Drug Addiction Movies Have a Long History
June 6th, 2010 by Patrick

Drug addiction has been a topic of movies for many years. It was a staple of 80s movies and has continued to be a valid story element in movies today.

The first notable drug addiction movie was “Reefer Madness,” a 1938 exploitation film centered around tragic events that follow after high school students are lured by drug pushers to try marijuana. The events include a hit and run car accident, manslaughter, attempted rape and suicide followed by a slow descent into madness. The movie was intended to be a warning about the dangers of drugs, but when it was rediscovered in the 1970s it became more famous as dark comedy.

Hunter S. Thompson Courtney Love

 photo credit: ste.muzz

In the 1950s movies tended to be on a grand scale, but there was the rare movie that bucked the trends of the day. One such movie was “Blonde In Bondage,” a 1957 movie about the underground drug world in Sweden and those who became addicted to it and hence created a market for it.

In the 1970s movies took on a more gritty edge, openly dealing with the subject of drug addiction. One such movie was “Go Ask Alice” which told the story of young girl’s experiences with drug to a fatal end. The Foxy Brown movie “Black Mama” didn’t do much to offer solutions to the problem, but it did highlight the effects of drug addiction. 1971′s “A Clockwork Orange,” based on Anthony Burgess’ 1962 novel, uses drug addiction as the backdrop of its story.

The 1978 horror movie “Killer Nun” suggested the reason for the killer’s action was drug addiction. This was at a time when movies were exploring ways to incorporate elements of drug addiction into plots. “Annie Hall” offered a famous humorous drug scene involving cocaine and a sneeze.

As the 1980s came around drug addiction was becoming a hot button social issue and became further incorporated into movies. In “Scarface” drug addiction was simply a part of Tony Montana’s gritty, on the edge lifestyle. Michael J. Fox attempted to ditch his family friendly style in the movie adaptation of the Jay McInerney book “Bright Lights, Big City” about a disillusioned writer in New York City who turns to drugs when his life spins out of control.

“Drugstore Cowboy” (1989) with Matt Dillon is a rare gem that gave a realistic account of a drug addict and his adapted “family” as they travel across the country. Several movies in the 80s would use drugs as a part of the plot, even though the basic premise of the movie had nothing to do with it. Examples include “Three Men and a Baby” (1987) and “Adventures In Babysitting” (1987). “Tour of Duty” (1987) provided a realistic view of Vietnam, which included portrayal of drug addiction among the young men serving. Although there was an arguably valid attempt to justify it because of the nature of what they were doing.

As we rolled into the 90s drug addiction remained a theme in several movies such as Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” (1995) was a harder edged “Good Fellas” that incorporated drug addiction and activities that go with it into the plot. “Trainspotting” (1995) provided a disturbing insight into the heroine subculture while “The Basketball Diaries” (1995) starred Leonardo DiCaprio as a street kid who had a promising future undermined by his drug addiction.

Movies such as “Human Traffic,” “54,” “Requiem for a Dream,” “Thirteen,” “Crank,” and “Crash” continue to use the powerful topic of drug addiction in there plots with varying degrees of success. Drug addiction has plagued society for decades and will continue to provide story lines for movies.

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