Need a way to dissuade your kids from using drugs? For starters, skip the cheesy after-school specials. Perhaps you should consider depositing them at the local crack house for an afternoon! Or, more realistically, look to the movies. Actors regularly do bang-up jobs portraying the highs and lows of the druggie lifestyle — the silly parts, the desperate parts, and most importantly, the downright terrifying consequences. Read on for a list of druggie performances that would scare even the most reckless among us hopelessly straight.
Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface (1983)
Montana is everyone’s favorite drug-fueled gangster. A charismatic legend who goes out with a bang, he embodies the American Dream: A poor, uneducated immigrant who rises to fame and fortune through the glories of capitalism. Of course, he ends up getting shot to death in the midst of a massive cocaine binge. While Montana is admired for his “balls,” his white-nosed defeat at movie’s end is an image that’s hard to shake.
The Lesson: Beware the delusional grandeur that accompanies snorting mountains of cocaine.
Dave Chappelle as Thurgood in Half Baked (1998)
Chappelle takes on the lighter side of drug addiction as pot-head janitor and weed addict Thurgood. He even attends a support group where he’s ridiculed by addicts of harder narcotics! Thurgood doesn’t necessarily suffer the consequences of doing drugs, just selling them — when he gets busted and loses the love of his life. It takes a lot of hilarious mischief but he eventually gives up selling and even smoking, all for the love of his anti-drug muse.
The Lesson: Sex is more important than getting high.
Ewan McGregor as Renton in Trainspotting (1996)
Finally, a druggie for whom there’s no upside! Scottish heroin addict Renton actively decides not to “Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family,” because who needs all that “when you’ve got heroin?” Renton eventually manages to get off junk but only after a sequence of life-shattering events: A friend’s baby dying from neglect, a trip down a toilet, and finally, horrible hallucinations and body-wracking pain when he’s forced to quit cold turkey.
The Lesson: Heroin is really, really bad news.
Jennifer Connelly as Marion in Requiem for a Dream (2000)
The frenetic pacing of Requiem alone might be enough to cause a life-long Pavlovian association between drugs and mania. Moreover, addiction is no fun at all for Marion, her boyfriend (Jared Leto) and their friend (Marlan Wayans). One loses an arm, the other ends up in prison. The worst fate of all is saved for Marion though: In the movie’s final scene she endures the ultimate indignity for her habit, acting as the live entertainment at an orgy.
The Lesson: Ladies, do you want to do things that can’t even be written here just for your next fix?
Johnny Depp as George in Blow (2001)
George is charismatic, smart, good-looking, funny and the number one supplier in coke-obsessed ’70 and ’80s America. Yet like someone on a coke bender, he rises to an incredible high and crashes hard and low. The man who once had everything, including a beautiful wife (Penelope Cruz), cars, money becomes just another overweight guy from Boston with no friends, no family and a life sentence in prison.
The Lesson: No matter how charming you are, don’t get mixed up with the likes of Pablo Escobar.
Johnny Depp as Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Depp sure does play a mean druggie. When his character Duke appears, he’s already out of control, driving down a freeway in the grips of a wild mescaline trip. What follows is a crazed Las Vegas drug orgy including mescaline, ether, weed, coke and adrenochrome. While the effect is visually stunning it’s also viscerally ugly and more than a little alarming, to say the least.
The Lesson: Beware of imbibing the entire contents of a pharmaceutical suitcase all in one fell swoop.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jim in The Basketball Diaries (1995)
Jim deteriorates from basketball prodigy on an unbeatable NYC Catholic school team to a pathetic heroin addict within a matter of months. His downward spiral, fueled by a perverted priest, a dying best friend, and the pressures of basketball, is incomparably brutal. As he tells the audience, “First, it’s a Saturday night thing when you feel cool like a gangster… It feels so good, you start doing it on Tuesdays… then Thursdays… then it’s got you.”
The Lesson: “Every wise ass punk on the block says it won’t happen to them, but it does.”
Uma Thurman as Mia in Pulp Fiction (1994)
In one terrifying moment it all comes crashing down for Mia. She’s dancing, she’s having fun, and she even found some free drugs in her escort (John Travolta)’s pocket! Sounds like a delightful evening. Unfortunately, she’s mistaken heroin for cocaine, and ends up needing a shot of adrenaline to the heart to correct the massive overdose that ensues. The scene’s high gross-out factor makes it a standout even in a blood-spattered flick like Pulp Fiction.
The Lesson: Don’t make any assumptions about that white powder you just found.