Trippin’ at the Movies

These are my favorite trippy flicks.  Either because they are about altered states of consciousness, or because I enjoyed them while tripping, or both.  For me an LSD or shroom session usually lasts 8-12 hours between ingestion and returning to ‘normal’ baseline.  After about 6 or 7 hours I get to a point where even though I’m mentally tired, there is no chance of going to sleep.  This comedown time is also when I tend to start churning through uncomfortable psychic stuff and it helps to have a distraction.  A nice way to get through this transition is to watch a movie.  For the most part these should be colorful, upbeat and not too deep. Animation, documentaries and SciFi/fantasy are usually my favorite.  In my heightened emotional state I get lost in the story and have an abundance of empathy for the characters so anything too weird or heavy can be a bummer.

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick)
It was December 31, 2000.  We stayed home that New Year’s Eve and celebrated with some L.  The local Public TV station was showing Kubrick’s 2001.  I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen this movie, but it was completely new and different in my altered state.  The special effects were amazing given that it was released in 1968.  I imagined that Kubrick made this movie with tripping people in mind.  The final scene, where the guy ages and dies blew me away.  I started having my own ‘god realizations’ at that point and felt like I was dying too.  It was very intense but I wasn’t scared at all. That was probably one of my top experiences ever and for my husband also.  It wasn’t just the movie that triggered it.  It took about three or four months to come down – that was my Kundalini phase. 

Altered States (Ken Russell)
This is an obvious pick. It came out when I was in high school and I think I saw it before I ever tried LSD myself.  William Hurt stars as a research scientist conducting experiments with hallucinogens in an isolation tank.  This was loosely based on John Lilly’s research.  A couple of the scenes are kind of religious fire and brimstone stuff.  I think this may have affected my own trips many years after because a few times when my own trips have gone to hell, I’ve had similar visions – devilish goat heads, human holocausts, firepits, etc.    It’s possible that these are also just common myths and themes pulled from our collective unconscious (a la Joseph Campbell). 

Honorable mention:
Brainstorm (Douglas Trumbull)
Natalie Wood’s last film.  She died before it was complete.  It’s not really psychedelic but it is SciFi about neuroscience.  Christopher Walken stars as a scientist who has invented ways of recording peoples thoughts. His co-researcher (Louise Fletcher) alone in the lab at night has a heart attack and when she realizes she’s dying manages to put the device on her head and record that journey.  They find her dead in the lab the next day – the tape is completely filled.  The question then becomes, what happens if someone views the tape?  What will they see?
Here’s the scene…

Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg)
This film was originally a Kubrick project.  After he died Spielberg took it on.  This is a SciFi movie about a robotic boy who is programmed  so that his prime directive is to get his mother’s love.  Like Pinocchio, he wants to be a real boy – he thinks that will make his mother love him.  His ‘parents’ have a real son who is comatose with some incurable disease.  So they bring home David as their substitute child.  When their real son is miraculously cured there are some conflicts between the boys, and the robot boy gets discarded like yesterday’s trash.  This movie also got a little too intense for me.  I empathize way too much with the character.  I liked the cinematography though. Parts of it had a Blade Runner feel.

City of Lost Children (Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
This is one of my husband’s favorite movies.  We were shrooming for this one.  It’s very surreal, dark humor and a little scary. A mad scientist-type is kidnapping young children and stealing their dreams.  A little girl and a giant man go on a rescue mission after the giant’s little brother is taken by the Cyclops gang. 

Spirited Away (directed by Hayao Miyazaki)
This is a Japanese anime film. It won the 2003 Oscar for ‘Best Animated Feature’. A little girl and her family get lost on the way to their new house in the suburbs and her parents are turned into pigs.  She works at a strange bath house while she tries to figure out how to return her parents to normal and get back to the real world.  There is a scene where a spirit being, vile and covered in filth, comes to get clean.  The little heroine bathes the creature who no one else was willing to touch.  With her kindness and care, the filth and horrors are washed away and a lovely dragon-spirit appears.  That was breathtaking.  Dragons have always been a symbol I identify with. 
This clip isn’t the original music but I like this song. 

More animation:
Waking Life (Richard Linklater)
Coolest animation.  And some great philosophical conversations about the nature of reality and consciousness. 

Honorable mention to Linklater’s more recent offering:
A Scanner Darkly  (Richard Linklater)
It has the same trippy animation, and is definitely about drugs and society but I didn’t like it as much.

