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The 18 Best Philosophical Movies of All Time

02 December 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Vinnoth Krish

the-truman-show

Whether realizing the art form of filmmaking or not, directors and writers often use their preferred visual medium to tell a story. Ideologies, theories or whatever form of message is always decoded in this visual medium in hopes that the audience gets the message. The secret of making a successful film, especially when telling a story, is to avoid preaching.

From Mel Gibson to Seth Macfarlene, Federico Fellini to Ridley Scott and of course Hitchcock, their movies have messages, from symbolist storytelling to clever subtext dialogues. Here’s a list of some of the movies that have philosophical messages encoded for the audience. Please note that the films here are ranked in chronological order.

 

1. Rope (1948, Alfred Hitchcock)

rope

Hitchcock, the master of suspense, toys with his audience, repels and lures them to a world of shock. Rope is one of his most audacious films ever, purposely created as a one-shot film: an experiment in real-time.

Starring in this underrated classic are James Stewart, Farley Granger and John Dall. It contains the most unique filmmaking of its time and the view of superior and inferior human beings. The film is based on the 1924 Leopold-Loeb case, the story of two homosexual law students in Chicago who murdered a 14 year old boy for kicks to prove they were intelligent and could get away with it.

This is an anti-existentialist movie, and James Stewart discovers to his horror that, following existentialism principles, two of his students have killed their classmate. James Stewart at the end realizes that depending on this philosophy only produces suffering for the follower and the people around him. This movie brings up references to the Nietzsche philosophy “Ubermensch,” as well as containing Freudian allusions.

 

2. The Fountainhead (1949, King Vidor)

The Fountainhead

This is an adaptation of Ayn Rand’s novel, a melodrama about individualism, shot in a fascinating German Expressionist style. Starring Gary Cooper as an independent architect who struggles to maintain his integrity, this movie portrays a metaphysical statement, an aesthetic manifesto, and a commentary on American architecture, ethics and political principles.

A lot of charm comes from the talented characters attempting to do their best with corny dialogue and occasionally giving the best performances. Gail Wynard, played by Raymond Massey, is a compelling character in the story due to the transformations he goes through during the film. Meanwhile, Gary Cooper as Roark is a tool, an egotistical man that has trouble conforming to popular standards.

 

3. The Seventh Seal (1957, Ingmar Bergman)

the-seventh-seal-chess-game

Director Ingmar Bergman, known for films Persona, Wild Strawberries and Fanny & Alexander, made The Seventh Seal, a cinematic model of existentialism, a man’s apocalyptic search for meaning. This extraordinary tale is about a knight who challenges Death to a fateful game of chess.

Although this movie is about understanding themselves in terms of metaphysical and philosophical questions, the Swedish director also wants the audience to experience this film with the issues of the problem of evil, philosophy of religion and existentialism. Bergman illustrates Bloch’s trouble with his beliefs incredibly well, the existence of an omnipotent God in the world, for his audience to view and judge for themselves.

This movie invites a lot of questions; it doesn’t sermonize nor belittle any specific demographic. Instead, it just states differerent opinion and lets the audience discuss it.

 

4. La Dolce Vita (1960, Federico Fellini)

La_Dolce_Vita

Directed by Federico Fellini who’s known for movies such as 8 ½, Amarcord, Roma and Satyricon, La Dolce Vita possess a dark and frequent sense of humor about the lavish lifestyles of people in Rome.

This film stars Marcello Mastroianni as a gossip journalist, who is unable to decide what to do next and feels as if he is trapped in a box. This movie feels as though Fellini is attempting to communicate with his audience about the seven deadly sins, which happens during seven deranged nights and seven dawns.

The whole movie takes place between the Seven Hills of Rome, in streets of nightclubs and on the sidewalks of cafes. If you can’t really picture it, close your eyes and think of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night. There are few movies that can give the viewers a grasp of philosophy, life and death every time at a different timeline as you watch the movie, but one of them is La Dolce Vita. There may be no such thing as the good life, but the choice you make in your life will determine it.

 

5. My Night at Maud’s (1969, Eric Rohmer)

my night at mauds

Directed by Eric Rohmer, this is a story about a young engineer (Jean) who spies an attractive blonde woman and, most importantly, a practicing catholic. But this entire mission is put on hold when he bumps into his friend (Pascal), who spends the entire evening discussing religion and philosophy.

They both agree to meet up the next day to continue the discussion at Maud’s house. During the discussions, Pascal made a wager, giving enormous odds against the existence of God at the ratio of 100 to 1. They all must bet on that one chance. If GOD doesn’t exist, then they lose the bet, though the loss is insignificant to them. But if GOD exists, then their lives have meaning and the reward is to live eternal.

The characters in this movie are intelligent, confident, communicative, masters of deceptions and capable of self-deception.

