20 Best Trippy Movies of All Time
Trippy movies aren’t just films you watch when you are high on weed or shrooms. They are psychedelic movies that can be just as gripping and mind-bending when you are stone-cold sober. These films can be visually arresting or have detailed plots that deal with subjects outside the norm. They cover all genres, from science fiction to horror, and can be big-budget epics or independent thrillers.
Many trippy films will also have you asking questions about your own reality and trying to decipher what is real and what isn’t. Should you take the red pill or the blue pill?
Whether you want your mind blown by a film starring Jake Gyllenhal and a talking rabbit or a Terry Gillian masterpiece, these 20 trippy movies are sure to sizzle your brain.
20 Best Trippy Movies of All Time
1. Enter the Void (2009)
This movie is a visual marvel. Set in the fluorescent-drenched streets of Tokyo, it follows the spirit of an American drug dealer who is killed. Instead of dying, Oscar’s spirit remains on earth and he is able to view events as they unfold. The psychedelic melodrama also features shots of Oscar floating in the sky and lots of vibrant visuals and lighting. Much of the imagery for Gaspar Noe’s film is inspired by psychedelic drug experiences. Although a box office failure, Enter the Void was well received critically and certainly worth your time.
2. Donnie Darko (2001)
20 years later and Donnie Darko still leaves me puzzled. Richard Kelly’s yet bettered debut is a wild ride about Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), a troubled teen who dreams about a rabbit, Frank, who informs him the world is going to end. This one has a bit of everything – time travel, horror elements, a great soundtrack, and Patrick Swayze as a creepy motivational speaker.
Not only is the story warped (but also engaging), but Donnie Darko is shot exceptionally well for a guy directing his first film. The cast is also top-notch, with Gyllenhall and Swayze joined by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, and Seth Rogan. Watch this one stoned and you’ll be in a daze for days.
3. The Trip (1967)
This film is like experiencing an acid trip without actually taking any LSD. The great Peter Fonda is left heartbroken after getting divorced from his cheating wife. He decides to drop a tab of acid to cheer himself up and goes on an all-night adventure through seedy LA. During the trip, he encounters several people who try and help guide him, including Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, and Salli Sachse.
What really makes this film trippy is Roger Corman’s editing. The ‘Pope of Pop Cinema’ uses photographic effects and colorful lighting and includes several strange fantasy scenes, with one even featuring a little person riding a merry-go-round for no apparent reason.
4. Brazil (1985)
Monty Python alumni Terry Gilliam is known for his weird and wonderful films, and Brazil is no exception. It’s a dystopian comedy about a bored bureaucrat who finds himself on the run from authorities while trying to find a woman from his dreams. Sounds strange right? Well, the visuals are just as head-scratching, with Gilliam shooting on a wide-angled lens and crafting some truly unique set designs.
Brazil is another trippy epic that features a big-name cast, with Jonathan Price, Katherine Helmond, Robert De Niro, Bob Hoskins, and Ian Holm all starring.
5. Inception (2010)
Inception seems to make just about every movie list written on this website. Arguably the crown in Christopher Nolan’s multi-layered filmography cap, it’s a real head-turner.
Leonardo DiCaprio is an extractor, hired to dive into people’s dreams and draw out their deepest thoughts. He is hired to perform a three-layered dream that leads to all sorts of problems for his team.
At times confusing, Inception is still relatively easy to follow. While it might not be as trippy visually, plot-wise it is an interesting idea from Nolan that he executes tremendously. The open-ended finale is also a nice touch.
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6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Your brain might melt while watching this trippy movie by Stanley Kubrick. A group of astronauts onboard Discovery One, which is run by the AI Hal, head into space to discover more about a mysterious monolith that’s appeared on the lunar surface.
This science-fiction classic is visually arresting (the iconic Stargate scene is mesmerizing) and some of the cinematography is just remarkable. The plot is also challenging with themes of life, death, and the outcome of the human race all covered. 2001: A Space Odyssey is an absolutely iconic movie that’s well worth your time.
7. Blue Velvet (1986)
You could put any number of David Lynch films on this list. I’ve gone with my personal favorite Blue Velvet. While it might not be as visually stunning as some of the other movies discussed, there are certain parts of this movie that stimulate the brain in other ways. Just remembering the scenes with Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth sucking gas from a canister is enough to give me the chills. It’s these types of scenes that add to the trippy nature of this cult classic and add to the mystique of Lynch. The fact that it doesn’t make a lot of sense also helps.
8. Fight Club (1999)
Coming in thick and fast with a spoiler alert straight off the bat with this one. Although if you haven’t seen Fight Club yet, you probably deserve to have the ending spoiled. The reveal that Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are the same person is as shocking and trippy as it gets.
Before that happens, the two meet and form a fight club where men beat the crap out of each other. While Norton is trying to discover who he is, Pitt is leading a terrorist group called Project Mayhem, which is about disrupting the commercialized society.
There is a lot to take in with this film, with the dark themes and fantastic acting from the two leads (along with Helena Botham Carter, Jared Leto, and Meatloaf) helping create a trippy thriller unlike anything you have seen before.
9. Mind Games (2004)
The first animated film to appear on this list is also one of the trippiest. This anime details the story of Nishi, a 20-year-old loser who gets shot defending the girl of his dreams. He somehow manages to find himself back on earth and teams with his crush and sister to get revenge on the Yakuza who killed him.
Unlike most anime, Mind Games features many different styles throughout, creating an ever-changing visual experience. It is the sort of film that you want to watch while smoking a spliff.
10. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Before Captain Jack Sparrow and lawsuits against ex-wife Amber Heard, Johnny Depp was considered a fine actor. He puts all his weirdness on display in this adaptation of Hunter S Thompon’s novel of the same name.
