(this post comes from Lily Reynolds)
Movies can either glamorize drugs, or show their destructive powers. For every Blow there is a gritty, hard hitting movie that shows the true cost of the drug lifestyle. It might be tempting for people to depict drug use as an adventure in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but gritty movies about the hell of drug addiction may prove to be the best way for cinema to convey what life is like as an addict. Some of the more famous drug movies include Pulp Fiction, Withnail and I, Scarface, A Scanner Darkly, Pineapple Express and Training Day. These six gritty drug addiction films take the perspective of the drug addict, some their relations and others the point of view of dealers and narcotics officers.
Perhaps less famous than the other movies on this list, Christiane F is the story of a young teenage girl in Germany in the 1970s. She is bored, yet fascinated by the disco scene. Despite being too young, she gets into one of the clubs and her descent into drug addiction, disco and prostitution begins. This is a tough movie, though best seen in its original German audio rather than the dubbed version.
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Midnight Cowboys was one of the original dark drug films of its kind. It is also famed for being the only X-rated movie to have won the Best Picture award at the Oscars. Made in 1969, Cowboys captures the life of a Texan who goes to New York for the big life, but gets stuck in a repetitive and seemingly endless cycle of drugs, prostitution and crime. Setting the template from which many have split, Midnight Cowboys nails the glamour, the temptation and then the awful aftermath of when the high fades away.
Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream does not just follow one person’s battle against drug addiction, but shows the spectrum of addicts from the young to old. The movie is directed by Darren Aronofsky of Black Swan and The Fountain fame. It's not just about heroin, but covers the less famous pills out there. A complete no-holds-barred look at violence and prostitution, but where Requiem differs from other movies is its banal look at addiction with Sarah (Ellen Burstyn).
The Basketball Diaries
It is not just playboys (the subject of glamorized drug movies) or the poor who succumb to drugs. As many sports stories have shown with steroids, drugs are rife in sport. The Basketball Diaries follow Jim Carroll’s descent from a budding basketball player to a drug addict. Even as he became a great player and part of a great team, his demons were massing inside of him. Carroll’s drug problem started young, at 13, and the movie follows him playing basketball, fighting addiction, his fall from grace, jail time and his attempts to fight back and reclaim some part of the life he had.
It is possible to argue that Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting covers both the highs and lows of the user. The movie certainly glorifies them at first, but this is a movie about heroin addiction and this is an addiction that rarely ends well, especially on the screen. The hardest to bear parts of Trainspotting come when Renton (Ewan McGregor) goes cold-turkey. The film proves that getting opiates out of your system is not an easy thing to do and the he tries many times while his friends descend into ever deepening spiral.
Most movies have been about the drug addicts themselves, but with Pure, the story follows the impact of drug addiction on a young child. This is perhaps the harrowing point of view it could have possibly taken. Even more so than the descent of an addict or the effect on a spouse. The movie’s lead, Paul, is small boy with a mother addicted to heroin. He spends most of his time looking after her and his younger brother. Paul fights with all his limited strength and knowledge to stop his mother from killing herself with the drug, even when he knows he will probably lose.