A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically.



(written for the screen by) (as Sidney Aaron), (novel)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Miguel Godreau ...
Primal Man
Dori Brenner ...
Peter Brandon ...
Charles White-Eagle ...
Megan Jeffers ...
Grace Jessup
Jack Murdock ...
Hector Orteco
Obispo (as Frank McCarthy)
Deborah Baltzell ...
Schizophrenic Patient
Young Rosenberg


It's the late 1960's. Just for a lark, graduate student Eddie Jessup, known for being unconventional, brilliant and slightly mad, conducts experiments with an isolation chamber, using himself as the subject. His experiences in the chamber cause him to hallucinate, much of the imagery being religious-based despite he not being a religious man. Seven years later, he is a respected full professor in the Harvard Medical School. Believing he has lost his edge and has fallen into an unwanted state of respectability, Eddie decides to resume his work with sensory deprivation, this time using hallucinogens, specifically untested ones used in mystical Mexican rituals, to enhance the experience of being in the isolation tank. After initial tests, he claims he entered an alternate physical and mental state. Although unbelieving of Eddie's claims, his colleagues Arthur Rosenberg and Mason Parrish, as well as Eddie's wife, Emily, who is in her own right a respected academic, are concerned for ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In the basement of a university medical school Dr . Jessup floats naked in total darkness. The most terrifying experiment in the history of science is out of control... and the subject is himself See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

25 December 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Estados alterados  »

Box Office


$25,000,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (MegaSound encoding)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film was produced originally at Columbia Pictures, which would later end its participation with it, before Warner Bros. bought the rights. See more »


The recording which Emily listens to of Eddie's first drug induced tank trip isn't the same as the original dialog. Some of the wording is changed and the loud primal "grunt" which alarmed both Mason and Arthur has been replaced with a sound much more resembling that of a monkey. See more »


Mason Parrish: I want someone to look at those X-Rays who can read them.
Eddie Jessup: I'd rather not have everyone in the Brigham in on this. It's bad enough we've got this nosy x-ray technician.
Mason Parrish: Are you all right?
Eddie Jessup: I'm fine, Mason. I tried to indicate this was just a transient thing.
Mason Parrish: Transient ischemic attack, that's what it was.
[Addressing Arthur]
Mason Parrish: He's got his voice back.
Eddie Jessup: It wasn't an ischemic attack! It wasn't a seizure. You saw the x-rays, Mason. There was clearly something anterior to the larynx that looked like a ...
See more »


Referenced in South Park: Helen Keller! The Musical (2000) See more »


Light My Fire
Written by Robby Krieger, Jim Morrison, John Densmore and Ray Manzarek
Performed by The Doors
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User Reviews

Altered States is a REALLY cool movie!!!
21 January 1999 | by (Stereling Hts., Michigan) – See all my reviews

If there is any reason to like a film as meaningless or pointless as this, it's that it is a "Cedar Point" of a special visual effects ride! I still haven't figured out how or why the things in Altered States happened the way they did. But I think that this is one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made. Who cares if the plot or characters worked or not? When you are watching the mesmerizing images and special effects (which are only slightly dated), then you will understand why this is such a great movie! I still don't know how Ken Russell got these images on film. And the very intricately constructed images fly by so fast in the quick cuts, that it's like a dream that we can barely remember. It's a dream that you can't define or put your finger on. And that is the real reason why I like this movie. I just purchased the Dolby Digital reissue on LD, and I hope more special editions of this film come soon!

21 of 32 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Why did I just lose 107 minutes of my life?! Silvrhelm
Would you try out the sensory deprivation tank? boognish-6
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