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Altered States (1980)

tomatometer

86

Average Rating: 6.9/10
Reviews Counted: 36
Fresh: 31 | Rotten: 5

Extraordinarily daring for a Hollywood film, Altered States attacks the viewer with its inventive, aggressive mix of muddled sound effects and visual pyrotechnics.

100

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 0

Extraordinarily daring for a Hollywood film, Altered States attacks the viewer with its inventive, aggressive mix of muddled sound effects and visual pyrotechnics.

audience

71

liked it
Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 18,502

My Rating

Movie Info

In this 1980 sci-fi horror film, William Hurt plays Eddie Jessup, a scientist obsessed with discovering mankind's true role in the universe. To this end, he submits himself to a series of mind-expanding experiments. By enclosing himself in a sensory-deprivation chamber and taking hallucinogenic drugs, Jessup hopes to explore different levels of human consciousness, but instead is devolved into an apelike monster. Director Ken Russell helmed Altered States from a script by Paddy Chayefsky, who

Jun 1, 2004

Warner Home Video

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All Critics (36) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (31) | Rotten (5) | DVD (11)

Direction by Ken Russell has energy to spare, with appropriate match-up of his baroque visual style to special effects intensive material.

June 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There isn't a lucid moment in it (and much of the dialogue is rendered unintelligible by Russell's subversive direction), but it has dash, style, and good looks, as well as the funniest curtain line since Some Like It Hot.

June 6, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[Director] Russell's noisily grandiose swipe at psychedelia embellishes what is no more than the cosily familiar story of the obsessive Scientist Who Goes Too Far and Unwittingly Unleashes, etc.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I was overwhelmed, I was caught up in its headlong energy.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Dependably -- even exhilaratingly -- bizarre. Its strangeness, which borders cheerfully on the ridiculous, is its most enjoyable feature.

August 30, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Dynamite stylistic flourishes approximate the experience of taking mescaline with the Mad Hatter.

May 29, 2013 Full Review Source: Quickflix
Quickflix

The film's too aggressively enjoyable to be completely dismissed, though the ending is risible -- I preferred it when this finale was later reconfigured and reused in a-ha's music video for "Take On Me."

August 8, 2012 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Think of it as an extravagant and exhilarating, if over-the-top, piece of filmmaking that's silly, to be sure, but engrossing at the same time.

July 15, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

As the proceedings briskly fly, the silliness of the entire endeavor becomes more readily apparent.

July 23, 2010 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

Visually dazzling loopy drug film.

July 7, 2010 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

[Director Russell] fails to bring any clarity to the silly affair.

June 6, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

William Hurt at his weirdest

January 25, 2006 | Comment (1)
Atlantic City Weekly

Though deviating from Paddy Chayefsky's script (and novel), the reliably flamboyant Ken Russell made a spooky but engaging psycho-horror film about experimentation with human consciousness that deservedly received Oscar nods for sound and music.

July 2, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

trippy

March 18, 2005
Lawrence Journal-World

Very intense, very inner self, very self absorbed.

October 25, 2004
Kansas City Kansan

Altered States explores the human drive to leave the body behind, to be born again, and to experience in the mind things that were once thought divine.

January 29, 2004 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Mind-blowing imagery, solid Hurt performance; a first-class freak-out

January 23, 2004 | Comment (1)
Kalamazoo Gazette

An uneasy blend of the extreme visuals of director Ken Russell and the bloated dramaturgy of writer Paddy Chayefsky.

March 10, 2003 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Altered States is much more a film of image and idea than narrative or character, but they're pretty compelling images and ideas, and Hurt is great.

November 7, 2002 Full Review Source: Netflix
Netflix

Fantasy scenes aside, the film itself is pretty darn impressive on a number of other levels and has a cumulative emotional punch that's quite unexpected.

October 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for Altered States

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
March 1, 2014
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

The 80s produced a lot of cheesy films. This was one of them. Well, the first half's pretty entertaining. Then, suddenly, "No one takes me seriously!" *turns into ape* Then, everything devolves into sheer stupidity and melodrama. But again, the hallucinations, dialogue, and everything in the beginning are entertaining up until that point. Then, I wonder if I'm watching the precursor to The Lawnmower Man.
September 11, 2011
djdemersseman

Super Reviewer

I was a little overwhelmed with all the scientific mumbo-jumbo at first but once I got an idea of what was going on I found this to be a very interesting and surprisingly creepy experience. It's quite Cronenberg-esque and reminded me of "The Fly" in some ways. Great performance too by William Hurt in his debut and Dick Smith worked his grotesque magic with the special make-up effects. Give this one a watch!
February 20, 2011
WrenchLT
Lee ?

Super Reviewer

They might as well have called this "The Trip 2", like The Trip, this movie's character goes on a strange journey after doing weird experiments on himself. It's really hard to watch, and I couldn't hardly stand it. I don't recommend seeing this movie.
January 8, 2011
ajv2688

Super Reviewer

    1. Arthur Rosenberg: What we saw tonight was a physical phenomenon, an inexplicable physical phenomenon!
    – Submitted by Victor M (11 months ago)
    1. Mason Parrish: It looks to me like the architecture is slightly abnormal.
    2. Dr. Wissenschaft: Somewhat? This guy's a fucking gorilla!
    – Submitted by Victor M (11 months ago)
    1. Mason Parrish: You're supposed to be reputable scientists! Not two dorm kids freaking on Mexican mushrooms!
    – Submitted by Victor M (11 months ago)
    1. Emily Jessup: He doesn't love me. He never loved me. I was never real to him. Nothing in the human experience is real to him.
    – Submitted by Victor M (11 months ago)
    1. Eddie Jessup: I haven't told anyone this in ten years. I'm telling you now because I think you have a right to know what kind of a nut you might be getting mixed up with here.
    2. Emily Jessup: Arthur was right. You are a fascinating bastard.
    – Submitted by Victor M (11 months ago)
    1. Eddie Jessup: Emily's quite content to go on with this life. She insists she's in love with me - whatever that is. What she means is she prefers the senseless pain we inflict on each other to the pain we would otherwise inflict on ourselves. But I'm not afraid of that solitary pain. In fact, if I don't strip myself of all this clatter and clutter and ridiculous ritual, I shall go out of my fucking mind. Does that answer your question, Arthur?
    2. Arthur Rosenberg: What question was that?
    3. Eddie Jessup: You asked me why I was getting divorced.
    4. Arthur Rosenberg: Oh, listen, it's your life. I'm sorry I even asked.
    – Submitted by Victor M (11 months ago)
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