He and Benicio del Toro set out on a drug-fuelled road trip to Las Vegas where they encounter a series of interesting characters and are involved in a series of hilarious events. As well as the story being off the wall, visually Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas really captures what it’s like to be high on LSD in the middle of the desert.
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11. Being John Malkovich (1999)
How’s this for the premise of a film: a man (John Cusack) discovers a doorway that leads him into the mind of acting great John Malkovich. What follows is a strange romance between Cusack, his wife Cameron Diaz, and his co-worker Catherine Keener, much of it playing out when one of the characters is inside Malkovich’s mind. Genius!
It’s weird, creepy, and downright strange, but Being John Malkovich is also incredibly funny and poignant. Spike Jonze’s cinematic directing debut is a mind bender, with Jonze yet to release a clunker, while Charlie Kaufman must also be acknowledged for his crazy script.
12. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Another Charlie Kaufman movie, this time directed by Michael Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will have you re-evaluating your relationships when the credits roll. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are two former lovers who have their memories erased. The film uses lots of flashbacks and vivid imagery that explores the nature of love and relationships. Both Carrey and Winslet are sensational and bring vulnerability to both their characters, while the ensemble cast featuring Paul Rudd, Kirstin Dunst, Elijah Wood, and Mark Ruffalo is fantastic.
13. Waking Life (2001)
Richard Linklater’s Waking Life is one trippy movie. It’s an animated feature addressing all the big questions, such as what is free will and what is the meaning of life? The movie follows a man wandering through a dream where he meets various characters and tries to understand the world around him.
This is another film that will have you thinking about what you saw long after it’s ended. It raises lots of psychological questions and issues about life and death. The animation also adds to the concepts in the film and helps bring them to life in a dazzling way.
14. El Topo (1970)
Written, scored, directed, and starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, El Topo is one bizarre film. Described as an avant-garde Western, the plot doesn’t make a heap of sense and involves everything from shootouts and little people to religious iconography and nudity.
It caused quite a split amongst critics, with some loving it visually, thanks to its trippy, drug-fuelled cinematography, while others had no time for the confusing plot or the controversial rape scene. Whatever the critic’s thoughts, it is a must watch for movie fans after a truly trippy experience.
15. Naked Lunch (1991)
Based on William S. Burrough’s novel of the same name, this cult flick is one hell of a visual trip. This adaptation of Naked Lunch comes from the mind of David Cronenberg, so you know it is going to be ultra strange. While the plot revolves around an exterminator who gets high on the insecticide he uses and begins to believe he is a secret agent who must kill his wife, it’s the visual aspect that really makes you shake your head in awe.
This one has lots of surreal imagery and is littered with giant beetles and strange creatures that the exterminator thinks he sees. While it might not be one of his most well known movies, this is certainly up there with Cronenberg’s strangest.
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16. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
If you know anything about Philip K. Dick, you will understand why this film makes the list. The seminal science fiction writer was a prolific author whose work often looked at the unknown, alternate realities, authoritarian governments, human nature, and many other similar themes.
A Scanner Darkly is based on the book of the same name and is about a drug epidemic in a police-run dystopian future. While the plot is out there, it’s visually where this film shines. It was shot digitally with real actors and then these images were drawn over by animators, giving it a very unique look. This is another trippy film with a sensational cast, with the likes of Keanu Reeves, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, and Robert Downey Jr. all featuring.
17. Black Swan (2010)
Darren Aronofsky is another director who could have a couple of films on this list, but Black Swan is the one that immediately jumps out. Natalie Portman plays a ballerina who is cast as the lead in a performance of Swan Lake. When she discovers she has a rival for the role, played by Mia Kunis, she beings a descent into madness as the pressure builds and she starts hallucinating and seeing her doppelganger.
The ballet sequences in this film are mesmerizing and the two leads really pull you into the story. Aronofsky plays with your mental state as you being to wonder what’s real and what’s not, just like Portman’s character.
18. Holy Mountain (1973)
This Alejandro Jodorowsky movie that makes even less sense than El Topo. Once again, Jodorowsky does it all, writing, producing, scoring, directing, and starring in The Holy Mountain. At its core, the film can be said to address man’s pursuit of greatness and ease at being corrupted. It’s about understanding the joy you can find in the small pleasures in life. But all this is warped up in a psychedelic adventure featuring nuns, an alchemist, the solar system, and the breaking of the fourth wall.
It’s a lot to take in and at times doesn’t make heaps of sense, but Jodorowsky’s knack for eye-popping visuals and his distinct style make it an entertaining, yet bizarre watch.
19. Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
Beyond the Black Rainbow feels like it was made in the 60s. Heavily influenced by films of that period (particularly 2001: A Space Odyssey), this horror thriller is full of striking imagery and vibrant hues.
Writer/director Panos Cosmatos’ first feature is about a young woman patient with telepathic powers who is being kept at the New Age research facility of the Arboria Institute. Here she is subjected to a variety of tests to find the extent of her abilities by an evil doctor who doesn’t want her released.
It’s gripping both from a narrative and cinematic standpoint and will have you hanging onto the edge of your seat until the climax.
20. Memento (2000)
Here is another brain burner from Christopher Nolan. Memento is his debut film about a man who can’t retain his short-term memory after a traumatic experience. He uses polaroid photos and tattoos on his body to remind himself who he is every morning while going about his days trying to find the man who killed his wife.
The non-linear narrative makes this one even harder to follow, although the use of black and white footage is meant to help you understand when events are taking place. Either way, this is a wonderfully trippy film that turned Guy Pearce into a star and showed the early genius of Nolan.
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