14 Movies to Watch During Recovery

If you’re in recovery from an alcohol or substance use disorder, you know one of the most challenging things to figure out is how to spend your downtime.

When you’re not at work, not at meetings – you are going to your meetings – or busy with the new lifestyle habits and healthy activities in your aftercare plan, you still have time to fill.

We wrote an article earlier this summer about reading as a recovery activity and offered a list of books we think make for great reading while in recovery.

This time, we’ve got a list of movies – approved by our clinical staff – that you can watch with recovery peers, with family, or home alone during the evenings when you finally get a chance to kick up your feet and relax.

While we don’t advocate many passive or sedentary recovery activities like watching TV, you get a free pass on these movies: they all contain lessons and messages that may help you on your journey. Not every movie on this list will resonate with everyone, but we’re sure there’s at least one movie on this list for everyone.

Ready?

Here we go.

Top 14 Movies to Watch During Recovery

  1. Beautiful Boy. This movie is based on the memoir Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction. Click here for details.
  2. Ben is Back. This movie tells the story of a mother and son as the son navigates his recovery journey. Click here for details.
  3. When Love is Not Enough. 2010. This movie tells the story of Lois Wilson, who was married to Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson. Lois Wilson founded Al-Anon/Alateen in 1951 in order to support family members of people living with alcoholism. We recommend this movie for family members of people in treatment. Click here for details.
  4. 28 Days. This comedy tells the story of a newspaper columnist given a choice between 28 days in jail or 28 days in rehab. She chooses rehab – and poignant comedy ensues. Click here for details.
  5. Rachel Getting Married. Family dynamics, sibling tension, a wedding, scenes from NA meetings – this film has it all. It’s also stacked with popular stars and received widespread critical acclaim. Click here for details.
  6. Flight. 2012. Based on a true story, this film tells the story of an airline pilot with alcohol and substance use problems. No spoilers here, except that it stars Denzel Washington. However, we recommend this movie for professionals in high responsibility/high stakes jobs. Click here for details.
  7. Clean and Sober. 1988. Michael Keaton stars in this story of a successful real estate salesman with a cocaine addiction. This movie is 80s all the way. It includes a look at how sponsorship works in 12-Step programs. Click here for details.
  8. Requiem for a Dream. 2000. Based on a novel of the same name, this film – considered a psychological drama – tells the story of four people living with various forms of addiction. Click here for details.
  9. Basketball Diaries. An autobiographical work based on the novel by Jim Carrol, this film follows an aspiring writer and basketball star from high school, to heroin addiction, to recovery. Not for the faint-hearted. Click here for details.
  10. A Star is Born. Iconic, classic, timeless: everything that needs to be said about this movie has already been said. Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay, and Sam Elliott. Click here for details.
  11. My Name is Bill W. 1989. This made-for-tv movie tells the origin story of Alcoholics Anonymous co-founders William Griffith Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith. Of note: actor James Woods won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Bill W. Click here for details.
  12. Wild. 2014. Another made-for-tv movie, based on the autobiography Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, Wild is a story of self-discovery that recounts a solo hike from Southern California to Oregon and Washington. Click here for details.
  13. Rocketman. 2019. The music of Elton John has been a gift to the world since his first release in the 70s. Learn the inside story of the man behind the music. Spoiler alert: in the first scene, Elton walks off stage from a performance and goes straight to an AA meeting. Click here for details.
  14. When a Man Loves a Woman. Have a box of tissues at hand, because this film hits so many emotional notes so well it’s impossible to believe anyone who’s ever had an alcohol problem, known anyone with an alcohol problem, or loved anyone with an alcohol problem can make it through this film without shedding tears. Click here for details.