 

6. Love and Death (1975, Woody Allen)

Love and Death movie

Considered a satire of everything about Russians, from Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Sergei Eisenstein films, Woody Allen has managed to mix his Kafkian anxiety and Kierkegaard’s fearfulness into a nonstop comedy on war and peace, crime and punishment, and fathers and sons.

Allen plays Boris, who couldn’t sleep without the lights on until he reached thirty. He is about to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Throughout the movie, Allen spits out certain gags across the spectrum from other forms of visual mediums, such as Persona as a stylized parody, one-liners from Attila the Hun, and so on.

Though at the end Allen pitches us about love and death, what he as a human has learned about life, that our mind is great but the body has all the fun, we think God is an underachiever, but that death is somewhat a downer. This reminds us of Matthew 20:16, “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be the last.”

 

7. Being There (1979, Hal Ashby)

Being There

Being There is an adaptation of the 1970 novel by Jerzy Kosinski. Peter Sellers plays a simple gardener, who has never left the estate until his employer (Ben) dies. Things really get interesting when it comes to Ben’s funeral. The President and other political kingmakers are discussing the next choice for President and Chauncey’s (Peter Sellers) name becomes their favorite.

This movie embraces the moral and intellectual consequences of television’s presence, and in this regard does not mortally offend an audience weaned on television.

Showing something funny while somehow never misplacing the seriousness of the film or portraying the humanity of the characters is just one aspect of Hal Ashby’s flair. He had made great films such as Harold & Maude and The Last Detail, but this is a satirical comedy film and it will leave you with a lot of inspiration and ideas about philosophy coined by Heidegger.

 

8. My Dinner with Andre (1981, Louis Malle)

my-dinner-with-andre

Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn starred and also wrote the script for this movie, which is about two men having dinner in a fancy restaurant and discussing life. Yes, that’s the entire plot. Even for a minimalist plot, surely their conversations are highly thought-provoking topics.

Mainly this debate is about between Andre’s spiritualistic and idealistic worldview and Wallace’s pragmatic humanism and his practical-realistic worldview. Andre and Wallace are two different men, one eccentric and the other a settled type.

This movie is considered to be a cult classic among independent cinema critics and filmmakers for its philosophical meaning and minimalist style due to its insightful talks about life, the human condition, religion and communication. The beauty of this movie is that both are right and wrong at the same time.

After further the conversations, Andre and Wallace have become involved personally and emotionally, communicating on a level that is beyond most forms of socialization. This film shows the most truthful depiction of human communication in a visual medium.

 

9. Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott)

bladerunner

Blade Runner is a feature film based on the science fiction novel by Philip K Dick. Do Androids Dreams of Electric Sheep? Harrison Ford features as one of the Blade Runners hired to “Terminate” (Retirement) the Replicants, an enslaved human-engineered robot created by Tyrell Corporation’s genetic engineers. They were designed to serve as slave labor for exploring and colonizing other planets.

The movie portrays what it means to be human in the cybernetics era, raising questions such as: if artificial intelligence were placed in a body that looked and acted human, would it be considered a human? Would androids differ in any important way from the humans who created them? Existentialism!

 

 

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  • Śàjàñ Àkoñ

    great list, thnx

  • Darren

    Many of these are hardly philosophical, they simply propose questions of morality etc., as many films do.
    Stalker by Tarkovsky sets the standard for cinematic philosophy.

    • Arnold

      I am wondering how does Stalker set the standard for cinematic philosophy? Can you elaborate?

      • Darren

        Because it actively delves deepest into questions of human existence, human desire etc.

      • Luigi Mitrache

        First you have to understand it 😉 yes stalker is a wonderful metaphor. How about this: the three forms of approaching the unknown: empirical, scientific and artistic . All three having to cope with each other in their quest for reaching their objectives. Doesn’t this film seem rich enough in content and outstanding in its expression to qualify ?

    • João De Lalanda Frazão

      Well, Idk how Tarkovsky, Jorodowsky, Godard or Pasolini didn’t make it through the list either.
      Yet, in the last years, we’ve been bombed with a lot of philosophy dimensional movies, even in mainstream Hollywood, e.g. Inception.

    • Dasein88

      Exactly… I wanted to say no Tarkovsky…

    • HLLH

      What about Kieslowski’s The Decalogue? The only film Kubrick called a masterpiece.

    • Сорокин

      Well, if you mean philosophy as an act of mental masturbation, then yes, Stalker would be great example of it – extremely boring and pretentious claptrap full of infantile self-reflection. Feel sorry for Strugatsky brothers who had to butcher their own truly profound novel(Roadside Picnic) in order to satisfy Tarkovsky’s caprices.

      • Munchausen

        Since when a visual essay should be in fact

  • Rejitha

    Omitting Rashomon is unpardonable.. 🙂 Moreover Ozu, Bresson and many more are missing in this list. it should have been INCEPTION instead of MEMENTO if at all we consider them as BEST philosophical movies….

