Five Favorite Films About Addiction

Thanks for Sharing is coming out in limited release this weekend. The film tackles the highly timely topic of sex addiction, that not many movies have discussed so far. So instead of having five favorite movies about sex addiction I would like to take this opportunity to discuss addictions in movies in general. Sex is not the only addiction a person can have, there are lots of others, like gambling, alcohol, rage and so on and so forth. I selected five films that deal with five different addictions. There are a lot of movies dealing with the idea of being addicted or obsessed with something and of course five movies will hardly cover any ground, but it’s a starting point to inspire you to notice how many films deal with the same concept that can take on endless forms.

As we’ll see none of these addictions are a good thing, not even the ones that sound fun. Some addictions are out and out bad, like say a vampire being addicted to human blood and killing. Some addiction may even come off as noble like “your job”, but too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Professor Humbert Humbert’s love for Lolita eventually became an obsession, though it’s fair to question if the pedophile relationship wasn’t doomed from the start, but I digress. Let’s explore some of these addictions and see how they ruin people and how they almost always end badly. No happy endings, because that’s life and how else can life end if not in death? Sorry, I’m being a bit over-dramatic here, never mind. Carry on!

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5. Greed (1924, Erich von Stroheim)
Money. The root of all evil? Of course not. It’s the human soul that’s corrupted to its core. I exaggerate of course, but maybe not (then again I’m fairly misanthropic). Eric von Stroheim’s masterpiece. One of my favorite, if not my favorite silent films of all time. This picture shows how greed can bring a person to do horrible things and horrible things will happen to them of course, because karma is a bitch! I don’t remember exactly all that happens in this film (it’s been a while), but I remember the climax being very powerful and telling of the human soul. It’s a film that boarders cheesy, nevertheless at over three hours there’s not a dull moment in it.

4. Sunset Blvd. (1950, Billy Wilder)
Easily one of my favorite films of all time. Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. shows how fame wanting to be the center of attention can become an addiction. Norma Desmond is an actress from the silent era that would kill for a comeback. She is addicted to the limelight and that’s ultimately her demise. This is a beautiful film noir, one of Wilder’s best, romantic and witty as always. It’s about Hollywood and success and art and life and love and so many other things I couldn’t possibly sum it up in a couple sentences.

3. Drugstore Cowboy (1989, Gus Van Sant)
Drugs are possibly the most used addiction in movies. It’s easy to show and many people can relate to it. Also many artists have problems with substance abuse and so art often reflects life. I put Drugstore Cowboy on this list, because I feel it’s an overlooked film by a great, sensitive director, Gus Van Sant, who deals with the issue in a thoughtful way. While some movies seem to glorify drug use (especially weed), this film shows how it can ruin a person’s life and even when they want to get out, it’s the hardest thing to do.

2. Death Proof (2007, Quentin Tarantino)
This might seem like an odd pick, but if you think about it stuntman Mike McCain is an adrenaline junkie. He clearly gets off (sexually) by crashing his death proof vehicle into other people’s not-so-safe cars. Generally considered Tarantino’s worst film (even by himself), it is one of my favorite of his and I feel it’s often unjustly maligned. Why? Probably because people have short attention spans and are bored easily unless shit is exploding on the screen. Anyways, what I like about this film is the dialogues and the great exploitation ending, which totally kicks ass.

1. Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky)
As I’ve mentioned your job can also become an addiction. Today many people face burnouts because they’ve become workaholics. In Black Swan Nina (Natalie Portman) is obsessed with perfection and getting the lead in the Swan Lake ballet. She eventually goes nuts, but she does so in a poetic and awe-inspiring way so it’s totally cool. In real life however people can get depressions and such, but as we’ve come to know depression is about the least sexy thing you can depict in a movie (unless you want it to bomb). According to Darren Aronofsky Black Swan is a companion film to The Wrestler, and as a matter of fact both protagonists seem to share a similar “work ethic”.

That’s it for this week’s recommendations. If I may add something of a personal advice: Try to kick your bad habits or addictions (if you have any). Don’t become a slave to them, because as these stories show it never ends well. Okay, I’m done being corny and now go and watch some movies or tell me about your favorite films about addictions!

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