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10 Movies About Addiction and Recovery

Many people develop strong, emotional reactions to the films they watch. When it comes to movies about addiction and recovery, those reactions can be powerful tools to encourage a person to seek help or stay clean. While a few movies often take up most of the attention when it comes to movies about addiction, such as Trainspotting, Requiem for a Dream, and Clean and Sober. However, new movies are released every year that deal with the struggles of addiction and the recovery process.

The Sound of Metal (2019)

Directed by: Darius Marder
Written by: Darius Marder
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci

Sound of Metal is a fictional story of a drummer in a heavy metal band named Ruben (Riz Ahmed). When Ruben experiences sudden and almost total hearing loss, he begins to spiral. Ruben wants to keep playing music, but his partner and band member, Lou (Olivia Cooke), is worried about his well-being. Ruben is a recovering heroin addict who has been clean for four years. Worried that his hearing loss may lead to a relapse, Lou convinces Ruben to check into a recovery center designed for the hearing impaired.

Sound of Metal is a quiet, intimate portrait of a man facing life-changing adversity and his struggles to maintain sobriety. Ruben is forced to learn to live with his new deafness while staying clean from drugs. He also must come to terms with the facility’s firmly held belief that being an addict is the real handicap, not deafness. 

The film was nominated for six Oscars at the 2021 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. It also won two Oscars for Best Sound and Best Achievement in Film Editing. 

Available to Stream now on Amazon Prime Video

28 Days (2000)

Directed By: Betty Thomas
Written By: Susannah Grant
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi

28 Days is a fictional story of Gwen (Sandra Bullock), a newspaper reporter and high-functioning alcoholic. After Gwen is given the choice of jail or rehab as a result of a car accident caused by her alcoholism, she checks into a rehab facility for 28 days. In the beginning, Gwen is resentful of the forced stay and in denial about her problem. However, the longer she stays, the more she learns about how her addiction affects her and those around her.

While Gwen begins to realize the damage that alcoholism has done to her life, she must enter back into the world and face her friends, who often enabled her destructive behavior. This film is supported by a strong class and takes a realistic look at the effects of addiction on the individual and how it can damage relationships. 

Available to Stream now on Showtime

Everything Must Go (2010)

Directed By: Dan Rush
Written By: Dan Rush
Starring: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Michael Pena

Everything Must Go is a dark comedy/drama detailing the life of Nick (Will Ferrell), a salesman and high-functioning alcoholic. Nick is unhappy with this life and has turned to heavy drinking to deal with his depression. After an incident related to his drinking causes him to lose his job, his wife throws him out of the house, locking the doors and leaving all of his belongings in the front yard. Nick decides to live in his front yard and slowly sell his belongings to buy beer. Nick begins to meet his neighbors, who attempt to provide support and joy to his life. As time goes on, Nick begins to realize how destructive alcohol has been to his life, work, and marriage. 

Now Available to Rent on Amazon Prime Video

Shame (2011)

Directed by: Steve McQueen
Written by: Steve McQueen, Abi Morgan 
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, Nicole Behaire

Shame is a fictional story from Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen. The story is centered around Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a sex addict living in New York City. Brandon often spends his evenings hitting on women in bars, soliciting prostitutes, and watching pornography. When Brandon’s sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), comes to stay with him, his life begins to spiral as he is faced with his addiction and traumatic past.

Available to Rent on Amazon Prime Video

Sleeping With Other People (2015)

Directed by: Leslye Headland
Written by: Leslye Headland
Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott

Sleeping With Other People may be more light-hearted than many of the other films on this list, but it still shows the different ways addiction and impulse control can affect people. This film tells the story of Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Laney (Alison Brie), two college acquaintances that meet several years later at a meeting for sex addicts. Jake is a sex addict afraid of commitment, causing him to be unfaithful whenever he is in a relationship. At the same time, Lainey is diagnosed with love addiction, causing her to be infatuated with a man named Mathew, a gynecologist and one of Laney’s TAs in college.