    • RiSky RahmaLia Sofyan

      Rashomon is actually discussing basic intro of subjectivity and objectivity, (and then the idea was cleverly outlined in “Being John Malkovich”) and i’m with the author on this one.

  • Mithi Winona Lacaba

    How about before sunrise, before sunset and before midnight?

    • Dan

      Before Sunrise is awesome, and certainly deserves to be in this list… But Before Sunset and Before Midnight aren’t half as good as Before Sunrise, and I think they aren’t worthy of being in the list…
      But that is just my opinion, of course.

      • TroubleChild

        Really, I think in terms of philosophy the second two are far richer, and deal more seriously with the question of what love really is.

        • TroubleChild

          They’re also just way better movies. The writing and acing are a cut above for sure.

  • Jai Ganesh

    what about Fight club?

    • Guest

      A question on the inherent brutality of man? The Jekyll/Hyde aspect. I see it. I think the movies have to pose and then question or explore the subjects, though, (like the Woody Allen movie). The premise has to be the question. I don’t think fight club counts because of that part – just like the Matrix doesn’t.

      • Ryan Dulac

        Fight Club is an existentialist novel and film!

    • Chris Gould

      Fight Club absolutely. The internal landscape of beating ones self up translated to film. Perfect visual metaphor and take on the human condition.

  • Joao Rei

    dafuks tree of life?!

  • baba

    This list couldn’t have been complete without NAKED by mike leigh. These are all good philosophical movies but you can’t miss NAKED.

  • ST

    Dark City should be on here.

    • Samet

      ^this…so many of these ethical and moral based movies do not deserve a spot on this list but Dark city actually explores the Idea of us being individual or inherently free and is actually quite a romantic movie

  • Pascal’s Kegger

    Heresy and heterodoxy! Michael Mann’s Collateral should be somewhere on this list.

  • Anonymous

    this sounds like a college paper on philosophy and religion…not a cinematic review. ??

  • jupitermadcat

    I’m surprised 2001 or 2010 wasn’t mentioned..

    • christopherjacques

      Those stories seem less philosophical and more “God is just an alien” kind of stuff… Still entertaining.

      • HLLH

        And the Ubermensch aspect of 2001.

  • Christopher Langton

    the fountain is the worst movie that i’ve ever watched and I heart huckabees is a snore fest of the highest order, as is the fountain head

    • christopherjacques

      I’ll be sure to watch all three, then.

      • Christopher Langton

        suit yourself

    • Sean Korb

      Perhaps Fast and Furious part Twelve is more your cup of tea. I heard it has 10% more explosions than the last installment.

  • Dale Muckerman

    I recommend The Way with Martin Sheen. Many of the above mentioned movies may be philosophical in some respects, but just aren’t that good. They seem to reflect a certain style more than anything else. Many also seem to have themes relating to illusion vs reality…which is perhaps not the only philosophical question around, and which is perhaps more psychological than really philosophical. Why aren’t Apocalypse Now (moral problems of war and the nature of man), 2001 (man’s place in the cosmos), or Boyhood (the nature of identity and self-hood) in the list?

    • Jared Ronning

      Boyhood is a grand coming of age movie… Not really philosophical.

      • Dale Muckerman

        I don’t disagree exactly, but as a coming of age movie it is perhaps at the top of its genre and has philosophical dimensions others in the genre lack. I don’t think being in a genre excludes a movie from being philosophical. 2001 is a sci-fi movie, and Apocalypse Now is a war movie.

  • Kristina

    Hugh Jackman’s character in the Fountain is called Tommy, not Jack…

  • Michael

    Groundhog’s Day, an existential masterpiece, should be top 5.

    • Dan

      Great movie. But not sure about the top five part…

    • David Walter

      I completely agree! I wrote this piece about what we can learn from the film.

      http://davidthewalter.tumblr.com/post/110408340436/groundhog-day

    • Sean Korb

      Groundhog’s Day kicks ‘Rope’ in it’s fat, pompous, bad-headed ass.

      • Raymond

        How is Rope pompous?? It’s Hitchcock! It’s a Hitchcock movie shot entirely in one room. It’s about as unpompous as you can get. Unless you think anything made before 1980 is pompous.

        • Comrade Wingtardd 5467p

          I think Rope was a pretty bad film. It was exceedingly stagey (it was a play) and not well adapted. It was a filmed play, more or less. Which is OK, but it doesn’t make for great film.

          • Raymond

            That’s a valid opinion. I don’t agree with it, but at least it’s logical, unlike Sean Korb’s calling Rope fat, pompous, and bad-headed, which doesn’t seem to be rooted in any kind of logic.

