Psychedelics have influenced art for millennia. Psychedelia refers to works of art — from paintings and sculptures to music and film — inspired by hallucinogenic substances and the altered states of consciousness they produce.
Psychedelic cinema began as part of the 1960s counterculture, and it has stuck around ever since. From the 1968 Beatles film “The Yellow Submarine” to more recent cult animated series such as “Rick and Morty,” psychedelia has had a firm and mind-bending grip on TV for over six decades.
In this article, we’ll look at 12 of the best trippy movies and TV series to watch, both new and old…
1. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Fantastic Mr. Fox was written by Roald Dahl in 1970 and later adapted into an 87-minute-long movie by Wes Anderson in 2009. It’s a whimsical and visually stunning journey portrayed in stop-motion animation, and the vibrant, bizarre characters and surreal world-building make it a psychedelic experience for viewers of all ages.
Wes Anderson is famous for his unique narrative style, eccentricity, and visually stunning films. Fantastic Mr. Fox isn’t as iconic as some of the other “psychedelic” movies on this list, but it deserves a spot for its unusual color palette, unique animation style, and surrealist dialogue.
2. Rick & Morty (2013–Present)
Rick and Morty is a psychedelic sci-fi animated series created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland. This animated series explores the misadventures of an eccentric scientist, Rick, and his good-hearted but easily influenced grandson, Morty.
With its mind-bending sci-fi concepts, dark humor, and surreal dimensions, Rick & Morty is a must-watch for fans of psychedelia. This series is visually stunning and extremely “trippy.” Psychedelic visuals, mind-bending concepts, and paradoxical storylines make this a gripping and visually entertaining series for the sober and intoxicated mind.
3. Adventure Time (2010–2018)
Adventure Time is an animated children’s television series created by Pendleton Ward, but this seemingly innocent show has a much darker backstory. Adventure Time is set in a nuclear wasteland and takes viewers on a journey through the “Land of Ooo,” where a boy named Finn and his magical dog, Jake, encounter bizarre creatures and surreal landscapes.
Adventure Time’s colorful, imaginative world set in a post-apocalyptic future after the “Great Mushroom War” makes it an intriguing watch for those looking for a deep, trippy tale to sink their teeth into.
4. Samsara (2011)
Samsara is a cult classic created by Ron Fricke in 2011. A little different from the average piece of psychedelic fiction, Samsara is a visually breathtaking documentary that explores the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth across various cultures and landscapes.
This wordless film invites its viewers to contemplate the interconnectedness of all existence. Entirely shot in stunning 70mm and backed with an intense and emotionally beautiful soundtrack, Samsara transports you across the globe to sacred grounds, disaster zones, and natural wonders.
This film is often described as the closest representation (perceptually speaking) of psychedelic perception without consuming a mind-altering substance. Whether you watch Samsara intoxicated or sober, it’ll leave you questioning our entire existence.
5. Waking Life (2001)
Created by Richard Linklater and released in 2002, Waking Life is a groundbreaking rotoscoped film that blurs the line between waking life and the dream world.
This animated drama challenges the viewer’s perception of reality by exploring concepts such as life and death, reality and dreams, existentialism, and “the meaning of life.” The protagonist of Waking Life engages in surreal, philosophical conversations with a range of characters, making it a thought-provoking and visually captivating journey from start to finish.
6. Dr. Strange (2016)
Dr. Strange — created by Scott Derrickson and released in 2016 — introduces viewers to the mystical side of the Marvel Universe. With mind-bending visuals, alternate dimensions, and psychedelic imagery, Doctor Strange is a trip into the world of sorcery and spirituality.
Doctor Strange is unlike any other superhero movie out there. A story about a neurosurgeon with a destroyed career (Dr. Strange), the film takes you on a familiar Marvel “world-saving journey.” However, the villainous threats are interdimensional rather than physical…
7. Love Death + Robots (2019–Present)
Love Death and Robots is a Netflix Original series created by Tom Miller and David Fincher. Each episode features a new story by a different director and boasts a variety of different animation techniques, from traditional 2D animation to stop-motion and claymation — all with trippy visuals and utterly strange storylines, many of which don’t include dialogue.
