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15 Best Movies about Drugs

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

Image via Taste of Cinema

For many of us, the past year has been a series of months stuck inside, binging television and film marathons until we pass out from overeating. Half of the night before that is spent trying to decide what to watch until we finally settle on that one Seth Rogen movie you’ve seen, God knows how many times.

But there’s a reason why Seth Rogen films are so comforting. He’s average-looking, relatable, and always finds a way to sneak in some sort of drug paraphernalia in every movie he stars in. And this sparked an idea for us at AFTR PRTY: how many other movies are out there which can reassure us of our own drug habits?

Whether it’s a kid-next-door kind of film where a group of teens discover the magic of shrooms for the first time, or a Brian de Palma directorial with enough cocaine to put you away for three life sentences.

Simply put: we enjoy movies that make us feel better about our own situations and make us say, “at least I’m not that bad...” And watching movies about drugs is the best way to do that. They’re also some of the best cinematic creations ever to exist (obviously referring to #5 on this list).

So we’ve collated 15 of the most entertaining, shocking, and critically acclaimed movies about drugs.

Nothing short of a masterpiece, Requiem For A Dream follows four protagonists as they struggle with drug addiction, some without even knowing it. Whilst her only son gets a taste for heroin, widow Sara Goldfarb is granted an opportunity to star on her favorite TV show. In a desperate venture to lose weight before her big break, she visits a dodgy doctor who prescribes her amphetamines, which she unknowingly takes four times a day.

The film explores the detriment of drug-induced psychosis and showcases the life-ruining effects of taking heroin. Although hard-hitting, the actors’ performances will have you captivated from the start and leave you feeling all the emotions. It’s almost criminal that it won no awards when it was first released.

There is no chance we could make a list like this without featuring Pineapple Express. The movie feels like a warm hug for any stoner and provides the perfect background noise for a bong hit after a long day.

Dale Denton is a bailiff who finds himself, along with his weed dealer, in trouble with the local mob after he witnesses a murder and drops a roach at the scene. The pair endure gunshots, betrayal, and even a breakup on their adventure without a single Nug dropped. We recommend this movie to anyone and everyone. 11/10.

Filth sees James McAvoy in all of his Scottish glory as he plays DS Bruce Robertson: a manipulative, misanthropic, nasty piece of work who uses drugs, alcohol, sex, and even cross-dressing to deal with his issues. A sufferer of Bipolar Disorder, Robertson has lost his wife and his daughter, and his only enjoyment comes in the form of playing “games” with the people around him.

The film is magnificently disgusting, shining a comedic spotlight on the truths of 1980s Scotland whilst also delving into the reality of self-medication.

For those fighting off a whitey, or just fancying something a little more mellow and light-hearted, Alice in Wonderland is the perfect way to spend 75 minutes. Based on Lewis Carroll's book, which is undoubtedly influenced by his own experiences with psychedelics, Disney created their color-animated version in 1951. The story follows a young girl called Alice, who finds herself in a dream world chasing after a white rabbit and consuming precarious potions and edibles that distort her reality.

Make sure you watch the cartoon and not the live-action version from 2010; it doesn’t quite have the same effect, and it’s a little too ‘Disney’ – if you know what I mean.

‘Say hello to my little friend’... Scarface. In this absolute classic, Al Pacino plays the role of Tony Montana, an ambitious Cuban immigrant who takes the 1980s Miami drug scene by storm, a character that is loosely based on Al Capone. Pacino delivers an iconic performance, and the film boasts some of the best one-liners in cinematic history.

The story follows Montana’s rapid, cocaine-fuelled, and particularly violent journey from Cuban immigrant to the most powerful cocaine drug lord in Miami. However, Montana never appears satisfied with what he has, and his impatience and willingness to do whatever it takes gains him plenty of enemies along the way.

A true icon in its own right, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is ridiculously funny, and Johnny Depp’s portrayal of a balding, paranoid journalist on a bizarre concoction of different drugs isn’t even the best bit. Based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson, the movie follows journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr. Gonzo as they road trip along Western USA with a trunk full of drugs.

The film grows increasingly hilarious as the two characters experience every type of hallucination under the sun, from growing a crocodile tail to finding a gun in the toilet. Watch stoned or sober – both equally fun experiences.

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked out for me.” - Hunter S. Thompson.

Something a little different from the rest, Limitless tells the story of a writer named Eddie Morra, whose whole perception of life is changed when he tries a brand new pill, street name: Limitless.

Decorated with a star-studded cast, it’s easy to forget that this movie is about drug addiction, as the effects of the drugs in question are so positive. This is very cleverly demonstrated through colored lighting to differentiate between when Eddie is high and when he is not. However, the subtle reminders are there, speaking of the risks of getting involved with drug dealers. Come for Bradley Cooper, stay for Robert De Niro.

