20 Best Movies About Drugs and Addiction Made Prior to 2020 Get hooked on one of these addictive movies about that sweet, sweet high.

I used to get high on life, but I soon found myself having to seize more and more days to get the same feeling, so I switched to something stronger.

Drugs are a normal part of the human condition, and many legislators are learning to accept this. Still, governments around the world demonize drugs, many executing death penalties against drug users and dealers. Still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 10.6% of Americans over the age of 12 have used illicit substances.

Here are the top 20 drug movies released prior to 2020 to learn more about the drug industry.

20. Half Baked (1998)


Comedy writing team Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan wrote this stoner classic about a group of potheads who turn to selling stolen medical weed to get a friend out of jail. It’s a lighthearted take on drug dens and dead-end drug users.

19. Love & Other Drugs (2010)

Jack Gyllenhaal is an ambitious pharmaceutical salesman and Anne Hathaway is a free-spirited Parkinson’s patient he begins having sex with and wondering if he should begin a serious relationship. Meanwhile, he’s pushing doctors to prescribe Zoloft over Prozac and on the verge of the Viagra craze.

18. The Basketball Diaries (1995)

Basketball Diaries

The Basketball Diaries Jim Carroll’s real-life story of falling from grace as a teenage basketball player who develops a heroin addiction. The things he’s willing to do for drugs get increasingly depraved, until he just runs with it as a stage show.

17. A Scanner Darkly (2006)


America lost its war on drugs, and Keanu Reeves plays an Orange County narcotics cop is part of a high-tech surveillance network that’s trying to stop it. Substance D is a highly addictive drug, and it’s making everyone hallucinate that the world has an Instagram filter.

16. Savages (2012)

A pair of California entrepreneurs start a weed business from seeds smuggled out of Afghanistan. Things are great, until Salma Hayek shows up with the Mexican Baja Cartel looking for a piece.

15. Candy (2006)

Geoffrey Rush is a chemistry professor who gives a young couple (played by Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish) heroin. Soon they’re hooked, which anyone could’ve guessed would’ve happened to an artist and poet in this day and age.

14. Limitless (2011)

Bradley Cooper is struggling writer uses a nootropic drug called NZT-48, which gives him use of more of his brain. He uses his gift like a superpower to increase his social status, lifestyle, career, sex appeal, and appearance. As he uses it to climb the ladder into the U.S. Senate, he learns the trappings of limitless fame, money, and power.

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13. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

James Fogle’s autobiographical tale of a drug addict “family,” stars Matt Dillon and Heather Graham. They’re looking for dilaudid, and end up robbing pharmacies on a drive across Oregon. It’ a great look at the lengths people will go for drugs.

12. Cocaine Cowboys (2006)/Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja (2011)

Documentary filmmaker Bill Corben released a duo of films about the 1970s and 80s drug trades. Cocaine Cowboys focuses on how logistics made cocaine smuggling from South and Central America popular. Square Grouper depicts Robert Elliot Platshorn and his Black Tuna Gang’s quest to ferry marijuana on the same Florida coastal route.

11. Enter the Void (2009)

When young Oscar is shot by police outside a Tokyo nightclub, he ends up having a DMT-induced out-of-body experience. The audience is then taken on a chronological journey through his life up through that point.

10. Spun (2002)

Eugene, Oregon’s underground drug culture is explored through an autobiographical screenplay from William De Los Santos. John Leguizamo is Spider Mike, a meth dealer whose Cook (Mickey Rourke) employs Ross (Jason Schwartzman) to be his driver. The Cook has Ross take him to get ephedrine and meet with his customers.

9. Blow (2001)

Johnny Depp Blow

Real-life cocaine kingpin George Jung (Johnny Depp) works with Pablo Escobar (Cliff Curtis), Carlos Lehdar Rivas (Jordi Molla), and the Medellin Cartel to bring cocaine stateside in the 1970s. It’s not long before he finds himself married to Penelope Cruz and

8. Cheech & Chong Up in Smoke (1978)


Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong became pop cultural icons when they reworked their stage material for their first feature film. It’s the epitome of hippie counterculture from the 1970s, and became the pothead standard. If you love cannabis and haven’t watched/heard the Cheech & Chong 1970s and 1980s-era comedy, you’re missing out.

7. Go (1999)


When a couple of guys want ecstasy from a grocery store clerk, it sets of a series of events than has her working with drug dealers, being pursued by undercover cops, and getting involved in a crazy night of raving and running.

6. True Romance (1993)

This Quentin Tarantino-helmed masterpiece follows Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette) on a journey set off by a dead pimp and a suitcase full of cocaine. They drive to California to sell it, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

5. Lucy (2014)


Scarlett Johansson is a drug mule with four packets of the synthetic CPH4 drug sewn into her abdomen. When she’s kicked in the stomach and a bag breaks, she’s imbued with super powers like telepathy, telekinesis, and superhuman strength and agility. Now sh’es fighting her way out of that drug life.

4. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) is a widow living with her heroin-addicted son Harry (Jared Leto), his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), and girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly).  She gets addicted to amphetamine, and all of their lives get dark in different ways as they continue to chase that dragon.

3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)


Terry Gilliam immortalized Hunter S Thompson in this movie with Depp and Benicio Del Toro travelling across the Mojave desert with a suitcase full of psychoactive LSD en route to cover a motorcycle race. As they continue dropping acid tabs, Vegas takes more strange turns.

2. Trainspotting (1996)

A group of heroin addicts, including Ewan McGregor, stumble through life making a ton of mistakes with his spun-out friends. He moves to London to get away and clean up his life, but it’s not long before Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) follow him.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Tarantino’s epic saga follows a group of criminals, including two hitmen (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson), their gangster boss (Ving Rhames), a struggling boxer (Bruce Willis), and a nervous pair of armed robbers, through their adventures in the L.A. underground. Much of the movie focuses on drugs, including a crazy O.D. scene with Uma Thurman that stuck in moviegoer’s heads for decades.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

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