Thrills and Pills: Another Top 5 Scary Pharma Flicks

Oct. 29, 2018
It’s that time of year when watching a movie means snuggling up to a blood-curdling tale that will make you want to hide under the covers.
It’s that time of year when watching a movie means snuggling up to a blood-curdling tale that will make you want to hide under the covers. And filmmakers love to tap into the collective fear of Big Pharma, bad medicines, and drug experiments gone horribly awry. 

A few years ago, we listed five of the top pharma-related thrillers for Halloween. Now, we’ve dug up even more classic pharma flicks that are worth revisiting this season.


What if a pill could make you access all 100 percent of your brain’s potential? That’s the question this sci-fi thriller attempts to answer as it follows a down-on-his-luck writer who pops an experimental drug and is transformed into an exceedingly sharp, high-rolling businessman. Of course, it’s a movie, so something has to go wrong. Eventually, daily use of the drug causes side effects that make the character’s mind — and life — unravel. 

Requiem for a Dream

It’s a movie everyone should see once — but most won’t ever want to see it again. Widely considered a cinematic masterpiece, this movie is also deeply disturbing as it follows the tragic stories of several characters whose lives are being ripped apart by addiction to street and prescription drugs. Unlike other woeful tales of addiction, what makes “Requiem for a Dream” stand out isn’t just its heartbreaking plot, but how the director used intense, and at times jarring, camera work to capture the madness of what the characters are experiencing. 

Resident Evil

It's one of Hollywood's favorite storylines: Scientists bio-engineer a virus, which is accidentally released, and then all hell breaks loose. In this case, the setting is a secret underground laboratory owned by an evil corporation, and after the scientists become infected, an AI supercomputer seals off the lab to stop the disease from spreading. A team of special forces are then sent in to get the situation under control only to discover that the lab’s scientists have, naturally, been turned into flesh-eating zombies.  

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Finding a cure for Alzheimer’s is one of the holy grails of the pharma world. On the verge of finally making that discovery, a scientist at a biotech company in San Francisco decides to try his experimental drug, ALZ-112, on chimpanzees. Only problem? The drug gives the chimps enough cognitive abilities to communicate and rise up against their evil human overlords — and epic battle scenes ensue. 

I am Legend 

The scientists in this action thriller at least had the right idea when they created a genetically engineered measles virus meant to cure cancer. But instead of helping people, the drug wipes out most of the population, leaving some alive and transformed into vampire-like creatures, and just a few survivors who are mysteriously immune. Luckily, one of the uninfected survivors is a brilliant scientist who spends years alone while working to develop an antidote. Eventually he succeeds — but only right before the film’s shocking surprise ending.  


About the Author

Meagan Parrish | Senior Editor