Out of ideas for what to stream tonight? Take a chance on some of these music-filled movies for some trippy fun.
From Italian farce to Afrofuturism odyssey to Freudian-coded horror-humor, this list of forgotten music-filled movies enables you to choose your adventure.
Burnt out on Fantasia and The Wall? Sure, there’s something comforting about the classics, but if you’re tired of the same backdrop to your yearly, quarterly, nightly (no judgment) trip — here are some esoteric, profound, and ridiculous alternative options.
With the power to captivate, spellbind, or horrify, movies can heavily influence your trip’s emotional state. Some movies might be a little over the top for tripping—like Altered States for some. Others, however, may provide just the right combination of joy and visual-audio stimulation for an impactful and amusing experience.
A word of advice: make your selection based on the setting you believe you would find most enjoyable.
(These movies are also totally enjoyable and trippy when paired with tea or popcorn instead of psychedelics.)
Space Is The Place (1974)
For decades Space Is The Place was more myth than fact. It never officially aired in cinemas and was spread purely by the passing of its very few VHS tapes in existence. However, the magnum opus of Sun Ra —composer, keyboardist, philosopher, poet, and self-professed extraterrestrial from Saturn— has now found its target audience in 21st-century psychonauts.
Through the 1900’s Ra, formerly Herman Blout, recorded over 200 albums with his Arkestra, who, dressed in Egypto-space costumes, performed everything from boogie-woogie to swing to free jazz. A musical and philosophical polymath, Sun Ra is among the greatest avant-garde artists and intellectuals of the twentieth century.
Filmed languidly through 1972, Space is The Place, a proposed documentary on Ra, morphed into the unexpected (like many of Sun Ra’s compositions). Eventually, filmmaker Jim Newman (who had no idea he was about to produce the most radical Afro-Futurist blaxploitation film of all time) brought in Joshua Smith to develop a script with heavy influence from Ra.
The final result? An unbridled telling of Sun Ra engaged in a cosmic card game with a pimp-like Overseer where the fate of Black people hangs in the balance. Spoiler alert: Ra wins the contest, and his Arkestra’s space slips off into the cosmos, leaving earth behind to handle its cruel fate.
Streaming on: YouTube
Sturgill Simpon’s Sound and Fury (2019)
The fourth studio album from outlaw country star-psychonaut Sturgill Simpson is yet another artistic left turn. With songs such as “Best Clockmaker on Mars” and “Make Art Not Friends,” the album-anime hybrid is scuzzy synth-rock at peak cheese in protest of every country musician’s master –– Nashville. Streaming on Netflix, the album’s accompanying music video of the same name (Sound and Fury) is a hypnotizing 41-minute samurai cyberpunk anime seemingly designed for entheogenic induced introspection.
Sit back and follow the punk samurai protagonist as they attempt to overthrow a Mad Max-esque overlord and topple a corporate empire. After all, visuals plus music plus anti-capitalist overtones equal great trip fodder.
Steaming on: Netflix
Koyaanisqatsi is an 80- minute visual essay on the state of American civilization that is equal parts entrancing and maddening, oddball and entertaining. The film’s title takes from a Hopi Indian word that, according to the film’s director Godfrey Reggio, means “life out of balance” — and existence askew is exactly what Koyaanisqatsi sets out to dramatize. Opening with images suggesting the earth’s creation out of flames and moving into extended, lyrical passages complemented by splendid aerial shots and an ominous musical score, Koyaanisqatsi is ideal for psychonauts who want to think deeply about our place as humans in the wider world.
Or as Reggio says himself in a 2002 interview included with the DVD special: “It’s meant to offer an experience, rather than an idea…for some people, it’s an environmental film. For some, it’s an ode to technology. For some people, it’s a piece of shit. Or it moves people deeply. It depends on who you ask. It is the journey that is the objective.”
Streaming on: Amazon Video
Allegro Non Troppo (1976)
Allegro Non Troppo is an Italian parody of every Disney adult’s favorite film to trip to: Fantasia.
Far more sexual than anything Disney has ever dared to do and directed by Bruno Bozzetto, the parody features six segments of classical music set to color animation and evoking every emotion from joy to deep tragedy. In its 75 minutes of heartbreak and humor, an aging satyr attempts to regain its lost youth, a bee suffers a mid-meal interruption by two lovers, and the myth of Adam and Eve is respun with both preposterous and profound detail. In between cartoon segments, a frustrated filmmaker (Maurizio Nichetti) struggles to complete his life’s work.
Peppered with interludes both introspective and absurd and, of course, incredible visuals, Allegro Non Troppo stretches beyond parody to become an excellent stand-alone film.
Streaming on: YouTube
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)
This film is the forgotten creative endeavor and only film of children’s book author and known racist, Theodore Geisel (Doctor Seuss). Telling the tale of an all-American boy trapped in the clutches of the wicked Dr. Terwilliker—whose music academy draws in young boys to practice piano on an absurdly oversized piano, assembly line-style, until their final breaths –– The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T is a Freudian fever dream.
Filled with surrealist landscapes and tongue-twisting rhymes, 5,000 Fingers was intended to be a fantastical lark for children. However, if you’re in the state of mind to analyze and reflect, you will find political undercurrents to be the skeletal basis for the story. An elaborate metaphor, the scenario of an ally (the young boy) propagandized by an evil authoritarian (Dr. T) certainly has a Cold War era paranoia.
If you enjoy the odd and off-kilter, the ill-considered and appalling, find a copy of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T ASAP.
Purchase on: Amazon
Head is the visual accompaniment to The Monkees’ album of the same name. Written by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, Head was designed to shatter The Monkees’ fluffy pre-teen halo of nice guys you can take home to bake cookies with your mother. How so? By having them throw themselves off The Golden Gate Bridge and into a surrealist, plotless, circular bit of psychedelic, and sometimes very fun, fluff.
The film also shines a light on the often ignored satire and protest in their music. In its boldest display, images of the execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém are intercut with screaming girls and the group leading the crowd into chants of ‘WAR!’ as ‘Circle Sky’ strums aggressively in the background.
Get comfortable, sit back, and enjoy the genuine, sometimes profound, madness of The Monkees as you’ve never experienced them before.
Streaming on: Youtube
What’s the strangest movie you’ve ever tripped to? Let us know in the comments!