plot driver. From drug heists to violent cartel takeovers, there is no shortage of high action plotting available to screenwriters. Many have accused Hollywood of glamorising drugs, or even encouraging their use. Film-makers responded with gritty realism, showing the seedy and tragic flip side of the glamorous world of the dealer – the world of the hopeless addict, unable to free themselves of the horror of drug dependence. Heroin chic? No-one ever really believed that existed, did they? With directors like Danny Boyle treading a fine line, in his classic film Trainspotting, ultimately we are left in little doubt about the film industry’s attitude to drug use. When the fun turns to fear the movie just becomes more gripping. Comedy, tragedy, farce and road movie. Almost any genre can accommodate drugs and the battle to get them or sell them.
Here are five top Drug-Addled Films which tackle the issues of fun and fear inherent in the world of drugs:
Requiem For A Dream (2000)
A darkly disturbing film following four addicts as they descend ever deeper into the pit of despair. It shows the ugly side of the drug story, with cocaine, heroin and amphetamine at the centre of the addicts’ desires. Set on Coney Island, which is descending into equal decay, the story follows the intersecting lives of the four protagonists and demonstrates just how easy it is to lose control of the thing you seek most. Shocking and hard-hitting, it is directed by Darren Aronofsky, with an outstanding performance from Ellen Burstyn. Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly also star.
Director Terry Gilliam adapts Hunter S Thompson’s classic book onto the big-screen in this psychedelic drug fueled road movie caper. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas was a wildly popular novel, written in the 1971. Setting out in search of the imagined ‘American Dream’ on money they have been advanced by a magazine in order to cover a sports event, ‘Gonzo journalist’ Raoul Duke takes to the road. The vehicle is a red convertible known as The Red Shark, his companion a drug crazed Samoan lawyer. They have countless crazy encounters along the way, with hitch-hikers, policemen and fellow stoners, all aided by the drugs they bought before heading off. They indeed find fear and loathing, and a whole lot else besides. But do they finally discover the elusive American Dream? Starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Torro.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Traffic again shows four parallel stories unfold and intersect. A new, and conservative judge discovers to his horror that his daughter has become a drug addict. A woman tries to protect her husband’s drug business, while DEA officers, Montel Gordon and Ray Castro, fight to protect a key witness in the case against him. Over in Mexico, a cop struggles with his conscience as he discovers that his chief may not be as hard line on drugs crime as he’s made out to be. Starring Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jacob Vargas.
Director Danny Boyle struggled to see how Trainspotting could ever have been accused of glamorizing drug taking. He’s got a point, but his slick directing made this an instant classic, with it’s gritty soundtrack and high speed, funny scripting. Set in the underbelly of Edinburgh, it focuses on Mark Renton’s attempt to go cold turkey, and how it affects his life. Once an attempt to escape the monotony of everyday life, heroin has begun to take a terrible toll on Renton and his group of junkie friends and we follow their darkly hilarious attempts to break free. Brilliantly directed with stand out performances by virtually everyone involved, Trainspotting remains the ultimate addiction movie. Hard hitting and shocking in parts, it’s a movie you won’t forget.
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Into the future with this movie – and undercover detective Bob Arctor tries to find the mastermind behind a new drug called Substance D, which is causing brain damage to users. He infiltrates a small gang of drug dealers, but soon becomes damaged by the process as his own use of the drug starts to take its toll. Substance D is an hallucinogenic, and Arctor begins to lose his own identity and question his sanity as he’s drawn into its orbit. Although his mission is supported by a drug rehabilitation hospital, he ends up having his own sanity tested. Wires become crossed, and soon the hunter becomes the hunted. Offering a dystopian view of the near future, set in Orange County, California, A Scanner Darkly is directed by Richard Linklater and stars Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Jr.