This anthology series explores a wide range of science fiction and fantasy themes. Each episode is a unique and often psychedelic experience, blending cutting-edge animation with thought-provoking storytelling.
Not every episode offers a psychedelic vibe, so here are some of the really “trippy” episodes:
- Beyond the Aquila Rift: Directed by Léon Bérelle, Dominique Boidin, Rémi Kozyra, and Maxime Luère
- Sonnie’s Edge: Directed by Dave Wilson
- Zima Blue: Directed by Robert Valley
- The Witness: Directed by Alberto Mielgo
- Good Hunting: Directed by Oliver Thomas
- Helping Hand: Directed by Jon Yeo
- Lucky 13: Directed by Jon Yeo
- The Secret War: Directed by István Zorkóczy
8. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
This cult classic was created in 1971 by Stanley Kubrick and is an adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel of the same name. It’s a disturbing exploration of violence and free will set in a near-future society.
Anthony Burgess wrote the novel in the early 1960s at a time when experimentation with various substances, including LSD, was taking place in certain cultural and scientific circles. Burgess was supposedly inspired to write the novel after his real-life involvement in a CIA-run mind-control program that many speculate was the infamous “MK-Ultra” experiment.
The story revolves around the protagonist “Alex DeLarge” and his gang of “droogs.” In the dystopian society depicted in the story, the government attempts to control crime through a controversial rehabilitation program that seeks to “cure” criminals — raising questions about the ethics of state control and the right to freedom.
The film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange depicts Anthony Burgess’s story beautifully. Its surreal, dystopian imagery and haunting soundtrack create an unsettling and thought-provoking experience.
9. Yellow Submarine (1968)
The Yellow Submarine is an animated musical journey directed by George Dunning featuring the pioneering psychedelic band “The Beatles.” Filled with psychedelic visuals, iconic Beatles tracks, and an eccentric narrative, the Yellow Submarine captures the spirit of the 1960s counterculture.
Yellow Submarine is known for its vibrant, surreal, and visually striking animation style. The plot revolves around The Beatles’ journey to save the peaceful and colorful “Pepperland” from the music-hating Blue Meanies.
The movie was released during the height of the psychedelic era and counterculture movement and reflects the spirit of the 60s. It captures the peace, love, and exploration of psychedelic-induced altered states of consciousness that characterized that period.
10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
1968 was a good year for psychedelic films. A Space Odyssey — created by Stanley Kubrick — was released less than a month before The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.”
This psychedelic masterpiece takes viewers on a mind-bending journey through human evolution and encounters with extraterrestrial intelligence. Its iconic visuals and enigmatic storyline have made it a classic of psychedelic cinema.
Set in the futuristic landscape of 2001 (yes, 2001), A Space Odyssey offers viewers a cinematic journey that challenges perceptions and invites contemplation. Although the special effects may seem a little weak in modern times, this film’s transcendent and surreal journey through time and space creates a visually stunning and mind-bending experience.
The film is most famous for its climatic sequence, where the astronaut “Dave Bowman” undergoes a transformation beyond the confines of time and space. This scene resonates with the sense of awe and expanded consciousness associated with consuming psychedelics.
11. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — created by Terry Gilliam in 1998 — is based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971).”
The film follows two journalists — Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo — on a trip to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. The film quickly devolves into a wild and hallucinatory adventure fueled by an array of drugs, including LSD, cocaine, and various other substances.
As the main characters navigate the chaotic landscape of Las Vegas, they encounter some utterly bizarre characters and grapple with their own distorted perceptions of reality. Terry Gilliam’s visually arresting style mirrors the disorienting and hallucinatory experiences of Raoul and Dr. Gonzo. The film’s use of exaggerated and distorted visuals amplifies the psychedelic quality of the narrative and makes it a truly “trippy” and gripping watch.
12. Fantastic Planet (1973)
Fantastic Planet — based on the novel “Oms en série” by Stefan Wul (1957) — was created by René Laloux in 1973. It’s a surreal and thought-provoking animated Sci-Fi film set on the distant planet of Ygam, where humans are subjugated by a dominant, giant, blue-skinned alien race known as the “Draags” — sounds pretty trippy, right?
