Drugged! The top 50 trips in movies
by Martin Anderson
It's soooooo green...
n.b. This list is about scenes in movies where the effects of
drug-taking are depicted. Therefore you won't find the likes of 2001:
A Space Oddyssey or Eraserhead here...
50: Bloodsuckers (1970)
Feckless Oxbridge luminary Patrick Mower ends up with a bunch of
drug-taking, daylight-loving vampires on a Greek island. Unless
you're a big fan of Imogen Hassall (not unreasonable), the following
trip/orgy sequence represents the only entertainment to be extracted
from this interminable early 70s Euro-pudding. This sequence was one
of many casualties of an almost random pruning of the film in order
to obtain a broader certification in Europe, though it remains in
many American versions...
49: The 25th Hour (2002)
Anna Paquin enjoys a loaded glide round a swinging nightclub in Spike
Lee's under-regarded love-letter to redemption and to the twin
towers. Though not achieved by the same method, some of these shots
seem to be a tribute to the self-filming 'strap-on camera' technique
developed by Martin Scorsese for Mean Streets...
48: From Hell (2001)
Psychic detective John Abeline uses his opium-induced dreams to find
clues to the identity and whereabouts of Jack The Ripper in this
atmospheric adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie
Campbell. In the first of the sequences John Merrick (the 'Elephant
Man') makes his first big-screen appearance since David Lynch's 1980 biopic.
47: Chopper (2003)
Andrew Dominik's hugely entertaining - and hugely violent - biopic of
Australian hard man 'Chopper' Read features an amusing editing
technique to explain the hyper-aware state engendered by cocaine-use....
46: Superman 3 (1983)
It would be a big mistake to look for much subtext in a movie this
dumb, but the scene in the junkyard where 'Evil Superman' splits off
from Clark Kent and fights him has always struck me as a trippy and
symbolic representation of Supie's inner conflict rather than a
genuine stand-up fight. The drug that's reduced our hero to this is
Richard Pryor's tar-laced synthetic Kryptonite...
45: Bad Lieutenant (1992)
Utterly abandoned to corruption, drugs and booze, Harvey Keitel's
super-conflicted anti-hero is prone to visions, and a moment of great
sorrow in a church brings Christ himself into the picture...
44: Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith strike out of the Clerks universe
into...the world of Scooby Doo. In all but name anyway; the patently
obvious 'mystery machine' that rescues our stranded heroes has the
whole gang inside, even if they are rather more foul-mouthed and
bickering than usual. Mewes spreads the mellowness around with some
rather naughty 'Dooby Snacks', and pretty soon they're all getting
along famously. Then the dog starts talking...
43: Dune (1984)
David Lynch's Eraserhead (1978) isn't in this list because, in spite
of its compelling nightmarish imagery, no drugs are actually taken in
the film. Nor are they in Lynch's The Elephant Man (1980), which
nonetheless refines Eraserhead's bizarre visuals yet further in a
number of dream sequences. In Dune, Lynch builds yet further on the
grotesque and stylised dream-imagery which defined his early career;
the 'Spice Melange' is a potent and rare drug that gives the user
psychic insight and strange powers, and the 'Water Of Life' its most
distilled form - fatal to all men except the prophesied 'Kwisatz
Haderach'. But Paul Atreides (Kyle McLachlan) must try some to find
out if he is that long-awaited man...
42: Things Are Tough All Over (1982)
Arch-tokers Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong have contributed too much
drug-fuelled cinematic lunacy to be allowed more than one entry in
this list. Here they arrive at a posh restaurant having partaken of
certain substances, and find themselves doing as much gender-bending
41: The Acid House (1998)
Irvine Welsh continues to expound on the secret narcotic life of
urban Scotland. The film is vaguely considered to be a descendent of
Trainspotting but did not attract the same acclaim, perhaps partly
because of the anthological nature of the three stories it tells. In
the eponymous segment, Ewen Bremner gets stuck on the magic
roundabout and some typical trip-out SFX...
40: Spiderman (2001)
Some radioactive venom sends Peter Parker on a trip through every
beloved but cheap Sam Raimi trick in the book in the first of the
hugely successful series....
39: Batman Begins (2005)
Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow uses a powerful weaponised hallucinogen to
drive his victims into paroxyms of fear in Christopher Nolan's
warm-up for The Dark Knight...
38: Casino Royale (2006)
Bond gets slipped a nasty and quick-acting poison in Daniel Craig's
entry to the Bond canon and has to resort to some unreliable hi-tech
MI6 jump-starting to keep his heart going. This is exactly the kind
of innovation that managed to make Casino Royale such a stunning Bond
film while keeping to the spirit of the character, traits largely
missing from Quantum Of Solace...