Due to their problems with sex and relationships, Jake and Laney decide to become friends and avoid any romantic entanglements between them. As their relationship progresses, they are forced to face their fears of losing each other despite growing feelings.

Available to Rent on Amazon Prime Video

Wild (2014)

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee
Written by: Nick Hornby, Cheryl Strayed
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Gaby Hoffman

 Wild tells the true story of Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon), a writer who decides to hike 1,100 miles by herself. After experiencing a loss, Cheryl begins to experience intense depression that her family is unable to pull her out of. Eventually, she begins to use heroin and engage in reckless sexual behavior with strangers in an attempt to distract her from her pain. This leads to damage to her marriage and relationships with others.

Cheryl, leaving behind ruined relationships, decides to hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, a journey that will carry her nearly 1,100 miles. As she hikes, Cheryl reflects on her past mistakes and how she had come to this moment in her life.

Wild was nominated for two Oscars at the 2015 Academy Awards, with both Witherspoon and Dern being nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

Available to Rent on Amazon Prime Video

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Written by: Jenny Lumet
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger

Rachel Getting Married tells the fictional story of Kym (Anne Hathaway), a recovering addict recently released from rehab. Years of drug use, alcoholism, and past mistakes have led to Kym becoming the black sheep of the family, which all begins to come to a head as she attends her sister Rachel’s (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding. Throughout the weekend, Kym struggles to maintain her sobriety while dealing with the judgments of her family and coming face to face with her past trauma.

Available to Stream on HBO Max

Thirteen (2003)

Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
Written by: Catherine Hardwicke, Nikki Reed
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Holly Hunter, Nikki Reed

Thirteen tells the story of Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), a thirteen-year-old honors student suffering from depression. Deeply unhappy with her life and looking for more attention from her mother, Tracy begins to dress more provocatively. Tracy’s new outfits and attitude quickly gain the attention of Evie (Nikki Reed), a popular girl at school. Tracy and Evie become friends as Evie keeps pushing Tracy into more dangerous acts, including shoplifting and drug use. This film shows the destructive natures of codependent relationships and how friends can enable and encourage bad behavior in others.

Available to Rent on Amazon Prime Video

Silver Lining's Playbook (2012)

Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: David O. Russell, Matthew Quick
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro

Although this movie does not deal directly with addiction, the themes and focus are relatable to many. Silver Lining’s Playbook is based on the 2008 novel of the same name, written by Matthew Quick. The film tells the story of Pat (Bradley Cooper), who moves in with his parents in the suburbs of Philadelphia after he exits a mandatory stay at a mental health facility. Pat is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and, during the end of his marriage, Pat lashes out violently.

The film is a light-hearted, touching look at mental health and how family and friends can come together and support each other during times of crisis. Silver Lining’s Playbook was nominated for eight Oscars at the 2013 Academy Awards, winning Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Jennifer Lawrence.

Available to Stream on Showtime

Mississippi Grind (2015)

Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Starring: Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Yvonne Landry

Mississippi Grind tells the story of Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn), a down on his luck gambler who meets the charismatic Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) at a casino in Iowa. The two strike up a friendship and become convinced they bring each other good luck. Gerry is a gambling addict and owes his bookie a large sum of money, none of which he has. Desperate to get out of town, Gerry convinces Curtis to join him on a gambling trip down the Mississippi River.

This does a great job of showing the toll that gambling addiction can have on a person. Not only is the disorder financially draining, but often it can make some untrustworthy and unable to commit to anything besides their addiction. Mississippi Grind is a loose adaptation of 1974’s California Split.

Available to Stream on Showtime

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At Warner Park Recovery, we’re here to help individuals and families by providing exceptional addiction treatment options. We’re a dual diagnosis (mental health combined with substance abuse treatment) program that offers partial day, intensive outpatient, and traditional outpatient levels of care. We regularly treat patients from the Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Topanga Canyon, The Valley, and Thousand Oaks areas. If you are looking for help with addiction treatment, please give us a call to learn more about our professional services!

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