The film follows the story of “Terr” — a human who is taken as a pet by a young alien Draag named “Tiwa.” Terr becomes part of a group of rebellious humans who seek freedom from the oppression of the Draags. The film explores themes of power, oppression, and the struggle for freedom as Terr and the other humans challenge their alien overlords.
The unique art style, philosophical themes, trippy soundtrack, and dreamlike narrative of Fantastic Planet make it a quintessential psychedelic film that has become a cult classic.
13. Inception (2010)
Inception — directed by Christopher Nolan — is a mind-bending thriller that revolves around the concept of entering and manipulating people’s dreams. Dom Cobb — played by Leonardo DiCaprio — is a skilled “extractor” who enters the dreams of his targets to obtain their secrets. The film tells the story of Cobb’s challenging task of planting an idea in a person’s mind by entering their subconscious — this process is known as inception…
Inception’s intricate narrative and psychedelic dreamscapes make it a trippy, visually stunning, and exciting watch. The film explores the depths of the human subconscious, creating a labyrinthine of dreamscapes where reality and illusion blur. The mind-bending scenes and the concept of “a dream within a dream” contribute to its utterly trippy nature.
14. Black Mirror (2011–Present)
Black Mirror — created by Charlie Brooker — is an anthology series comprised of standalone episodes. Each installment tells a unique story that explores the dark side of society, technology, and human nature. The series presents a near-future dystopian world where various episodes tackle themes like surveillance, social media, virtual reality, and the consequences of advanced technology on humanity.
Black Mirror delves into the uncomfortable and nightmarish possibilities of our technological future — some of which seem quite “close to home.” Each episode presents a unique, mentally challenging vision, leaving viewers questioning the potential consequences of their actions in a rapidly changing world.
The mind-bending concepts and often psychedelic visuals of Black Mirror make it a trippy watch. It’s probably best to avoid this series if you’re tripping though — it’s a bit deep and occasionally scary.
15. Altered States (1980)
Altered States — directed by Ken Russell — is a classic 1980s Sci-Fi horror film that tells the story of Dr. Edward Jessup (William Hurt), a scientist who experiments with sensory deprivation tanks and psychoactive substances in an attempt to explore altered states of consciousness. These experiments lead to bizarre and surreal transformations through hallucinatory experiences…
This film’s exploration of altered states of consciousness and the visual effects that accompany these experiences make it a mind-bending, psychedelic watch that leaves the viewer questioning reality. As Dr. Jessup’s sensory deprivation experiments escalate, the film takes viewers on a psychedelic journey through his mind, filled with surreal and visually trippy sequences.
16. Greener Grass (2019)
Greener Grass is a dark comedy film directed by Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe. The film is set in a surreal suburban neighborhood where the residents lead seemingly perfect lives. However, the story takes a bizarre turn as two friends Jill and Lisa (played by the directors), navigate strange social norms and peculiar “psychotic politeness” in a world filled with “fake people.”
This film is utterly absurd. Its otherworldly setting and bizarre character interactions make it a trippy and thought-provoking watch. The narrative is an exploration of societal norms and conformity, all presented with a surreal and deadpan sense of humor. It’s a complex yet simple film that’s worth a watch if you enjoy films with unusual concepts.
17. Maniac (2018)
Maniac is a limited series created by Patrick Somerville. It follows the lives of two strangers, Owen (played by Jonah Hill) and Annie (played by Emma Stone). The two participate in a pharmaceutical trial conducted by “Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech.”
The trial involves a series of mind-bending drug-induced experiences, each uniquely crafted to address the participants’ personal issues as a form of “psychedelic-assisted therapy” (if you can call it that). Maniac is full of surreal and psychedelic sequences, taking viewers through alternate realities, dreamscapes, and hallucinogenic trips.
The film explores the boundaries of reality and delves deep into the psyches of Owen and Annie, creating visually stunning and psychedelic landscapes. This short series (10 episodes) is well worth a watch if you enjoy TV series with psychedelic scenes and mind-bending concepts.
18. Naked Lunch (1991)
Naked Lunch is a surreal adaptation of William S. Burroughs’ novel (1959) by the same name. Directed by David Cronenberg, the film follows the life of William Lee (played by Peter Weller) — an exterminator and drug addict who becomes entangled in a bizarre, nightmarish world of espionage and addiction.