37: Barbarella (1968)
Having discovered 'real' sex in her recent adventures, space-twit
Barbarella is disappointed to find that the promisingly-named Dildano
(David Hemmings) wants to unite with her the more traditional -
chemical - way of the 41st century. Referred to only as 'the pill',
the fictional drug that the pair take in order to share a
psychosexual experience is a clear parody of the birth control drug
that was revolutionising the 1960s, and it certainly looks like a
36: Skidoo (1968)
Otto Preminger's by-the-numbers gangster flick has little to make it
stand out from the crowd apart from one scene where imprisoned
gangster Jackie Gleason drops a little acid in his cell. This is just
about as absurd an example of how button-down America envisioned an
LSD experience as Hollywood has to offer...
35: Training Day (2001)
Ethan Hawke ends up landed with the new-boss-from-hell as the
would-be narcotics cop learning some very bad lessons from
ultra-hard, ultra-corrupt veteran Denzel Washington. Goaded to 'man
up' by sampling the PCP that they are hunting down, Hawke goes green,
as does the cinematography in this rather nauseous sequence. To add
insult to injury, Washington then confesses that he has never tried
anything that lethal himself...
34: The Weird World of LSD (1967)
A purportedly anti-LSD movie that boasts the same hypocritical remit
that let Russ Meyer 'preach and show' in the 1960s, Weird World
attempts to convey the full depth of a series of LSD experiences
entirely in black and white. Since trip-sequences are 75% SFX, this
is not a project you would really want to undertake on a budget as
restricted as this...
33: Hannibal (2001)
An unrecognisable Gary Oldman plays trust-funded sex offender Mason
Verger in Ridley Scott's sequel to Silence Of The Lambs. In this
scene he explains to Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) how Hannibal
Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) used a popper to persuade him to slice his
own face off with a mirror so that our 'hero' could feed it to
Verger's dogs. "It seemed like a good idea at the time..."
32: Starsky & Hutch (2004)
Straight-laced Starsky (Ben Stiller) mistakes a bag of ultra-pure
cocaine for sugar in this affectionate comic re-tread of the 70s
show. Pretty soon his inhibitions are history, and he's dragging
laid-back crooner Hutch (Owen Wilson) to a disco show-down
reminiscent of the 'face-off' in Zoolander...
31: Hanna Barbera anti-drugs spot (1970)
At a time when America's animators were grooving on the psychedelic
vibe (check out Aristocats), there was clearly some disparity between
the anti-drugs remit of whoever commissioned this and the enthusiasm
of the animators involved, who render the film an irresistible
advertisement for LSD. There's even a tussle with some zombies at the end...
30: Spun (2002)
Speed-freak Jason Schwartzman hooks up with 'cook' Mickey Rourke and
king-pin Eric Roberts for this dissolute but energetic tale of
tweakers looking to fill up the hours of their empty lives. Some of
the techniques used to depict being high are a tribute to the rather
basic lens effects of the late 60s and early 70s...
29: Gothic (1986)
Ken Russell was a predictable but apposite choice of director to
bring to life the opium-filled night at Lake Geneva that inspired the
authoress to write Frankenstein. The most memorable trip-imagery from
the film is surely the Dali-esque moment that Myriam Cyr's nipples
turn into eyes...
28: Liquid Sky (1982)
Thrill-seeking aliens land on top of the apartment of a
heroin-addicted New York drug dealer and themselves become
murderously hooked on the human pheromones released during orgasm.
Probably the weirdest set-up of any genre-exploitation film of the
1980s, and the producers didn't spare us any ropey SFX on the trip
27: Reefer Madness (1936)
This most famous of anti-drug propaganda films portrays the effects
of cannabis as including violent psychoses and jumping out of
windows. The grand guignol flavour of this and companion piece Sex
Madness was famously parodied in the post-credits sequence of John
Landis' Amazon Women On The Moon (1983)...
26: Killing Zoe (1994)
Some strobing effects and warped camera effects characterise the
almost-instant descent into heroin and crime experienced by Eric
Stoltz's newcomer in Paris in Roger Avary's near-miss...
25: Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Darren Aronofsky captures the tenderness of his doped-out characters
in some of the psychedelic imagery of this hard-hitting and
ultimately very glum view of drug abuse. Here he uses that most
psychedelic of real-life constructions, a pier (a blocked road that
extends over the ocean but cannot take you anywhere) to signify the
characters' longing to escape the mundanity of existence, and the
impossibiliy of their ever doing so...
24: Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Matt Dillon is the disaffected leader of a nomadic, drug-addicted
clan robbing drugstores to survive and get high in the early 1970s.
