Netflix has no shortage of drug-themed movies and TV shows in its vast collection of titles. From fascinating documentaries to critically acclaimed series like Breaking Bad, the streaming service seems to have the subject covered from every possible angle. Interested in the theme, but not sure where to start? We’re here to help you find the best options currently available on instant streaming.
These titles on Netflix — encompassing a mix of TV shows and movies — all broach the subject of drug use or drug trade and are all worth watching. There’s something to fit every kind of preference, whether you’re into thrilling crime dramas or indie flicks. So pick whichever appeals to you the most and enjoy!
1. Breaking Bad
In addition to being one of the best TV shows to tackle the drug theme, the captivating story of Walter White is also widely considered one of the best shows to ever hit the small-screen, period. One of the most critically acclaimed and highly rated series of all time, AMC’s show — about a struggling high school chemistry teacher (Bryan Cranston) who turns to a life of crime with former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) — has earned countless awards (including 16 Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes) and it’s not hard to see why.
From Cranston and Paul’s astounding performances to the riveting storytelling, Breaking Bad is definitely a must-see show. All five seasons of the lauded series are currently available for streaming on Netflix.
2. Cartel Land
The Mexican Cartel is known for being a ruthless, violent operation. It terrorizes citizens on both sides of the border, while the Mexican government leaves many small towns to fend for themselves.
Cartel Land shows us the stunning true story of vigilantes rising up to battle the Cartel. These militias arm and protect their villages, and operate with a swift, merciless brutality to protect their homes. The documentary itself is a breathtaking affair, putting the filmmakers right in the middle of what amounts to a war zone.
3. The Panic in Needle Park
Long before similar movies like Requiem for a Dream and Trainspotting tackled the devastating effects of heroin addiction, there was The Panic in Needle Park. Directed by Jerry Schatzberg, the film tells the story of Helen (Kitty Winn) and Bobby (Al Pacino), two inseparable lovers who slowly descend into a hell of heroin addiction, prostitution, and jail time.
The film received generally good reviews and currently has an 80% approval rating from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes.
Netflix’s original crime drama, Narcos, chronicles the real-life stories of the drug kingpins of the late 1980s and the efforts of law enforcement to meet them head on in brutal, bloody conflict. It follows as powerful but conflicting forces — from politicians to police to civilians — clash in an effort to control the influx of cocaine, the drug that’s fast becoming the world’s most powerful commodity.
Season 1 and 2 star Brazilian actor Wagner Moura (Elysium) as the notorious and wealthy drug lord and cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar. Meanwhile, Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl) and Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) play the good guys and real-life DEA agents Steve Murphy and Javier Peña.
Showtime’s dark comedy drama stars Mary-Louise Parker as a suburban mother who turns to dealing marijuana in order to maintain her privileged lifestyle after her husband dies. The series, which remains one of the most prolific shows ever to air on the network, earned high critical praise (plus two Emmys and a Golden Globe) throughout its eight-season run. Reviewers particularly noted the series’ dry, smart humor and ability to constantly revamp itself.
Netflix currently has every season of Weeds, which was created and written by Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan, available for streaming, so it’s perfect if you’re in the mood to binge-watch.
6. Cocaine Cowboys
This powerful 2006 documentary, directed by Billy Corben, explores the rise of cocaine and the resulting crime epidemic that swept Miami in the 1970s and 1980s. The film features interviews with those involved in all sides the trade — from law enforcement officials, journalists, and lawyers to former drug smugglers and gang members, in order to provide a first-hand perspective of the Miami drug war.
The movie is gripping, gritty, and intense, and poses some hard questions about the drug trade and its ability to turn a city into a crime-infested war zone.
7. DMT: The Spirit Molecule
The 2010 documentary dives into the mysteries of the strongest hallucinogen known to man. The film delivers an interesting investigation into the long-obscured mystery of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a molecule found in nearly every living organism and considered the most potent psychedelic on Earth. Based on Dr. Rick Strassman’s book of the same name, this documentary includes perspectives from a wide range of people, from scientists and mathematicians, to artists and religious leaders.
8. Drugs, Inc.
This documentary series from National Geographic focuses on the different roles of people involved in the drug world and what their motivations are to sell, deal, ship, etc. different kinds of drugs. It covers the production and sale of drugs as well as the culture and crime that come along with it.
Three of the show’s seasons are currently available on Netflix.
Additional reporting by Becca Bleznak.
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