If you or someone you love is in recovery or is considering seeking treatment for addiction, you’ll likely notice that you have some extra time to fill that used to be dedicated to partaking in your substance of choice. As you move into developing new lifestyle habits and healthy activities, add these extraordinary films to your list of best recovery movies.
This list of movies, recommended by clinical staff and patients alike, is a great activity to enjoy with recovery peers, Boisvert, R. A., Martin, L. M., Grosek, M., & Clarie, A. J. (2008). Effectiveness of a peer‐support community in addiction recovery: participation as intervention. Occupational therapy … Continue reading family, or even at home alone during the evenings when you finally get a moment to slow down and relax. Each of these films contains vital lessons and important messages that we believe can help you on your journey to recovery. While not every movie on our list will resonate with everyone, we’re confident that there’s at least one movie on this list you can use to reap some inspiration.
These movies go beyond entertainment to expose the complex and often difficult realities of addiction, while reminding people that they are not alone in their experience. Most importantly, the movies on our list highlight nuances many people and their families experience on the road to addiction recovery, showing that addiction can be overcome with both self-determination and help from those who care. White, W. L. (1998). Slaying the dragon: The history of addiction treatment and recovery in America (p. xvi). Bloomington, IL: Chestnut Health Systems/Lighthouse Institute. Retrieved April 21, 2022, … Continue reading
Our Recommended Films About Drug Addiction and Recovery
Beautiful Boy is a 2018 film based on the memoir Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David and Nicholas Sheff. In the film, the senior Sheff goes above and beyond to support Nic as he spirals deep into methamphetamine addiction. It’s a harrowing story of a family sticking together, through even the most difficult of battles.
Ben Is Back
Ben Is Back is another 2018 film that deals with family relationships and how addiction put those relationships to the test. This movie shows how a mother and son relationship can see extreme highs and lows as a parent does everything in her power to help her son stay clean. Starring Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, and Courtney B. Vance, Ben Is Back is an excellent film on drug addiction for watching with someone you love.
When Love Is Not Enough
When Love is Not Enough is a 2010 film that tells the story of Lois Wilson, the wife of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson. Lois Wilson founded Al-Anon/Alateen in 1935, with the purpose of supporting family members of people living with the disease of alcoholism. We’d recommend this movie to family members of people currently in treatment, or to anyone looking to be an ally to people currently living with addiction.
28 Days is a 2000 drama/comedy starring Sandra Bullock as a hard-drinking newspaper columnist. After drunkenly causing a major catastrophe at her sister’s wedding, she is given a choice by a judge to either spend 28 days in jail or 28 days in rehab. She reluctantly chooses to go to rehab, and her journey to taking her sobriety seriously ensues from there. This film is great because it tells a story of change and resilience that is not as heavy as other films on our list.
Rachel Getting Married
Rachel Getting Married (2008) has a little something for everyone: family dynamics, sibling tension, a grand wedding, and revealing and realistic scenes from NA meetings that will be deeply relatable. Anne Hathaway leads a cast of popular stars to tell a story that many who are living with and/or supporting someone living with addiction will understand.
Based on a true story, Flight is a 2012 film that tells the story of an airline pilot struggling both with alcohol and substance use problems. We don’t want to give too much away, but the film is really a great watch. It stars Denzel Washington, and we recommend this movie for professionals who are in high-responsibility, high-demand, high-stress, or high-stakes jobs.
Clean and Sober
Clean and Sober (1988) stars Michael Keaton as a professional who’s a successful real estate salesman struggling with cocaine addiction. We have to say that this film is classic 80s in every way and includes a deep look at how sponsorship works for individuals in 12-Step programs. We’d recommend this film to those who are currently working to make strides toward building a new life on the other side of addiction.
Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream is another film based on a novel. This 2000 movie is considered a psychological drama, showing four people living with various types of substance addiction and the challenges they face looking for love, acceptance, and connection. This film is different from the others on the list, because it highlights substance abuse from the internal perspective of those with addictions. A bit edgy and abstract, many people living with addiction may find several aspects of this film relatable.
The Basketball Diaries
The Basketball Diaries is an autobiographical film based on a novel written by Jim Carrol. This 1995 film follows a young man who’s aspiring to be a writer, his fall from high school basketball star to heroin addict, and his subsequent journey to recovery. This film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is not for the faint of heart, so it should be reserved for those who feel they can handle addiction in a real and raw light.
A Star Is Born
A Star Is Born (2018) is a classic, iconic story that has everything. The film contains drama, music, and a love story, while also showing drug addiction and how it impacts relationships and careers. The film stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, with Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, and Sam Elliot as a cast in the dazzling spotlights of fame and deep human emotions of interpersonal relationships. You’ll especially like this film if you are a music lover. When you finish, check out the many other iterations of this film from the 30s, 50s, and 70s.
Wild is a 2014 film based on Cheryl Strayed’s autobiography Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Reese Witherspoon stars in this a story of self-discovery that recounts her solo hike from Southern California to Oregon and then Washington State as she tries to recover from family tragedy and self-destructive behavior. This film is a great choice for anyone looking to see stories that show resilience and strength.
2019’s Rocketman brings the original music of Sir Elton John to the cinematic forefront in a story that shows the man behind the musician, including his battle with addiction, that has shaped generations with his art. This epic story is set to John’s music and is sure to be another huge hit for those who enjoy a good music-based film.
