Five of the Best: Addiction Films | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Five of the Best: Addiction Films

#5 Leaving Las Vegas Nicolas Cage picked up a well-deserved Oscar for his performance in Mike Figgis’ classic

#5 Leaving Las Vegas

Nicolas Cage picked up a well-deserved Oscar for his performance in Mike Figgis' classic. This gloomy tale is about a man who becomes completely reliant on alcohol after being abandoned by his family. It is not a pretty sight, but here Cage's bleak and brilliant performance shows the depths a man plagued by alcoholism can sink to. An unmissable career best for Cage (interviewed next week).

#4 Less Than Zero

One of Robert Downey Jr's best performances as Julian, a rich teenager who becomes involved in the Los Angeles party scene. The most tragic aspect of the film is that we see Julian graduate high school and proceed to slowly descend into a world of cocaine usage. His friends try and help him, but their support is not enough to overpower his crippling substance abuse.

#3 The Man With...

The Man With The Golden Arm (1955) was the first film to tackle the issue of illegal drug use. Frank Sinatra stars as Frankie Machine, newly released from prison, who is dragged back into the underworld of heroin addiction. Despite the film's age, the portrayal of addiction is just as harrowing as in contemporary portraits of heroin use such as Trainspotting or The Basketball Diaries.

#2 Bad Lieutenant

Most of the films in this list focus on one kind of addiction, but Harvey Keitel seems to encompass every kind of addiction society faces. The unnamed Lieutenant is a police officer that takes drugs, drinks, repeatedly has sex and gambles – all while managing to heroically arrest criminals in New York City. No stranger to addiction films, as shown by 5 on this list, Nic Cage stars in the remake.

#1 Requiem For A Dream

What list about addiction is complete without Requiem For a Dream? As melodramatic as it is, Darren Aronofsky pulls no punches showing how drug addiction is not just something which can affect experimenting youngsters but also the older generations. In Requiem for a Dream Aronofsky juxtaposes the graphic heroin addiction of a 20-something-year-old with the addiction to weight loss pills and television which his lonely mother faces. Ultimately both addictions appear to be equally as devastating.


28th January 2012 at 5:03 pm