Enjoy one of these three movies exploring psychedelia, now streaming on Netflix or Amazon
Interest in psychedelics is exploding across fields of industry, medicine, and academia after decades of prohibition. But public fascination has long been maintained in American culture through art, music and film, after the introduction of these mind-blowing substances to the masses in the late 1950s.
In the age of streaming, it's easier than ever to dive into the world of psychedelia. Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and other platforms offer a plethora of movies, TV shows and short-form content exploring the subject, so we wanted to recommend a few that our readers can enjoy whenever they have some down time.
Psychonautics: A Comic's Exploration of Psychedelics (Amazon)
“I'm a psychonaut,” comedian Shane Mauss proudly declares on stage during a stand-up set featured in this entertaining documentary. “What I'm doing with psychedelics, exploring my mind, is the equivalent of being an astronaut.”
Whether an astronaut would agree with that comparison is probably up for debate, but it's an identity members of the psychedelic community have embraced while exploring their consciousness through the use of LSD, MDMA, psilocybin, ketamine, DMT, ayahuasca, and other mind-altering medicines. All of those drugs make appearances in this 2019 film following Mauss diving deeper into his passion than ever before.
In fact, he dives so deep, he nearly loses his mind. And don't worry, that's not a spoiler. The trailer above starts off with the comic telling an audience, “I wanted to prove that psychedelics are not as scary as they seem, so I did all of them, and so I just got out of a psych ward.”
It's a humorous and enlightening viewing experience for anybody interested in the subject. Not only do we see Mauss tripping in casual and clinical settings, with his honest account of each experience, we witness the uglier side of psychedelics. The film culminates with an ayahuasca ceremony that takes Mauss to the brink of sanity, proving that while there are multiple therapeutic benefits associated with these drugs, there are risks to be considered, as well.
Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics (Netflix)
This Netflix original documentary, narrated by Nick Offerman, is a very enjoyable ride through the highs and lows of psychedelic trips, as told by the actors, comedians, and musicians who have taken them. Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, ASAP Rocky, Nick Kroll, and Sting are among the stars, along with the late greats Carrie Fisher and Anthony Bourdain, sharing their wildest psychedelic adventures.
Some are advocates for the experience, others advise against it. Some of these celebrity trips sound wonderful, others sound like nightmares. It's not the most educational of films on the subject, but is definitely one of the most entertaining, with a number of other recognizable faces from film and television joining in on the psychedelic fun to reenact celebrity trips through the mind.
“Things get scary,” advises actress Natasha Lyonne. “That's why it's important to remember: You're high, it's not reality.”
The Last Shaman (Netflix)
This 2016 documentary was executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, and is the most dramatic feature on this list. The Los Angeles Times described it as “a fascinating and sometimes terrifying introduction to ayahuasca.”
The film follows James Freeman, a young man suffering from severe depression, as he ditches Western medicine to journey through the Amazon in search of the healing properties of tribal plant medicine. That's easier said than done, because there are a lot of shady shamans out there, and ayahuasca has become a sketchy business in South America as more tourists flock there to have this type of psychedelic experience.
The first two acts of the film follow Freeman trying to find an ayahuasca facilitator he can trust, which becomes especially important after he witnesses another young man die during a ceremony. The scene is a rude awakening to the risks one can encounter while seeking the reward of well being, reminding viewers that powerful plant medicines require knowledgeable and responsible administrators to be safe and effective. Fortunately, Freeman does end up connecting with a shaman in a remote Peruvian village, and viewers witness his steady transformation toward mental wellness.