Great Films about Addiction

A brightly colored, albeit mostly yellow, poster for the film Trainspotting. Ewan McGregor folds his arms in a stencil rendition of himself.

The purpose of art and storytelling is to sort out distinct parts of the human experience. The trials and tribulations of addiction are certainly a slice of human experience that deserve to be explored in our modern world. Thankfully, there have been many great films that explore different aspects of addiction, as well as the recovery from that wretched disease. Keep in mind, many of these films could be triggers for a former addict. Watch with discretion. Now, here are some great films about addiction…


In 2012, Denzel Washington gave an incredible, Oscar-nominated performance in the Robert Zemeckis film, Flight. Flight is the story of an airline pilot named Whip Whitaker, who saves nearly all of the passengers on an airline he is flying by crash landing after the plane malfunctions. However, after saving the plane, it is discovered that Whitaker, an alcoholic and cocaine addict, was under the influence at the time of the flight. Drama ensues. This is a story of addiction and redemption. Washington turns in an immensely powerful performance as Whitaker. This is a well-told story about addiction with an incredible cast.


Trainspotting is a 1996 film directed by powerhouse British filmmaker Danny Boyle. It is based on a book of the same name by Irvine Welsh. This film is all about exploring the horrors of heroin use through the eyes of its narrative character. It is a difficult film to watch, due to its content, but the point of it isn’t to sugarcoat addiction. Ewan McGregor, before he was popular, is magnetic as Mark Renton, a Scottish heroin addict. The film was a certified hit, and the highest grossing British film of that year, despite of a meager budget of only $2.5 million. Trainspotting is, perhaps, the best depiction of heroin abuse ever.

When a Man Loves a Woman

When a Man Loves a Woman takes the subject of addiction and explores it through the personal relationship of marriage. Released in 1994, When a Man Loves a Woman stars Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia as a married couple who is forced to deal with effects of the wife’s alcoholism. The film is charming, but honest about its topic. Meg Ryan is tragically mesmerizing as she deals with her addiction, but the film still makes great effort to show her as a kind, loving person who is changed by alcohol. The film also very intelligently deals with the enabling that is being done by her husband. In hindsight, the film has a melancholy surrounding it with the presence of a wonderful supporting performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who tragically passed away due to his own addiction.