Ranked by Time Out as the tenth best British film of all time, Trainspotting takes its inspiration from a book by the same name, written by Irvine Welsh. Mark Renton, the main protagonist, and his four friends are unemployed and addicted to heroin, finding themselves knee-deep in problems. Two deaths, a rehab stay, and a prison sentence later, Renton and his friends join forces once again to shift two kilos of heroin for a profit in hopes it will set them up for a better life.

Trainspotting highlights the terrifying impacts of heroin, including the risk of an HIV diagnosis, alongside the poverty in Scotland that led so many down the wrong path. A sad yet thrilling film, which will lead you to ‘Choose Life’ too (and not heroin).

Another Johnny Depp classic, but completely different from the aforementioned. Blow follows the real-life story of George Jung and how he built his connections within the cocaine empire in the 70s and became one of Pablo Escobar’s right-hand men.

The film begins with a young George whose flighty mother has abandoned him and whose father has just lost his job, leaving the family bankrupt. George vows that he will never be broke and turns to dealing drugs as an adult to help him on his way. After being busted by the police for possession of 660lbs of marijuana, George ends up in jail, where he soon discovers that cocaine is what brings in the big bucks.

A little slow to start, Blow initially feels like every other heist movie. However, the relationships Jung build throughout the two-hour-long film make every minute worth it: a passionate romance with the stunning Penélope Cruz, a long-term friendship with his paranoid drug-smuggling partner, and a paternal responsibility for his young little girl, played by a baby Emma Roberts.

An obvious choice, as it’s easy to lose count of how many types of drugs Jordan Belfort is actually on. Although the film follows a sexist, borderline racist stockbroker and provides one of Jonah Hill’s most unlikeable characters ever, the film undoubtedly deserves a place on this list for an outrageously impressive performance from Leonardo DiCaprio and for *that* car scene alone.

The Gentlemen is the newest entry on the list, but after watching it, you’ll wonder why it hasn’t entered your life before. This film tells the story of Mickey Pearson, an American living in Britain who owns the biggest marijuana empire in the country. After word gets out that he wants to sell, his enemies and competition hatch a plan to rip him off. Hugh Grant delivers one of his best (and unexpected) performances of the decade as slippery scoop reporter Fletcher, who bizarrely narrates the events that unfold.

The film is jam-packed with an amazing cast and outstanding performances from everyone involved, including young UK rapper Bugsy Malone. Everything about this movie is fantastic.

One of the trippiest movies you will ever see, Enter the Void is a cinematic masterpiece. Set against Tokyo's neon lights, Japan, the film’s protagonist is a young American drug dealer named Oscar. After getting shot by the police, Oscar watches events unfold from a different perspective, as he experiences an out-of-body-experience.

Brilliantly filmed from a first-person POV, the movie completely encapsulates the effects of Psychedelics and tricks your mind into thinking it’s a firsthand experience. Enter the Void is guaranteed to be unlike anything else you’ve seen before.

Mr. Nice is a true story based on the life of British drug smuggler Howard Marks, a man notorious for having 43 different aliases. Once a nuclear physics and philosophy student at Oxford University, Marks is seduced by a rebellious foreign exchange student (whom he later marries), who introduces him to the wonders of marijuana. He soon after befriends resident oxford drug dealer Graham Pilston, played by Jack Huston.

In the following years, Marks loses a close friend to an overdose and his wife to an affair. With nothing left to lose, Marks seizes an opportunity following Pilston’s arrest to create his marijuana smuggling empire, which historically supplied the majority of marijuana smoked in the western world for the following two decades.

Director: Bernard Rose

Of course, there couldn’t be only one Seth Rogen feature on this list, but this suggestion may come as a surprise. The Night Before, released in 2015, received pretty average reviews. However, it remains a Christmas tradition in our household.

Three friends vow to spend every Christmas together after one becomes an orphan just before the holidays. Years pass and the group – bar Joseph Gordon Levitt – tires of the tradition, and agree to end it after one last blowout. About to have a baby, Isaac – played by Rogen – is gifted a box of random drugs from his wife, which sets off the night to an excellent start.

But it’s not the drugs that make this story interesting, but rather the drug dealer. Making reference to A Christmas Carol, the boys’ drug dealer delivers them past, present, and future experiences, not with ghosts but with different strains of weed. Seth Rogen encapsulates a whitey perfectly (when drugs make you puke), while the drug dealer becomes the star of the movie. Easy watching and super hilarious – perfect to watch with friends.

Although less of a film about drugs and more of a movie containing drug use, Booksmart deserves a place on this list for one very simple reason: it has one of the best trip scenes in modern cinema.

Booksmart is about two girls who have wasted the past four years of their life on rigorous schoolwork and studying, only to find out it hasn’t benefitted them at all. So they decide on the last day of the semester to f*** s*** up. A simple premise, but laugh-out-loud funny. Watch with a joint – you won’t regret it.

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