April is Alcohol Awareness Month so it’s an excellent time to examine some movies about alcoholism to see how alcohol misuse is portrayed in Hollywood films.
Alcoholism has the capacity to destroy a person’s personal and professional life. An estimated 16.6 million adults in this country have an alcohol use disorder, reports the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Unfortunately, less than 8 percent of that population will receive treatment for the disease of addiction. As a result, some 88,000 people die each year from alcohol related issues.
In the United States, one in 10 children live in a household where at least one parent has issues with alcohol, which increases the risk that they might also develop some form of substance use addiction problems. The chances are that most people know someone with a drinking problem.
With such a significant reach, it makes sense that movies about alcoholism and alcohol abuse are prevalent themes in the American film and documentary culture.
Here Are 9 Must See Movies About Alcoholism That Deal With Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
There have been many movies about alcoholism made throughout the years, but these films are audience favorites and some have been nominated or won awards.
1. 28 Days
28 Days was released in 2000, and stars Sandra Bullock as newspaper columnist Gwen Cummings. After crashing a stolen limousine, Gwen, a troubled drinker, is given the choice of 28 days in jail or going to rehab.
Although this movie is about a very serious subject, it has funny moments that lighten it a bit and make it easy to watch.
With an all-star cast of actors, including Diane Ladd, Steve Buscemi and Viggo Mortensen, the film got the number two spot in it’s opening weekend.
Barfly is a semi-autobiographical work from 1987 and written by Charles Bukowski, an American poet that Time magazine referred to as a “laureate of American lowlife.”
Mickey Rourke plays Henry Chinaski, an impoverished alcoholic who does odd jobs in an effort to fund his drinking. Wanda is played by Faye Dunaway, who befriends Chinaski.
This film offers a very raw portrayal of alcoholism. When it appeared at the Cannes Film Festival, it garnered award nominations for both Dunaway and Rourke.
3. Days of Wine and Roses
With four Oscar nominations and one win, Days of Wine and Roses is a film classic that stars Jack Lemon and Lee Remick as an ordinary married couple in San Francisco that succumb to alcoholism and struggle to regain their lives when they reach rock bottom.
Released in 1962, the film’s tagline read, “This, in its own terrifying way, is a love story.”
Flight is a gripping film about alcoholism and drug use filled with amazing performances.
Denzel Washington stars as William “Whip” Whitaker Sr., an alcoholic and drug addicted pilot that crash-lands an airliner after a mechanical failure and saves almost everyone onboard.
After the crash, however, Whip’s life takes a unexpected turn.
Flight was released in 2012, and the film received Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay.
5. When A Man Loves A Woman
Co-written by Al Franken, When A Man Loves A Woman is a 1994 drama starring Andy Garcia, Meg Ryan and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman among others.
Alice Green, played by Ryan, is a beloved wife, mother and school counselor who becomes incredibly reckless and violent when she drinks.
Her husband, played by Garcia, attempts to confront her alcoholism after an accident in the house that sends her to the hospital.
6. Leaving Las Vegas
Leaving Las Vegas is based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, that features Nicolas Cage as Ben Sanderson, a Hollywood screenwriter who goes to Vegas with the intent of drinking himself to death.
While in Las Vegas, Ben is befriended by a troubled prostitute, played by Elisabeth Shue.
Cage received a Golden Globe for his role in the film. Sadly, John O’Brien, who wrote the novel, died by suicide shortly after the film began shooting.
Receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, Ed Harris stars as the troubled, but brilliant artist Jackson Pollock.
Pollock highlights the intersections of mental illness, alcoholism and creativity, and received extremely positive reviews from critics in 2000 when it opened.
8. The Verdict
Paul Newman plays Frank Galvin, a disgraced ambulance-chasing attorney with a drinking problem in The Verdict.
As a favor to a former teacher, Galvin takes a medical malpractice case with the intention of settling out of court, but is deeply moved after visiting the comatose woman he’s fighting for.
A box office success in 1982 when the film was released, The Verdict also received five nominations at the Academy Awards and is now considered a must-watch classic.
9. The Judge
Premiering in 2014, The Judge stars Robert Duvall as Judge Joseph Palmer and Robert Downey Jr. as his son, Hank Palmer.
In an emotional and heated twist of fate, Downey defends his father against first-degree murder for an alleged fatal hit and run while the Judge was blackout drunk.
Duvall received nominations for Best Supporting Actor from the Golden Globes, the Screen Actor’s Guild and the Academy Awards.
More Movies About Alcoholism
The films about alcoholism listed above do an excellent job of portraying the difficulties associated with alcohol abuse, and addiction in general.
Drug and alcohol topics are popular themes in Hollywood because so many people are touched by addiction, whether personally, or through a friend or loved one.
Hopefully, the cinematic portrayal of people in the grips of addiction will provide more than just entertainment, and those who actually need help recovering in real life will connect in a way that they do seek help.
Additional Movies About Alcoholism
Even though this additional list of films didn’t make the cut above, they are also worth seeing by anyone interested in this film genre.
- A Star Is Born (2018)
- Judy (2019)
- Rocketman (2019)
- When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)
- Crazy Heart (2009)
- Smashed (2012)
- The Lost Weekend (1945)
- Clean & Sober (1988)
- Walk the Line (2005)
It’s unfortunate that so many people who have issues with alcohol addiction never get the help they deserve because treatment works and is available to anyone who needs it.
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