Just like its sweatier, ravier little cousin the MDMA film, the cocaine movie is very much a Hollywood sub genre all its own, albeit a more expensive and flashy one that’s typically predisposed to violence.
Cocaine underpins a spectrum of movies, from the gangster flicks that we all know and love to bizarre comedy to counter culture masterpieces that throw two fingers up at the system in search of hedonistic freedom.
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We’ve picked together the most best cocaine films and put them in chronological order for all your coke history nerds out there.
1. 1969 Easy Rider
After completing a major coke transaction, hippy duo Wyatt and Billie ride off on motorbikes from LA to New Orleans, planning to celebrate mardis gras in the city and then start a new life in Florida with their hard earned cash. A counter culture classic, Easy Rider is a relic of swinging 60s culture and a study of the freedom that money provides and, maybe more crucially, doesn’t afford.
2. 1972 Superfly
A blaxploitation classic with a soundtrack penned by great soul singer Curtis Mayfield, who released it as his third album. Super Fly, published in 1972, depicts the story of pimp and coke dealer Youngblood Priest who’s seeking for a way out of the drug business, only to be greeted with the problem of corrupt narcotic inspectors. The drug use involved was met with controversy at the time of release, but Super Fly was a milestone picture for its largely non-white technical crew, the largest non-white technical crew of its time. A bunch of black firms also invested money into its production expenditures. ‘Freeway’ Rick Ross, the iconic crack cocaine dealer who made hundreds of millions, claims Super Fly was one of his main influences in entering into the drug dealing profession.
3. 1983 Scarface
You know the scene. Al Pacino’s Tony Montana sat in his leather chair, his pinstripe suit coated with coke and a mountain of the stuff on the desk in front of him. It’s emblematic of Tony’s fate in Brian De Palma’s Scarface, very probably the most iconic film about cocaine ever. Tony’s both coke shotter and consumer in the ‘80s flick, which isn’t the best combo as most dealers will undoubtedly admit to. The film’s relationship with cocaine is so strong, the soundtrack even contains a song dedicated to the drug, courtesy of Debbie Harry’s ‘Rush Rush’.
4. 1990 Goodfellas
Martin Scorsese bookends this list with seminal gangster flick Goodfellas and The Wolf Of Wall Street, released 23 years later. He can now add the fact that he’s directed two of the best cocaine movies of all time beside the fact that Goodfellas is one of the gangster genre’s most seminal pictures and largely believed to be his personal masterpiece. It portrays the rise and fall of Henry Hill, an Italian-American mobster who was part of the Gambino mafia family, with outstanding performances from Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. And guess what Hill’s collapse is? Yup, the white stuff.
5. 1990 King Of New York
Gangsters and cocaine go together like a highly illicit combination of peanut butter and jelly. We’ve included some epic examples in this list and there’s definitely space for King Of New York, which is powered by the New York coke trade and sees Christopher Walken’s character Frank White return to the city after a stint in prison to try and reclaim his status as, well, you know what the title of the film is…
6. 1992 Deep Cover
Early ‘90s Larry Fishburne was a bad, bad man. The man who’d eventually become Morpheus in The Matrix became identified with eyes of steel, from playing the savvy Furious Styles in Boyz N The Hood to undercover cop Russell Stevens in Deep Cover. His undercover job includes in shotting drugs himself as he makes his way towards Jeff Goldblum’s David Jason, the Los Angeles drug dealer he hopes to take down. Also no big deal that two of the biggest rappers of the ‘90s – Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg – perform the film’s theme song.
7. 1994 Pulp Fiction
Quite arguably Quentin Tarantino’s finest film and part of the three classic films he made in the 90s, also including Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown (see below) (see below). It’s impact on film has been immense, with zinging performances from John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, who head up this darkly comic and frequently horrific crime drama in which cocaine (or lack thereof) plays a major part in the plot.
