15 Powerful Movies With Heart-Wrenchingly Accurate Depictions of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a disease that many of us have been affected by, be it ourselves or a loved one. It’s on every corner, and it ruins lives. After someone polled an online entertainment community for movies with the most accurate depictions of the disease, here are their top-voted films.

1. Ironweed (1987)

Ironweed 1987 Jack Nicholson
Image Credit: Tri-Star Pictures.

An alcoholic drifter from New York returns to his hometown of Albany for the first time in decades on Halloween.  The story centers on a homeless couple: an alcoholic grifter and his terminally ill girlfriend in the years immediately following the Great Depression.

2. I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955)

I'll Cry Tomorrow
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

After the death of her fiancé, a Broadway star struggles to get from underneath her overbearing mother at the same time dealing with her alcoholism. Her career was nearly derailed as a result of her addiction, paired with a string of failed marriages. But a near-death experience reels her back in just in time.

3. The Lost Weekend (1945)

The Lost Weekend
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

A writer by the name of Don Birnam is a struggling alcoholic with only a few days of sobriety under his belt. Feeling the grips of his addiction tightening around him, Don devises a scheme to get himself a drink and ends up on a weekend-long bender. Little does he know, this drinking binge could be his last.

4. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Leaving Las Vegas
Image Credit: United Artists.

Leaving Las Vegas is the story of a man who has lost everything and has nothing else to live for. Nicolas Cage plays an alcoholic L.A. screenwriter who loses his job and his family due to his addiction. As a final hoorah, he fills his BMW with booze and takes off from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with a plan to drink himself to death all the way there. When he arrives, he forms an unlikely bond with a local sex worker, and things take a turn from there.

5. Fat City (1972)

Fat City 1972 Stacey Keach
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

An aging boxer at the end of his twilight is inspired with a newly found vigor after a sparring session with a young up-and-coming boxer. The older boxer takes the younger one under his wing as a protege but soon sparks a rivalry between the two. The older mentor has an internal battle of alcoholism, amongst other things, to conquer if he wants to reclaim his previous greatness.

6. Crazy Heart (2009)

Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Several commenters declared, “Yes. Crazy Heart was brutal and honest. Definitely a harrowing depiction of alcoholism.” Many viewers referenced the scene where Jeff Bridges’ character loses someone’s child. Many who commented also shared that they could not make it past that scene and had not returned to finish the film.

7. Barfly (1987)

Image Credit: The Cannon Group, Inc.

Mickey Rourke played an amazing Bukowski. Shortly after the film’s release, a review stated that this was the most realistic drunk in a movie at the time. Faye Dunaway and Mickey Rourke never slurred their speech or fell down drunk, but their delivery as alcoholics was so believable.

8. Warrior (2011)

Image Credit: Lionsgate.

There were many scenes throughout the film where Nick Nolte’s character either falls victim to his addiction or fights tooth and nail to battle his demons. And they are all hard to watch in one way or another. Many individuals can relate the pain onscreen to some real-life hardship of their own.

9. Once Were Warriors (1994)

Image Credit: Fine Line Features.

This 1994 film takes a deep dive into the effects of unemployment, alcoholism, and domestic abuse on a New Zealand family. The portrayal of family destruction due to addiction is disturbing, brutal, and powerful. Some Kiwis are haunted still, some twenty-odd years later.

10. Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Featuring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick at the tops of their game. This devastating and depressing film about alcoholism ends with Jack Lemmon’s character standing at a window watching his alcohol-addicted wife walk off into the distance, as we can see the reflection of a “Bar” sign above him.

11. Nil by Mouth (1997)

Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Many shared that Gary Oldman’s directorial debut was “Horrible, honest, and unflinching!” Nil By Mouth was an untamed view of alcoholism within the East London council estates, and brutal just isn’t a harsh enough word to describe it.

12. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018)

Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

A contributor replied, “Anything that Joaquin Phoenix plays an alcoholic in is going to be brutal.” However, many professionals in the line of recovery suggest this movie as one to put the 12-step process into perspective.

13. When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)

When a Man Loves a Woman
Image Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

When a Man Loves a Woman is a gripping story of a school counselor who is a functional alcoholic. Meg Ryan plays a high-functioning alcoholic wife and mother of two who is struggling to get a grip on her addiction, all while trying to salvage what is left of her family. It is a realistic, agonizing look at the difficulties of being in a relationship with a person fighting addiction.

14. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

This movie highlights the external world’s perspective for anyone who believes they seem funnier, smarter, or better looking when they drink. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? causes a level of discomfort in the viewer, forcing them to look at themselves in a new light.

15. A Star Is Born (2018)

Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

It has one of the most compelling depictions of addiction and the toll it can take on a person. Bradley Cooper does a fantastic job of expressing the emotions and traumas of a man fighting a losing battle against their inner demons.