They’re feared, ruthless and powerful. They will stop at nothing to fulfill their lust for money, power and respect. They will kill and slaughter their enemies and even their friends. They demanded loyalty for those that work for them but will betray and backstab their loved ones in a heartbeat. Good thing these ruthless drug dealers are all fictional and won’t show up at our front door. Actually, not all the drug dealers are ruthless psychopaths (most are, but not all). Some are lovable, sweet and hard working in an illegal profession they just happen to be great at. Both film and TV have created some of the most memorable and famous drug dealers. They can sometimes be a supporting character and other times they are the star of the series or film.
One of the first films to deal with drug use was the 1955 film The Man With The Golden Arm, starring Frank Sinatra. The controversial film would also feature Darren McGavin as the drug dealer, Niffty Louie. Louie was a well known fictional drug dealer during that time period. Darren McGavin was praised for his performance as the drug dealing Nifty Louie. Due to the film’s success, later films would be able to deal with subjects considered inappropriate at the time. This would also indirectly clear the way for the rise of the fictional drug dealer. Several of these drug dealers have become iconic characters and some may have been forgotten but were just as great. Here is a look at 15 of the Most Famous Fictional Drug Dealers in Film & TV.
15) Carlos Ayala – Steven Bauer, Traffic
Traffic follows several characters that are involved with the drug trade in various ways. We follow different perspectives in the film, such as the user, the enforcer, the politician and a trafficker. The main and most powerful drug dealer in the film is Carlos Ayala. Carlos is on trial for the crimes he’s committed but is fighting the charges against him. He’s the main supplier and distributor for all the characters in the film. Steven Bauer played the role of the drug lord Carlos Ayala. Steven Bauer is no rookie when it comes to drug lords and gangsters. Steven Bauer played the role of Manny Ribera in Scarface. He also played the head of the Mexican drug cartel, Don Eladio Vuenti in Breaking Bad. Steven Soderbergh directed Traffic, which was universally critically acclaimed. It starred an outstanding ensemble cast that included Michael Douglas, Benicio del Toro, Erika Christensen and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Traffic won four Oscars including Best Director for Steven Soderbergh.
14) Big Worm – Faizon Love, Friday
Friday followed to stoner best friends, Craig and Smokey, who have to pay a drug dealer back by the end of the day, which is a Friday. It’s not the most ideal way to spend a Friday but it’s not bad. Both Craig and Smokey are in fear of the ruthless local drug dealer, Big Worm. Big Worm had employed Smokey to sell his pot but instead of selling it Smokey just smoked it all. Big Worm is clearly a dominant drug dealer but one must question his judgment to hire someone with the nickname “Smokey”. Regardless, the neighborhood knows not to mess with Big Worm. Craig and Smokey must go to great lengths to pay Big Worm back and live. Comedian and actor Faizon Love played the role of Big Worm. Friday has received positive reviews and is considered a cult classic. F. Gary Gray directed the film that was co-written by Ice Cube and DJ Pooh. The film starred Ice Cube, Chris Tucker, Bernie Mac, Nia Long, John Witherspoon and Regina King. It was released on April 26th, 1995.
13) Eric Molson – Dave Franco, 21 Jump Street
21 Jump Street followed two police officers that go undercover at a high school to infiltrate a drug ring operating in the school. Soon they discover that student Eric Molson, is the drug kingpin and his main drug is HFS. Eric is a little ruthless, a tiny bit notorious and not always very bright. Regardless, he runs the school and all business goes through him. Later we find out that Eric was merely the puppet of the true drug lord, the gym teacher Mr. Walters, played by Rob Riggle. Dave Franco portrayed Eric Molson in the film to positive reviews. 21 Jump Street is an adaptation of the TV series of the same name. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directed 21 Jump Street. The film has been met with positive reviews and was followed by a sequel. 21 Jump Street starred Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube and Brie Larson. It seems the Franco brothers are pretty good at playing drug dealers.
12) Jay and Silent Bob – Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back revolved around two pot-dealing stoners who go on an incredible journey to Hollywood to prevent a movie about them from being made. Jay and Silent Bob are two very unique dealers. They’re not ruthless, they get distracted pretty easily and let’s be honest, they’re pretty bad drug dealers. They usually can be found in front of the Quick Stop. They often find themselves entangled in other adventures, such as the time they spent the whole day at the mall. Jay is known for his outspoken attitude and his over-usage of swear words. Silent Bob is known for being… well… silent… most of the time. When he did speak it was usually very profound. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was the first feature film to focus on Jay and Silent Bob, however the two characters had appeared in several Kevin Smith films, including Clerks, Dogma, Mallrats and Chasing Amy. Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith portrayed the comedy duo Jay and Silent Bob. In fact, Kevin Smith also created the two beloved pot dealers.