When a Man Loves a Woman
If you plan to watch 1994’s When a Man Loves a Woman, you may want to have a full box of tissues handy. This film is so emotionally poignant that we’d be hard-pressed to believe that anyone who’s ever had an alcohol addiction, known anyone with substance abuse problems, or loved anyone with substance abuse problems, can get through this film without shedding some major tears. Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia really tug at the heartstrings in this film about the deep love and commitment a spouse can show when standing by their loved one as they overcome substance abuse.
Standout Movies About Recovery on Netflix
Most of the movies on our list are readily available for streaming. Netflix, in particular, is a great source of movies about addiction available at the touch of a remote. When it comes to movies about drug addiction on Netflix, the streaming giant has an amazing collection of films and documentaries geared toward storytelling for individuals in recovery. We had to mention a few of these awesome films for our list of best movies about drug addiction.
6 Balloons is a 2018 film that tells the story of Katie, a young mother who notices that her brother Seth, played by Dave Franco, has relapsed back into addiction. The film takes you on the journey of Seth, Katie, and her young daughter, as they drive through the night to find a rehab center for Seth. 6 Balloons shows a very realistic depiction of drug addiction that’s both tragic and captivating. This indie flick is definitely a great choice for you if you’re looking for a movie that portrays addiction in real life, with a thoughtful narrative that will be relatable for anyone who has experienced addiction before.
Herion(e) is a gripping 2017 documentary film that tells the story of how an epidemic of heroin addiction and overdose overtook Huntington, a small West Virginia town. The high level of drug uses threatens the residents of Huntington as they fear addiction may spread to future generations. The film captures a different side of the war on drugs, which is an important depiction of the support and care that’s available to those who need it most.
Why Are These Films Important?
We believe that anyone living with addiction, supporting someone living with addiction, or in recovery from addiction will find something that resonates in at least one of these films. Watching with a recovery peer or loved one is sure to bring a sense of understanding regarding the challenges of addiction—and hopefully bring those with an addiction and those supporting their recovery closer together. Perhaps most importantly, these films are not just about addiction and recovery, but also how these aspects fit into the human experience.
Each story does an amazing job of showcasing addiction from many different and dynamic viewpoints. Drug addiction is a serious condition that impacts millions of individuals, their families, and their communities. Unfortunately, its mind-altering effects can cause people to make decisions that lower their quality of life and often destroy their health and their close relationships. Mocenni, C., Montefrancesco, G., & Tiezzi, S. (2011). Cognitive factors and changes in individual decision making: from drug addiction to natural recovery. Chaos and Complexity Letters, 4(3), … Continue reading Drug addiction movies make these real-life struggles associated with drug use visible and digestible for those who do and do not understand what addiction entails. Films can also be a tremendous resource to those currently living with addiction, as well as those considering seeking help with recovery. Cape, G. (2009). Movies as a vehicle to teach addiction medicine. International Review of Psychiatry, 21(3), 213-217. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540260902747094
Movies Might Be Entertaining but Addiction is Real
Ultimately, addiction is a very real and serious problem that faces many people throughout the world. There are countless stories of triumph and struggle, many of which have been depicted in countless addiction recovery films. However, some might contain subtexts that can be triggery for an individual in recovery. That’s why we’ve put this list together—to provide some helpful recommendations as well as a rough overview of the main ideas explored in each film. Our hopes are that the stories in these movies will help shed some light on the most important aspects of addiction and recovery. The more we talk about tough things the easier they get to talk about.
Having been on both sides of active addition, both the person using, and the person affected by a loved one using drugs and alcohol, Lucas has been involved in recovery since 2009. He has been working in the treatment industry since 2013. Using his personal experience and wealth of knowledge learned from professional development and immersion in the recovery field, he has spoken with thousands of families and helped hundreds of people attain long-term sobriety. In 2020, the opportunity presented to join in and start Illuminate Recovery. Understanding the importance of personalized treatment plans and the complex nature between substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, has helped Illuminate Recovery build a strong curriculum and a phenomenal staff. Illuminate Recovery now has a medical doctor who is board certified in addiction medicine and a psychiatric medical doctor who works side by side with independently licensed therapists to provide compassionate and effective treatment.
|↑1||Boisvert, R. A., Martin, L. M., Grosek, M., & Clarie, A. J. (2008). Effectiveness of a peer‐support community in addiction recovery: participation as intervention. Occupational therapy international, 15(4), 205-220. https://doi.org/10.1002/oti.257|
|↑2||White, W. L. (1998). Slaying the dragon: The history of addiction treatment and recovery in America (p. xvi). Bloomington, IL: Chestnut Health Systems/Lighthouse Institute. Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://www.chestnut.org/Resources/0d8a3bb5-7771-49c7-aac0-180a3f982a81/Slaying%20the%20Dragon%202nd%20Ed%20Bibliography.pdf|
|↑3||Mocenni, C., Montefrancesco, G., & Tiezzi, S. (2011). Cognitive factors and changes in individual decision making: from drug addiction to natural recovery. Chaos and Complexity Letters, 4(3), 61-73. Retrieved April 21, 2022, from https://docenti-deps.unisi.it/silviatiezzi/wp-content/uploads/sites/46/2014/08/Tiezzi-CCL.pdf|
|↑4||Cape, G. (2009). Movies as a vehicle to teach addiction medicine. International Review of Psychiatry, 21(3), 213-217. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540260902747094|