The Lost Weekend 1945

The Lost Weekend

Critics Consensus

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.

97%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 39

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,866

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Movie Info

Writer Don Birnam (Ray Milland) is on the wagon. Sober for only a few days, Don is supposed to be spending the weekend with his brother, Wick (Phillip Terry), but, eager for a drink, Don convinces his girlfriend (Jane Wyman) to take Wick to a show. Don, meanwhile, heads to his local bar and misses the train out of town. After recounting to the bartender (Howard da Silva) how he developed a drinking problem, Don goes on a weekend-long bender that just might prove to be his last.

Cast & Crew

Ray Milland
Don Birnam
Jane Wyman
Helen St. James
Howard Da Silva
Nat the Bartender
Phillip Terry
Wick Birnam
Frank Faylen
`Bim" Nolan, Male Nurse
Mary Young
Mrs. Deveridge
Lillian Fontaine
Mrs. St. James
Lewis L. Russell
Charles St. James
Charles R. Jackson
Writer (Novel)
Billy Wilder
Screenwriter
Miklós Rózsa
Original Music
John F. Seitz
Cinematographer
Hans Dreier
Art Direction
A. Earl Hedrick
Art Direction
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Critic Reviews for The Lost Weekend

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (38) | Rotten (1)

  • The Lost [Weekend] is a fascinating, horrifying, and quite honest picture of a few days in the life of a hopeless alcoholic.

    January 28, 2020 | Full Review…
  • The "curse of the drink" was never more vividly dealt with than in The Lost Weekend. It is a modern version of an old-time thriller type of melodrama about the evils of over-imbibing, more streamlined and scientific than its predecessors,

    April 22, 2019 | Full Review…
  • One of cinema's earliest and best portraits of drug addiction.

    February 19, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Under Wilder's imaginative direction, Milland has been able to convey just what an uncontrollable craving for liquor does to a man's mind, his body and soul.

    February 23, 2012 | Full Review…
  • 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…
  • It is intense, morbid -- and thrilling. Here is an intelligent dissection of one of society's most rampant evils.

    February 20, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Lost Weekend

  • Jul 31, 2020
    Billy Wilder and Ray Milland garnered high praise for this insightful look at alcoholism, but it hasn't aged well, the look and feel of a over-earnest public service announcement all over it. And why? Because the film's greatest fantasy is that other people care about the fate of an alcoholic whereas in real life the streets are littered with them, bodies in the gutter that are walked over daily. Frank Faylen and Doris Dowling have the most interesting parts, one as a seen-it-all nurse at an alcohol treatment facility and the other a good-time girl waiting in the wings, despite having seen-it-all. Still, a relevant concoction, simply too close to Reefer Madness in tone to call.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Apr 09, 2016
    Looking at the films of the 1940's. many of these films featured high society types in zany situations, gallivanting between set up and set up and setting up the lunacy of life as something to mesmerize by the viewing public. Movies were kind of like TMZ is today. In The Lost Weekend director Billy Wilder gives us a look into the fall from grace of writer Dan Birnam (Ray Milland) caused by his raging alcoholism. The title of the film has a double meaning when watching the film. It could refer to the weekend holiday planned for Dan and his brother Wick (Phillip Terry) that Dan ruins by alienating his brother with his alcoholic ways or, the more obvious answer, the fact that this weekend ends up lost to Dan in an alcoholic haze. Even after all of the turmoil and disheartening that's caused by Dan's dependence of the bottle, his best girl Helen (Jane Wyman) still holds out hope that Dan can be saved from his affliction, going so far as sleeping on the steps outside his apartment that is financed by his brothers charity. This film is really about the fall and rise of one man. Dan has been an alcoholic for six years and even though we haven't followed him that entire time, other than flashbacks to watershed moments in his relationship with Helen that always include a bottle or two, it's this weekend that represents the fork in the road that Dan has been working towards all of his life. The film depicts how desperate a person can be in any addictions, not just alcohol. Eventually the addiction even kills Dan's dreams and wants to the point where all he cares about are the rings left on the bar top by his whiskey glass. Dan has pathetically hit rock bottom. Ray Milland deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Dan. It's a real haunting performance that becomes the focus throughout the film. Everyone else is reacting to Dan's behavior and each of the personality types are represented. The brother who gives up. The girl that stands with him no matter what. The disagreeing, yet enabling bar tender. This film is as much about following Dan's story as it's an examination of how people react to an alcoholic, almost comparable to the stages of grief if we compared it to anything at all. Some people can take it and some can't. This is Ray Milland's film though and he creates a presence where the audience feels those same feelings that those in relationships with Dan feel. Anger, disgust, sympathy, maybe a little guilt. It's all there for us to dissect in our heads. Director Billy Wilder (who also won an Oscar, as did the film itself as Best Picture of 1945) achieves a remarkable feat when making this film. Dan, who is surrounded by the people in his life and living in New York City is hopelessly alone in his addiction throughout the film. There are times, especially when we're in the apartment, that Dan feels like he's a million miles away locked in a claustrophobic filled tomb of alcoholism. This really pushes the film over the top into being a great achievement. Instead of hazy shots and wobbly cameras, Wilder opts to go with the feeling of being an alcoholic. Not the surface feeling of being tipsy, but the never ending alone feeling that no drink can every wash away. The Lost Weekend is one of the best films to come from the 1940's. It's a tale about alcoholism and addiction, but it doesn't talk down to the audience. This is not a temperance sermon, but an exploration into the soul of a man darkened by drink. A true masterpiece.
    Chris G Super Reviewer
  • Jul 14, 2014
    The Lost Weekend is a cynical look at alcoholism, somewhat of a Billy Wilder 40s version of Leaving Las Vegas. The humor in the film is dry and dark, never laughed out loud but often smirked at the irony of the situations. Ray Milland plays Don Birnam, apparently there's two of them: the writer and the alcoholic. This film only shows the latter. This dark look at a still relevant addiction makes alcoholism truly terrifying, mainly thanks to Millands acting. However the very ending didn't seem to fit in, I feel something darker would accomplish more. As far as the frw Wilders I've seen goes I'd rank this under The Apartment and Some Like it Hot, but above Sabrina. The fluid narration and great lead acting makes this a worth while film, but doesn't wrap itself into a great one.
    Daniel D Super Reviewer
  • Dec 11, 2013
    A film way before its time. Ray Milland is fantastic as a man who has his brain and life destroyed by alcohol. One of the earliest pics to feature a social problem and treat it with the appropriate level of gravity. Kudos to all involved.
    John B Super Reviewer

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