Psychedelic Rock in the Movies of the 1970s

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A blog discussing how Psychedelic Rock music was used in popular films of the 1970s.


Psychedelic rock, also referred to as psychedelic pop or acid rock, is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s and gained popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The genre is heavily influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate the experience of altered states of consciousness.

Psychedelic rock saw a revival in the late 1990s and early 2000s with bands such as The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Flaming Lips, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Psychedelic rock has also been featured prominently in films of the 1970s, often serving as a backdrop for scenes of drug use or free love. This article will explore some of the most iconic examples of psychedelic rock in film.

-The Exorcist (1973)
-Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare (1975)
-The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
-Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)

The Beatles and Psychedelic Rock

The Beatles were not only the most popular and successful band of their time, but also the most influential act of the 20th century. The Beatles inspired a whole generation with their innovative music, Beatlemania, and the “British Invasion” of America in the 1960s. The Beatles experimented with many different genres of music, including psychedelic rock. Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that emerged in the 1960s which was influenced by psychedelic drugs. The Beatles incorporated this style into some of their later albums such as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), Magical Mystery Tour (1967), and The Beatles (1968), also known as the “White Album”.

The Beatles were not the only ones experimenting with this new sound. Other bands such as The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and The Doors were also exploring psychedelia in their music. This new genre became increasingly popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many films of this era featured psychedelic rock songs on their soundtracks, including Easy Rider (1969), Performance (1970), Zabriskie Point (1970), Blow-Up (1966), Head (1968), and more.

Psychedelic rock continued to be popular in the 1970s with bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Kiss adopting elements of the style into their own music. This new sound was also reflected in film with classics like The Warriors (1979), Quadrophenia (1979), Foxes (1980), and Apocalypse Now (1979) featuring psychedelic rock songs on their soundtracks.

Psychedelic Rock in the Movies

Psychedelic rock, also referred to as “psychedelia”, is a style of rock music that emerged in the mid-1960s and reached its peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Psychedelic rock is characterized by its use of unconventional sounds, altered states of consciousness, and often psychedelic or drug-inspired imagery. It is often used in the movies of the 1970s to create a feeling of confusion or paranoia.

The Harder They Come

The Harder They Come is a 1972 Jamaican crime film directed by Perry Henzell and starring Jimmy Cliff as a young, frustrated Jamaican man who turns to a life of crime to escape his poverty. The film is one of the most influential movies of all time, and its soundtrack is considered to be one of the greatest ever made. The movie features some of the biggest names in reggae and punk rock, including Cliff, Bob Marley, the Wailers, Toots & the Maytals, Desmond Dekker, and the Slickers.

Pink Floyd: The Wall

Pink Floyd: The Wall is a 1982 British live-action/animated musical drama film directed by Alan Parker with animated segments by Gerald Scarfe, and starring Bob Geldof as Pink, a composite rock star character. The film is based on the 1979 Pink Floyd album of the same name, and partly on Pink Floyd – The Wall Live 1980–81.

The story follows Pink, an alienated and collapsed rock star who builds a mental wall to block out the audience, his friends, and everything else in his life. He becomes progressively more cut off from reality and finally retreating into total isolation. In the second half of the film, Pink imagines that he is a fascistic dictator based on Adolf Hitler, leading his “followers” into ever greater excesses.

The film was not well received by critics upon its release, but has since been reappraised as one of the best works of psychedelic cinema.


The 1975 movie Tommy, based on the Who’s rock opera of the same name, is a perfect example of how psychedelic rock found its way into movies in the 1970s. The story follows the “deaf, dumb, and blind boy” Tommy Walker, who becomes a messianic figure for his generation after a traumatic event. The Who’s Roger Daltrey stars as Tommy, along with Oliver Reed, Ann-Margret, and Elton John. The movie features several well-known songs from the Who’s album, including “Pinball Wizard” and “I Can See for Miles.” The movie was not particularly well-received by critics when it was released, but it has become a cult classic in the years since.


In conclusion, psychedelic rock enjoyed a surge in popularity in the 1970s, appearing in a number of popular films. While the music may not have had the same mainstream appeal as it did in the 1960s, it still managed to make an impact on popular culture.

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