Roobbie Keeling

Roobbie Keeling

Modified & Updated: 04 Mar 2024


If you’re a fan of mind-bending movies that explore the depths of human consciousness and push the boundaries of reality, then “Altered States” is a film that should definitely be on your radar. Directed by Ken Russell and released in 1980, this psychedelic science fiction thriller has captivated audiences for decades with its innovative storytelling and thought-provoking themes. Set against the backdrop of scientific experimentation and hallucinatory experiences, “Altered States” takes viewers on a mesmerizing journey through the mind of its protagonist, Dr. Edward Jessup, played by the brilliant actor William Hurt. In this article, we will dive deep into the secrets of this cult classic and uncover 39 fascinating facts about the movie that will leave you eager to watch it again or experience it for the first time. So, get ready to embark on an exploration of altered states of consciousness as we delve into the intriguing world of this mind-bending cinematic masterpiece.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Altered States” is a mind-bending sci-fi horror film that explores the dark side of human consciousness and the consequences of pushing the boundaries of science, with groundbreaking visual effects and a thought-provoking storyline.
  • The movie’s intense and thought-provoking narrative, along with its unique blend of horror, science fiction, and psychological exploration, has earned it a cult following and continues to influence filmmakers exploring altered consciousness.
Table of Contents

Altered States is a sci-fi horror film.

Released in 1980, the movie was directed by Ken Russell.

The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Paddy Chayefsky.

Chayefsky also wrote the screenplay for the film.

The protagonist of the movie is Dr. Edward Jessup, played by William Hurt.

Dr. Jessup is a scientist studying altered states of consciousness.

Altered States explores themes of identity, isolation, and human evolution.

The movie delves into the psychological and physical transformation of its characters.

The film’s visual effects were groundbreaking for its time.

It used intricate makeup and special effects to portray the characters’ physical transformations.

The psychedelic sequences in the film were achieved through experimental filming techniques.

These sequences immerse the audience in the characters’ altered states of mind.

Altered States was praised for its intense and thought-provoking storyline.

The movie explores the dark side of human consciousness and the consequences of pushing the boundaries of science.

The film’s musical score was composed by John Corigliano and received critical acclaim.

The score perfectly captures the eerie and atmospheric tone of the movie.

Altered States was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Sound and Best Original Score.

It received recognition for its technical achievements.

The movie has gained a cult following over the years.

Fans appreciate its unique blend of horror, science fiction, and psychological exploration.

Altered States was controversial upon its release due to its graphic and disturbing content.

Some critics found the film too intense and disturbing for mainstream audiences.

The movie’s cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth is visually stunning.

The use of lighting and camera angles enhances the overall mood of the film.

Altered States is known for its philosophical undertones.

It raises questions about the nature of reality, consciousness, and the limits of human understanding.

The film explores the concept of sensory deprivation and its effects on the mind.

Dr. Jessup’s experiments involve isolating himself from external stimuli to reach altered states of consciousness.

Altered States was William Hurt’s film debut, and his compelling performance earned him critical acclaim.

Hurt’s portrayal of Dr. Jessup’s psychological journey is both intense and captivating.

The movie’s production design and set decoration effectively capture the atmosphere of the various locations.

From the scientific lab to the primal landscapes, the sets contribute to the immersive experience of the film.

Altered States contains elements of body horror, with grotesque physical transformations.

The movie pushes the boundaries of what the human body is capable of enduring.

The film’s screenplay underwent several revisions during its development.

Paddy Chayefsky worked closely with director Ken Russell to fine-tune the script.

Altered States explores the concept of regression to primitive states of existence.

Dr. Jessup’s experiments lead to encounters with ancient civilizations and primal forces.

The movie was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography.

The stunning visuals of Altered States were recognized by the British Academy.

Altered States features dreamlike sequences that blur the line between reality and hallucination.

The film keeps the audience on edge, never quite sure what is real and what is in the characters’ minds.

The movie was a commercial success, grossing over $19 million worldwide.

Despite its controversial content, it resonated with audiences looking for a thought-provoking and intense cinematic experience.

Altered States inspired other filmmakers to explore similar themes of altered consciousness.

