Altered States


Altered States

Critics Consensus

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



Reviews Counted: 43

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 19,399


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.4/5

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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 adapted his own novel of the same name. Unhappy with the finished product, Chayefsky had his name replaced with his pseudonym Sydney Aaron.

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William Hurt
as Eddie Jessup
Blair Brown
as Emily Jessup
Bob Balaban
as Arthur Rosenberg
Charles Haid
as Mason Parrish
Miguel Godreau
as Primal Man
Dori Brenner
as Sylvia Rosenberg
Drew Barrymore
as Margaret Jessup
Megan Jeffers
as Grace Jessup
Jack Murdock
as Hector Orteco
Evan Richards
as Young Rosenberg
Hap Lawrence
as Endocrinology Fellow
John Walter Davis
as Medical Technician
Cynthia Burr
as Parrish's Girl
Susan Bredhoff
as Eccheverria's Girl
John Larroquette
as X-Ray Technician
George Gaynes
as Dr. Wissenschaft
Ora Rubinstein
as Young Medical Student
Paul Larsson
as Charlie Thomas
Thaao Penghlis
as Echeverria
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News & Interviews for Altered States

Critic Reviews for Altered States

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (6)

  • It opens at fever pitch and then starts soaring -- into genetic fantasy, into a precognitive dream of delirium and delight.

    Aug 16, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Direction by Ken Russell has energy to spare, with appropriate match-up of his baroque visual style to special effects intensive material.

    Jun 6, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top 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.

    Jun 6, 2007 | Full Review…
  • [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.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
  • I was overwhelmed, I was caught up in its headlong energy.

    Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Dependably -- even exhilaratingly -- bizarre. Its strangeness, which borders cheerfully on the ridiculous, is its most enjoyable feature.

    Aug 30, 2004

Audience Reviews for Altered States



Directors Cat
Directors Cat

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!

Lee ?
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.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

Not one of my favorite Russell films, but interesting. I'm tempted to read the source material (novel by Paddy Chayefsky) as I feel that at the core of this film is an incredibly deep premise that might be better "fleshed out" in the novel. I feel that much the more interesting concepts are lost / overshadowed by the psychedelia that predominates the film. Much of which seems horribly dated at this point. I was lucky enough recently to take part in a Q & A session with Ken Russell and he told an ammusing story of how when this film was playing in theaters it developed a large following of college students who would (he says) buy their tickets and wait in the lobby or outside the theater (getting high) until they got the signal from one of their friends inside that there was another hallucination scene starting. At which point they'd all run back in to watch those scenes only to step back into the lobby / outside when the "trip" was over. He found that quite amusing and (after watching this film) it's a story that I totally believe.

Robert C
Robert C

Super Reviewer

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