The Lost Weekend (1945)

lost weekend 1945 movie poster review
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Strong acting about a taboo subject at the time


Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Lost Weekend

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  November 16, 1945

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Oh yeah, give me some of that sweet alcohol!

Don Birnam (Ray Milland) is a writer who can no longer write.  He’s addicted to the bottle and cannot give up the habit despite help from his suffering girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman) and his brother Wick (Phillip Terry).  When he tricks them into leaving him home for a long weekend alone, Don finds himself falling…and he’s about to hit rock bottom.

Directed by Billy Wilder, The Lost Weekend is based on the 1944 novel by Charles R. Jackson.  The movie was met with critical acclaim and won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Ray Milland), and Best Screenplay with nominations for Best Cinematography—Black and White, Best Musical Score—Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and Best Film Editing.  The movie was nominated by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Archive.


I scream, you scream, we all scream for liquor!

The Lost Weekend feels like a classy version of those cautionary tale movies that they would show kids to warn them of the dangers of vices.  At the time the movie was made, alcoholism was a much more taboo subject than it is today so the story of an alcoholic was more shocking…and Don Birnam the worst kind of alcoholic imaginable.

When The Lost Weekend was made, the afternoon cocktail hour was still a real thing, and alcohol was much more common and less recreational than it is today.  The idea that some business people would come home and have a drink everyday at the end of the day (plus even a hit or two at the office) gave great weight to a movie about someone who couldn’t handle just one.  It probably was a wake-up call to some people who couldn’t see that people in their lives were having problems.  Now, the movie seems a bit over the top and overblown.  Everyone knows how bad alcoholism can be and how one drink isn’t enough for someone with the affliction.


Back off, Helen!

Ray Milland does a great job with the role and despite being surrounded by supporting actors might as well have been a one-man-band.  He eats up all the scenes and shows his level of depravity when he’s willing lie and steal to get his alcohol.  He’s dirty, sweaty, and looks great when he’s unkempt.  He looks like the model of an alcoholic.  When the movie was released, it was original, but now it almost seems like a parody of itself since it has been borrowed countless times.  I like that he isn’t seen as a good guy who is corrupted, but I wish that the movie should have ended with more of a question if Don Birnam can get better.  Jane Wyman comes on strong near the end of the movie, but I wish she had been more apparent throughout the movie.


The new SyFy movie…Bat vs. Rat!

Today, the movie would push the visions being seen by Birnam.  There is some great cinematography and use of shots to show how he is haunted by the bottle, but it would be even more surreal (like Requiem for a Dream).  The culmination of his binging is seeing a rat being attacked by a bat.  It might be a realistic vision for an alcoholic coming down, but it looks rather cheap now.  The black-and-white cinematography and style of shooting has led the movie to be classified as a noir film, but it has little of the crime element of a noir tale.

The Lost Weekend is good, but hasn’t necessarily aged well.  The movie is frequently referenced and worth seeking out for lovers of film.  Ray Milland became a bit of a joke near the end of his career by starring in a number of rather low budget horror films but here he shows his skill as an actor.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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