It paved the way for future films that delve into the realms of the mind and the mysteries of human existence.

The film’s title, Altered States, refers to the transformative experiences the characters go through.

It encapsulates the core concept of the movie.

The movie’s sound design and editing contribute to its unsettling atmosphere.

The combination of eerie soundscapes and jarring audio effects enhances the overall sense of unease.

Altered States was critically acclaimed for its bold and daring approach to storytelling.

The film defies convention and takes risks in its narrative structure.

The movie explores the philosophical idea of the duality of human nature.

It questions whether humans are capable of transcending their primal instincts.

Altered States received mixed reviews upon its release but has since gained recognition as a cult classic.

Its unique blend of horror and science fiction has stood the test of time.

The film’s visual effects team won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

The groundbreaking effects were celebrated for their realism and innovation.

Altered States contains allegorical elements that comment on the state of society and human nature.

It uses the characters’ transformations as metaphors for the struggles and inherent darkness within humanity.

The movie explores the ethical implications of scientific experiments on human subjects.

Dr. Jessup’s quest for knowledge raises questions about the boundaries of scientific exploration.

Altered States is considered a landmark film in the genre of psychedelic and mind-bending cinema.

It continues to inspire filmmakers and audiences with its daring storytelling and visual style.

The movie’s release was delayed due to issues with the production and conflicts between the director and the studio.

However, the final product was well-received by audiences.

Altered States explores themes of spirituality and the search for higher truths.

The characters’ journeys delve into the realms of the metaphysical and transcendental.

The film’s original ending was changed due to test audience feedback.

The revised ending offers a more conclusive resolution to the story.

Altered States features intense and visceral performances from its cast.

William Hurt, Blair Brown, and Bob Balaban deliver compelling portrayals of characters grappling with their own transformations.

The movie’s poster, featuring a distorted image of William Hurt, has become iconic.

The poster captures the movie’s unsettling and hallucinatory nature.

Altered States was praised for its ambitious storytelling and visual style.

The film pushes the boundaries of what is possible in cinema.

The legacy of Altered States continues to influence filmmakers exploring the realm of the mind and altered consciousness.

Its impact can still be felt in the genre of psychological and surreal cinema.


Altered States is a mesmerizing and thought-provoking film that captures the essence of human consciousness and the boundaries of scientific exploration. With its groundbreaking visual effects, intense performances, and deep philosophical themes, it has cemented its place as a cult classic in the realm of science fiction cinema. The film’s exploration of the relationship between mind and body, as well as its commentary on the pursuit of knowledge, make it a captivating and intellectually stimulating experience. Whether you’re a fan of mind-bending movies, interested in psychology, or simply looking for a visually stunning and intellectually engaging film, Altered States is a must-watch that will leave you questioning the nature of reality and the limits of human perception.


1. What is the plot of Altered States?

Altered States follows the story of Dr. Edward Jessup, a brilliant scientist who becomes obsessed with unraveling the mysteries of human consciousness. Through a series of dangerous and controversial experiments involving sensory deprivation and hallucinogenic substances, he delves deeper into his own mind, ultimately risking his sanity and physical well-being in the process.

2. Who directed Altered States?

Altered States was directed by Ken Russell, a renowned British filmmaker known for his visually striking and controversial films. His unique style and ability to delve into the depths of the human psyche are evident in this mind-bending masterpiece.

3. Is Altered States based on a book?

Yes, Altered States is based on the novel of the same name written by Paddy Chayefsky. The film stays relatively faithful to the book’s core concepts while adding its own visual and cinematic elements to enhance the narrative.

4. What are some of the key themes explored in Altered States?

Some of the key themes explored in Altered States include the nature of reality, the limitations of human perception, the pursuit of knowledge at any cost, and the delicate balance between the mind and the body. These themes are explored through the intense and transformative experiences of the film’s protagonist.

5. How was the visual effects of Altered States achieved?

The visual effects in Altered States were achieved using a combination of practical effects, such as prosthetics and makeup, and cutting-edge visual techniques for the time. This includes stop-motion animation, altered film speed, and other experimental techniques to create the surreal and mind-bending sequences that are synonymous with the film.

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