American Movie (Chris Smith)
This is a documentary about two loser-ish guys making a low-budget horror movie in Milwaukee, WI.  The main character, Mark Borchardt, is wonderfully earnest about making this movie and acheiving his dream even though his life and family are somewhat dysfunctional.  His odd family and friends all participate in making the movie. They are such great characters you can not believe it is real life.  I never laughed so hard.  “Funniest movie ever!” is one of the comments I saw on YouTube.
This clip starts with a description of one of the main character’s acid trip gone bad. 

Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance (Godfrey Reggio)
This is the first movie I tripped to in college. It’s about Man and the Environment. Great time-lapse and slow-motion photography.  It made me love and appreciate our planet, with some despair thrown in for how man is detstroying the natural beauty and raping it’s resources.  I still haven’t seen the sequels:  Powaqatsi or Naqoyqatsi.  They are probably worth checking out.

A similar type of Enviro-movie
Microcosmos: Le peuple de l’herbe (Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou)
This is a documentary about insects and other life in the micro-level. It is incredible photography, also using time-lapse or slow motion to show the beauty of the little creatures we barely take notice of in ordinary life.  


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  1. What do you like to watch?  Drugs or not, all recommendations welcome. 

    • on October 17, 2007 at 04:43

    Is a strange movie. But, I liked it.

  2. That was a cool one.

    I saw 2001 in the theater in 69, before I had started tripping ….it was a trip!

    You have some I haven’t seen yet, so I have something to look forward to.

    What else….Yellow Submarine of course!

    Forbidden Planet.

    ALL of the Jimi Hendrix movies!

    Rocky Horror

    The Wall, Tommy.

    We once were stuck in Concord for some unknown reason and went to a matinée of Snow White with a theater of suburban 6 year olds and their Moms….while we were in full hippie garb and soaring….THAT was a trip!

    • fatdave on October 17, 2007 at 05:23

    with Dennis Potter stuff. There’s always something coming right at you and ever so visual is our weed. He was a genius and his last interview with Melvin Bragg made me weep.I think you had a movie wersion of this with Robert Downey Jr in the Michael Gambon role. (9 minutes – sorry).

  3. I saw tripping and regretted being high, Sometimes a Great Notion, and whew! Clockwork Orange, both way too intense. Most movies about drugs are stupid although I do like Altered States. I once saw a cartoon called Me and my Arrow tripping and I loved it, Nielson did the music and I still love it without drugs. Any Fellini movie is good on drugs, and Performance was fun. 

    • Turkana on October 17, 2007 at 05:51

    was made for mushrooms.

    head- the monkees movie.

    200 motels.

    the grateful dead movie.

    the empire strikes back- _be_ the force, luke.


    and- oddly enough- apocalypse now.

  4. Ralph Bakshi is a creative genius.

  5. angel heart
    dogday afternoon
    rear window

    and anything with vampires

  6. I just watched Legends of the Fall for the first time in years a few days ago, having some toned down hormones now where Brad Pitt is concerned has made it a much deeper movie for me.  There are like, some issues in the movie that I can spot now.  Speaking of Brad Pitt movies…..A River Runs Through It is awesome.  I just watched Perfume yesterday… that’s a freaky but engrossing movie and I think I might add it to the personal collection because it underscores how little we acknowledge the power of scent. 

    • robodd on October 17, 2007 at 06:25

    with J.Lo.  Surprisingly trippy.  Blade too.  Matrix 1 is an obvious one.

    • pico on October 17, 2007 at 06:40

    I enjoy Waking Life a lot, but on that list…  American Movie, all the way.  Such a warm, bittersweet, uplifting movie.  Argh, it brings back so many great feelings just thinking about it.

  7. City of Lost Children.  Now I’ve seen the clip–and I still don’t know what it’s about.  That looks like one mind-bender.

    American Movie is funny as Hell.  I’ve rented it several times.

    My brother ate three hits of windowpane and went to see The Exorcist when it first came out.  For about six months–every once in a while–he’d turn around real quick; like someone was behind him.  Dumbass.

    • pfiore8 on October 17, 2007 at 14:46

    Pulp Fiction strikes me a bit trippy… so out of time yet such a great construction

    oh and Mary Poppins… gotta be perfect for it!

    great essay OTB!!!

    • RiaD on October 17, 2007 at 15:34

    Made in New Zealand. The guy who did it was listening to Russian Opera while driving thru NZ & thought ‘this should be a movie!’, he goes and gets funding from friends mostly, hires some actors, then writes the story.
      Stunning visuals, a story line that is subtle with madcap antics & strange surreal scenes camoflaging it. I’ve watched it over & over, high & not so. Heartily rec’d.

  8. a real head-trip.

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