Any musical filled with Disney Acid Sequences made under the influence of Technicolor, which got everyone excited when it was new. In those years, film productions were encouraging each other and competing for the most spectacular use of colors they pack onto celluloid.
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T. It's bizarre even for Dr. Seuss. "Bart, hand me some of that pickle juice." "Jeepers, are you sure? That's some powerful stuff!" "I won't let some Siamese twins on rollerskates make a monkey of me!"
The fudged-up, trippy mess that was Across the Universe. Either the filmmakers were emulating The Beatles in every aspect of their lives, including the '60s level drug use, or they were doing an approximation.
The Annunciation (or Angyali udvozlet) is a 1984 adaptation of the classic Hungarian play The Tragedy Of Man... performed entirely by children. The results look like the world's most surreal church pageant.
When it comes to the trippy cinema of excess of the '60s, '70s, and '80s, the eternal question "What were they thinking?" can be replaced with "What were they smoking/snorting/ingesting/freebasing?" In the case of The Apple I'm sure an itemized list could be assembled at the end of filming: pounds of cocaine, tubs of LSD, a truckload full of PCP, disco biscuits aplenty, and enough amphetamines to kill an entire stable of horses.
Avatar. The main character transfers his consciousness to a 10-foot-tall blue alien-human hybrid that looks like a big blue cat. The aliens all have what can best be described as USB braids that can have them commune with animals and their god which takes the form of a glowing tree. Said god has seeds that look like jellyfish. Almost all the plants on the planet glow in the dark.
Barbarella: the story, the characters, their clothes, their names, the sets... First time you watch the movie you'll be staring at the screen in disbelief. It could only have been made in the Drugs Decade. There is not a single scene, dialog or set that could count as an exception. The original Jean-Claude Forest comic book is even odder from there...
Being John Malkovich involves people entering a portal into John Malkovich's brain and temporarily taking over his body.
Busby Berkeley Numbers. The vast majority of his production numbers are in black and white, but feature a great deal of geometric shapes and patterns.
Irish film The Butcher Boy revolves around a misfit lad whose life keeps going down the drain until he suffers a psychotic reaction and goes on a killing spree.
Casino Royale (1967) could best be described as "James Bond on massive amounts of acid" but had a fairly respectable creative team behind it. Aside from being a spoof, much of the effect comes from creative issues leading to there being five different directors whose scenes did not mesh very well. The ending includes a UFO, Frankenstein's Monster, cowboys and Indians, a flying roulette wheel, a monkey, and a seal.
Add in the firing of the star which lead to a new framing sequence interspersed with the original footage.
The Cell. A lot of the trippy visuals were based on artwork. Those artists might have been on drugs.
Come and See is a surreal, nightmarish, and very hallucinogenic sequence of genocidal horrors.
Geof Darrow, one of the lead concept artists on The Matrix. He designed the Sentinels and the giant battery-tower-things. He was also the artist for a graphic novel called Hard Boiled, which was also known for an almost obsessive attention to weird details in the art (and was written by Frank Miller, besides). As producer Joel Silver said, "You know how in the movie Morpheus tells Neo he has to free his mind? Geof's mind is free." Darrow noted that he'd been asked more than once what kind of drugs he took, and as he was now in his forties, said "Centrum Silver and Metamucil".
Delicatessen by the French filmmakers Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who also created City of Lost Children above) has its bizarre charm.
El Sexo Y Lucia is a movie that starts at the beginning, then flashes forward, to the middle and all over the place. Part of the story involves one of the main characters telling bedtime stories to his daughter, but the daughter doesn't even know it's her dad. In the stories that he tells, the main character can jump into holes in the ground and pop out at any other point in the story, which was kind of what the movie was doing. In addition to the odd sequence of the movie, the mother of his daughter doesn't find out that the father has been in contact with the daughter until after the father helps cause the daughter's death, the father sleeps with the babysitter just to get to his daughter, the babysitter's mother is a porn star, and the title character falls in love with the father after reading his fictional book. All of this is played straight.
Fantasy Mission Force. To make a long story short, Abraham Lincoln and three other Allied major generals are kidnapped during World War II and are to be taken to Tokyo for propaganda. A crack team (emphasis on crack) is assembled to recapture them. This Ragtag Bunch of Misfits encounters a village of Amazon women who throw colored toilet paper, a haunted house and finally a fortified Nazi barn, where they find out the entire mission was an Evil Plan and make a final stand against an army of samurai, aliens and Roman gladiators. Quite possibly the most insane film ever made.
Forbidden Zone. Kind of inevitable if you're going to make a low budget live action movie musical inspired by Deranged Animation of the 1930's, but that description really only scratches the surface. Director and script co-writer Richard Elfman claims to have never used drugs though.