11) Avon Barksdale – Wood Harris, The Wire
The Wire revolved around the lives of police officers, drug dealers, journalists, government officials and corner kids living in Baltimore. David Simon created the series and it featured an ensemble cast, which included Dominic West, Amy Ryan, Frankie Faison and Michael K. Williams. The series featured several ruthless and terrifying drug dealers but the most well known was Avon Barksdale, which was played by Wood Harris. He was the main drug dealer that the cops had been trying to finally lock up. Avon is the leader of the dangerous and intimidating Barksdale Gang. His second in command was Stringer Bell, played by Iris Elba, who took over operations on the outside when Avon was sent to prison. Stringer Bell is equally as terrifying and intelligent as Avon. Unlike many others on this list, Avon doesn’t go out in a blaze of glory but instead, is incarcerated. However, he still wields a considerable amount of power from his jail cell. The series was critically acclaimed and praised for its realistic depiction of crime in Baltimore and its writing. It aired for five seasons from June 2002, to March 2008.
10) Alien – James Franco, Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers followed four college girls on vacation that befriend a drug dealer, which takes them into a life of crime and drugs. Alien is a local drug dealer and aspiring rapper. He helps the girls out of a jam and leads them into more trouble. James Franco played the role of the ruthless and unique Alien. This is one of two drug dealers portrayed by James Franco, the other being Saul Silver in Pineapple Express. Franco played two very different characters that specialize in two very different drugs. Harmony Korine wrote and directed the film, which was released on March 22nd, 2013. It starred Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine. The film caused a major amount of controversy due to its sexual nature and subject matter. However, the film was met with positive reviews from critics and the cast was also praised for their performance. In particular, James Franco was highly praised for his role as Alien.
9) Frank White – Christopher Walken, King Of New York
King of New York followed recently released drug kingpin Frank White. Frank is violent, ruthless and out to get back what is his. Frank returns to a world that is different than the one he left. He has to fight off his rivals while also staying out of prison. The notorious Frank White takes out his enemies one by one, and seems unstoppable. Although his rivals pose a great threat to him, the greatest threat might be the cops who decide to go rogue to bring him down. However, the police force quickly learns that Frank White will not give up easily. Christopher Walken played the role of the ruthless Frank White to critical acclaim. However, the film was heavily criticized for its violence and drug use. Abel Ferrara directed King Of New York. It was released on September 22, 1990, and starred Laurence Fishburne, David Caruso, Steve Buscemi, Wesley Snipes and Victor Argo.
8) Mr. Smiley – Dave Chappelle, Jim Breuer and Guillermo Diaz, Half Baked
Half Baked followed three stoner best friends who start selling weed under the name Mr. Smiley, in order to bail their stoner best friend out of prison for killing a police horse. Thurgood Jenkins, Brian and Scarface (not that Scarface) realize that they need to make a lot of money fast and turn to their love for cannabis. Mr. Smiley quickly becomes the number one pot dealer, which upsets their competition. However, the three best friends lose sight of why they started selling pot in the first place, which was to bail their friend out. Instead, they spent all their money on other stuff (like a pet dog). Dave Chappelle and Neal Brennan wrote the film and it quickly became a cult hit. It starred Dave Chappelle, Jim Breuer, Guillermo Diaz and Harland Williams. At this point in his career, Chappelle was on the rise and quickly became one of the most talked about comedians.
7) Gustavo “Gus” Fring – Ginacarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad revolved around a former chemistry teacher who rises to the top of the drug world. Walter White was only able to become the boss after taking out the boss before him. Gustavo “Gus” Fring is the owner of the fried chicken restaurant chain, Los Pollos Hermanos. Of course, this is just a front for his far-reaching and powerful drug empire. Gus seems like a mild mannered restaurant owner but he is deadly and violent. To make a point, Gus once brutally slit the throat of one of his top men. Giancarlo Esposito played the role of the ruthless and terrifying Gus Fring to critical acclaim. Giancarlo won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama for his role as Gus. Vince Gilligan created Breaking Bad, and it starred Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn. In addition to being one of the most famous and notorious drug dealers, Gus probably has one of the most famous death scenes in any series. For those that miss Gus, don’t be too sad; it’s been confirmed by Vince Gilligan that Gus Fringe will be appearing in the Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul.
