Elizabeth Banks' Cocaine Bear might already be the most insane movie of 2023, and it's based on a true story

Cocaine Bear is the new movie from Elizabeth Banks, and yes, it's about a bear that does cocaine

Elizabeth Banks' Cocaine Bear is already a hit with fans online who cannot get enough of the trailer
(Image credit: Emma McIntyre/WireImage)

We are in the last month of 2022 but it seems like there’s already a contender for the most bizarre movie of 2023.

Cocaine Bear (yes, that’s really the title) might have some cinemagoers looking back on Snakes on a Plane as a subtle masterpiece.

While the comedy-horror looks utterly bonkers, there are two things to bear in mind (pun not intended) – it’s actually based on a true story, and there’s some social commentary involved.

Before we touch on the stranger-than-fiction true story elements, the social commentary comes from the director herself, Elizabeth Banks.

The Hunger Games and Pitch Perfect actress has previously directed the Charlie’s Angels reboot, and she wanted to turn the story of a bear ingesting cocaine into a movie about the infamous war on drugs throughout the 1980s.

During a sneak peek of the movie, Elizabeth Banks told Empire magazine, “After learning of the true story and reading the script [by Jimmy Warden], I felt like we should make a movie that is the bear’s revenge story, so that’s what this is."

Cocaine Bear is out in February 2023

(Image credit: Universal)

Now. Just how true is the story? Let’s just say there’s been some artistic liberties taken.

While the trailer shows the bear going on a drug-fuelled rampage, climbing trees, stalking its victims like a slasher movie killer and hunting down drug lords, this isn’t quite what happened. 

The actual story of the cocaine bear is far less outlandish than anything witnessed in the trailer, and is perhaps a little sadder than expected. 

Sometime in November of 1985, a black bear living in the Chattahoochee National Forest in north Georgia came upon a duffel bag containing approximately 75 pounds of 95 percent pure cocaine.

The bear ended up ingesting some of the cocaine… and sadly died within about 20 minutes. 

The chief medical examiner at the Georgia State Crime Lab later estimated the bear had absorbed about 3 or 4 grams of cocaine into its bloodstream at the time of its death. Animal health experts predict the bear would've sadly died in a lot of pain. Not the sort of flick that would get people rushing back to the movies.

Cocaine Bear is one of the last roles of the late Ray Liotta

(Image credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

The cocaine itself was expected to have been abandoned by convicted drug smuggler Andrew Thornton.

The unfortunate plight of the cocaine bear ended with it being taxidermized. It spent the following years getting passed around different owners, one of whom was reportedly singer Waylon Jennings.

If you are so inspired to see the real cocaine bear, it’s now at the Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington, Kentucky.

The movie stars The Americans actor Keri Russell, Margo Martindale, Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr, and Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

It will also feature the late Ray Liotta in one of his final ever roles.

Cocaine Bear will be released in theaters on February 24, 2023, by Universal Pictures.

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.