Hallucinations in film are one area directors can have immense free reign of creativity. Some are life like; scarily depicting insanity and mental decay, whereas some are absolutely insane; out of this world and as unlikely and individual as the movies themselves. Here are 8 unforgettable scenes with hallucinations, all unforgettable for different reasons. Remember; it’s just a dream, fat boy!

#8: Spun – Mickey Rourke’s scene about ‘the pussy’ (2002)

Drug involved: Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth) 

Spun is an insane look into 2 weeks of a crystal meth addict’s life. It is obviously a sad film for it’s content, but it’s also incredibly funny (as the above clip perfectly demonstrates, intentionally), offering us a view of life through a tweaker’s eyes, and the desperate pace of life which consumes them. There are more intense scenes in the film (the car scene where Brittany Murphy’s character is talking about her child, which has muddled up dialogue and a backing track of Donovan’s ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’, is so so raw), but in terms of sheer madness: Mickey Rourke banging on about pussy patriotically is truly incredible.

#7: Dumbo – Pink Elephants on Parade (1941)

Drug involved: erm…Dumbo’s sense of isolation and loneliness? 

The earliest film on this list, Dumbo also has what is arguably the most memorable hallucination of all, something that has really stuck with me (and I’d bet about 90% of other kids who watched the film) from my early years as a Disney fan. I really didn’t like this scene at all when I was a kid, and it’s pretty obvious why not, the elephants are not there and Dumbo is imagining them. For unbridled creativity and genius, the Pink Elephants in the scene must surely win out – it’s originality is still today breathtaking.

#6: Donnie Darko – Frank (2001)

Drug involved: Donnie’s boredom and depression combine to make his mind particularly fertile ground..

Donnie’s whole life throughout the film is lived under the watchful (and incredibly eerie) eye of his best friend, a giant decaying rabbit called Frank, who definitely does not exist. Donnie is a troubled lad who doesn’t really like school, so we assume he creates a massive frightening rabbit to keep him company. After taking odd events in the film, Frank convinces Donnie that he is of great importance…A revelation which ends the film. Some imaginary friend he turns out to be…

#5: Requiem for a Dream – Harry’s promenade hallucination (2000)

Drug involved: heroin and marijuana 

Requiem For A Dream is a pretty stark look at heroin addiction, and as such is a pretty bleak affair. The much celebrated editing and cinematography of (Black Swan’s) Darren Aronofsky manages to create a constant sense of agitation, movement and struggle, while the characters live out their jokes of shattered lives in search of constant atonement for their addictions and sins. In the most famous hallucination, Harry finds himself bewildered and at the edge of a promenade, and his own sanity.

#4: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas – Arriving at the Hotel (1998)

Drug involved: LSD 

After the initial baffling roll call of drugs the pair have took on their warped trip  (“…two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls..”), there can be little surprise as to anything Raoul Duke and his attourney get up to in Las Vegas. Still, the scene where the fiends arrive at the hotel is memorable for many reasons, least of all Duke’s insane trip with the lizards, and finding himself “right..in the middle of a fucking..reptile zoo”. Fear & Loathing is a hilarious, light hearted look into the life of one insane writer and his friend who does anything for kicks, some much needed light-heartedness on the list.

#3: Trainspotting – Baby on the Ceiling (1996)

Drug involved: Heroin (or Methadone) 

Trainspotting is a tragic look at a group of friends who has allowed heroin to engulf their lives and control their pleasures. It’s also incredibly funny, with scenes of true friendship (albeit it, friendship that is eventually shattered) and intellectual conversation. For the most part though, it is bleak and unforgiving in it’s portrayal of heroin as a completely life-ruining entity. In the scene where Renton is suffering extreme withdrawal from Heroin, the dead baby (of his friend) who haunts his dreams literally crawls across his ceiling and spins it’s head round 360°. Soon follows a scene where Renton is visited by his chums, after the ceiling scene though, it is brought into question whether any of that actually happens.

#2: Altered States – Eddie’s first Trip (1980)

Drug involved: A mystical Mexican mushroom which is obviously based on Peyote

In Ken Russel’s 1980 film, genius scientist Eddie Jessop is not only incredibly inquisitive, but stupidly ignorant to his ridiculously dangerous sensory deprivation studies. In the above clip Jessop experiences his first ‘trip’ on the mushroom, and it blows his fucking head off. In terms of shots and techniques used, this is without doubt the most profoundly beautiful, weird, crazy, frightening and life affirming trip ever filmed, with innovative editing techniques and colourful explosions and odd noises, we enter the trip with Eddie, and it is an intense and at times unpleasant experience. There are better and more colourful hallucinations in the film, but for sheer forcefulness, his first awakening is the most memorable.

#1: Eraserhead – Lady in the Radiator (1977)

Drug involved: Henry’s sheer disgust for the world he’s found himself in helps him escape from it by creating this vision..

Henry Spencer is a bit of a tragic case in film history, a poor young lad with an immovable hair cut, who finds himself with a repulsive alien baby and a wife who has lost her mind and love for him. Plus the world he lives in is an ugly, grey decrepit one with absolutely zero prospects. One day whilst contemplating all of this he stares into the radiator and conjures up a bizarre apparition of a charming (though, unsurprisingly), horribly deformed woman who sings him a song about how ‘everything is fine’. For absolute insanity, desperation and creativity, the Lady in the Radiator HAS to be #1: on this list, though it’s never actually a confirmed hallucination – the even more disturbing thought that Henry has a tiny, disfigured woman who sings for him and lives in his radiator doesn’t bare thinking about.

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