          • Duke of Something

            It’s Lumet, a Sidney Lumet movie, the greatest director of actors working with 70′ Al Pacino. I quite liked Rope but if you’re talking about making a movie in a single room go watch 12 Angry Men, an early masterpiece by Lumet.

  • tdandy

    Ayn Rand does not count as philosophy.

    • Ryan Dulac

      Why do you think that?

      • Nick Boyer

        During Rand’s lifetime her work received little attention from academic scholars.[10] When the first academic book about Rand’s philosophy appeared in 1971, its author declared writing about Rand “a treacherous undertaking” that could lead to “guilt by association” for taking her seriously.[186] A few articles about Rand’s ideas appeared in academic journals before her death in 1982, many of them in The Personalist.[187] One of these was “On the Randian Argument” by libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick, who argued that her meta-ethical argument is unsound and fails to solve the is–ought problem posed by David Hume.[188] Some responses to Nozick by other academic philosophers were also published in The Personalist arguing that Nozick misstated Rand’s case.[187] Academic consideration of Rand as a literary figure during her life was even more limited. Academic Mimi Gladstein was unable to find any scholarly articles about Rand’s novels when she began researching her in 1973, and only three such articles appeared during the rest of the 1970s.[189]

        Since Rand’s death, interest in her work has gradually increased.[190] Historian Jennifer Burns has identified “three overlapping waves” of scholarly interest in Rand, the most recent of which is “an explosion of scholarship” since the year 2000.[191] However, few universities currently include Rand or Objectivism as a philosophical specialty or research area, with many literature and philosophy departments dismissing her as a pop culture phenomenon rather than a subject for serious study.[192]

        Gladstein, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Allan Gotthelf, Edwin A. Locke and Tara Smith have taught her work in academic institutions. Sciabarra co-edits the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, a nonpartisan peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the study of Rand’s philosophical and literary work.[193] In 1987 Gotthelf helped found the Ayn Rand Society with George Walsh and David Kelley, and has been active in sponsoring seminars about Rand and her ideas.[194] Smith has written several academic books and papers on Rand’s ideas, including Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist, a volume on Rand’s ethical theory published byCambridge University Press. Rand’s ideas have also been made subjects of study at Clemson and Duke universities.[195] Scholars of English and American literature have largely ignored her work,[196] although attention to her literary work has increased since the 1990s.[197]

        Rand scholars Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen, while stressing the importance and originality of her thought, describe her style as “literary, hyperbolic and emotional”.[198] Philosopher Jack Wheeler says that despite “the incessant bombast and continuous venting of Randian rage”, Rand’s ethics are “a most immense achievement, the study of which is vastly more fruitful than any other in contemporary thought.”[199] In the Literary Encyclopedia entry for Rand written in 2001, John David Lewis declared that “Rand wrote the most intellectually challenging fiction of her generation”.[200] In a 1999 interview in theChronicle of Higher Education, Sciabarra commented, “I know they laugh at Rand”, while forecasting a growth of interest in her work in the academic community.[201]

        Libertarian philosopher Michael Huemer has argued that very few people find Rand’s ideas convincing, especially her ethics,[202] which he believes is difficult to interpret and may lack logical coherence.[203] He attributes the attention she receives to her being a “compelling writer”, especially as a novelist. Thus, Atlas Shrugged outsells not only the works of other philosophers of classical liberalism such as Ludwig von Mises,Friedrich Hayek, or Frederic Bastiat, but also Rand’s own non-fiction works.[202]

        Political scientist Charles Murray, while praising Rand’s literary accomplishments, criticizes her claim that her only “philosophical debt” was to Aristotle, instead asserting that her ideas were derivative of previous thinkers such as John Locke and Friedrich Nietzsche.[204]

        Although Rand maintained that Objectivism was an integrated philosophical system, philosopher Robert H. Bass has argued that her central ethical ideas are inconsistent and contradictory to her central political ideas.[205]

        Wikipedia

        • Rand collaborated with Greenspan. see the short book, Capitalism, by A.Rand. Matt Taibbi recently published a book, Griftopia, in which he villifies Greenspan for the 2008 Financial Crisis.

          • franco felix blanco

            So what? Heidegger collaborated with the Nazis. That’s not an argument. Nor wikipedia quotes. philosophy is not measured by applause meter. I think her major contribution in phillosophy is her book “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology”

          • Al Riddell

            Her ideas seem to be by and large, arguments in the justification of greed and as tdandy points out elsewhere in these comments she “isn’t seriously taught in any philosophy departments on account of the fact that she made no contribution to the field.” Physics and the Philosophy of Science seem to move further and further from any idea of objective reality (wave particle paradox as a starting point). In the end Rand’s ideas will simply continue to be used as some quasi-intellectual sophistry for those who want to justify personal/selfish ends (a la Greenspan and the Neo Liberal/Conservative thievery).

