Rock stars. Artists. Sports personalities. All people we are fascinated by and from whom we take inspiration. But behind the glamorous lifestyles, there are often different stories to be told, stories about addiction and the destructive effect it can have on people’s lives. These stories are told in a number of films that illustrate how even the best of us can fall prey to addiction.
1. Raging Bull (1980) IMDB 8.3/10
One of director Martin Scorsese’s best films and Robert De Niro’s finest performances, Raging Bull charts the rise and fall of legendary American boxer Jake LaMotta. At times uneasy and visceral, the film gives a brilliant sense of the life and character of the man. His violent outbursts are fuelled by alcoholism, which eventually puts an end to his career and his marriage. The film highlights LaMotta’s use of alcohol to escape his personality and alleviate his low self-esteem. The real Jake LaMotta eventually kicked his habit and is still alive today.
2. Bird (1988) IMDB 7.3/10
Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut is an accomplished study of the combination of genius and self-destruction that characterised the life of one the world’s most innovative jazz musicians: Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. We witness Parker’s rise to fame as one of the world’s best sax players, but also his descent into heroin addiction, which eventually begins to affect the quality of his playing and, above all, his health.
3. Lenny (1974) IMDB 7.3/10
Lenny is a biographical film about the comedian Lenny Bruce, one of the most influential figures in the history of stand-up comedy. Played by Dustin Hoffman, who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal, Lenny is constantly getting into legal trouble over his risquÃ© routines in 1960s America. He finds solace in heroin, which eventually leads to his demise.
4. Basquiat (1996) IMDB 6.9/10
A classic tale of an artist who changes the art world almost overnight, this 1996 biopic chronicles the life of American painter Jean-Michel Basquiat and his raw artistic talent. The film paints a powerful portrait of the artist’s tumultuous life and erratic personality, and how these combine to exacerbate his addiction to drugs.
5. Last Days (2005) IMDB 5.8/10
Kurt Cobain was one of those musicians who are able to completely transform the musical landscape simply by being themselves. Strong yet frail, confident yet timid, inspiring yet self-destructive, Cobain’s unique personality is brilliantly captured by director Gus Van Sant. The film chronicles the American musician’s final days, during which he becomes ensnared in a vicious circle of addiction-fuelled depression and desperation that culminates in suicide.
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Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked | November 15, 2019