Reality and drug-induced hallucinations blur as William delves into a bizarre world filled with a variety of visual textures.
Naked Lunch is famous for its nightmarish, psychedelic visuals that reflect the chaotic and disjointed writings of William S. Burrough. From scene to scene the feel of the film changes — going from “drab and muted” to “colorful and vibrant” in the blink of an eye. The film explores themes of addiction and control, presenting a surreal and disturbing experience.
19. Enter The Void (2009)
Enter The Void — directed by Gaspar Noé — follows the story of a young drug dealer named Oscar who is shot and killed in Tokyo, Japan. The film explores his journey as a disembodied spirit, witnessing the lives of his friends and sister after his death.
The story is immersive and surreal — exploring the idea of the afterlife and the altered states of consciousness present through life and death…
Enter The Void is a visually intense experience. It offers a continuous, first-person perspective that immerses the viewer in a psychedelic journey filled with bright, neon colors and disorienting visuals.
20. Russian Doll (2019–Present)
Russian Doll is a Netflix Original series created by Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland, and Amy Poehler. The series is centered around Nadia Vulvokov (played by Natasha Lyonne). In the first series, Nadia finds herself trapped in a time loop where she keeps dying — sometimes from the most unlikely of events — and reliving the same night over and over again. Each time she dies, she returns to the same moment at her birthday party.
The second series follows a similar time-oriented theme but sees Nadia traveling back in time to periods that greatly affected her and her family.
Russian Doll is extremely trippy. The exploration of existential themes, time loops, and multiple realities make it a psychedelic experience for the viewer. The repetitive nature of the plots in both series, coupled with philosophical and surreal elements, creates a unique and thought-provoking viewing experience. This is definitely a binge-worthy series for fans of trippy storylines.
21. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a Sci-Fi comedy directed by Garth Jennings. Based on Douglas Adams’ novel of the same name, the film follows the adventures of Arthur Dent (played by Martin Freeman), who is unexpectedly swept off Earth by aliens just before its destruction.
Arthur embarks on a journey through space with an eccentric group of alien and human characters, including Ford Prefect (played by Mos Def) and Zaphod Beeblebrox (played by Sam Rockwell).
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is known for its bizarre and absurd humor as well as its depiction of the nonsensical nature of the universe. This comedic journey through a whimsical intergalactic world is a must-watch for Sci-Fi, comedy, and psychedelic film fans.
22. The Holy Mountain (1973)
The Holy Mountain — directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky — is a surrealist film that follows a Christ-like figure named “The Thief” as he embarks on a journey with a group of eccentric individuals, each representing a planet in the solar system. The story explores themes of spirituality, mysticism, altered states of consciousness, and the search for enlightenment.
The Holy Mountain is full of surreal and symbolic imagery. It’s visually stunning and filled with bizarre, dreamlike sequences that challenge conventional narrative structures, cinematography, and editing.
23. Stranger Things (2016–Present)
Stranger Things is a hit Sci-Fi horror series created by the Duffer Brothers. Set in the 1980s, this multi-season Netflix Original series follows a group of kids in the town of Hawkins, Indiana. The children encounter supernatural forces, government conspiracies, and a dark, mystical parallel dimension known as “the Upside Down.”
The show’s “trippy” nature is a result of its blend of supernatural and science fiction elements, along with its references to 1980s pop culture. The alternate dimension of the Upside Down, supernatural creatures, and the show’s mind-bending chain of events creates a surreal and suspenseful atmosphere.
If you haven’t watched this one yet, set some time aside — it’s gripping for people of all backgrounds, not just those who enjoy a trippy series…
24. Fantasia (1940)
Fantasia is an animated feature film produced by Walt Disney in 1940. It offers a unique blend of classical music and animation, featuring various segments set to different pieces of music — including a scene where a group of Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms uproot and dance… Trippy, right?
This isn’t your “usual” psychedelic film. Fantasia’s innovative and abstract animation sequences that interpret classical music in surreal and imaginative ways make it a great watch for those under the influence of something a little psychedelic.
Unless you’re a huge Disney fan, you’re probably not going to sit down and watch the film from start to finish. However, if you like trippy visuals and classic stop-motion animation, it’s a great movie to put on in the background to set the scene while you’re chilling, tripping, or are lost for what to watch.