10 Psychedelic movies that will alter your perception of reality
Some movies are fun, some movies are emotional, others are beautiful, these 10 movies will change the way you see the world. These 10 psychedelic movies will shake your grasp of reality.
A few words before we begin. This list of psychedelic movies can look different. Each and every one of you would have chosen differently. There can be different themes. This list could have been of a 100 films instead of 10. But we think you can safely say that each movie here does what we were looking for when we set to compile it. Feel free to leave your own thoughts and suggestions in the comments to benefit others of your own experiences.
Directed by The Wachowski Brothers, 1999.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss.
The Wachowski brothers (turned sisters since…) first part of the trilogy, became the unofficial movie of the 90s youngsters generation and we can also say that it has became the unofficial movie of the Goa Trance and Psytrance movement in a way (it was surely sampled the most!). A movie challenging your perception of reality and a true eye opener for many. Because the Matrix is there! All around us. Always. The Matrix exposed the problem. Another Wachowskis’ movie offers the answer to it. It’s also on this list.
A scanner darkly
Directed by Richard Linklater, 2006. Based on a book by Philip K. Dick.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr.
Another film that does justice to the book it was based on. A Scanner Darkly is based on Philip K. Dicks book, and is probably the best adaptation to screen of his books, even if far from being the famous one. It is also made in an amazing technique that as far as we know wasn’t used in any other major film which makes it even more surreal and trippy, and Dick’s writing are as surreal and trippy as it gets in their own right. It is not a fun movie, and like all of his stories it is a melancholic and not very optimistic introspective look into the present and future of the human race. It’s is a movie that explores the boundaries of reality and of psychedelics and from someone who experimented a lot with the subject. Be warned: It is a movie that you leave feeling stoned even if you watch it sober.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Directed by Terry Gilliam, 1998. Based on a book by Hunter S. Thompson.
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro.
The movie version of Hunter S. Thompson’s psychedelic classic book about his road trip across Western America as he and his Samoan lawyer searched desperately for the American dream with the help of a lot of mind altering substances is a rare example of a movie that does a great book justice. Johnny Depp does a wonderful job as Thompson, a true legendary character, and there are times when you just feel that reality melts around you while watching. Beyond that the film also supplies a real introspective and critical look on the 60s and its psychedelic culture, though many viewers tend to miss that.
Enter the Void
Directed by Gaspar Noé, 2009.
Starring: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta
Gaspar Noé’s frightening, hallucinatory masterpiece is loosely based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Shot as one continuous take through the eyes of the hero, a low-level Tokyo drug dealer, the film is a journey through the Bardo experience. It’s a sensory overload of bright lights and neon colors, with vertigo soundscapes, and unreal visual effects. A real trip in through the mind that transports you into a hallucinatory world of life, death, and what is between them.
The Holy Mountain
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973.
Starring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Horacio Salinas, Zamira Saunders.
Every psychedelic film list that respects itself will have Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain in it. A true cult movie, and a real trippy experience, The Holy Mountain demands to be viewed again and again and yet seems to make less and less sense each time. It supplies an experience that is whole and yet beyond the rational, very much like a drug induced trip. The film uses entrancing music, a lot of symbolism and mysticism and amazing visual aesthetics to create an alternate reality and immerse you in it.
Directed by Ken Russel, 1980. Based on a book by Paddy Chayefsky.
Ken Russell’s venture into the field of science fiction genre centers around the mystical experiences of a psychologist experimenting with psychedelic drugs and sensory deprivation which lead him to slowly degenerate down the ladder of evolution. The surreal imagery and suspense during the transformations that the psychologist undergoes totally blends the imaginary and the real making you lose your hold on reality. This movie will make you think. Also about what connects us all.
Directed by the Wachowski brothers & Tom Tykwer, 2012. Based on a book by David Mitchell.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant.
The Wachowskis (here as brother and sister) second visit in our list is for us the real sequel to the “problem” exposed by The Matrix, much more than the two official sequels to the movie. We’ll leave it to you to think what is the answer that we see in it. The answer is always more complex than the problem, and Cloud Atlas is not an easy film, it’s long, it’s confusing and you’re never really sure what is happening even in the second time you watch it. And very quickly you realize you’ll have to watch it a second time, and during the second time you realize that it won’t be enough. Maybe it will never be enough. Cloud Atlas is a very ambitious film, one of the most ambitious ever made, and does things never done on film before. It will leave you confused. But thinking.
Kin Dza Dza
Directed by: Georgiy Daneliya.
Starring: Stanislav Lyubshin, Evgeniy Leonov, Yuriy Yakovlev.
This Russian cult movie is a true must watch, and an added benefit is that it will make you friends instantly whenever you mention you watched it to ex-USSR born psychedelia lovers. While every Russian will tell you that a lot is lost when you do not speak Russian and aware of the complexities of Soviet times, Kin Dza Dza has a deep universal message and leaves you with a lot to think about, with it’s minimalism and surreal atmosphere. The aesthetics and design here show you don’t really need special effects to create an out of this world atmosphere and it is rivaled in that aspect only by David Lynch’s Dune. There’s no other movie like Kin Dza Dza. Ku!
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 1984.
This list must include a Miyazaki film. Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle are legitimate choices as well, but we decided to go with Nausicaä because of its message and because it is less known than the other two. Like all of Miyazaki’s films it shakes your perception in the way it manages to be both very of this world yet different. That gap is what enables Miyazaki to make us think. And all that is done in a very un-hollywood way, in a world that is not a dichotomic black and white, good and bad, but acknowledges the whole wide spectrum of human behaviour. As such the insights it offers are real and a lot can be learned of them. Miyazaki’s unreal and totally whole animation makes it into a complete sensory wonder.
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Sean Patrick Thomas.
One can think of at least two other Aronofsky films that can be on this list (Pi & Requiem for a Dream). The Fountain weaves three stories, from the past, present, and future about men in pursuit of eternity with their love and eternal life. The stories intersect and parallel and thus gain extra dimensions. While the film talks about eternal life, it is actually a film about the human inevitable failing struggle with death. Like all films chosen here, this film is about what it leaves in your mind, not just about what you see.