Alcoholism in the Movies – Larger than Life Warnings that Should be Taken Seriously

Some movies glamorise alcohol consumption, while others depict the darker side of alcohol abuse. Have you seen them all?

Alcohol dependence is perhaps the most common addiction, with some countries having 16% of their population suffering from alcoholism. It’s no surprise, then, that such a widespread problem receives a lot of screen time in movies. It is difficult to say however, how much screen depictions of alcohol contribute to alcohol abuse in real life. While alcoholism is sometimes glamorised in movies, at other times it does receive more thoughtful treatment.

In this blog post we bring you a roundup of movies that give a variety of perspectives on alcohol use and abuse. Some are well-known, while others are more obscure. It is hoped that they are useful in your recovery as a reminder of the negative effects of alcohol use.

Bad Santa

Even though this is a comedy, this film does portray the darker side of alcoholism. Willie T. Stokes, the main character, is an unhappy, lonely man who drinks as a coping strategy. He works during the holidays as a Santa at the local mall and uses the job as cover for robbing stores in the mall, which he then uses to go on drinking binges. All is not merry in this film, and we see the squalor that alcoholism can bring into a life.

Days of Wine and Roses

A cautionary tale, this movie is a steadfast favourite for those who need a reminder of the perils of alcoholism. The main character, Joe Clay, falls in love with a beautiful secretary, Kirsten Arnesen, a non-drinker. In time, Joe progresses from cocktails at lunch to full-blown alcohol abuse, and soon both spiral into the depths of addiction. Although made many years ago, this film has stood the test of time with solid acting and production values. It is a powerful reminder of the dangers of drinking.

Leaving Las Vegas

Based on a novel written from real-life events, this harrowing film tells the story of Ben Sanderson, a chronic alcoholic on a mission to drink himself to death. Setting his sights on the titular city, he begins his odyssey, passing through flop hotels, brightly lit casinos, and seamy bars. Along the way, he meets a prostitute, Sera, who accompanies him on his binge. By showing the utter depths and desperation of addiction, this film thoroughly portrays the pain and unhappiness that alcoholism can bring.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

This film, adapted from the Edward Albee theatrical play of the same name, depicts a history professor who uses alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with his wife. When it was released in 1966, it was considered avant-garde for its frank presentation of profane language and the outright meanness of the characters. The action takes place over a cocktail party, where the married husband and wife trade barbs, eventually infecting their guests with their hostility. All the while, they become drunker and drunker, losing control, and causing more emotional harm to the people around them.

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