          • Brian Mueller

            The difference is that you can actively separate Heidegger’s philosophy from the man himself whereas with Rand, her philosophy both inspires her to make awful, selfish, stupid decisions as well as her followers.

          • Benny Profane

            Ayn Rand has no status whasoever in the field of philosophy.

        • Ian Kernott

          Wikipedia?!

      • tdandy

        She isn’t seriously taught in any philosophy departments on account of the fact that she made no contribution to the field.

    • Сорокин

      No, it’s philosophy – disgusting, inhumane, simply evil, but philosophy.

  • J.P. Gonzales

    Great Scott man! Where the hell is “Being John Malkovich”? Doesn’t even get an honorable mention?!

  • Victoria E Rodriguez

    I just watched ‘IN TIME’ and loved the philosophy behind it although they went off on a ridiculous Robin Hood type of tangent with it. Benjamin Button was quite thought provoking…also, LEGO movie!…am i crazy for thinking Frozen and Happy Feet are also philosophical?? …ok what about UP? I’m noticing a trend here lol damn i LOVE PIXAR movies (crying face)

    • thegoddamnbatman

      yeah, true, but these movies just barely touch the surface of philosophical ideas. I don’t think they could make it into such list.

    • Blue

      In Time has a philosophy but for my taste fails to develop that side. As a concept it is philosophical, but as is shown is a simple action movie.

  • motstraumen

    The Matrix has all the categories I have been teaching in my Philosophy classes

    • F S

      Considering Matrix a philosophical movie is absurd. It does state different philosophical ideas (by Descartes, Taoism, Buddhism, etc.) but that does not make it a philosophical film – only a film wanting to appear smarter than it is.
      There are few that I could think of as truly deeply philosophical films – films that are experiences, and not ideas.

  • John Foytek

    What about Clockwork Orange? Moon, and Love are also very good Sci Fi based Philosophical movies that no one should miss.

  • Ray Butler

    I’d add The Man From Earth and After The Dark.

  • Michael Alan Patterson

    Good list, but it ignores important inspirations for the films ex. Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and NGE

  • Carlos Midence

    Wings of desire… Is it worthy to be human?

  • Jared Ronning

    Synecdoche New York belongs on this list. Surprised you would add Eternal Sunshine and ignore Synecodoche. Definitely his most philosophical and boldest movie.

    • Darren

      Good choice

  • Michael Smith

    In my opinion, Cloud Atlas should be on this list.

  • Dustin McFadden

    Was expecting to see Mr. Nobody on this list, that one is very thught provoking

  • Kevin J. Kohler

    I wonder if the author is familiar with Mindwalk. Similar in its simplicity as My Dinner with Andre…, but with three characters of diverse backgrounds.
    http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0100151/

  • leoeris

    The Fountainhead? Credibility blown in two moves. Well played.

  • dmuzza

    If I were to pick one Woody Allen movie for this list, given its moral/ethical bent, I would definitely go with Crimes and Misdemeanors.

    • Spiderpigmom

      Zelig would be a good candidate too. Or the Purple Rose of Cairo.
      (Zelig: what is identity? Purple Rose: what is reality?)

  • Samuel Wright

    Yes Man actually teaches a philosophy of life, I recommend it…

    • Ricardo Lazaro

      Lol

  • Mathieu Lodevico

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNkN_xCXozw i like the movies that hurt to watch 🙂

  • Quark

    I find this list pretty lame except for a few notables. You left 13 conversations about one thing, The Man from Earth, Examined Life, Being in the world, Zizek!, Mindwalk, Stalker and the likes.
    I share an interesting quote that applies here by Slavoj Zizek.
    “[speaking about his picture in the newspaper]
    If you were to have a daughter, would you allow this guy to take your
    daughter to cinema? Be honest, the answer is ‘no’. I hate the way I
    appear… in some documents it’s even worse. It’s really as a kind of a
    criminal that I appear you know.”
    I really feel this way after reading your list.

    It’s better this way > “Whereof one can not speak, thereof one must remain silent.” – Wittgenstein.

  • Black Knigth

    El Topo, Zardoz, The Zero Theorem

  • Mark Sulkowski

    From the article: “Gary Cooper as Roark is a tool, an egotistical man that has trouble conforming to popular standards.”

    This completely misses the point of the film. Howard Roark is a talented and original architect who loves his work, and who realizes that if he conforms to popular standards he will be unable to achieve even a tenth of what he would otherwise be capable. He is a man who wants (using popular terms) to self-actualize by following his bliss. He therefore insists on retaining his artistic integrity under any circumstances. This is the heroic core of the movie.

    He doesn’t “have trouble” conforming to popular standards. He realizes that conformity is a trap.

  • Uncouth Angel

    Why isn’t Groundhog Day on this list??

    Heck, Conan the Barbarian?

