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.



Total Count: 43


Audience Score

User Ratings: 19,417
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Altered States Photos

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

  • Sep 27, 2015
    Altered States is a fun watch. It is at times crazy, (unintentionally?) silly, melodramatic, and serious. William Hurt makes for an interesting mad scientist. Also, the film features some bits of the horror/grotesque movie magic characteristic of 80s films. Altered States is not a heavy film but it is a fun one.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 01, 2014
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Apr 12, 2012
    A brilliantly well executed sci-fi drama, reminiscent of Cronenberg's most memorable works with the added value of some of the most striking effects/audio sequences I recall seeing in any movie. LSD trip can't be too far from this. Also, the story is the classic one of a scientist exploring what he shouldn't with daring consequences. Nothing on the dramas presented (problems with the colleagues tired of warning him, lost loves/family, etc.) but everything is so confident on it's execution and acting, it's hard not to care for what happens to these people. I feel it gets a bit lost towards the end on some of the most memorable sequences which don't add anything particulary relevant, but what you have is still class.
    Francisco G Super Reviewer
  • Feb 25, 2012
    There is one absolutely ridiculous and cheesy sequence involving a poorly made-up caveman, but otherwise Altered States is a fairly engaging visual spectacle with a handful of mesmerizing psychedelic hallucination scenes. Worth seeing for the intense special effects sequences.
    Joey S Super Reviewer

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