Movies have the magical ability to take audiences to the moon, any country in the world, or any time in history. They can also make you feel like you're on drugs. Directors use techniques like distorted images, trippy music, psychedelic colors, and complex, layered montage to achieve a stoned effect. Here are 20 movies that feel like you're on drugs when you watch them.
Some films that feel like a drug trip are straight-up stoner movies. No one is going to wax poetic after viewing Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke, but you may get contact high. Others, like Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, pose existential (aka stoner talk) questions about the mysteries of life. There are movies like Enter the Void, which was inspired by mind-altering substances and uses psychedelic imagery to make audiences feel like they're on DMT. Finally, there are a few films on this list that are really confusing mindf*cks that don’t involve drug use at all.
Movies where you feel high have been around since the early part of the 20th Century. Why do you think there are muchkins in The Wizard Oz? Check out that childhood classic and all the other movies that seem like a drug trip. Then, let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Terry Gilliam's 1998 adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's literary classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas takes spectators on a psychedelic road trip to find the American dream. It's well-known Thompson indulged in large amounts of alcohol and drugs while writing his acclaimed novel. Gilliam was able to successfully translate Thompson's words with distorted, often animated hallucination-filled imagery. Want to get a sense of what an acid trip is like? Let Gilliam show you the way.
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Enter the Void is perhaps Argentine writer/director's Gaspar Noé's most well-known movie (his second film, Irreversible, may be as infamous as Enter the Void is famous). The first person narrative takes place in electric, psychedelic, seedy nightclubs of Tokyo, and the story is told from the point of view of Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), a drug dealer and user who is shot by the police. But that's not where his story ends; Oscar floats out of his body, spirit moving from place to place, dropping in on friends and family.
Enter the Void is a three-hour visual exploration of what it's like to take everything from cocaine to ecstasy to LSD. It's also philosophical, sex-filled, and way, way deep. To quote Noé on the origins of his ideas for the film:
One day, in my 20s, I... had done too many mushrooms. I turned on the TV as I was coming down, and it was showing Lady in the Lake, the Robert Montgomery film noir that’s filmed entirely through the character’s eyes. I wasn’t so much hallucinating at that point, but I thought it would be great to make a movie like this and add all the experiences I had... on mushrooms — telepathic perception, strange colors around people, the sense of floating.
Plenty of films make taking drugs seem glamorous and fun. Trainspotting is not one of them. It's raw and real. The story follows a group of low-income young men in and around Edinburgh, Scotland as they shoot heroin, get in fights, commit crimes, get blind drunk, dabble in speed and weed, and otherwise waste their lives. The film covers many years, and looks at the social and economic conditions that led to a drug epidemic and a potentially wasted, forgotten generation.
A lot of Trainspotting is breezy and hilarious, despite unflinching depictions of the horror of withdrawal and the struggle to get clean. Danny Boyle's film pulls no punches in its depiction of hte realities of hard drug addiction. There are dead babies, overdoses, AIDS, and bloody beatings (to reiterate, it's breezy and hilarious). You may have to watch the film a dozen times to understand what the characters are saying with their thick Scottish accents, but it doesn't really matter, the images say it all.
Stanley Kubrick's epic 2001: A Space Odyssey moves at a slow pace, often with long stretches of no dialogue, giving viewers time to let the visuals and themes percolate. Kubrick needed the film to appear as futuristic as possible; so futuristic in fact, he wanted the technology portrayed to be ahead of what NASA was doing. One of the trippiest sequences in the sci-fi classic is the famous Stargate scene, with its colored lights and ground breaking visual effects, which won the film an Oscar for Best Effects. You won't know exactly why the Stargate scene is there or what it means, but you'll enjoy the light show nonetheless, and it may even make you question the great mysteries of the universe.