  • Elisabeth White

    oh I liked this list.. but I’m a simpleton.. I may have to put a couple on my to be watched list. Ghost in the Shell is an interesting one from Japanese Anime.. and in terms of mainstream movies the original XMen had much to say about being ‘different’ from the others.. then again I guess Kermit did too

  • Willa Spatz Cartwright

    The 18 Best Philosophical Movies of All Time?

    Really, VINNOTH KRISH? These are your choice for Best Philosophical Movies of All Time?

    Dude, you really need to get out more.

    • Hashim Aziz

      Actually, I think if you were implying that his list is lacking, it’d make more sense to say he needs to *stay in* more.

  • Anna Garbutt

    I would like to add existenze to this list. Dealing with the idea that this reality may just be an illusion in a game and similar ideas.

    • Ciarán

      god love you, are you 16 (if you are then sorry for the snide tone)?

      • Anna Garbutt

        Nope. 23.

      • Jarek Draven

        Piss off. I’m 35, and I think Existenz is better than a lot of the arty tripe on this list.

  • I’d add the movie Mindwalk as well.

  • Huh! Such a bold heading for mostly mediocre list.

  • M.

    This author can’t even get the facts straight on a movie like Being There, so it’s no surprise that he cannot distinguish between existentialist questions posed by creative fiction (what am I if…[insert reality bending circumstances here] and existentialism itself. No, putting someone in a fictional universe where crazy stuff happens does not render a movie philosophical.

    For example, what is philosophical about Memento? A clever movie, it’s told backwards so that the audience has no advantage over the narrator/protagonist with short term memory loss due to brain damage. I’d offer up Nolan’s other movie, “Batman Begins” as better philosophy: “It’s not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you”.

  • RiSky RahmaLia Sofyan

    i’m surprised no one mentioned Gods Must be Crazy!

  • Luther Blissett

    What film is that in the first picture with the clouds and stairs?

    • Ricardo Lazaro

      Truman’s show. Sorry for the 4 month delayed answer.
      🙂

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  • Makis Poporis

    ”Peaceful Warrior” (2006) is a great philosophical film and the corresponding book of the film, is one that changes lives.

  • Blue

    I need to mention “Das Experiment” and “American History X”. Both movies I saw in philosophy class and I think develop that side.

  • Yasmine Samy Ibrahim

    The idea that god is someone who does whatever he wants is actually false, I dont see the connection between the truman show’s “creator” and god, god is justice,truth, calrity, however, the creator of this show is a horrible man who deprived someone’s privacy and freedom. A human being has the freedom to do whatever he wants,he has his own principals and, consciousness, god just lets u know that ur choices have consequences, god is not handcuffing anyone from doing what one wants, if that was true,there wouldn’t have been murder,theft,terrorism or any kind of injustice in this world.

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  • Rodolfo Mercado

    Jajajaja, aquí sí se la mamaron!

  • djtetsuo.

    No Cloud Atlas?
    hmmm.

  • David Walter

    You forgot about Groundhog Day.

    Read this piece I wrote about it:

    http://davidthewalter.tumblr.com/post/110408340436/groundhog-day

  • Sean Korb

    This list was horrible. I have a philosophy degree, and I don’t find anything remotely interesting about most of these films. Rope, in particular, was a ham-fisted screed by a philosophically inept dullard. Hitchcock is the most overrated director of all time.

    • Ricardo Lazaro

      I agree, i keep asking myself how do author think some of this movies are philosofical at all…

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  • mary234

    Andrej Tarkowskj’s Stalker and Persona from Ingmar Bergman are missing!

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  • Rope gets 97% on rottentomatoes and 8.1 out of 10 on imdb.
    “Underated”. That word, you keep using it. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    • TroubleChild

      Well, within the catalogue of Hitchcock, it is normally not considered to be one of his best, like it rarely appears in lists of his top ten films and is eclipsed by Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo, Notorious, Rebecca, Rear Window and others.

  • Daxton Norton

    Mindwalk, When Nietzsche Wept, The Tree of Life, Red, Salo, Persona, Dead Ringers and Videodrome by Cronenberg, Ikiru

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  • Stirge Fluton

    Requiem for Dreams?? really?

  • Ricardo Lazaro

    I’m not sure if the author realized this, but the list could be called “15 USA movies about philosophy plus 3 foreigner movies”.

    To call something “the best” you need to be open and flexible, also have a lot of knowledge, and this list highlights the author ignorance about international cinema (at least). Also I would doubt the philosophical topic on a lot of this movies, to ask some questions does not mean that the movie involves being philosophical.

  • mikeatle

    I would have added Grand Canyon (1991 Kasdan).

  • Rebel Ravi

    Not a comprehensive list though. Eastern Philosophy isn’t considered as Philosophy by you? Ikiru, PatherPanchali and A Seperation should have been included.

