Top 10 Movies With Hallucination Scenes, Ranked


Filmmakers employ a host of techniques to bring the viewer deeper inside their characters’ minds and make them more fully realized. We come to understand these fictionalized individuals based on their how they act and what they say in any given circumstance. Further understanding can be gained through flashbacks and flash-forwards, dream sequences, inner monologues, camera tricks, the use of special effects, and more. Perhaps one of the most interesting techniques for getting inside a character’s mind, is the use of the hallucination.

These experiences, when represented in film, allow for a look inside the mind of the character that is unrestricted by the laws of reality or sense. They often offer symbolic meaning of the character’s deepest traits in addition to providing interesting and strange on-screen moments that likely would not be possible without their implementation. Hallucinations have been a part of the human experiences for thousands of years, and can spawn from any number of things: sleep deprivation, brain damage, the consumption of drugs, near-death experiences, etc. are all very possible sources that happen frequently in real life, and watching their depiction on screen can be exciting and, at times, terrifying. From psychological thriller movies to dramas and comedies, check out this list of 10 of the best films featuring hallucinations.

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10 Easy Rider


easy-rider
Columbia Pictures

Easy Rider portrays the attitudes and tribulations of the 60s counter culture through a cross-country tip from Los Angeles to New Orleans. The main characters, Billy and Wyatt, played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, respectively, as well as their motorcycles have become recognizable pieces of pop culture history. Near the end of the film, after the two have reached their destination, they indulge in an acid experience. The sequence showcases great experimental techniques in cinematography and editing, as the men and their dates wander New Orleans during Marty Gras. Color overlays, fisheye lenses, unsteady camera work, and jarring edits work alongside an overwhelming soundtrack to create a tense and unnerving trip.

9 Videodrome


videodrome
Canadian Film Development Corporation

In Videodrome, Max Renn works at a television station and specializes in sensationalist media. He stumbles upon a broadcast of violent pornography and attempts to get to the bottom of its source. In doing so, he opens up a vast mind control conspiracy, and puts his own cognition in danger. The hallucinations in this film are truly strange. Arguably one of David Cronenber’s best movies, the film is considered science fiction, and more specifically, body horror. This simply means that grotesque things happen to characters’ bodies. We see Max hallucinate all kinds of horrible things, such as sticking a gun into his open abdomen, or spiky horns and growths protruding from his hands and arms. The environment also reacts this way, bulging, moving, and transforming into frightening creatures. The film is unique and disturbing, and provides a fun glimpse at the practical effects of the 1980s. Also, Blondie singer Debbie Harry stars in the movie.


8 Altered States


altered-states
Warner Bros.

The story in Altered States follows Edward Jessup, a psychopathologist, who, through his studies of schizophrenia, comes to the understanding that extrasensory experiences are just as real as, well, “real ones.” He embarks on a journey to experience a shared hallucination with a tribe in Mexico, and then moves on to taking psychedelic substances such as Ketamine, Mescaline, and LSD in a sensory deprivation tank, causing him to see innumerable, intense hallucinations that make him question his own reality and mind, and even transform his body.

7 The Trip


the-trip
MGM

The Tripinterestingly enough, written by Oscar winner Jack Nicholson, follows a young man, Paul Groves, again played by Peter Fonda, as he experiences a guided LSD trip with a professional psychologist. We are with Paul for the entirety of the trip, and watch as he comes to understand his own mind through cryptic visions and experiences brought about by this drug. The practical effects in this film are awesome, geometric patterns are created with rotating lights, and grand hallucinations are built ingeniously on a sound stage to replicate the experience of this substance.


6 The Big Lebowski


the-big-lebowske
Working Title Films

The other films mentioned on this list deal heavily with hallucinations for much of their runtime. The Big Lebowski offers just one, but it is a joy to watch. The Dude, after being knocked unconscious, finds himself dancing and floating through a vast cosmic space outfitted with bowling imagery and beautiful girls to the tune of “Just Dropped In” by Kenny Rogers. It’s a lighthearted and fun take on the hallucination that is spectacularly designed and choreographed.

5 Fight Club


fight-club
20th Century Studios

This widely celebrated and often critiqued film is unique in that one of its most central character turns out to be a hallucination itself. In Fight Club, Tyler Durden functions as the alter ego of the main character, known only as The Narrator. He represents The Narrator’s deepest desires, and is uninhibited by common decency or reliance on the structure of society. Fueled by insomnia, monotony, and discontent, The Narrator lives as both himself and Tyler as he engages in a series of increasingly widespread and dangerous activities, many without his actual knowledge. Durden, as the alter ego, works against his removal from The Narrator’s brain, but is ultimately outed when The Narrator attempts to kill himself. This is a unique take on the hallucination and has created one of the more recognizable characters in movie history – quite impressive for a figment of the imagination.

Related: These Scenes Have Some Of The Best Needle Drops Of All Time

4 Jacob’s Ladder


jacobs-ladder
TriStar Pictures

Jacob’s Ladder follows the eponymous Jacob, who, without his knowledge, was dosed with an experimental combat drug during the Vietnam War. He and his squad committed atrocities so intense on this drug, that they have no recollection of ever doing so. Jacob, though, is stricken with horrible nightmares and delusions of human annihilation so forceful that he believes them to be real. Entire rooms, hallways, even buildings, can turn into a hellscape of blood and danger in a split second.

3 Enter the Void


enter-the-void
Wild Bunch

Enter the Void is interesting because, to a certain extent, the whole thing is a hallucination. For much of the beginning, the main character, Oscar, is experiencing intense hallucinations brought about by DMT and other potent psychedelic chemicals. We see and understand his life through these nonlinear hallucinations. Oscar is shot and killed shortly into the film and then experiences the subsequent events through an out-of-body experience. The visuals in this movie are beautiful, painful, and downright intense. The piece has been deemed a psychedelic melodrama.


2 Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas


fear-and-loathing-in-las-vegas
Universal Pictures

No list including hallucinations would be complete without this masterpiece. The quintessential drug movie, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has fascinated viewers since its release 1998, and long before in its first iteration as a book. The hallucinations in this film are outlandish and crazy, even cartoonish at certain points, making use of both practical and digital effects. They do an excellent job of portraying the intense paranoia that can sometimes accompany the ingestion of multiple substances. Perhaps the funniest and zaniest of these hallucinations occur as Raoul Duke attempts to check into the hotel. The receptionists face twists and bends and expands, after narrowly checking into the establishment, he turns away to see everyone in the hotel lobby has become a reptilian humanoid, and the elaborate carpeted floor comes alive as constantly moving plants.


1 Mandy


mandy
SpectreVision

Mandy offers some of the best effects for hallucinations ever demonstrated on screen. Tiny fractals so intricate and amorphous that they do not even seem as though they could be synthetically created are present throughout much of the film. The landscape too, is heavily saturated in psychedelia. The film offers many distinct moments of hallucination. One of particular note is when Mandy is being coerced to join a cult through the consumption of massive amounts of strange psychedelic compounds. Her face morphs in and out of the cult leaders face over and over, displaying all kinds of emotions the two battle for her mind. The movie is greatly enhanced by the all-in efforts of Nicolas Cage, who also ingests a tiny portion of an unknown mixture of compounds and sees his own body ripped apart and meshed with the universe, as a massive tiger awakens and howls at the dramatized night sky. The hallucinations here are disturbing yet beautiful, often at the same time.



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