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The Lost Weekend

The Lost Weekend (1945)



Average Rating: 8.2/10
Reviews Counted: 31
Fresh: 31 | Rotten: 0

Director Billy Wilder's unflinchingly honest look at the effects of alcoholism may have had some of its impact blunted by time, but it remains a powerful and remarkably prescient film.


Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 0

Director Billy Wilder's unflinchingly honest look at the effects of alcoholism may have had some of its impact blunted by time, but it remains a powerful and remarkably prescient film.



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Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 8,394

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Movie Info

Billy Wilder's searing portrait of an alcoholic features an Oscar-winning performance by Ray Milland as Don Birnam, a writer whose lust for booze consumes his career, his life, and his loves. The story begins as Don and his brother Wick (Philip Terry) are packing their bags in their New York apartment, preparing for a weekend in the country. Philip, aware of his brother's drinking problem, is keeping an eye of him, making sure he doesn't sneak a drink before the departure of their train.


Drama, Romance, Classics

Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder

Feb 6, 2001

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All Critics (31) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (31) | Rotten (0) | DVD (10)

Director Billy Wilder's technique of photographing Third Avenue in the grey morning sunlight with a concealed camera to keep the crowds from being self-conscious gives this sequence the shock of reality.

February 17, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It is intense, morbid -- and thrilling. Here is an intelligent dissection of one of society's most rampant evils.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Today it's less impressive but not without its virtues.

December 12, 2006 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What makes the film so gripping is the brilliance with which Wilder uses John F Seitz's camerawork to range from an unvarnished portrait of New York brutally stripped of all glamour.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A shatteringly realistic and morbidly fascinating film.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Despite the grim subject matter, there are glimpses of Wilder's characteristic mordant wit, and the director's location work in New York's Third Avenue district is exemplary. Casting the hitherto bland Milland was a stroke of genius.

January 13, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

One of cinema's earliest and best portraits of drug addiction.

February 19, 2013 Full Review Source: The Age (Australia)
The Age (Australia)

Although ultimately less bleak than Charles Jackson's autobiographical novel, the film is uncompromising in its depiction of the lies, self-deception and degradation that alcoholism leads to.

February 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Taken as a treatise on addiction generally, it's remarkably sensitive and thoughtful.

February 19, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

While you watch it, it entirely holds you.

September 14, 2012 Full Review Source: The Nation
The Nation

An uncompromising look at alcoholism at a time when addiction was considered a personal failing to be swept under the rug of polite society.

May 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Bold, sobering, intelligently written and acted with great skill by Ray Milland.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

Painfully sincere and uncompromising look at alcoholism for a film released in 1945, with a superb central performance.

February 20, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

It still makes one of the strongest statements about alcoholism, though time has taken away some of its edge.

March 19, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A stirring portrait of the horrors of alcohol addiction.

October 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

The changes made in adapting the book to the big screen are instructive: In the novel, Ray Milland's alcoholic Don was a troubled bisexual, but in the movie, he's a writer suffering from a creative block.

December 12, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Too much melodrama to be Wilder's best, but worth a look anyway.

September 30, 2005 Full Review Source: Three Movie Buffs
Three Movie Buffs

A landmark film in terms of Hollywood's treatment of adult subject matter as fair game.

October 1, 2003 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

More realistic than sentimentalized Hollywood crowd-pleasers like Harvey, and more accessible than complete downers like Leaving Las Vegas, The Lost Weekend is, to me, the definitive film on the subject of alcoholism.

September 18, 2003 Full Review Source: Matt's Movie Reviews
Matt's Movie Reviews

One of the most justly celebrated 'problem films' of the 1940s.

July 30, 2003 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Audience Reviews for The Lost Weekend

A boozing writer tries to reform himself with the love of a good woman.
My one-sentence plot summary is inaccurate, but it's as close as I can come to briefly restating the plot of this film. It's inaccurate because he doesn't spend much time trying to reform himself. This is the film's primary problem. Don is a dick. There's nothing to like, and it's impossible to understand what Helen sees in him because as he's portrayed here, there's nothing to see. Normally I think that characters can be interesting even if they're despicable, but Don's not interesting. He's just a drunk.
What can be said of the film is that it's gritty and searing. It's portrayal of alcoholism is tough to watch and ugly, and it takes a brave performance by Ray Milland to give it its power.
Overall, if only Don had a few scenes in which he did something nice, we might be able to side with him, but as it is, I find it difficult to care about his troubles.
October 27, 2013
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

A harrowing depiction of an alcoholic writer (Ray Milland) who is convinced he has nothing to live for except for getting drunk, and how his addiction takes a turn for the worst one weekend as he goes on a drinking binge. Although a little simplistic in its explanation for the lead character's reasoning as to why he's destroying himself (he can only get inspiration for story ideas when he drinks), the force this film packs is still unmistakably powerful. Milland's performance singlehandedly carries this film from start to finish and makes it arresting, all the way to its hair-raising, suspenseful conclusion. It is not as effective as the absolute devastating "Leaving Las Vegas", another film concerning the troubles of alcoholism, but it was definitely a film ahead of its time, willing to tackle a difficult subject with skill, not to mention its paced to near perfection. Highly recommended.
November 2, 2012
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" could very well serve as a public service film in some support groups akin to Alcoholics Anonymous! I mean rarely have I come across a film that that is solely dedicated to chronicling an alcoholic's drinking binge over a trying weekend, as he recalls the period of time during which alcohol got the better of him.

