Top 5 Movie Guide: Drug-Oriented Dramas

With this edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we look to this weekend's "Savages" for inspiration. If by chance you haven't seen much from this newest movie yet, the Oliver Stone film revolves around two California kids who completely take over the marijuana business on the west coast of the United States. Eventually, they get noticed by a big-time drug cartel in Mexico who wants to "partner" with them. When they refuse, all hell breaks loose and things spiral out of control. Kidnapping and murder are just a couple of things that this duo must overcome to save the one they love and their business.

So with that plot in mind, we take a look into some other Drug-Oriented Dramas that stood out to us. It's not a fun genre - almost always ending in tragedy - but it is a popular one in Hollywood. For decades films have revolved around drugs. Sometimes, they're more of crime movies that really just use drugs as a plot device, but for our lists below, we really tried to focus on drugs being the main aspect of the film that really affected these characters - whether that was with users or distributors, it didn't much matter. But other than the fact that we focused solely on the dramatic efforts from the genre (saving the comedies for another day), there's probably not much else worth noting; this category pretty blatantly describes itself.

So hit the jump for the lists, and see which films made the cut!

Alex Schopp -

     1. The Basketball Diaries (1995)

This movie was intense for me when I was younger. He was on top of his game as an athlete, but lost everything because of drugs. I haven't watched it as an adult, but as a kid, that movie put knots in my stomach thinking about the devastating turn of events for this kid.
     2. Traffic (2000)
First off, awesome cast. Perfectly chosen for this film. Otherwise, just a fantastic multi-character drama on the drug wars around the world - notably in the U.S. and Mexico. I didn't realize when I was first watching it, but this was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and looking back I can really see his touch on this. I want to watch it again paying more attention to the directorial efforts (Soderbergh won the Oscar for such).
     3. Maria Full of Grace (2003)
This came out right around the end of my high school career, and luckily I was hanging out with a few people that appreciated art house movies and wanted to go see this. When I saw it, I was blown away. This movie was so intense and felt so real (sometimes I still have to remember whether or not this was a documentary). Definitely give this a watch if you haven't seen it.
     4. Blow (2001)
Kind of the cool, classic drug movie of the group. Everyone loved Johnny Depp when this came out, and even though you see plenty of the downfalls that go along with drugs and trafficking, he made the drug business look "cool". My favorite aspect about the film is that it's based on true events.
     5. American Gangster (2007)
Again, based on true events. My love for this movie revolves around Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington's relationship in the film. Even though one's a drug dealer and one's a cop hunting him down, they have a certain respect for each other. And when they team-up towards the end for the greater good, those few scenes alone won me over.

Ben Foutch -

     1. The Basketball Diaries (1995)

     2. Scarface (1983)

     3. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

     4. A Scanner Darkly (2006)

     5. Blow (2001)

Derek Clem -
This is my all time least favorite genre. These movies make me feel terrible. They ruin my day. That doesn't mean these are bad movies, it just means they are very affecting - too affecting for me personally. "Requiem for a Dream" especially. That movie makes me feel so awful that I can't even put it on my list. Also, my choices are made on movies where the main character has a drug problem, hence no "The French Connection".

     1. Basketball Diaries

I guess this tops the list for nostalgic reasons? My friend rented this movie for a sleepover he was having. Needless to say, I was scarred for life.
     2. Puncture
The greatness of this movie actually outweighs the negative feeling the drug use gives me. This is by far Chris Evans' greatest performance. It's kind of like watching Erin Brockovich, if she was addicted to drugs.
     3. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans
Nick Cage makes some pretty great faces in this movie. Also, this is another one of Cage's credible roles, so don't pass it up assuming it's a bad film. It's actually a good one.
     4. Blow
I watched Pee Wee Herman a lot when I was a kid, so my favorite part is when Paul Reubens shows up.
     5. Trainspotting
This movie makes me feel terrible. I don't want it on my list, but I'm sure as heck not gonna allow Requiem for a Dream on it.

Nathan Hinds -
I really didn't know how to narrow this list down, so I just went with what felt right. I don't know that there is any real logic behind my choices.

     1. Blow (2001)

This is probably in my Top 25 favorite films. Its such a cool movie, and probably the only movie that ever made me think "hey, being a drug dealer could be pretty sweet". Not that I ever would, but the movie at least made me think about it.
     2. The Godfather Part II (1974)
I've always liked this one a lot more than the first film; I loved the addition of Don Vito's back story played by Robert De Niro.
     3. Goodfellas (1990)
A very strong argument could be made that this should've won best picture in 1990, and I tend to think it should have. Joe Pesci is brilliant in the film.
     4. The Guard (2011)
This sort of genre is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Let's call it a black comedy/drama/crime genre, and this is possibly the best example of it.
     5. Easy Rider (1969)
Still the best representation of the 1960's. Watching this, it's almost hard for me to imagine how laid back a huge part of the country was at that time. It's crazy to think that this was only 40 years ago. It feels like it's so much older.

Andy Schopp -

     1. The Guard (2011)

I know this movie just came out but it was so great! It destroyed all of the hopes and expectations that I had for it and gave me a close to perfect film.
     2. Easy Rider (1969)
If "The Guard" didn't fit into this category then this would have been an easy first pick.
     3. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
I can't watch this movie. It should be seen at least once for sure but it's very depressing and hard to take in, so be careful.
     4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Hunter S. Thompson gave us all a little cinema treat when he allowed his book to be turned into a movie.
     5. Blow (2001)
The go-to what would it be like to be a cocaine dealer movie. A must-see for any fan of Johnny Depp or of drugs I suppose....or both?

So that's what we're looking at this weekend. Overall, 16 different films were mentioned above, but still a few clear winners arose. Though it didn't have the most number one selections, "Blow" was the only film featured on all five lists (and it was number one on one list). Great story, great cast, great acting, and not quite as rigid as a lot of the other selections on this list. While I still don't recommend letting your kid give this a watch, this is one of the more widely digestible movies featured above. Another film that even though it only had three selections, gave "Blow" a run for it's money - "The Basketball Diaries". Like I said, it was only featured three times, but all three were at the number one spot. We've seen this polarizing placement with films on these lists before, and for whatever reason, this one was either very well liked or not at all so. Still, three of us had it in the number one slot, so this would definitely be one worth checking out. If you want to see a kid go from the very top to the very bottom all due to drug use, this is your film.

Otherwise, only three other films appeared with multiple selections, which were "Requiem for a Dream", "The Guard", and "Easy Rider", each with two. All solid drug-related films, and definitely another bunch that's good to look into first when exploring what this genre has to offer.

As always though, we hope that each of these selections helps you to expand your knowledge and appreciation of some of the best films this genre has to offer, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!