6) Nino Brown – Wesley Snipes, New Jack City
New Jack City revolved around rising drug lord Nino Brown, whose gang is infiltrated by an undercover cop. Nino Brown is one of the most ruthless, selfish and greedy drug dealers in all of film and TV. He will do whatever it takes to rise to the top of the drug world and stay there. He’ll manipulate his friends and loved ones. He’s brutal, violent and has no remorse. Although he is clearly an egomaniac, his crew does organize a turkey drive and he shows some hesitation when dealing with his best friend. Wesley Snipes played the notorious Nino Brown to positive reviews. The film also starred Ice T, Chris Rock and Judd Nelson. Mario Van Peebles directed the film, which was released on March 8th, 1991. New Jack City received positive reviews from the critics. Nino Brown is considered one of the best and most notorious gangster/drug dealers in film.
5) Drexl Spievy – Gary Oldman, True Romance
True Romance followed Clarence and Alabama, who meet, fall in love and get entangled in a violent journey to be together. Alabama is a call girl/prostitute on her first week, hired to run into Clarence at the movies. Clarence is unaware that his friend has hired her and they quickly fall in love. Alabama reveals the truth to Clarence who decides he must tell her pimp that she’s done. This is when we meet the violent, brutal and straight up evil, Drexl Spievy. Drexl is ruthless, fearless and destructive. In Drexl’s world, absolutely nobody tells him what to do. Gary Oldman played the role of Drexl to universal critical acclaim and praise. Tony Scott directed the film, which was written by Quentin Tarantino. It starred Patricia Arquette, Christian Slater, Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper. Gary Oldman is best known for playing James Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series but it was his role as the notorious Drexl that helped make him a star.
4) Saul Silver – James Franco, Pineapple Express
Pineapple Express followed process server Dale Denton, and his pot dealer Saul Silver, who are on the run from criminals after witnessing a murder. Saul Silver isn’t like some of the other drug dealers on the list. He’s not ruthless, he’s not a killer and he’s not mean… he’s a really nice guy. Also, he’s got the best weed around and is the only one in town to have ‘Pineapple Express’. Despite the stereotypes associated with his line of work, Saul is very caring, trustworthy and loyal to his friends. James Franco played the lovable drug dealer Saul Silver to positive reviews. The film also starred Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Gary Cole and Rosie Perez. It was released on August 6th, 2008 to mostly positive reviews. Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen wrote the film with the original plan calling for Seth Rogen to play the role of Saul Silver. It was Judd Apatow who convinced Rogen that the roles should be reversed. Saul Silver will certainly go down in history as one of the nicest drug dealers.
3) Nancy Botwin – Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds
Weeds revolved around Nancy Botwin, a mother of two whose husband suddenly dies. She begins to sell marijuana so she can take care of her sons and provide for them. Nancy Botwin isn’t as ruthless as some of the other dealers but she can be when pushed too far. Don’t let her beautiful looks fool you. Nancy Botwin will do whatever it takes to survive and protect her family. She is also a savy and intelligent businesswoman. Most of her customers were those who lived in her perfect little suburban neighbourhood. She grows a very successful business from the ground up and soon becomes a kingpin of the suburban drug scene. Mary-Louise Parker played the role of Nancy Botwin to critical acclaim. Often her character has been compared to both Tony Soprano and Walter White. Jenji Kohan created Weeds and it ran for eight seasons on Showtime, from August 7th, 2005 to September 16th, 2012. It also starred Elizabeth Perkins, Justin Kirk and Kevin Nealon.
2) Tony Montana – Al Pacino, Scarface
Tony Montana is widely regarded as one of the most ruthless, psychotic and destructive drug dealers of all time in fiction. Scarface followed Cuban criminal Tony Montana as he takes over the Miami underworld. The plot follows Tony on his rise to power and eventual fall. Despite his violent tendencies, Tony has a strict moral code that he follows. He doesn’t hurt women or children and he always keeps his word. Al Pacino starred as Tony Montana and as time has passed, he’s received praise for his role. Brian De Palma directed the film, which was written by Oliver Stone. It was released on December 9th, 1983 and caused a considerable amount of controversy when first released. Critics disliked the film for its violence and course language. However, as time passed, the film became highly regarded as one of the best gangster films. It also starred Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Loggia. Additionally, Tony Montana is one of the most influential gangsters of all time.
1) Walter White – Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad revolved around chemistry teacher Walter White who is diagnosed with cancer. Walter manufactures and distributes meth to prepare his family financially for when he will no longer be around. Eventually, the power and greed is all he cares about and he rises to the top of the drug world. He goes by the alias “Heisenberg”. Bryan Cranston, who received universal praise for his role, played Walter White. He won the Prime Time Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a drama four times. The series was created by Vince Gilligan and also starred Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn and Bob Odenkirk. The series aired for five seasons from January 20th, 2008 to September 29th, 2013. Although Walter is the kingpin, there are several other prominent drug dealers in the series including Jesse Pinkman, Gus Fring and Tuco Salamanca. Regardless, Walter White… sorry… Heisenberg will go down in history as one of the greatest fictional drug dealers.