Ah, the junkie; a very real yet very caricaturized group of individuals in pop culture. Since it is completely socially acceptable to mock, satire, and condemn drug addicts (one of the few groups left to hold this dubious distinction), there have been so many great junkie characters in cinema and television that have run the gamut from funny to scary to tragic and even cool; not unlike real life…well except the fact that these are two-dimensional characters, with maybe a couple exceptions, (I bet Quentin Tarantino would say that I’m wrong about Vincent Vega “None of my characters are two-dimensional, okay?”).
Here is a list of some of my favorite junkies from movies and television in no particular order.
NOTE: You will never catch me making a “Top 10” list because it is counterproductive since it will only make people concentrate on how wrong I am. Also, I think it is pompous, stupid, and bloggerish for a person to think they are an authority on what is the best anything. I only included fictional junkies that fit the description to a “T” so no Tony Montana (his chick was though, as he so eloquently put it “I got a fuckin’ junkie for a wife,” but she was a bitch so she didn’t make the list) because he was a drug lord before being a junkie, even though he was totally a junkie but with too much drugs to ever mess up, and no George Jung, Henry Hill, (who also had lots of money and drugs) John Holmes from Wonderland or Jim Carroll (Leo in Basketball Diaries) because they are based on real people, even though I think they are awesome junkies. And there are no characters from Requiem for a Dream because I honestly think that movie was an over-the-top Trainspotting rip. Oh, and I didn’t include drunks like Norm from Cheers and Barnie Gumble from The Simpsons because society has somehow separated “drunks” from “junkies.” Enjoy.
Sick Boy from Trainspotting (played by Johnny Lee Miller)
The clever, witty, sharply-dressed Scottish Bond fan and heroin addict stood out in a film with so many awesome junkie characters. Near the very beginning of the movie, Sick Boy delivers a wonderful monologue about how heroin has “great fucking personality” while casually shooting up a novice user and hiding his shit in a custom stash spot in his shoe.
Chris Moltisanti from The Sopranos (played by Michael Imperioli)
One of my favorite characters from one of my favorite shows, Chris was the humorously dull gangster on the rise who had a taste for everything from booze to meth with a penchant for heroin. He struggled with his sobriety while trying to make it in the Mafia. Often paired with the older, yet equally dull Paulie Gaultieri, Chris did some pretty terrible things (committing the first murder of the series) while remaining hilariously oblivious to his shortcomings and showing a side that it was hard not to pity in a way.
Tyrone Biggums from Chappellle’s Show (played by Dave Chappelle)
Possibly the funniest junkie on the list (yes, I’m considering crack heads junkies, I mean, society does), Tyrone Biggums made regular appearances on the legendary sketch show giving the worst drug education class ever (telling kids where to buy crack and about the first time he sucked a dick for crack) and winning the TV show Fear Factor by a mile since nothing can phase a crack head. As he so succinctly put it: “There’s something about me, Joe Rogan, that you might not know-I smoke rocks.”
Dave the Crackhead from Don’t be a Menace to South Central While Drinking You’re Juice in the Hood (played by Keith Morris)
You probably didn’t know his name, but you already know who I’m talking about. Such a small part but so hilarious. He’s got these cheeseburgers…
Bob Saget from Half Baked (played by Bob Saget, duh)
I’m seeing a trend here; Dave Chappelle and dick sucking junkies are fucking hilarious. Bob Saget of course angrily pops up at a 12 Step meeting outraged that Chappelle’s character Thurgood would have the nerve to claim to be addicted to marijuana. His memorable line: “I used to suck dick for coke (guy in background: “I seen him). You ever suck some dick for marijuana?”
Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad (played by Charles Baker II)
Another great junkie from a great show. Pete’s drug of choice is obviously meth since he’s on Breaking Bad but the dude just nails the stupid addict with a heart of gold role. Skinny Pete is always good for a stupid comment and even surprised us with his lovely piano playing skills. Baker also looks like he’s smoked more than a little speed in his day which only helps in this situation. To stick out as an awesome junkie character on a show filled with awesome junkies shows how great Skinny Pete is.
Terence McDonagh from Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (played by Nicolas Cage)
This might very well be the most obscure junkie on the list, but he is fucking awesome. He is a post-Katrina New Orleans detective who abuses his power in every way possible from confiscating drugs for his own evidence locker, fucking some girl in front of her boyfriend after finding drugs on them (which he takes of course), and blackmailing a college football star into shaving points. I think this movie and Cage are better than the original Bad Lieutenant with Harvey Keitel. The quintessential quote from this movie is where he is cracked out of his mind with Xzibit and says “You don’t have a lucky crack pipe? I have a lucky crack pipe” at the speed of light. Cage kills it in this one.
Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction (played by John Travolta)
Okay Quentin Tarantino (because you’re totally reading my punk ass blog), Vincent Vega is a very layered character. He is much more than a two-dimensional junkie stereotype like Tyrone Biggums. He’s not even primarily a junkie but a gangster/hit man. But, he is totally a junkie. I have never witnessed a person who can mainline heroin recreationally. I’m sure there are a handful of strong individuals out there who like playing Russian roulette with their veins but I have yet to see one.
I just want to talk about basically everything Vincent Vega did and said in that movie because it’s all awesome: the dance contest, “What, stab her three times?”, and I will forever remember the face he makes when he says “That’s a pretty fucking good milkshake.” It’s worth a pause next time you watch’a da Pulp (Italian pizza man voice) just to bask in its awesomeness. It ranks up there with Deniro as Jimmy the Gent in Goodfellas, tongue out, stomping the shit out of Frank Vincent. Travolta nails it as a high-ass motherfucker and a badass; Royale with cheese and all.
Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights (played by Mark Wahlberg)
Dirk, based on actual porn star/junkie John Holmes, has one of the biggest downfalls on the list going from the man with the golden dick to a reckless, desperate tweaker who carries out a botched robbery on a completely crazy drug dealer with a definite creepy gay vibe. As crazy as it gets in Boogie Nights, the robbery that John Holmes helped carry out in real life was actually much crazier and ended much more badly (See: Wonderland). He started out as a dumb but nice kid and turned into a dumb, conceited asshole. The drugs, women, and fame made his head as big as his prick.
Vitaly Orlov from Lord of War (played by Jared Leto)
Vitaly is another one of the lesser-known fictional junkies on the list, but still a favorite. See, this is how much I dislike Requiem; I place a far more obscure Jared Leto junkie character on the list before his famous lead role in a movie about straight-up heroin addicts. Vitaly is main character and international arms dealer Yuri Orlov’s (played by fellow junkie lister Nic Cage) younger brother. After being paid reluctantly in pure Colombian cocaine for an arms deal, the brothers celebrate. Vitaly has a little trouble stopping the celebration and disappears to a boarding house in South America where he is zooted out of his mind and has made a perfect map of his native Ukraine in cocaine when Uri finally tracks him down.
His innocence in the less-than-innocent world of arms trafficking, unabashed love of coke and booze, and excellent coke art put him on this list. Also the brilliance of the two nearly identical scenes where he begs for a last bump in the back of a limousine before being forced into rehab by his brother stuck with me due to the monotonous reality of being a drug addict; like most problem users he can’t “just quit” and rehab is not a cure.
Ezal (IMDB spelling) from Friday (played by Anthony Johnson)
Pooh Bear from The Salton Sea (played by Vincent D’Onofrio)
Skip from Dead Presidents (played by Chris Tucker)
Bubbles from The Wire (played by Andre Royo)
Pookie from New Jack City (played by Chris Rock)