6.9/10
27,649
136 user 86 critic

Altered States (1980)

Trailer
2:03 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $3.99 (SD) on Prime Video

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

Director:

Writers:

(written for the screen by) (as Sidney Aaron), (novel)
Reviews
Popularity
4,215 ( 53)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Eddie Jessup
... Emily Jessup
... Arthur Rosenberg
... Mason Parrish
... Eccheverria
Miguel Godreau ... Primal Man
Dori Brenner ... Sylvia Rosenberg
Peter Brandon ... Hobart
Charles White-Eagle ... The Brujo
... Margaret Jessup
Megan Jeffers ... Grace Jessup
Jack Murdock ... Hector Orteco
... Obispo (as Frank McCarthy)
Deborah Baltzell ... Schizophrenic Patient
... Young Rosenberg
Edit

Storyline

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

Taglines:

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 »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

25 December 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Estados alterados  »

Edit

Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$174,650, 28 December 1980, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$19,853,892
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (MegaSound encoding)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was an early user of primitive CGI. The final transformation segments scanned in footage of William Hurt wearing Dick Smith's distorted bodysuits and added in the granular energy effect by computer. This film was also one of the first movies to use computer assistance to make rotoscope mattes (needed for both Hurt's and Blair Blown's transformation in the final sequence). See more »

Goofs

When the Brujo tells Eccheverria that he'll allow Eddie to participate in the ceremony he walks off. Although in only a matter of seconds he's far enough away that they have to run quite a distance to catch up to him to ask him some further questions, this is consistent with other literary and screen depictions of shamans having "spooky" abilities, sure-footedness and being surprisingly limber for their age. Rather than an error in continuity, this seems to be a dramatic device. See more »

Quotes

Eddie Jessup: You saved me. You redeemed me from the pit. I was in it, Emily. I was *in* that ultimate moment of terror that is the beginning of life. It is nothing. Simple, hideous nothing. The final truth of all things is that there is no final Truth. Truth is what's transitory. It's human life that is real. I don't want to frighten you, Emily, but what I'm trying to tell you is that moment of terror is a real and living horror, living and growing within me now, and the only thing that keeps it from ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Beerfest (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Light My Fire
(uncredited)
Written by Robby Krieger, Jim Morrison, John Densmore and Ray Manzarek
Performed by The Doors
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A flawed but sentimental favorite
29 November 2002 | by See all my reviews

Altered States is not everything that it could be, and that's because director Ken Russell was more interested in assaulting the viewer with a series of startling (by 1980 standards) images than he was in exploring the stories subtext. Eddie Jessup is a scientist so introverted and afraid of human connections that it's not enough to abandon his family, he also has to further deprive himself of any and all stimulation, performing sensory depravation experiments on himself to attain better understanding of "ultimate truth." Jessup proclaims himself to be an atheist, but the visual content of his hallucinations reveals him to be a man who's more at war with God than a man who disbelieves. His descent into a more primal state of being is an obvious metaphor for how easy it is for a man with commitment issues and fear of intimacy to turn completely inward, leaving the real world behind. Some of what the character says early on about family and love make his motivations clear... Jessup is a man shattered by his father's death and unable to accept the vulnerability of the human condition. A viewer has to really work to absorb and enjoy these metaphors, though, as Russell never slows his onslaught of special effects. The movie also suffers from smart but unrealistic dialogue and ham-fisted performances from some of the principle characters (watch Blair Brown's over-the-top breakdowns in the last act). Altered States isn't the total package, it doesn't combine the visceral and the philosophical as well as movies like Jacob's Ladder or Natural Born Killers. But it's better than most of today's equivalent movies (Donnie Darko, etc) that want to stimulate and provoke the viewer and don't quite pull it off.


50 of 72 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 136 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Popular Sci-Fi Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular sci-fi movies and TV shows available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed