Yep, it’s that time of year that we hunker down around the TV, just like our ancestors did (around an open fire) in times gone by. And sure, you could rewatch that sitcom for the millionth time. Or get pulled in by whatever movie is showing as you flick through the channels. Or, you could use this sofa season to open your mind and learn something new...

In the past couple of years the film world has exploded with new documentaries about psychedelics. A growing interest, plus a newly increased level of accessibility and acceptance has meant that the subject is being explored like never before. And, you have quite the pick ‘n’ mix of options. From stories of the psychedelic movement of the 60s and 70s, to exploring lesser-known psychedelic substances, to the cutting-edge psychedelic science breakthroughs of right now, there is a movie for every mood. 

If you have a passing interest in magic mushrooms and psychedelics in general, you will probably have already seen the brilliant Fantastic Fungi and the much-feted How to Change Your Mind*. So for our list we’ve decided to delve a little further into the psychedelic pool.

*( if you haven’t yet seen them — chuck ‘em on the list too!)

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

5 Psychedelic Documentaries to Enjoy this Sofa Season

Isn’t there something amazing about expanding your mind, your knowledge, and your ability to share cool facts at a party — all from the comfort of the couch? Whether you’re a seasoned psychedelics user, or someone keen to explore a new area of interest, we’ve got some recs to help you get through this sofa season, and beyond!

The Way of the Psychonaut: Stanislav Grof’s Journey of Consciousness (2020)

This 2020 documentary follows the life and work of Stanislav Grof. It explores his work in the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy, while incorporating elements from his original book of the same name. Grof is something of a unicorn, in that he is a psychedelic pioneer who has lived during both the first Western psychedelic era in the 1960s, and the current psychedelic renaissance. 

From his youth in Czechoslovakia, to his exile to the United States, his work with Timothy Leary and beyond, this is the portrait of a pioneer who believed psychedelics could treat disorders such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety decades before the wider scientific establishment copped themselves on. 

Why you should watch:

In a nutshell, Grof is a psychedelic pioneer who has dedicated his career to healing people via altered states, despite the adversity he has faced. It’s a truly inspirational story. 

The Mind Explained: Psychedelics (2019)

This Netflix series aims to explore that mystery which sits between each of our ears — the human mind. Each bite-sized 20 minute episode focuses on a different aspect, the last being on psychedelics. This accessible, and easy-to understand format is perfect for a newbie psychedelics fan, as it traces both the history and the science of psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, LSD and MDMA. From the countercultural movement of the 1960s, to the banning of psychedelics in the 70s, to today’s research into their benefits, this little episode has it all. In fact, we recommend watching the whole series to really get inside the mind of your… ahem, mind. 

Why you should watch:

With colorful graphics illustrating the effects of psychedelics on the brain, as well as testimony from those who have used psychedelics as a healing tool this is a fun and accessible way to dip your toe into psychedelics. And it’s narrated by Oscar nominee Emma Stone to boot!

Magic Medicine (2018)

This documentary, released just before the psychedelic renaissance truly started rocking, follows the groundbreaking work of Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris and Imperial College London. A fascinating film, which lets us into the journey of three patients, who have each turned to psychedelics to cure their severe treatment-resistant depression. With all their hopes pinned on Dr. Carhart-Harris’ experimental new protocol, this documentary covers the intimate and very different journey of each man. Between showing us the nuts and bolts of the scientific protocol, as well as the more personal elements of the patient’s journeys — such as reconnecting with their families, their moments of healing, and moments of disappointment — we are able to build a picture as viewers, of both the intimate, and the wider reaching potential of psychedelic treatment. 

Why you should watch:

This documentary charts some of the experiments that brought psychedelics back into the scientific spotlight. It shows both the inspiring work of Dr. Carhart-Harris, and how psychedelic therapy could be used to improve the lives of ordinary people.

Long Strange Trip (2017)

The Grateful Dead were an iconic band who inspire devotion, especially in a certain demographic of psychedelia-loving fans. Even if you are not familiar with their oeuvre, you will likely have heard them referenced in the ‘culture.’ This film provides a background as to why this band is so beloved; charting their incarnation through to their steady rise to cult-like status. If your aim is to connect with psychedelic lore and swot up on the culture, or if you are already a ‘Deadhead’, this immersive almost 4 hour film is for you.

Why you should watch:

A film about one of the most iconic bands in psychedelic culture, that begins as a conventional documentary, and then slowly morphs into a beautiful, trippy, 4 hour long journey? Yes please. 

From Shock to Awe (2018)

If you’ve been following psychedelic therapy in the news the past few years, you will have heard of the potential of psilocybin and MDMA et al, to effectively treat PTSD. Much of this research has been focused on the treatment of PTSD in war veterans and soldiers, a bipartisan issue that those on all points of the spectrum seem able to get behind. In this 2018 documentary we see first hand the journey of two former US Army soldiers, Matt Kahl and Mike Cooley, who developed PTSD after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Having tried all conventional treatments in the attempt to live a normal life, they finally turn to MDMA-assisted therapy and take part in an Ayahuasca ceremony. The documentary shows their impressive and encouraging progress, as they begin to heal from their trauma. It is deeply poignant, and you may shed a tear as you witness the journey of these two men embark upon, so keep those tissues handy! 

Why you should watch:

This documentary shows us the people who are benefiting from the psychedelic breakthroughs we read so much about. It also reminds us of the individual, delicate humanity that is often forgotten in the light of political decisions. 

If these whetted your psychedelic appetite, then don’t worry — sofa season is long — and we have plenty more fun, inspiring documentaries to recommend soon!