    • These look great, thank you!
      Do you know of any films/animations that explore any of the various Indian religions? I read books, but I would love to see it on screen, there are so many beautiful stories and wonderful worlds that could easily be turned into great tales on screen 🙂

  • Virāj J. Mahajan

    I still don’t understand why everyone always emphasis on the world cinema and always forget the Indian Cinema!!
    I know, and I understand that the movies which we make these days are not of that standard which we used to make in the early 60’s and in 70’s.
    I don’t have any grudge against any of the films mentioned here in the list and in the comments by the fellow movie lovers. I am a die hard fan of Tarkovsky but at the same time one should not forget the influence of Guru Dutt on Indian Cinema. I learnt a lot of the things from Woody Allen but the direction and acting of Vijay and Dev Anand respectively in Guide still makes me think about the life and the concept of materialism and the philosophical traits of this life. I know that American cinema is way ahead in technologies but Raj Kapoor and Satyajit Ray has done so much work in stories and the making of the films that they left a mark not only in Indian cinema but also in the world cinema.
    If you guys want some good Indian philosophical movies then I would suggest you to go and watch, Guide, Pyasa, Mera Naam Joker, Apu Trilogy, Awara, Mother India, Shree 420, and others.
    And for future, when you mention the list of the movies of all time, don’t forget Indian cinema. We don’t make that much money by films, we don’t have those technologies but we sure do a way to tell a story.
    Cheers!

    • Thanks for this list! I agree completely. Many of these films may well be insightful in a western context, but many times I feel that I cannot connect with the what the author/director is trying to express. Much of it is based on materialism, ‘being a man’, romance based on insecurity etc etc. Its rare to find a film that deals with moral, ethical and personal dilemmas faced by anything other than experiences I feel as though we should have overcome a long time ago.
      Again, thank you for this list, I can’t wait to see these movies!

  • Hal Dunn

    Interesting list of good movies, but maybe mostly “Philosophy Lite.” I enjoyed Matrix and Blade Runner, Love and Death, Being There, The Fountainhead, Truman Show, and Rope. Could not wrap my head around Barton Fink, even though I usually love the Coen Bros. Memento and Eternal Sunshine are overrated IMO.

  • Ανδρέας Παπ.

    I liked that it says “The Coen Brothers” and then “The Wachowskis”.
    You could have wrote “The Wachowski siblings” 😉

  • Jorge Olaya

    What about Bresson, Antonioni, Sokurov, Haneke, Bruno Dumont, Dreyer, Jean Marie Straub, Kurosawa Kiarostami, etc. I guess at the end this list it’s about philosophical mainstream films.

  • Brian Lussier

    Man, I really hate La Dolce Vita! I understand why it has to be here, and I know it’s a great film, but for some reason I just can’t personally stand it! And it’s not like I didn’t give it a shot, I’ve seen it three times, but I still disliked it more with every viewing, while at the same time being able to recognize its greatness. Weird! Does that ever happen to anyone here? That they watch a film and have a strong dislike or aversion to it, and yet they can understand it’s a great work of art? It’s the only film I’ve ever reacted to that way.

    • Yeah I get your sentiment exactly! There are a few films here which I have tried to watch, giving them another shot every few years, but can’t help but feel as though they are plastic and I can’t seem to connect with their intent nor with their characters. 🙂

  • Gargi

    Hate to sound like a snob, but looks like this list was made by a noob. Most of the films here were really not philosophical.
    Quick footnote; please watch ‘Detachment’ by Tony Kaye, one of the best films I have seen.

    • Viezurele Mov

      Detachment is indeed a great movie.

  • Mujahid Rajab Shamon

    Good movies, all names in one article. But can you share movies which are also beneficial for students who are studying in online degree program. Because to connect the students with film industry which movie names should be shared with students which have some lesson.

  • Qualiarella18

    join this cinema forums ..

    http://www.welikecinema.com/

  • Edgar Soberón Torchia

    Is this a joke?

  • Adam

    I expected to find “Monty Python’s Meaning of Life” on the list.

  • Brian Fischman

    Why do you just post the director’s names? Surely the writers are the ones responsible for the majority of the philosophical content…

  • mkalbasi
  • Comrade Wingtardd 5467p

    This is a reasonable list but the absence of Bunuel and Tarkovsky is inexcusable. Andrei Rublev, Stalker, The Sacrifice, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Milky Way belong at the top of this list, then whatever else.

  • Christopher Binder

    How dare you not include any Tarkovsky, Godard, Kieslowski, Varda, Marker, Resnais, Dreyer or Bresson to name a few.

  • Stéph Ane

    What about GATTACA ?

  • Andres Abad

    Dogville´s Lars Von Trier ¿?

  • Jan Gert

    i love to see the fountainhead in here, that movie lead me to study architecture and i didnt regret it so far =)

  • Marco Clark

    waking life?

