Drug Movies

Friday, April 15 by Joshua Wade

From the marijuana-infused insanity of films like “Reefer Madness” and “Half Baked” to the disastrous effects of heroin and cocaine depicted in films like “Candy” and “Scarface,” these drug movies include iconic indie gems and award-winning cult classics. Featuring exceptional performances from award-winning actors like Johnny Depp, Al Pacino and Heath Ledger, these films chronicle the powerful, tragic and even the hilarious roles that drugs play in films over the years.

  1. “Candy” This gripping 2006 drama stars Abbie Cornish as the titular art student who is gradually pulled into a crippling life of drugs after falling for a heroin-addicted poet, brilliantly portrayed by Heath Ledger. Ledger delivers one of the best performances of his short career, backed by standout turns by Cornish and Geoffrey Rush as drug dealing college professor, Casper.
  2. “Easy Rider” One of the quintessential drug movies of the 1960s, this 1969 classic stars Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda as two bikers who decide to drive across the country after a lucrative cocaine deal. The film was directed by Hopper and featured actual drug use by the actors. A landmark film for '60s counterculture, “Easy Rider” stars a young Jack Nicholson in his breakout role as alcoholic lawyer George Hanson.
  3. “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” A breakthrough film for Johnny Depp, this bizarre and hilarious indie gem was directed by Terry Gilliam and stars Depp as Raul Duke (a character based on writer Hunter S. Thompson) a journalist who takes a drug-infused road trip with his attorney to the city of sin. Based on the autobiographical novel by Hunter S. Thompson, the film is highlighted by Gilliam’s strange cinematography and exceptional performances by Benicio del Toro and Christina Ricci.
  4. “Blow” This powerful biopic about drug kingpin George Jung delivers another standout performance by Johnny Depp as Jung, backed by incredible performances by Penelope Cruz and Paul Reubens. One of the best drug movies in recent years, “Blow” was written by Hollywood legend Nick Cassavetes.
  5. “Permanent Midnight” An underrated masterpiece, this 1998 film stars an uncharacteristic Ben Stiller as a small-time television writer who rises to successes amid a debilitating drug addiction. One of the best drug movies of the 1990s, this film features great performances by Janeane Garofalo and Owen Wilson.
  6. “Requiem for a Dream” This cult classic from filmmaker Darren Aronofsky about a number of characters and the ravaging effects of various drug addictions on their lives features career-defining performances by Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly. Characterized by Aronofsky’s moody, bizarre cinematography and confusing narratives, this film was nominated for an Academy Award and was based on the novel by Hubert Selby, Jr.
  7. “The Man With the Golden Arm” One of the best drug movies ever made, this film follows a man’s struggle to stay clean after leaving prison and star legendary performer Frank Sinatra. Directed by Hollywood icon Otto Preminger, the film was nominated for a number of Academy Awards and was highly controversial when it was released in 1955.
  8. “Scarface” One of the most iconic drug movies of all time, “Scarface” follows the rise and fall of fictional cocaine kingpin Tony Montana. Directed by Brian De Palma, this film features a career-making performance by Al Pacino as Montana, as well as exceptional performances by Michelle Pfeiffer and F. Murray Abraham.
  9. “Half Baked” Written by star Dave Chappelle, this comedy classic follows a trio of pot smoking slackers who resort to selling pot in order to bail their friend out of jail. Hilarious performances by Jim Breuer, Steve Wright and Harland Williams highlight this well written farce.
  10. “Reefer Madness” This hysterical exploitation film from 1936 chronicles the melodramatic effects of marijuana on a group of students who indulge in rape, murder and even suicide after smoking pot. Intended to be a morality tale for parents, the film became an unintentional comedy hit when it was rediscovered in the 1970s.

                                                                                                                                                  -Joshua Wade

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