The breakthrough film for Gus Van Sant, it features an unlikely cameo
from William S. Burroughs (as a proselytising priest) and some
classically surreal trip-imagery including flying houses, bicycles and cows...
23: Shrooms (2006)
With one of the best taglines ('Get ready to get wasted') and posters
of the year, it's a shame there's so little new ground broken in
Paddy Breathnach's slasher. Lindsey Haun is the cheerleader-level
head of a party of holidaying US students who head to Ireland to
partake of psilocybin but end up being slaughtered in the backwoods.
A lot of the drug imagery is standard J-horror stuff, but one
exceptional scene finds a shroomer having a rather antagonistic
conversation with a cow...
22: The Salton Sea (2002)
D.J. Caruso's tale of detective work among the tweakers of Southern
California has such an inconsistent tone that it ultimately made
little impression. It's alternately as funny and baffling as Memento
and as devoted to outright comedy as Tarantino at the height of his
powers, but unfortunately it doesn't gel as a whole. The arguable gem
of the movie is this early explanation of the history of crystal
meth, and particularly its effect on Japanese kamikaze pilots, bored
housewives and JFK...
21: Saving Grace (2000)
Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole helms Craig Ferguson's tale of a
woman (Brenda Blethyn) who naively turns to peddling cannabis in
order to make a living. At one point she decides that she can't sell
something she has never tried, so it's off to the seaside with Mr.
Ferguson for a quick taster...
20: Bobby (2006)
Emilio Estevez directed and starred in this off-beat story of the day
prior to the assassination of Robert Kennedy. The film dips in and
out of the lives of the various residents at Kennedy's hotel, and at
one point accompanies a couple of his campaign staff on a journey
into LSD-land. Which just goes to show that you should never open a
wardrobe just in your underpants - Nixon might be in there...
19: A Very Brady Sequel (1996)
Up-to-no-good Tim Matheson gets accidentally served with spaghetti
where the sauce has been made out of the psilocybin mushrooms he had
stashed away. The subsequent trip and music video 'Good Morning
Sunshine' is a hoot...
18: Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Vietnam vet Tim Robbins is suffering a more-than-usually nasty case
of PTSS. Having been experimented on with a violence-inducing drug
during his tour, monsters and apparitions can appear in his view at a
17: Young Guns (1988)
Emilio Estevez , Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips lose
their pragmatic attitude to survival when they share some Peyote
round the campfire with a tribal elder. The sound-work is
particularly effective in these scenes...
16: The Doors (1990)
Oliver Stone approached his biopic of the controversial rock band as
a visceral and sensual experience rather than a rote chronology of
events in the life of Jim Morrison. Though not to all critics'
tastes, it's stood the test of time, and the fairly rare psychedelic
SFX are put to good use, as in this scene where Jim Morrison (Val
Kilmer) channels the Serpent out in the desert...
15: Midnight Cowboy (1969) '
I wish I could go back to 1968 and harshly reprimand the Colonel for
not letting Elvis do this movie. Nevertheless, Jon Voigt deservedly
won plaudits and an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the hapless
wannabe gigolo lost in the impersonal cynicism of early 70s New York.
When some passing Warhol-clones dig Voigt's cowboy look, he gets
invited to a psyched-out loft happening among the effete literati of
Manhattan. This sequence is arguably the best of many that attempted
to capture the emotional disassociation of the dying counter-culture
of the late 60s...
14: Trainspotting (1996)
Possibly the most iconic film of the 1990s; writer Irvine Welsh and
director Danny Boyle will bend any visual or narrative rule in order
to make jaws drop, and the 'toilet diving' scene for Ewan McGregor's
lost suppository is one of the most revolting yet strangely beautiful
sequences of surreal cinema. But if anything burns itself ineffably
onto the viewer's subconscious, it will be Renton's bad 'comedown'
and the wall-climbing, head-turning baby...
13: The Trip (1968)
Cult king Roger Corman lost no time exploiting the mania for
psychedlic imagery, and Peter Fonda is the TV commercial director who
finds himself on a trippy rite-of-passage in Hollywood's sunset
strip. To save on costly SFX, Corman used imaginative editing of
shots of the neon and environs of Sunset Strip to simulate the
psychedelic LSD experience.
12: Masque Of The Red Death (1964)
In this classic example of low-gore terror, the devil-worshipping
Morgana (Hazel Court) seeks an early communion with satan in order to
impress her straying lover and master Prince Prospero (Vincent
Price). The devilish potion she drinks brings on a stylised
fantasy-meeting with a series of nightmarish demons. I can't find a
video of this sequence, but at 1m 32s into this trailer, you'll see
some excerpts from it.
