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Six Movies That Capture the Trials and Triumphs of Addiction and Recovery

Brad Lamm, founder of West Hollywood’s Breathe Life Healing Centers, offers his picks of recent movies that capture the trials and triumphs of addiction and recovery. For more from Variety‘s Recovery Issue, in which prominent entertainment figures offer insights on navigating a sober life in Hollywood, click here.

Crazy Heart, 2009
Director, writer: Scott Cooper
Jeff Bridges plays a fading, alcoholic country music star who begins a doomed romance with a writer (Maggie Gyllenhaal) that forces him to reassess his life.

You very well might have missed this alcohol-drenched gemstone of a flick inspired by the real-life song-cycle of country music star Hank Thompson. Bridges won the Oscar for best actor for “Crazy Heart,” and you deserve to see why.

The Hangover, 2009
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Three friends (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms) in Las Vegas for a bachelor party wake up after a bacchanal of drugs and booze with no memory of the night before and no sign of the groom.

It’s a comedy that shows how terribly things can go sideways when alcohol dictates the terms of engagement. This movie is a great conversation starter for a friend who struggles. “You sorta do that! Have a drink or nine and then suddenly it’s three days later and you’ve lost your wife, your shoes and the car! You need help, bro!”

Popular on Variety

Flight, 2012
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: John Gatins
Denzel Washington plays a pilot who heroically saves the day when his plane malfunctions, but the ensuing investigation reveals troubling truths about his drinking.

When Denzel Washington takes flight as a pilot who drinks a bit, you know it won’t end well. Yet it does, finally, in the able hands of Robert Zemeckis. This is the rare beauty that demonstrates the power and drive of addiction and the wreckage it can toss on the runway and off.

Beautiful Boy, 2018
Director: Felix van Groeningen
Writers: Luke Davies, van Groeningen
Based on memoirs by David Sheff and his son Nic Sheff, the movie starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet chronicles the heartbreaking course of survival, relapse and recovery for a family.

Based on a true story that any parent of an addicted kid will understand, the film puts the spotlight on how beautiful love is within a family, which makes the story of the suffering of all involved both deep and wide.

Ben Is Back, 2018
Director, writer: Peter Hedges
Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges play mother and son in the drama that revolves around a young man who has battled addiction and shows up unexpectedly at his family’s home for Christmas.

Nobody has portrayed the ability of Narcan, a medication that can counter the effects of an opioid overdose, to bring someone back from the dead better than Peter Hedges.

A Star Is Born, 2018
Director: Bradley Cooper
Writers: Eric Roth, Cooper, Will Fetters
A contemporary take on the enduring Hollywood tale of rising and dimming stars features Bradley Cooper as an alcoholic country-rock legend who falls for a talented young singer-songwriter (Lady Gaga).

I still wish Bradley Cooper’s Jackson Maine would have grabbed onto recovery and lived, but that’s just how my recovery brain works these days. At the end of your rope, there’s hope, I think. In this telling of the tale, the end is a lonely, heartbreaking death that so many Americans can relate to in this time of epidemic overdose and suicide.

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