Through the power of filmmaking, Hollywood has created some of our most powerful memories, social trends, and pure entertainment. All of these classic films — and those soon to be known as — defined the year in which they were released, creating a decades long filmography of triumphant artistry.
1945 — The Lost Weekend
Despite being the earliest film on our list, The Lost Weekend stills holds up, earning its place as a Hollywood classic. Don Birnam is an alcoholic, plain and simple. Where Hollywood used to make the town drunk tantamount to comic relief or the village idiot, The Lost Weekend chose to tackle the issue of alcoholism and addiction head on by putting the pain, anger, and destructiveness behind the disease on full display. Through fantastic and amazingly symbolic cinematography, director Billy Wilder explores the misery and consequences of sloshing through life. The Lost Weekend does not strive to answer why Don drinks or the genesis of his addiction because in the end that doesn’t matter — saving his life does.
Using milk bottles outside his door as a marker of time, the audience realizes that each day with his favorite amber liquid is a day further away from recovery. The titular time frame sees Don push away his loved ones and embrace his enablers — but the depths of Don’s struggle even leads his facilitators to abandon him.
With horrifying imagery of withdrawals, the film’s hopeful ending is more a question than a promise — after what we’ve just gone through with Don, can we be sure his sobriety will last? It’s a question those who have struggled with addiction — and those who try to help them — frequently ask themselves, another signal of The Lost Weekend’s serious and realistic view of this horrible disease.
Honorable Mention: Mildred Pierce
The femme fatale was the ruler of the big screen in the 1940s — but the team of Michael Curtiz (director of Casablanca) and star Joan Crawford gave film noir a new voice with the story of a mother who stops at nothing to provide for her daughter.
Image Source: IMDb