I’ve always enjoyed movies about drugs. Somehow, to me, it’s not surprising that I find drugs criminality the most interesting field of criminology. Since I’m currently doing the Drugs Trafficking series, I thought I’d share my favorite movies on drugs*. Go see all of them, if you haven’t yet!
I took the plot summaries from IMDb and you can click the titles of the movies to go to their IMDb pages! If you click the “trailer” link behind the title, you’ll be sent to a youtube trailer of the movie.
*This list is not organized by the quality of the movies, but by how much drugs the movie characters use…
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman
Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega are two hitmen who are out to retrieve a suitcase stolen from their employer, mob boss Marsellus Wallace. Wallace has also asked Vincent to take his wife Mia out a few days later when Wallace himself will be out-of-town. Butch Coolidge is an aging boxer who is paid by Wallace to lose his next fight. The lives of these seemingly unrelated people are woven together consisting of a series of funny, bizarre and uncalled-for incidents.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke
In a city where streets are overrun by drug dealers, those who have sworn to uphold the law are breaking them to clean up the streets. Denzel Washington plays L.A.P.D. detective Alonzo Harris, a veteran narcotics officer whose methods of enforcing the law are questionable, if not corrupt. ‘Training Day’ follows Harris as he trains rookie Jake Hoyt over a 24-hour period. Ethical dilemmas arise for Hoyt as well as the audience as questions present themselves as to whether or not Harris’ methodology for ridding the streets of South Central Los Angeles of drugs is right or wrong.
Directed by Steven Soderberg, starring Benicio del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas
A modern-day look at America’s war on drugs told through four separate stories that are connected in one way or another. A conservative politician who’s just been appointed as the US drug czar learns his daughter is a drug addict. A trophy wife struggles to save her husband’s drug business, while two DEA agents protect a witness with inside knowledge of the spouse’s business. In Mexico, a corrupt, yet dedicated cop struggles with his conscience when he learns his new boss may not be the anti-drug official he made himself out to be.
Directed by Ted Demme, starring Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz
George Jung is the son of a struggling small business owner. Seeing his family struggle to make ends meet and failing, George vows never to share a similar fate. Moving to California, he starts his own marijuana pushing operation in which he finds both success and imprisonment. In prison, he meets a cell-mate who introduces him into a partnership to the lucrative new market in cocaine. Upon release, George Jung quickly becomes instrumental in establishing the exploding US market for cocaine in which he claimed he handled about 85% of the supply in the 1970s. However, for all the fabulous wealth and power he gained, the true costs of his dangerously treacherous occupation catch up with him in ways from which he would never recover.
Originally titled “Christiane F. – Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo”. Directed by Uli Edel, starring Natja Brunckhorst and Thomas Haustein
This movie portrays the drug scene in Berlin in the 70s, following tape recordings of Christiane F. 14 years old Christiane lives with her mother and little sister in a typical multi-storey apartment building in Berlin. She’s fascinated by the ‘Sound’, a new disco with most modern equipment. Although she’s legally too young, she asks a friend to take her. There she meets Detlef, who’s in a clique where everybody’s on drugs. Step by step she gets drawn deeper into the scene.
Directed by Brian De Palma, starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer
When Castro opened the port at Mariel Harbor, thousands of Cubans fled to the United States. One is a young tough named Antonio (Tony) Montana, who, with his friend Manny Ray, starts in with Miami’s cocaine trade. He survives attack by chainsaw after a deal goes bad, and several other attempts by other dealers to eliminate him. Eventually the grandiose Montana becomes head of a cocaine cartel. But his enemies start coming after him, and his paranoia threatens to drive Montana’s empire into the ground.
Directed by Danny Boyle, starring Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremner
A wild, freeform, Rabelaisian trip through the darkest recesses of Edinburgh low-life, focusing on Mark Renton and his attempt to give up his heroin habit, and how the latter affects his relationship with family and friends: Sean Connery wannabe Sick Boy, dimbulb Spud, psycho Begbie, 14-year-old girlfriend Diane, and clean-cut athlete Tommy, who’s never touched drugs but can’t help being curious about them.
Although not a movie, I wanted to give Breaking Bad, a TV show on AMC, a special mention. I think this show is one of the best on air at the moment (and possibly ever) and I think everyone should watch it.
Directed by Vince Gilligan, starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul
Informed he has terminal cancer, an underachieving chemistry genius turned high school chemistry teacher turns to using his expertise in chemistry to provide a legacy for his family… by producing the world’s highest quality crystal meth.
Note: I saw this movie for the first time when I was 11 or 12. If you want your kids to NEVER TOUCH DRUGS EVER, let them watch this movie that age. This is one of the most extreme movies on drugs there is, in my opinion.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly
Drugs. They consume mind, body and soul. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. Four lives. Four addicts. Four failures. Despite their aspirations of greatness, they succumb to their addictions. Watching the addicts spiral out of control, we bear witness to the dirtiest, ugliest portions of the underworld addicts reside in. It is shocking and eye-opening but demands to be seen by both addicts and non-addicts alike.
Note: This movie contrasts Requiem for a Dream extremely; while it doesn’t truly laud drugs, it does show how two men enjoy the use of nearly every type of drug available in the 1960′s. It’s still my favorite movie of all time. And not just because I like Johnny Depp because he’s not very attractive in this movie.
Directed by Terry Gilliam, starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro
Raoul duke is a drug addled gonzo journalist. he is sent to cover a motorcycle race as an article for his magazine, but then the situation escalates into him and his psychotic attorney searching for the American dream, aided by almost every drug known to man in the boot of his red convertible.
P.S. If you’ve recently seen Rango, an animated movie featuring Johnny Depp as a lizard, you might have recognized the reference to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in the beginning, where Rango hits the windscreen of a red convertible. Watch the scene here.
This is bat country…
Tell me, which of these movies have you seen? Which did you like and which did you not? Do you know of other good movies on drugs that I should see?