10 Best Philosophy Movies, Ranked
There are a myriad of movies about art, culture, and philosophy for the average movie buff or viewer who wants to listen to experts tackle tough questions. Films about philosophy often deal with themes like existentialism, ethics, and even pop culture.
But not all movies about philosophy are created equal, and some viewers without a college education in the subject may have to take what they learn with a grain of salt. However, some films stand out for the brilliant way they portray complex philosophical topics in a visually stunning or even humorous way.
ten What is the beep do we know! ? (2004)
Quantum physics and consciousness come together What is the beep do we know! ?, a 2004 documentary-style film directed by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse and Mark Vicente. They postulate that the physical universe is a construct of mind, matter and thought being codependent.
It’s a great mind-blowing movie that can make viewers question their own realities, but not always in a good way. What is the beep do we know! ? is a philosophical exercise that’s rooted in pseudo-science more than anything else, because although it uses actual interviews with chemists and physicists, their talk is often elaborate and taken out of context. Fans of quantum mysticism may appreciate it, but audiences who’ve never encountered the film’s concepts may find it wacky.
9 When Nietzsche Wept (2007)
Written and directed by Pinchas Perry, When Nietzsche cried is a moving dramatization of the life and philosophical ideas of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The 2007 film follows her tumultuous romance and eventual friendship with famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
Interspersed between the events of Nietzsche’s life are explanations of his most important contributions to the philosophical community. His famous statement that “God is dead”, as well as Freud’s early ideas about psychoanalysis are portrayed in the film. When Nietzsche cried is an enjoyable film for philosophy students, but its low production value, cheesy acting, and questionable editing may annoy moviegoers.
8 Be in the World (2010)
to be in the world is a 2010 documentary that attempts to explore and describe German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s key philosophical idea of ”Dasein”. Through interviews with contemporary philosophers like Hubert Dreyfus, Taylor Carman, Mark Wrathall, and more, director Tao Ruspoli is able to explain the complex phenomenological concept in a way laymen would understand.
The style of talking heads used by the film is nothing new, nor is the smooth jazz and dramatic B-roll that plays in every interview. The way the documentary lays out Heidegger’s concepts is somewhat elementary, but will likely leave most viewers with at least a better understanding of his life and work.
seven I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Fans who enjoy dark humor will likely find I Heart Huckabeeis a refreshing existential comedy. The 2004 film is an underrated comedy that revolves around two “existential sleuths” as they try to help their clients find meaning in life, whether in their careers or their relationships.
Director David O. Russell does a great job of portraying the absurdity of life, especially for those who least expect it. The separate storylines all converge together, in the end, to help both characters and viewers reach a satisfying cosmic understanding that everything is connected. Some audiences may find the disparate story arcs too chaotic, but those who enjoy quirky films about hard-hitting philosophical concepts should definitely check it out.
6 Farewell to Language (2014)
Director Jean-Luc Godard Farewell to the language is one of his most enigmatic works, which speaks volumes for fans familiar with his films. The 2014 3D experimental film tells a love story from two angles, allowing viewers to experience the excitement and heartache repeatedly throughout the film.
The artistic film tells more than a romantic story, as it uses layers of images and sound to distort reality, or rather present it as it is meant to be. Godard invites audiences to see life through a new, more interesting lens – it’s a unique perspective that may not be for everyone, but those who can appreciate it will find the film and all of its idiosyncrasies rewarding. .
5 The Ister (2004)
Spectators are taken across a long stretch of the Danube in The Ister, where directors David Barison and Daniel Ross interview contemporary philosophers on a variety of topics. The 2004 film feels convoluted at first, but concepts of war, poetry, technology and more come together to deliver a surprisingly poignant message by the end.
Audiences without at least a cursory knowledge of Heideggerian thought may feel a little lost throughout the film, as they don’t shy away from intellectual topics and academic theories. Those who can forgive its somewhat sketchy cinematography will find it a challenging but satisfying film.
4 Sisyphus (1974)
Sisyphus is a must-have short for anyone familiar with the character’s mythos. Director Marcell Jankovics masterfully portrays the struggles of the Greek figure in a brilliantly minimalist way. With a simple art style consisting mostly of dark brushstrokes on a white background and absorbing sound effects, viewers will find the moments of the 2-minute film almost too painful to watch.
That the 1974 film is hard to get through is precisely the point, as Sisyphus’ story is one of endless toil and contentment at the same time. It may not be an impressive or elaborate philosophical film, but it conveys its main message in a simple and meaningful way.
3 The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012)
Director Sophie Fiennes captures the personality, humor and intellect of Slavoj Žižek in her 2012 documentary, The pervert’s ideology guide. Like its prequel, The guide to perverse cinemait transports the philosopher to popular recognizable movie scenes.
The focus on ideology is further highlighted in the sequel, as Žižek talks about mainstream thoughts and hidden ideological layers in pop culture. movies like The sound of music, Full Metal Jacketand even The black Knight appear in the film. Depending on the political and philosophical leanings of fans, the film can be illuminating or problematic – most of its scenes, however, are almost always entertaining.
2 Life Examined (2008)
Director Astra Taylor Life examined is often considered one of the best philosophical films of all time, thanks to its creative take on the talking heads format. Instead of interviewing contemporary philosophers in their homes or offices, the 2008 film shows them walking among other people on busy streets and interacting with their surroundings.
Famous figures in the philosophical community such as Judith Butler, Peter Singer and Avital Ronell provide a comprehensible explanation of the fundamental concepts of their works applied to modern life. Some might say the documentary waters down complex subject matter, but most fans would say it’s a great example of how people can use philosophy to better understand and live their lives.
1 Waking Life (2001)
Anyone with even the slightest interest in philosophy should consider director Richard Linklater’s film waking life as essential viewing. The 2001 experimental film has stunning visuals, as it is fully rotoscoped. The resulting aesthetic fits perfectly with the film’s central themes of dreams, consciousness, death, and existentialism.
The film is grounded in the experiences of a young man as he wanders through a dreamlike landscape full of strange personalities. He meets philosophers, friends and strangers, who talk to him about everything from lucid dreams to the meaning of life. It’s a captivating film from start to finish and leaves much of its concepts open to interpretation.
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