8. 1997 Jackie Brown
Jackie Brown, played by Pam Grier in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film, is the film’s protagonist. With Samuel L. Jackson’s Ordell Robbie’s help, Jackie is hired by the Mexican drug lord to bring money into the United States. Because Jackie didn’t know that one time the luggage included cocaine and money, she was detained by the ATF. Cue Jackie and Ordell’s plan to take down each other in a slick, stylish film with Kangol caps, a bad Robert De Niro moustache, and a lot of soul. Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and Robert Forster (who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) all have prominent roles in the film. Samuel L. Jackson and Pam Grier were also nominated for Golden Globes.
9. 1997 Boogie Nights
You have arrived at the home of Dirk Diggler! With the help of Paul Thomas Anderson, a teenage Mark Wahlberg goes from being a nothing to a somebody in the 1970s porn industry. Eddie Adams, Wahlberg’s sun-kissed LA pornstar avatar, is soon undone by his love of partying and powder (and no, we’re not talking about his jeans this time).
10. 1998 Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas
In the vein of the Trainspotting guys, Jordan Belfort, and others, Raoul Duke will hoof it whenever he can. Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro play Duke, a journalist and his attorney, respectively, in Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo classic film version. Instead of covering a motorbike race, the two end up on a wild trip through the hallucinogenic underworld.
11. 2000 American Psycho
Based on the controversial Bret Easton Ellis book of the same name, this is a brutal head-fuck. For Christian Bale’s character Patrick Bateman, it’s all about brick phones, fancy suits, pricey meals, and top-shelf drugs. Patrick isn’t always satisfied with the quality of the white stuff. If we keep doing it, we’ll be fine, adds Bateman, racking up in the toilet cubicle and dissatisfied with the opioids in his possession. In the course of the movie and book, he commits numerous acts of violence and causes the deaths of a large number of people.
12. 2001 Blow
From the life of George Jung, a young Massachusetts native who became wealthy through the importation of cocaine and met Pablo Escobar, a lesser-known drug dealer. Penelope Cruz portrays George’s wife Mirtha in Blow, a film adaptation of the book Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medelln Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All. Bound for the US and Colombia, Blow is a tale of ascension and demise replete with bankroll, cries of “I can’t feel my face,” failures of parents, and incarceration.
13. 2002 City Of God
Fernando Meirelles’ City Of God is the definitive portrait of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An award-winning film from 2002 depicted drug-related violence in Rio’s Cidade de Deus suburb at its peak cocaine use, in the 1970s. Rocket, a budding photographer, and Ze, a drug dealer who uses Rocket’s photographic skills to boost himself and his gang’s notoriety are the core of the story. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography, for its stunning visuals. Watch the video to see why.
14. 2005 The Business
Danny Dyer is beloved by all. Oh, that’s right. Really? So, what’s the problem? You can’t fault him for his mid-00s tenure as a Proper Nawty Geezer on the silver screen even though he may have lost his boyish, pill-loving appeal of Human Traffic. This is Danny’s second collaboration with director Nick Love after The Football Factory, where he played Tommy Johnson’s hooligan gangster Tommy Johnson. Frankie travels from a life of poverty in south London to a life of luxury on the Costa del Sol in ’80s Sergio Tachhini clothing. With the help of Tamer Hassan’s character Charlie, he first made money selling drugs including marijuana and cocaine. Selling leads to snorting, and things only get worse from there in these coke-happy movies. Even yet, Frankie’s not out of it just yet. It doesn’t matter that he had to wash his threads in a sewer. It’s a British ’80s classic thanks to a stellar soundtrack that includes Blondie, Rick James, David Bowie, Loose Ends, and the Mary Jane Girls.
15. 2004 Maria Full Of Grace
This is one of the rare films that does not romanticize the cocaine trade or the use of cocaine for amusement. An American-Colombian production tells the story of a pregnant 17-year-old who flees her home and family in Colombia in search of a better life in Bogota, where she becomes involved in the trafficking of cocaine from Colombia to New York. She joins a gang of women who work as smugglers for a drug cartel, and the film chronicles their destinies as they arrive in the United States.
