In keeping with this weeks earlier posts on movies, I decided to list all the good dream and lucid dream themed films out there!
If you are interested in dreams, I think you’ll find these movies worth watching.
Let me know what you think!
You might notice some of these movies bleed into other mind-related themes. My study of dreams naturally leads to a fascination with consciousness and states of mind, and so my movie list naturally reflects that in as much as it ties back into my fascination with dreams. 🙂
1. Vanilla Sky (2001)
– The most popular movie to introduce the concept of lucid dreaming to the masses. Although, to be fair, the movie does play loose with the idea of lucid dreaming – i.e. he doesn’t really know he’s dreaming, he’s just mapped out intentionally a dream life that he wants to have, and then falls into it, unconsciously, and lives his life. I love this movie. I still remember the first time I saw it at a friends house. I literally was ready to watch it again from start to finish as soon as it ended.
2. Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) (1997)
– This is the original Spanish version of Vanilla Sky. I‘m really not trying to collect hipster points by saying this version is better, but it might just be better, to be honest. There are certain scenes in the original version that are cooler than any scene in the Hollywood version. For instance, I where he runs out of the building to the outdoors screaming “I want to wake up” was just awesome. Watching this, I understood how it might feel to be completely delusional and kill people, that to you, aren’t even real, but just characters in what you now recognize is an illusion.
By the way, Penelope Cruz is in this version, too. Weird eh?
3. Waking Life (2001)
– This movie is incomparable to anything else. The entire film issequences of intense philosophical dialogues on dreams and reality. I found it disjointed and sometimes hard to follow, but overall fascinating. Adding to the dizzying dialogue, the film uses this strange animation technique where they film real people and added animation over this footage. The result is a strange combination where everything looks real but you know it’s not.
4. Mulholland Drive (2001)
Ah, David Lynch! The master of fucked up films! I adore his work and I think Mulholland Drive is a masterpiece.
This film has been interpreted in a million different ways and for good reason, as Lynch is a master at open-ended film making where nothing really makes sense, even when you briefly think it does.
I like approaching this as if it’s a sequence of different dreams all loosely connected. Notice how within each scene, what’s happening seems incredibly meaningful and consequential, often with a corresponding overwhelming flow of emotions. What’s literally happening in the scene doesn’t necessarily translate to what’s meaningfully or “emotionally” happening, yet there’s this connection between the two somehow.
This level of disjointedness between what’s happening and what’s being felt is so common in dreams.
When the next scene comes along, it starts all over again and it’s not necessarily related to the scene before or after, but again, while it’s happening it feels incredibly meaningful and important.
This is very much like a night of dreams that you feel are related but don’t really make sense, yet at the time, it all made sense to you, complete with the added bonus of baffling emotions.
5. Science of Sleep (2006)
– This a cute love story wrapped around a dream-theme. The previews made it look more about dreams and the dream world than it really is. I absolutely love the scene where he falls asleep talking on the phone, and then, fully conscious in the dream state, continues the phone conversation excitedly, reporting what he’s seeing in the dream. (The camera then shows him sleeping silently with the phone near his head.) Ironically, after seeing this movie I had a dream about this character and it did not trigger anything in me to ask “Wait a minute…am I dreaming?”
6. Altered States (1980)
Hippy culture within academia, sense deprivation tanks, religious ramblings, and lots and lots of drugs make for one interesting sci-fl flick. Loosely based on the work of researcher and ketamine-happy John Lily.
By the way, this movie was voted in the Top 100 Sci-Fi Films of All Time, so I guess that makes it a classic, eh?
8. Stay (2005)
– This film blends up the reality between a therapist and his patient and offers another wrap-around plot.
It does get surprisingly strange with some really odd, bizarre sequences for such a mainstream film.
The acting by Ryan Gosling is beautifully crafted, so much so that his depressed & suicidal character is so well acted that I felt a bit like him when it was all over.
And Some Dream-Related Movies I Haven’t Seen But Would Like Too…
The Good Night (2007)
– Penelope Cruz again stars in a film about dreams and lucid dreaming. Lots of big names in this film – I wonder if it was popular or will be popular? Too be honest I’m not even sure if in the States it’s hit the theatres yet or already came and went. (I am out of it when it comes to popular culture, so to speak.) I definitely gotta see this though. The plot centers around a man who falls in love with a girl literally in his dreams, and then finds her in real life.
I find it amusing that Danny Devito is supposedly this crazy, nutty lucid dreaming guru in the film. Like we’re all crazy in the head, eh? 🙂 Sure…
Wide Awake and Dreaming (2003) – Does anyone know anything about this black and white film on lucid dreaming? All I can find is this entry on IMDB. I would like to know more.
Some Japanimation Film I Can’t Remember the Name of (2007)
– And google is not being cooperative. Does anyone know what I’m talking? There was a semi-independent japanimation film – or at least I think that’s the correct genre – that came out this year, related to dreams and lucid dreaming. I believe the lead character was female. I meant to see it, never did, and now I cannot find out anything else since I cannot remember it’s name. Dammit.
Lucid (2006) – Another film I’ve found from searching online for lucid dreaming movies. Not much info out there but I am intrigued that this is called a “black indie film” at Amazon
. The movie poster and tagline look horror-esque.
The Door (2005) – A thriller about lucid dreaming and shared dreams. Looks worth watching. If Netflix has it, I will get it soon. I found a review of it here and here’s the official website for The Door.
So, what did I miss?
What do you think of the movies in this list?
What’s your favorite dream movie?
P.S. If you like these movies, I bet you’ll also dig Donnie Darko, even though it doesn’t really have anything to do with dreams, it’s just weird.
Update July 2010: The Inception movie absolutely deserves to be on this list too. 🙂 Freaking awesome film!
Photo by balt-arts