To hear tell, anything done by The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo qualifies. Before Danny Elfman repurposed them into a groundbreaking if sometimes squicky new wave rock band, the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo were a very way-out theater-arts troupe. Forbidden Zone, in fact was directly based on their stage show at the time — meaning that yes, cabaret audiences got to ask the same question on a nightly basis...
On the Criterion edition of FLLV, one of the commentary tracks is by Hunter S. Thompson. He expresses great displeasure at seeing his book fall into the hands of a straightedge director, even one with a track record like Gilliam's. He's also pretty critical of the trippy parts of the film.
Hare + Guu aka "Jungle wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Goo." It's not even possible to explain the plot.
Help!: Averted. The Beatles willingly admitted that the whole movie was filmed "in a haze of marijuana smoke." If you want evidence of how checked-out they were, just watch John's awkward laugh when Ringo's finger is magnetized to the ceiling of the elevator.
Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter. If one watches it sober, the ridiculousness of the plot, the cheesiness of the special effects, the stupid dialogue, and the bizarre combination of '70s vibe and unquestionably late '90s setting conspire to convince you that you really should have watched it stoned.
Certainly averted in any film made by Alejandro Jodorowsky. He's stated that his goal was usually to produce a film which impacts its audience like a psychedelic or hallucinogenic drug, and he often took an Art Imitates Life approach to this goal. Stories abound of him taking LSD during film productions, and it's known that he used Enforced Method Acting in at least one case: The peyote/mescal trip in The Holy Mountain was filmed by dosing the cast with psilocybin mushrooms.
There's a Danish film called Jolly Roger (a.k.a. Framtids Jakten), which is about two Archangels accidentally losing the octopus of destiny (or, as it is more commonly referred to, "the Time Squid") and sending the Janitor of Heaven (who's an eastern European immigrant) down to hell to retrieve the greatest pirate ever to sail the seven seas so that he can, accompanied by his modern-day granddaughter, take the Squid back from a bunch of modern-day pirates who think that a good way to handle the Time Squid, the object without which the entire fabric of creation would simply unravel, is to drop it from the tallest mast until it does as it's told. This must all be done quickly, as God is suffering from depression without his beloved Squid and is considering remaking creation because, as he puts it, "it's much simpler that way". It culminates in an "epic" showdown, during which the Time Squid almost dies and is revived by pouring rum into its aquarium 'till it gets drunk and teleports the bad guys to the reception desk of hell.
Shunya Itou's Joshuu Sasori series probably qualifies. The stageplay-like flashbacks, the Noh-style interludes, the bus that transforms into a courtroom in a tunnel, the zooming over characters shoulders as they argue whether he was on anything when he came up with them is unknown, but given the Japanese attitude to drugs, it seems unlikely.
The Lair of the White Worm is a barely coherent cult horror flick based on a novel by Bram Stoker. It is believed that Stoker was suffering from syphilis while writing the original novel. It was then made into a movie by Ken Russell, the same guy who did Altered States, Gothic and Tommy. It was bound to end up looking like a drug trip.
Liquid Sky is best watched when profoundly stoned, as this is the only way the viewer is likely to be able to approximate the state of its creators' minds during its making.
The Kin and Dark Floors, both created and worked on by Finnish monster rockers Lordi, only make sense when the viewers are under the influence of rather powerful hallucinogens. The creators, however, were sober throughout production.
Eraserhead in particular has all the hallmarks of the product of someone dangerously high on an inadequately-controlled substance, including rapid and unpredictable perspective shifts, incomplete or entirely absent context, and a paternal situation that both pre-dates and sails way past the bizarreness found in The Fly (1986).
Manos: The Hands of Fate: Well, director Hal Warren was by all accounts perfectly lucid during the production, but Torgo's actor John Reynolds was known to use various recreational drugs such as LSD, explaining his various twitchy behaviors and mannerisms on-screen.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) is a perfect example. See hereand here. The director says he wanted to see if movies could show time going in a non-linear direction or even sideways. The first two-thirds of the movie seem normal until the point where you can tell when the director made this "decision". (While the filmmakers themselves were not on drugs, lead actor David Bowiewas struggling with cocaine addiction at the time of the shoot.)
MirrorMask. Picture a world inhabited almost entirely by creatures out of the darkest corners of the Uncanny Valley. Then up the weird factor by about fifty.
The movie is like stepping into a Dave McKean painting, as that's who was in charge of the visuals. Most of "Helena's" drawings were actually done by McKean. Also remember that McKean was responsible for most of the The Sandman covers. It's kinda like that.