11: Naked Lunch (1991)
William S. Burroughs' original novel was considered unfilmable, but
David Cronenberg's attempt to render it is an interesting failure at
worst. When bug-exterminator Peter Weller follows his wife into
addiction to the pesticide he uses, reality begins to fracture and
Weller finds himself in a delusional 'spy world' similar to that of
John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. Talking (literally) assholes and
cockroach/typewriter hybrids aren't things you're going to see in
10: American Beauty (1999)
Kevin Spacey's adoring obsession with Mena Suvari- in Sam Mendes'
tribute to the beauty we fail to notice - combines with his new-found
love of cannabis to produce some of the most beautiful stoned imagery
of the nineties....
9: Easy Rider (1969)
The accidental exposure of some of the film stock explains some of
the psychedelic effects in the New Orleans 'trip' sequence of Dennis
Hopper's ground-breaking counterculture classic. There's a lot of
frantic editing, stock mixing and general abreaction as Hopper,
Fonda, Karen Black and Toni Basil work their way through a painfully
8: Alice in Wonderland (1951)
A lot of the lexicon and iconography of drug culture developed
directly from Lewis Carroll's supposedly innocent fairy tale. A girl
takes a mushroom and finds herself up against talking rabbits? Do us
a favour. In this clip, more appropriate music has been inserted (not
7: Performance (1970)
Donald Cammell's film - now considered a visual milestone for
cinematographer Nick Roeg - segues from Guy Ritchie-style gangland
London to the dissolute abode of fading rock star Mick Jagger, who
passes his days in an abstract intellectual haze with an
under-dressed female retinue. Central gangster figure James Fox
researched the heavy stuff among the mobsters of London, but then
overdid it by actually trying out psychedelic drug Dimethyltryptamine
during production (one of the factors attributed to his subsequent
nervous breakdown and long rest from acting, finally broken with A
Passage To India in 1984). Fox's acid trip is one of the central
scenes of the film, but you'll have to check out the DVD to see it.
Meantime here's an unlikely juxtaposition of hippy rock and hard men
from the movie's oft-changed ending...
6: A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Richard Linklater's rotoscoped adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel
posits a future world where the new hallucinogen Substance D is
over-running the country. Keanu Reeves is about as undercover as a
cop can get in his pursuit of the bad guys, since he wears a
'scramble suit' that totally obfuscates his identity. Trouble is,
he's getting rather fond of Substance D himself, and the entire film
is permeated with psychedelic imagery, courtesy not only of Dick's
writing but the semi-animated stylisation...
5: The Matrix (1999)
Though the blue pill taken by Neo (Keanu Reeves) is merely symbolic,
it's a real drug with very real side-effects and consequences for
him. What's creepy about Neo's 'wake-up' scene is the lag between
taking the pill and the onset of the effects, which are as
frighteningly invasive and irresistible as any more conventional 'bad trip'...
4: Altered States (1981)
Ken Russell restrained his eccentric style for his adaptation of
Paddy Chayefsky's mind-bending novel of chemical atavism. Until the
'trip' sequences. Scientist William Hurt is determined to explore the
recesses of his own mind using chemicals and isolation tanks, but one
of his early dabblings is with Peyote in Mexico, where he undergoes a
truly visionary trip...
3: Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)
Only Terry Gilliam could have done justice to Hunter S. Thompson's
autobiographical tale of debauchery and drug-induced madness whilst
on a reporting mission to the gambling city. The movie is so awash
with drug-induced imagery that you could present almost any section
of it as an example. Here Thompson (Johnny Depp) heads off to a
concert whilst tripping...
2: The Big Lebowski (1998)
There are two major trip-sequences for The Dude (Jeff Bridges) in the
Coen Brothers' cult stoner noir, but the earlier 'flying' sequence is
inspired by a nasty sock on the jaw from Maude Lebowski's goons. The
second rapturous sequence comes to pass when porn-king Jackie
Treehorn (Ben Gazzara) slips the Dude a mickey finn in his White
Russian. Darkness washes over our hero. Darker than a black steer's
tookus on a moonlight prairie night - and soon he's getting his
bowling shoes from Saddam Hussein and participating in a Busby
Berkeley-style 'beaver picture' with Viking Goddess Maude (Julianne Moore)...
1: Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Lipton's Tea indeed! This powerful drugged-dream sequence from Roman
Polanski's horror classic lasts the better part of six minutes, and
is presaged earlier in the film by an ingenious dream interpretation
of an overheard conversation between Mia Farrow's devil-worshipping
neighbours (played by Oscar winner Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer).
John Cassavetes is the unsuccessful actor selling his wife's body to
the devil in return for worldly success...