The 20 Best Postmodernist Movies of All Time

14. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Written by Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson and Directed by Wes Anderson


The film goes in the zone of being absurdist with its humor. The film starts with three siblings who are extremely talented and as they grow there is a certain chaos and dysfunctionality that comes in their lives. The film takes from the popular Fox sitcom Arrested Development. It follows the similar narration pattern by following each family member. It is an extremely cold film. It creates an intentional distance between characters as well as with the audience.

The film goes on to become extremely corny but that is done in order to tale on the mushy cinema with happy endings. The film criticizes a certain kind of corniness but goes on to use the same device to convey the message. Anderson’s work is inspired by various artists and filmmakers and he manages to create a beautiful blend of those inspirations in his films.


15. Donnie Darko (2001)

Written and Directed by Richard Kelly


The lead character in this film has surreal visions related to the doomsday. He is also schizophrenic. Post modernism is believed to be an era where most people will suffer from fragmented and alternating memories. The film blurs the lines between reality and imagination. The film’s end is bizarre and different people have interpreted it differently. This open ended climax which gives space to all kinds of interpretations makes this quite an apt post-modern film.

The film also speaks about time travel. It suggests that there is an alternate universe that exists and Frank the rabbit is either from there or is just someone wearing that body suit at Halloween. The film is absurd and hence makes for an interesting post-modernist example.


16. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)

Written by Charlie Kaufman and Directed by Michel Gondry

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The reason why Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind is a sure shot postmodernist film is simply because of its essential theme and story line. Postmodernism’s most common and striking feature is fractured or constructed memory. Gondry takes the idea of playing around with one’s memory by giving its characters the capacity to remove a particular person from your memory completely.

The film is trippy and is also told in a highly nonlinear fashion. The film sees its character trying to chase memory and in that course losing the clarity between ‘reality’ and memory. Gondry is also using pastiche in his mise-en-scene. In this film there is a scene in which the lead character imagines him sleeping on a bed with his lover but the bed is placed on a beach. This depicts the coming-together of two fond memories he had with his lover. The film has several other such interesting and highly layered visuals.


17. Inception (2010)

Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan


Inception constructs a space where dreams are elevated to a level where they become capable of making and breaking our perception of reality. The film constantly travels between the space of the character’s dreams and reality. In fact it divides the space of dreams into various levels, each level being longer than the other timeline.

The film breaks the concept of time for you. It also presents the state of limbo. It is based on the principle that 4 hours spent in our dreams are equal to 4 minutes in real life and this time frame increases if you go further into another level. That is where the film presents the theory of dream within a dream. This is the most twisted a postmodernist outlook towards time and space can get. It also deals with construction of spaces within dreams.

This film also has a videogame type structure to it. The idea of Penrose staircase in the sequence when Cobb explains the idea of construction to the architect gives the postmodernist element of intertextuality. The film has its theoretical flaws but still makes for an interesting and highly detailed work by Nolan.


18. Midnight in Paris (2011)

Written and Directed by Woody Allen


Woody Allen is the kind of filmmaker who has defined his cinema with his own languages. He is not into giving a superior status to form over content, yet his films are truly post-modernist because of the twisted plots and strange yet extremely intelligent story-telling devices. After Crimes and Misdemeanours , Midnight in Paris has to be his most postmodernist film. This film is a take on two eras of France. It goes back in memory level.

The film has elements of magical realism. The eras the film explored are well detailed and yet imagined. There are references to the literary gods, artists, actors of that era. Allen paints an extremely beautiful picture and yet it explores the feeling of loss and discontent with the era a person is born in. The film also deals with one of the biggest features of postmodernism and that is nostalgia. The film takes on it in an interesting fashion by making the character travel back in time and at a point makes him travel further back in time. It is one of the most beautiful postmodernist films ever.


19. Suicide Room (2011)

Written and Directed by Jan Komasa

Suicide Room (2011)

Suicide Room is quite a compelling Polish film. It is about this otherwise ‘perfect’ boy gets a life-changing dare in one of the college games. He is asked to kiss a boy. The film from there takes him into a journey of being misunderstood and that is when he finds a virtual world online and that is also where he finds comfort. He also finds love online. This disorientation with the ‘real’ world and being understood in the ‘hyper real’ space makes this movie a post-modernist attempt.

Also this film is a part of Polish post modernism in art which has happened post-2004 because that was also the time when accession of the European Union happened. It is Komasa’s anti-foundationalism in popular culture that has made him a part of this movement.


20. Her (2013)

Written and Directed by Spike Jonze

her 2013

Her tells the story of a man who works for a Corporation which helps individuals in writing intimate letters for their loved ones. Theodore is one of the writers. The story then goes on to show how Theodore develops mutual affection for Samantha who is an operating system. The film reeks of post modernism. Probably reek is not the appropriate word because the film with this underlining theme is simply delightful.

It questions how real anyone’s reality is and how real human emotions are. There is a scene in the film where Samantha, while talking to Theodore, explains how she is really happy that she is experiencing so many new emotions. She is surprised at her own capacity to explore such emotions but then she says that it also saddens her when she questions whether these emotions are even real or a consequence of some data fed in her system.

One of the tropes of postmodernist films is to break reality. It proposes the idea of everything being a stimulated reality; a projection of data fed into our systems. Her successfully blurs the lines between humans and machines. It goes into the space where humans find peace and compatibility with machines designed apparently for them. The operating system goes on to outgrow humans with its power to comprehend emotions and grow in love. Samantha in fact says an extremely powerful line in the film, “Unlike you, I never forget that I’m not human.”

The film also deals with the theme of automated love. Be it Theodore’s character writing letters on behalf of other people which are really heart-warming or the scope of a relationship with an operating system. It takes the emotion of love to a hyper real space. The feeling of alienation and inane existence and the desire to find love and being with someone who gets you makes this film a postmodernist masterpiece.

Author Bio: Kanishka Singh Deo has been working in the Indian Film Industry as an Assistant Director since last one year. She is also a film studies enthusiast.