What's really trippy is the song "Wake the White Queen" that is based on Mirrormask.
Monkeybone. A cartoonist nearly dies, leaving his body open to use to another soul — a chance pounced upon by his eponymous creation (which, in his head, is the embodiment of his libido). While Monkeybone wreaks surreal havoc in this world, his creator has to barter with Dream (Giancarlo Esposito) and Death (Whoopi Goldberg) in the hereafter. Supposedly the cut footage would have made it more coherent.
Moonwalker. The entire movie makes no sense. Part of it are different music videos with Disney Acid Sequences and the main story is about how Michael Jackson fights with some drug dealers who want him dead because he listened to their secret plan of making children become drug addicts. His powers in the movie include becoming a Transformer-like robot by wishing upon a star.
Moulin Rouge! was always bound to be this, but having Baz Luhrmann as a director certainly didnt hurt.
The Shining. The cast of the movie, before filming, would indeed all get stoned in the most powerful legal fashion available - Stanley Kubrick just screened Eraserhead.
Six String Samurai. Buddy Holly treks across a post-apocalyptic wasteland and battles cavemen, bowlers, the Russian Army, the "Windmill People" and Slash from Guns N' Roses on his way to "Lost Vegas," which was once ruled by Elvis.
Say what you will about Jack and Kage, the director and co-writer of the Tenacious D movie, musician/director Liam Lynch is most emphatically not on drugs. Same goes for his skit and music videos podcast, Lynchland, which is even more surreal.
Music/Moby invoked this trope on VH1 when discussing the 1970s film of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: "It's one of those things that only made sense if you assume everyone was taking cocaine all the time."
Southland Tales is a perennial award winner in this category. Taken on its surface, it's easy (and reasonable) to conclude from the disjointed dialogue and insanely convoluted plot that writer/director Richard Kelly was either dangerously high or not quite high enough when writing the film. It's therefore all the more surprising that he was stone sober. The result is very much a love-it-or-hate-it film.
Synecdoche, New York. It starts off mildly conventional, but after we've encountered the family living in a house that's perpetually on fire for 30 years, the bizarre fake city in a warehouse, the play with 3 million actors, and the diary that updates daily even though the girl writing in it is apparently on the other side of the planet... man, Charlie Kaufman's one weird guy.
The Three Stooges short Cuckoo On a Choo-Choo has Moe playing a railroad detective who finds a stolen boxcar, Larry spending the whole short channeling Marlon Brando, and Shemp playing a drunk who's in love with a 6-foot canary he sees in his hallucinations. And practically the whole short is set in that boxcar, giving it a somewhat claustrophobic feel.
It was said to be Larry Fine's favorite Stooges short, an assessment not shared by the poor visitors for whom he would frequently screen a copy of the film.
2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie. It has been claimed that drug-users would sneak into theaters just to watchthe climax while stoned. The producers capitalized on it when they re-released it in the 1970s with the tagline, still the ultimate trip!
All of Dziga Vertov's films. All of them. Here's about 8 minutes from The Man with the Movie Camera. Even his manifesto is a sight to behold:
"It is not a Cine-eye we need but a Cine-fist... we must cut with our cine-fist through to skulls, cut through to final victory and now, under the threat of an influx of 'real life' and philistinism into the Revolution we must cut through as never before! MAKE WAY FOR THE CINE-FIST!"
Canadian indie film Waydowntown features a stoned guy swimming through hallways, his depressed friend called "Sadly I'm Bradley", a demented guy who eats flowers when upset, a nerdy emo security guard who stares at breasts with his cameras and a sneaky old guy who shoplifts.
The Wizard of Oz: There's a scene where Dorothy falls asleep due to magical poppies only to be woken by magical snow. The depressant opium is made from poppies, from which there are sedatives such as heroin and morphine. "Magical snow" is presumably a reference to the stimulant cocaine. The original book was written in 1900, smack-dab in a period that historians call "The Great Binge", in which most of today's controlled narcotics were legal and easily obtainable. The trippiness of The Wizard of Oz is made more legendary by the pop culture habit of using The Dark Side of the Moon as an alternate soundtrack and getting stoned.
Zardoz was made on drugs. If you listen to John Boorman's highly entertaining DVD commentary track, he openly admits it.
So the reviewer at Ruthless Reviews was closer to being right than he probably realized?
"Imagine a science-fiction film where the entire special effects budget was spent on cocaine."
Return of the Jedi, surprisingly enough. The creature design of the rancor was directly inspired by an LSD trip experienced by stop motion animator Phil Tippett, who envisioned the monster as a cross between a bear and a potato.