Trainspotting, which hit American soil in July 1996 after being released to widespread acclaim in the UK earlier that year, was an instant classic -- and it remains hugely influential 20 years later. Culled from Irvine Welsh's 1993 debut novel of the same name, the Danny Boyle gem tracks Edinburgh-based heroin enthusiast Mark Renton as he ping-pongs between junkie depravity and ineffectual recovery efforts, while also dealing with his degenerate Scottish pals. It's essentially a dark comedy about heroin addiction.
Unlike other celluloid examinations of drug culture that followed, Trainspotting is neither a heavy-handed cautionary tale (Requiem for a Dream, The Basketball Diaries) nor a stoner comedy (Dude, Where's My Car?, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back). Filtered through searing sarcasm and magical realism, Trainspotting manages to be pretty honest. As such, its story lacks a moral -- or, at least, an easily identifiable, digestible moral. "Hard drugs are super fun, except sometimes you die" certainly doesn't count.