Good Movies about Drugs

Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm

These good movies about drugs focus on meth, heroin, ecstasy, cocaine (regular and crack-flavored), and one that’s even supposed to be 51 times stronger than all those previously mentioned. You’ll notice that marijuana movies are absent, as I’ve already done a number of articles on that subject (see the links at the bottom of the page).

Besides, many films about pot wind up being comedies. The movies listed below are not comedies. Hard drugs lead to hard lives, and the fate of most of these movie characters will be anything but uplifting.

So whether you’re looking for a morality tale or just a fun crime movie, be sure to check these good movies about drugs. The best way to do that is Netflix, and you can become a monthly subscriber by clicking here.

Spun (2002) – Shot over the course of 22 days, this down-and-dirty look at meth abuse stars Jason Schwartzman as Ross, an addict who falls in with a drug cook (Mickey Rourke) and his girlfriend, Nikki (Brittany Murphy). When he’s not getting high, Ross is accompanying “The Cook” to buy porn or ephedrine, leaving strippers tied to his bed for days, and helping Nikki get her dog to the vet. John Leguizamo co-stars as a dealer, and Mena Suvari is his constipated girlfriend with really bad teeth. Cameos include Billy Corgan, Rob Halford, and Ron Jeremy.

The French Connection (1971) – When those dirty French decide to smuggle dope into the good ‘ol United States, it’s up to hard-boiled cops Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) to stop them. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game, with the cops often seeming just as brutal as the men they’re pursuing. The film’s famous car chase is regarded as a classic, and Gene Hackman did much of the driving himself. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, it would win for Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Hackman), Best Director (William Friedkin), and Best Picture (the first R-rated film to be given such an honor). Based on the real-life exploits of NYPD detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso.

Another Day in Paradise (1998) – James Woods has always excelled at playing scumbags, and he’s on the top of his game as Mel, a career thief and drug user. After befriending a young couple who are also involved in illegal activities, the trio–along with Mel’s girlfriend, played by Melanie Griffith–hit the road to pull off a lucrative robbery. But things slowly begin to unravel, and even the slimy powers of James Woods may not be enough to win the day. Directed with seedy realism by Larry Clark, the man behind the controversial Kids.

Pusher (1996) – The first Danish-language gangster film, Pusher takes place on the mean streets of Copenhagen as a drug dealer named Frank (Kim Bodnia) attempts to pay back the money owed to a Serbian crime figure (Zlatko Buric). Confronted with a series of misfortunes, Frank must deal with his prostitute lover, possibly treacherous pal, and a Serbian henchman who dreams of settling down and opening a restaurant. The first film in a trilogy, Pusher thrust director Nicolas Winding Refn into the spotlight and led to later films such as Bronson and Valhalla Rising.

The 51st State (2001) – Ronny Yu (Freddy vs. Jason, Fearless) helms this offbeat British film about Elmo McElroy (Samuel L. Jackson), an American chemist who invents a potent new illegal substance, blows up his boss, and heads to Liverpool to sell his concoction. Wearing a kilt and carrying a bag of golf clubs throughout much of the film, Elmo meets up with a soccer-loving former hitman (Robert Carlyle) and tries to make a deal with a series of drug kingpins. But his ex-boss (Meatloaf) isn’t as dead as he thinks, and soon the two men are being pursued by an assassin (Emily Mortimer), skinheads, and a corrupt cop (Sean Pertwee). The film is also known by the title The 51st State.

Requiem for a Dream (2000) – We all know drug use is bad for you, but this Darren Aronofsky film drives home the point with repeated hammer blows to the skull. Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) is a lonely widow who dreams of appearing on a game show. Her son, Harry (Jared Leto), and his two pals (Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly) are heroin addicts looking to save up enough money to open a fashion boutique. As their addictions gain a greater hold, each character slowly slips into a personal hell from which there may be no escape. For her role as the increasingly desperate Sara, Ellen Burstyn was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award. When I think of good movies about drugs, this one is at the top of my list.

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Rush (1991) – Jim Raynor (Jason Patric) is a narcotics officer working undercover to bring down a drug kingpin named Gaines (Gregg Allman). When it’s time to choose a new partner, he picks Kristen Cates (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a cop with little experience on the street. Soon, they’re both hooked on meth and heroin, and their relationship takes a turn for the romantic. But not all tales have a happy ending, and their lack of evidence against Gaines forces them to fabricate evidence…with tragic consequences. Sam Elliott co-stars as their superior officer, and the soundtrack is provided by the legendary Eric Clapton.

New Jack City (1991) – Director Mario Van Peebles continues the family tradition by turning out this socially conscious film about the crack epidemic in 1980’s New York City. Wesley Snipes gives a memorable performance as Nino Brown, a cold-hearted drug dealer who manages to climb and shoot his way to the top of the hill. But his reign won’t last forever, as Nino and the Cash Money Brothers are being pursued relentlessly by dedicated cops Scotty Appleton (Ice-T) and Nick Peretti (Judd Nelson). Filled with quotable dialogue and memorable scenes, New Jack City has become legendary with the hip hop crowd, not to mention suburbanites and rabid Judd Nelson fans. Co-starring Allen Payne, Chris Rock, Bill Nunn, Bill Cobbs, and Michael Michele.

Trainspotting (1996) – The perils of heroin addiction, played out against the depressing grey backdrop of Edinburgh, Scotland during the 1980s. Ewan McGregor stars as lead addict Mark Renton, and the film follows his efforts to kick heroin and cope with life without being high (often with mixed results). A darkly comical tale filled with nightmarish dream sequences–including a zombie baby–and violent outbursts, Trainspotting co-stars Ewen Bremner, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and Kevin McKidd. A word of warning to non-UK viewers: the Scottish accents are maddeningly thick, so you may want to consider flipping on the subtitle option in order to keep up.

Coffy (1973) – When her 11-year-old sister gets hooked on smack, a nurse with a vengeful streak and a rockin’ afro (Pam Grier) sets out to punish the dealers and corrupt cops. To do so, she’ll use a combination of weapons and her well-proportioned bod. Grier became a blaxploitation superstar following the release of the film, and you’ll want to savor every moment of the funky 70’s soundtrack. Director Jack Hill and Grier would team up the following year for Foxy Brown.

If you’re still in the mood for more good movies about drugs, be sure to take a look at the following titles: Drugstore Cowboy, Veronica Guerin, Where the Day Takes You, Super Fly, Blow, The Panic in Needle Park, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Less Than Zero, The Basketball Diaries, Half Nelson, Clockers, Easy Rider, Clean and Sober, and Maria Full of Grace. All of these films can be rented from Netflix, and the small commission we get when you sign up helps us stay in business.

Also recommended:

This entry was posted on Monday, October 11th, 2010 at 12:36 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

12 Responses to “Good Movies about Drugs”

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February 11, 2011

david

i will like to no more about drugs and its effect

May 14, 2011

Cole

It’s not “The 51st State”, It’s Formula 51. That movie is based in Liverpool, How the f**k do you get the 51st state? wtf?

May 16, 2011

Shane

The film had two different titles, Cole. Thanks for playing.

December 10, 2011

mikem

Lol @ Cole. Maybe next time before you spaz out about something, Google the subject first. Lol.

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