16. 2013 The Wolf Of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street, starring Leonardo DiCaprio in his heyday as a greedy stockbroker who rises through the ranks to become one of Wall Street’s most terrifying and corrupt characters, is one of the most infamous drug films of the last decade. This film, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Jonah Hill, has no moral compass, and it packs enough punch to sink a cruise ship full of scumbags. It’s based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir, and the film’s name is derived from it. Pay attention to the classic scene.
17. 2013 Dallas Buyers Club
The true story of Ron Woodroof, the Texas man who started the Dallas Buyers Club in 1988 to provide AIDS patients in the United States with medications that had not yet been approved for use in the country, is told in the gripping documentary Dallas Buyers Club. The community he represents is at odds with his macho nature, yet he quickly transforms into an anti-hero in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Woodroof is Matthew McConaughey’s best performance, with the actor engaging on an austere diet to mimic the physical decline of an AIDs victim’s physical condition.
18. 2017 T2 Trainspotting
The long-awaited sequel to Danny Boyle’s epic adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s equally renowned novel didn’t quite live up to the original, but it nevertheless generated quite a stir when it appeared on the market. While it was disappointing to see Renton and the gang back on the big screen, the story (which extensively pulls from the Trainspotting sequel Porno) nonetheless gives an enjoyable jaunt through Leith and Edinburgh. While we watch the four manbabies strive to get their act together as they approach middle age, a wide variety of narcotics are ingested.
19. 2017 Kill Your Friends
Kill Your Friends is John Niven’s infamous novel about the excesses of the 1990s music industry that is laced with a sinister twist or two. And there’s a lot of it, too. Nicholas Hoult, who starred in the popular ’00s teen sitcom Skins, will appear in the cinematic adaptation. It didn’t win any major awards at the time of its release, but it’s worth a look because the book is a well-known element of British music culture.
20. 2018 Climax
Surely a Gasper Noé picture wouldn’t be complete without some sort of drug usage. LSD-spiked punch causes a Parisian dancing team to lose their minds at their post-rehearsal celebration. In addition to being based on a true tale, the film also contains a cast of dancers with no prior acting experience, including ballroom sensation Kiddy Smile. Filmmaker Noé experimented with unorthodox filming approaches, such as 42-minute-long takes, in order to capture the psychedelic feeling. In order to examine how individuals react to terror, the cast was given free rein to act as if they were on drugs. There are a few characters who take a couple coke bumps in order to get their bearings during the craziness.
21. 2018 Sorry To Bother You
In this hilarious satire, Lakeith Stanfield portrays a struggling white collar worker who decides to work his way up the corporate ladder only to discover that the rewards come at the expense of his personal life. When Stanfield’s character Cassius “Cash” Green takes a line of what he believes to be cocaine from the CEO of the telemarketing business he works for, the film slides into the realm of hallucinogenic magic realism. Come to see Stanfield’s predictable terrific performance, and stay for the savage critique of capitalism that he delivers.
22. 2018 Mandy
What if you could see Nicolas Cage chase down a group of otherworldly motorcyclists while high on LSD and cocaine? You have to, right? In Mandy, Nicolas Cage’s character Red is on a mission to avenge the death of his girlfriend, Mandy, who was killed in a car accident. With a high death toll and a chainsaw duel, it’s a typical revenge quest that’s conveyed through magnificent cinematography. It makes up for the absence of dialogue through mood and excitement. Fans of the supernatural, B-movies, and Nic Cage as Nic Cage will enjoy this. It also has the final Jóhann Jóhannsson composition before his tragic death.
23. 2018 The Legend Of Cocaine Island
The title of this Netflix original is strange enough, but the plot itself is even more so.. Rodney Hyden, a typical Florida guy, hears of a cache of cocaine in Puerto Rico – 70 pounds of it, to be specific. The desperate need for money forces Hyden to embark on a search for a valuable item, which he hopes to be able to sell for roughly $2 million. As it turns out, Carlos is an undercover cop who ends up arresting Hyden for intent to distribute after offering to assist in the recovery of the goods. Do you think this is a joke? Real-life interviews and re-enactments are used to tell the story. Even if you don’t like it, it’s still included in this list because of the title, not because it’s good or bad.