  • defacebook

    The problem with this list (and this site in particular) is that the same movies are recycled for multiple topics as if a great “round peg” can fit multiple holes regardless of the shape or size. I see many of these titles on virtually every list created by this web site (hello, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and while I won’t debate the quality of these movies in general, for god’s sake watch some other movies before making another list !

  • Carlos Cordero Madrigal

    So where is Solaris? The soviet version, of course. It’s THE Philosophical movie.

  • Cygnifier

    The first philosophical film came in 1948? Really? What about Intolerance (1916) or Metropolis (1927), for starters? Just because they are silent doesn’t mean they don’t deal with important philosophical constructs, like the nature of reality or the structure of power. Rashomon (1950) is about the very nature of the realities we see. In the modern era, Mindwalk (1990) is more directly philosophical than most on this list. Rope may have overt dialogue about philosophy, but it’s not very good, even if it is Hitchcock. (Really need to quit using title structures like “best … of all time” unless you’ve seen everything. Something like “18 great philosophical movies” would be more accurate and would generate less spleen in responses.)

  • Rich G

    Solaris, Stalker, 2001 and Possession should be in the main list.

  • Christos Lialios

    This list without the Naked is very poor.

  • Ghost in the Shell?

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  • Tim O’Hare

    No Country For Old Men? Naked?

  • Fuebay

    What a load of horse shit, both in the article and the comments. If your going to write a few words about philosophical movie, define it first. If it is just a film touching on philosophical ideas…well, that would be 99% of all films. Since ethic is one of the 5 main subjects of philosophy. Name a god dam film that does not have a moral position or moral choice of some sort. Now, if your defining philosophical film as a film which uses the philosophical methods (in the western tradition) to examine life then….most of the films you listed needs to go, waking life is close enough and was shown 2 times during my undergrad. I guess the prof. thought it was “philosophical” enough. There are others and some are mentioned but reading is by far a better medium for this subject.

    Same goes for the Ann Ryn horse shit in the comments. Was her topic philisophical? YEs! was her method Philosophical? NO! that is why she is never taught in any serious philophy classes, not because “we” don;t like her, her arguments are unsound, therefore a waste of time. don;t confuse the two, Get your shit straight people.

  • Magnus Gram

    Brazil (1985)
    The Machinist (2004)
    The Double (2013)

    Three film that has not been mentioned yet. Brazil is like a Kafka movie, and the two others are also portraying the human condition and helplessness in the same kind of atmosphere.

  • Von Snitchzel

    Why no Watership Down? It’s very different, and one of the best philosophical films there is. Because:

    It’s all fine and intresting to wonder ideas of existence and being, I like that, but Watership Down had probably bigger impact than any of films on this list I’ve seen. What life actually is about?

    It serves the meaning of life to a viewer on a platter, and like it or not, it’s the truth you can’t deny…

  • Lachlan Forrest

    I feel like more of the works of Charlie Kaufmann should have been included. I think Synecdoche New York is a brilliant insight into the function of human emotion and the struggle with identity. Although i have to agree 100 percent on the choice of including eternal sunshine.

  • Prudvi Nath

    Can anyone explain why Momento is philosophical!!

  • Paul O’Connor

    What Dreams May Come

  • Del mar

    Is anti war a philosophy? How about Johnny Got His Gun! If you see how the military uses bodies and discards them even when they have the most precious gift to mankind…..showing how horrible war is! You may not call it philosophy but it sure is truth!

  • LukeO9 .

    No reputable philosopher would ever entertain the content of any of Ayn Rand’s books.

    • Otheus

      No True Scottsman would ever entertain such a logical trap.

  • LukeO9 .

    I would add ‘The Princess Bride’.

  • Yan Villeneuve

    Tree of life!!!

  • mugwort

    I think Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” should of been included Perhaps if the list was 20 instead of 18 films it would of been listed. “Rashomon” basically tells how people’s perceptions, perspective of the same event can be so different. To me the motion picture explores individuals experiencing the same experience can perceive it so differently. It is a picture of subjectivity.

  • Jacob

    Such a great list! I really like it. A lot of those movies are based on very good books. Most stories from this list : http://scroll-me.com/list-of-the-best-books-to-read-fiction-non-fiction/ should be filmed. Really great job.

  • Zafiris Isaakidis

    You forgot ”Man from Earth” and ”Network”

  • jamesmerendino

    It seems to me most interesting movies have a Philosophical or Political point of view. IDK

  • UglyHarris

    disappointed that Samsara isn’t in this list.

  • Lal Narendra

    Holy Mountain, Breathless,The Scar……..why aren’t these films even mentioned here ?

  • Krishna Upadrasta

    sunrise, before sunset and before midnight,,,smasara,,,these are actuall philosphical movies…!

  • Wiebe

    Yeah how is Stalker not in this list

  • Lightninbolt

    If these are examples of a “philosophical” movie, thanks for the warning.

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