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Unforgettable drug movies

The Poison: Cocaine -- a.k.a. blow, nose candy, toot, weasel dust, California cornflakes

The contenders: “Blow,” “Traffic,” “New Jack City,” “Scarface” and “Less Than Zero”

Our pick: Sometimes it seems as if there are more movies about cocaine kingpins than there are actual cocaine kingpins working the United States today, so it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. With such stiff competition, we hand the crown to Al Pacino’s homicidal Cuban Tony Montana in director Brian De Palma’s 1983 remake of “Scarface.” No other film captures cocaine’s over-the-top rush of energy and invulnerability like Pacino’s drug-fueled shootout with a combination M16-grenade launcher at the conclusion. (Universal Studios)
The poison: Pills -- a.k.a. poppers, bennies, uppers, downers, screamers

The contenders: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Valley of the Dolls,” “Walk the Line” “Requiem for a Dream,” “Riot on Sunset Strip”

Our pick: This one is a no-brainer. The “dolls” in “Valley of the Dolls” refers to pills, so there it is right in the title. All the main characters develop addictions to pills -- all of them, and there is no other major drug use in the film to get in the way of the pill popping. (20th Century Fox)
The poison: Heroin -- a.k.a. chasing the dragon, smack, dope, horse, junk

The contenders: “Pulp Fiction,” “Panic in Needle Park,” “The Basketball Diaries,” “The Man With the Golden Arm,” “Requiem for a Dream,” “Trainspotting”

Our pick: We’re going to go contemporary and choose “Trainspotting,” mostly because that scene in which the baby crawls on the ceiling has stuck with us more than a decade later. Although for a generation before us, the quintessential film was surely “The Panic in Needle Park,” with Al Pacino; and for the generation before that, it was “The Man With the Golden Arm” with Frank Sinatra. (Liam Longman)
The poison: The abuse of inhalants -- a.k.a. huffing

The contenders: “Citizen Ruth,” “Love Liza,” “Gummo,” “Blue Velvet,” “The Cider House Rules”

Our pick: Well …”Love Liza,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as a bereaved husband who develops a gasoline-sniffing addiction, shows huffing throughout, but that insane scene in “Blue Velvet” when a deranged Dennis Hopper takes out the gas mask has probably been seen by more people. (Dino De Laurentiis Communication)
The poison: LSD -- a.k.a. acid, white lightning

The contenders: “The Trip,” “Easy Rider,” “Pink Floyd The Wall”

Our pick: You could argue that this visual roller coaster is simply an unusual and creative illustration of the music from Pink Floyd’s album. But come on, if ever there was a movie designed with the acid-head in mind, it’s this one. Worms boring into a guy’s brain? A man shaves off all his body hair? And that’s before the main character actually gets injected with drugs. ()
The poison: Methamphetamine -- a.k.a. amp, hillbilly crack, crank, speed

The contenders: “Crank,” “Bully,” “Breaking Bad”

Our pick: It’s kind of cheating to pick a TV series in a list of movies, but Hollywood has thus far underserved that percentage of the population jonesing for a really good meth movie. What audience there is should take solace in AMC’s “Breaking Bad” -- which will soon starts its fourth season -- as the quintessential depiction of the entire methamphetamine life cycle, from cooking to usage. How many other drug movies extol the joys of applied chemistry class knowledge? Far too few. (Doug Hyun / AMC)
The poison: Alcohol -- a.k.a. booze, hooch, liquor, John Barleycorn, sauce, firewater, tipple

The contenders: “Strange Brew,” “The Lost Weekend,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Animal House”

Our pick: Boozing movies come in two flavors: “Drinking is good!” or “Drinking is bad!” In the interest of compromise, we decided on “Leaving Las Vegas,” the movie that takes a little from column A and a little from column B. Suicidal alcoholic (Nicolas Cage) heads off to Las Vegas to kill himself. (Bad.) Along the way, he meets a beautiful hooker with a heart of gold, played by Elisabeth Shue. (Good.) He dies. (Bad.) He wins an Oscar. (Good.) (Suzanne Hanover / MGM)