We are introduced to Don (Ray Milland), a down on his luck writer in New York struggling with his alcoholism. Apparently he is attempting to recover from it and has weaned from the stuff for ten days, which is when he and his brother Wick (Phillip Terry) are planning to take a vacation over the weekend as a further attempt to take Don's mind off alcohol. Don conveniently evades this outing plan by sending his brother with his girl Helen (Jane Wyman) to a concert and agreeing to take the later train. Ensuring that there is no bottle hidden away in one of Don's many "secret places", Wick reluctantly agrees.


A penniless Don frantically seeks out alcohol when opportunity knocks in the form of the cleaning lady, who he successfully manages to con out of her wages, all for whiskey! And thus unfolds Don's disturbing story of alcohol addiction, told partly in flashback as he pours his heart out to Nat (Howard Da Silva) of Nat's Bar, Don's favourite hangout and partly in the present as the weekend turns deadlier by the minute as Don's alcohol craving gets desperate...

The above summary may seem wafer-thin but you will be surprised at how much material Billy Wilder packs in this 100 mins film that just drifts by...! Ray Milland, in his Oscar winning portrayal of Don, the alcoholic, delivers a scintillating performance. Practically the whole film rides on this masterful performance, for if the performance hadn't been as effective, the film wouldn't be as effective! As Don guzzles down shots of Rye Whiskey, we come to know of his past, his involvement with Helen, his embarrassment at being a writer who isn't able to get a breakthrough and his increasing belief that he is inspired to write only when drunk!


Wilder paints a very frightening picture of what happens when one clings on to the bottle.

I, personally, am a whisky lover too, but I would hate to be in Don's position. For Don, alcohol becomes the one and only solace. It becomes a way of his miserable life! It becomes the sole goal and drinking appears to be the magical cure for everything! Wilder shows it all...the desperation, the depression, the helplessness at not finding a bottle, the penury that drives Don to even try and pawn his livelihood...his typewriter! And then there's the hallucinations! On one hand Wilder shows some superbly surreal scenes depicting Don's thirst for alcohol. Check out that wonderful scene at a stage show, when, while watching a song depicting drinking, Don develops a strong desire to drink and all the performers on stage appear to be a row of raincoats to him, 'cause his raincoat which he has checked in before entering the auditorium, contains a bottle of rye! And then there are the hallucinations which result from alcoholism going a character in the film, Bim (Frank Faylen) says "alcoholics usually imagine seeing small animals rather than pink elephants"!


Suffice to say, that as far as the deadliness of alcoholism are concerned, Wilder makes sure he covers all the grim effects it would have on a person. A significant part of the film plays out with perfection. The crisp editing and super smooth narrative of the engaging screenplay are some of the winning aspects of "The Lost Weekend".

It is only towards the end that Wilder decides to go "Hollywood" with his ending!

Why, a film that builds up to such great promise, has to end with a whimper is beyond me. I mean it could've been the ultimate picture of inevitable doom and destruction suddenly does an about face and closes with a proverbial "where there's a will there's a way" ending full of hope that simply did not fit in the scheme of things in the major portion of "The Lost Weekend". It would still be convincing if there was a gradual buildup to that ending, but so is not the case. There is a sudden reversal from an obvious point of no return, and that becomes one of the major flaws of "The Lost Weekend". One only wishes Wilder had revised the ending.

While not a masterpiece like Wilder's "Sunset Blvd" is, "The Lost Weekend" is most definitely worth taking a look at.

Score: 8/10.
September 27, 2011
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend," which beat "Mildred Pierce" for the Best Picture Oscar of 1945, must have felt like a watershed event for those who saw it back then. This film, with its horrific, realistic depiction of alcoholism, surely helped kick-start the Alcoholics Anonymous movement that has so transformed America.

Is "The Lost Weekend" a great work of socially committed journalism? Yes. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely. Is Ray Milland's performance, which won him the Best Actor Oscar, a tour de force? Yes. But is the film a great work of art? No.
September 20, 2011
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

    1. Don Birnam: It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can sail. [drinking]
    – Submitted by rick b (2 years ago)
    1. Don Birnam: Get on the merry-go-round, you gotta ride it all the way. Round and round till that blasted music wears itself out and the thing dies down and clunks to a stop.
    – Submitted by Félix C (3 years ago)
    1. Nat the Bartender: One drink's too many, and a hundred's not enough.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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