Perception is subjective.
Everything we experience is reconstructed by our individual minds to create uniquely different versions of reality. We tell ourselves a story that dictates how we think, and over time, we become that story.
If you’re going to practice escapism (which we all do in one way or another), why not do it in a healthy way? Utilize your escapism to help bring you closer to building a life you don’t need to escape from in the first place.
Movies can be used as tools for reminding ourselves about the transient nature of our realities.
They allow us to temporarily switch off our reconstructed mind-worlds to take on a new perspective, one that’s a collaboration between our perceptions and the ones of the characters living on screen. It’s like a distorted form of empathy. A partial death of the ego.
From this new paradigm I find you’re able to make new decisions or take on new mindsets you otherwise might not have.
- The Stoics advocate reflecting on your own death to make yourself better appreciate each day. Some of us are able to get a vivid picture of this, but for others it’s extremely difficult to fathom (even though the fear of death may subconsciously plague us). In an early scene of Enter the Void, you’re forced to confront this visual head on in a very visceral way.
- The majority of our thoughts are spent reflecting on the past or contemplating the future. Buddhist teachings tell us to embrace the present moment, but that’s easier said than done. Memento takes you inside the mind of someone forced live in a minuscule reality in the present.
- Fight Club drives home how a lot of our values and our perception of reality are dictated to us through media, marketing and social conditioning.
- The Truman Show allows you to ponder how you’d live differently if you knew every action you took was publicly documented.
I like movies that make you question reality because I find they give you the biggest pattern interrupt. They’re able to cause a glitch in the matrix long enough for you to actually do something with.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite movies that make you question reality.
List of Movies That Make You Question Reality
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.Albert Einstein
Each movie made it on this list because of the nature of their plot and the themes involved, and not necessarily because I think they’re the best films (though I enjoy nearly all of them for different reasons). Each was made with a different budget, and at the very least, it’s easy to appreciate what they tried to accomplish. Warning: Some are extremely graphic. Do your own research before viewing.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Plot Summary: A sleepwalking teenager encounters a giant demonic bunny rabbit who tells him the world will end in 28 days. He sets out to investigate new metaphysical realities in his attempt to prevent the world’s impending destruction.
Memorable Quote: “I can do anything I want. And so can you.”
IMDB Score: 8.0/10
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Plot Summary: A playboy magnate has his perfect life upended after surviving a car crash caused by a jealous lover. He’s forced to discover the truth about his past and the nature of dreams and reality.
Memorable Quote: “I want to live a real life. I don’t want to dream any longer.”
IMDB Score: 6.9/10
Waking Life (2001)
Plot Summary: A man finds himself in a dream he’s unable to wake from, as he floats through a series of encounters that ultimately make him question whether or not he’s actually alive.
Memorable Quote: “The worst mistake you can make is to think you’re alive, when you’re really just asleep in life’s waiting room.”
IMDB Score: 7.8/10
The Matrix (1999)
Plot Summary: A man is lead into an underworld where he’s forced to make a decision between the freedom of hard reality or the comfortable bliss of ignorance.
Memorable Quote: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
IMDB Score: 8.7/10
Fight Club (1999)
Plot Summary: A depressed insomniac office worker meets a strange soap salesman named Tyler Durden. The pair forms an underground fight club for men who are fed up with their mundane, materialistic lives.
Memorable Quote: “First, you have to give up. First, you have to know, not fear, know that someday you’re gonna die.”
IMDB Score: 8.8/10
The Fountain (2006)
Plot Summary: A medical doctor frantically works toward a medical breakthrough that will save the life of his cancer-stricken wife, as three separate storylines unfold across the past, present and future.
Memorable Quote: “All these years, all these memories, there was you. You pulled me through time.”
IMDB Score: 7.3/10
Enter the Void (2009)
Plot Summary: An expat drug dealer living in Tokyo is caught in a sting operation gone wrong, ultimately leading to his demise. His soul seeks resurrection as it floats over the city observing the aftermath.
Memorable Quote: “These lights are the doors that pull you into other planes of existence.”
IMDB Score: 7.3/10
Plot Summary: A team of astronauts travel through a mysterious wormhole in search of a new planet to ensure the survival of humanity.
Memorable Quote: “Maybe we’ve spent too long trying to figure this out with theory.”
IMDB Score: 8.6/10
Mulholland Drive (2001)
Plot Summary: After a car crash renders a woman unable to form new memories, a friend helps her search Los Angeles for clues and answers about her true identity.
Memorable Quote: “No, you’re not thinkin’. You’re too busy being a smart aleck to be thinkin’. Now I want ya to think and stop bein’ a smart aleck. Can ya try that for me?”
IMDB Score: 8.0/10
Plot Summary: A thief with the ability to enter people’s dreams and steal their subconscious secrets is sent on a new mission to plant an idea in someone’s mind.
Memorable Quote: “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”
IMDB Score: 8.8/10
The Truman Show
Plot Summary: An insurance salesman goes about living his life until one day he finds out everything he thought was real was one big reality TV show.
Memorable Quote: “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that.”
IMDB Score: 8.1/10
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Plot Summary: After finding out his ex-girlfriend underwent a procedure to erase him from her memory, a man decides to do the same.
Memorable Quote: “What a loss to spend that much time with someone, only to find out that she’s a stranger.”
IMDB Score: 8.3/10
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Plot Summary: A man finds a portal in his office that leads him to see through the eyes of actor John Malkovich, taking him on a strange adventure.
Memorable Quote: “There is truth, and there are lies, and art always tells the truth. Even when it’s lying.”
IMDB Score: 7.7/10
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Plot Summary: In a totalitarian society in the near future, an undercover cop becomes involved with a dangerous new drug and begins to lose his true identity.
Memorable Quote: “What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me? Into us? Clearly or darkly? I hope it sees clearly because I can’t any longer see into myself. I see only murk.”
IMDB Score: 7.1/10
Black Swan (2010)
Plot Summary: A committed ballerina lands the lead role in the play “Swan Lake”, but struggles to psychologically adapt to the mounting pressures of perfectionism.
Memorable Quote: “Perfection is not just about control, it also about letting go.”
IMDB Score: 8.0/10
Plot Summary: A man suffering from short-term memory loss is on a mission to hunt down and kill the man who murdered his wife.
Memorable Quote: “The world doesn’t disappear when you close your eyes, does it? My actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them.”
IMDB Score: 8.4/10
The Epilogue: Movies That Make You Question Reality
These types of movies won’t unlock the secrets of the universe, but they might be able to help you forget who you just enough to shake up your thinking and force you to ask new questions.
Have any other movies you’d add to the list?