Movies: the stuff that dreams are made of. Since so movies look like dreams brought to life, it only makes sense that there have been so many movies made about dreams, with the recent ‘Inception’, a movie about stealing ideas from a dreaming victim, looking to prove that it’s the best in the dreaming genre. So while the other movies on this list might not live up to the hype of ‘Inception’, they might make the wait to see it a little more bearable:
Brazil – This is definitely one of my favorite movies about dreams, set in an incredibly bureaucratic world where one little typo can spell doom for an unsuspecting citizen. Sam Lowry is a citizen in this society, dealing with his dull job by becoming a winged hero in his dreams. But when he sees the girl of his dreams in real-life, will he become a real-life hero? When it comes to movies about dreaming, you won’t find one that’s a better testament to their power than this amazing, stylistic film (but be forewarned: it might have you also wanting to leave those stacks of paperwork behind for something more exciting).
The Science of Sleep – This is one of the most colorful movies about dreams, and, like ‘Brazil’, it features a character whose dreams begin to affect his real life (dreamy Gael Garcia Bernal). He, too, meets the girl of his dreams, but through mishaps involving sleepwalking and lucid dreaming, his dreams begin to blend with reality and make it difficult for him to decipher what’s really going on with his love life and what he’s dreaming or imagining. It’s another Michel Gondry visual masterpiece full of colorful dreamscapes and dream sequences, making it one of the best movies for those who really let their imaginations run wild (it really can pay off in the end).
The Wizard of Oz – This is one of the best classic movies about dreams, as Dorothy leaves her dull, black-and-white farmhouse behind for a magical world full of witches, wizards, munchkins, and, of course, lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). It’s one of the best movies about dreaming because the whole movie is a dream, and I can’t help but feel sad every time I see the somewhat depressing ending where Dorothy is transported back to her boring Kansas home (why was she in such a rush to get back?).
A Nightmare on Elm Street – And here’s one of the movies that explores the dark side of dreams: nightmares. It’s a film that will make you fear falling asleep, because Freddy just might be waiting there to make your worst nightmares a reality. It’s definitely not one of the best movies to watch right before you’re planning on doing some dreaming, so you might want to follow it up with one of the more pleasant movies about dreams on this list to make you feel a little more comfortable with closing your eyelids.
Alice in Wonderland (1951 version) – Like ‘The Wizard of Oz’, this is one of the movies about dreams that mostly takes place during a dream, as Alice is transported to her own colorful dream world inhabited by worried white rabbits, Cheshire cats, hookah-smoking caterpillars, and living chess pieces and playing cards. It’s the perfect companion film for ‘The Wizard of Oz’, although both movies might leave the rest of wishing our dreams could be as colorful as these two girls’ are.
Open Your Eyes (1997) – This is one of the many movies that has suffered an American remake in the form of ‘Vanilla Sky’, but I much prefer Amenabar’s original. It’s one of the best movies about lucid dreaming (having dreams and being able to manipulate them), as well as a much-overlooked psychological sci-fi masterpiece about the future of dreams: if given the chance, would you choose to live a dream world, or would you prefer reality?
Waking Life – This is another of the animated movies about dreams here, however, unlike ‘Alice in Wonderland’, this one is aimed at adults. It gets a lot of attention for its creative rotoscoped animation, however, it’s also an interesting look at dreams and consciousness (the animation definitely helps give it a dream-like quality). There’s plenty of lucid dreaming going on in this cerebral slice of cinema, but while it’s visually stunning, be prepared to put your thinking cap on as issues like free will, the meaning of life, and existentialism are discussed throughout.
Paprika – This is another of the animated movies about dreaming aimed at grown-ups, set in a world where entering the dreams of others is possible (much like in ‘Inception’). However, instead of stealing ideas, a doctor assumes the alter-ego “Paprika” and enters the dreams of psychiatric patients in order to help them. However, when some of the devices that allow their users to enter dreams are stolen, dreams and reality collide, taking the viewer on one wild ride. It’s a beautiful anime full of imaginative sequences, and it definitely seems like one of the best movies on this list to watch before viewing ‘Inception’.
Shutter Island – I’ve got to mention this amazing psychological thriller, since, like ‘Inception’, it also stars Leonard DiCaprio experiencing the power of dreams. There are definitely some very powerful and disturbing sequences when Leo’s cop character is lucid dreaming, like when he encounters his burning lover under ashes falling like snow, but you’ll enjoy discovering just how powerful the human mind can be. It’s one of the movies here that probably isn’t getting the credit it deserves, but I can hardly wait to compare it to ‘Inception’ (I have a feeling both will be considered some of the best movies of 2010).
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T – And here’s one of the movies about being transported to a dream world for the boys. Those of us that dreaded piano lessons will love the only cinematic work of Dr. Seuss, as a poor young piano student dozes off and finds himself in a wacky world where his piano teacher has become a dictator, forcing him and 499 other boys to play his gigantic piano. It’s definitely not one of the best movies on this list, but it has achieved a kind of cult status over the years, and it’s worth watching to see a Seussian dream world brought to life (even if Seuss himself wasn’t happy with the final result).
And for an honorable mention here, I’ve got to toss in ‘Blade Runner’. Unlike the other movies about dreams on this list, it doesn’t feature a lot of dreaming, but since the unicorn dream sequence is such an important part of the movie’s plot, I feel it’s worth a little recognition.
So from movies about dreaming to movies that are dreams, we can only dream that ‘Inception’ will find itself at the top of the list of great cinematic achievements about what goes on when we sleep. So be sure to live the dream yourself when it hits theaters (and just pray that your own dreams aren’t hijacked someday).