6 Mind Expanding Movies That Will Make You Question Reality and Life

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Under the Skin

Some movies are made to touch our heart and soul with an overabundance of sentiment. They make us come in touch with our humanity and empathy.

And some films are made to touch our mind, to get our mental cogs working, to awaken and expand our consciousness. They are films that deal with questions that we are all too eager and too afraid to ponder. It is those films that signal our awakening, and that push us into seeing life and our existence differently.

1. Waking Life, by Rickard Linklater

waking life

What is a dream, and what is reality? Can we actually distinguish between the two? And what does a dream mean? These are only a few sample questions of the wide range that Linklater’s film provides.

The protagonist wanders through moments, dialogues, unnamed characters-in some important scenes, he’s not even present. In another, we see a couple from another movie verse (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy from the popular romantic movie franchise “Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight“), with no explanation.

It is a trippy movie. Moving from the ethereal to the real, questioning the validity of each aspect of existence, and ending up straight into an existential crisis, this movie will fill your mind with philosophical questions, the biggest one being: Is my life real?

2. Samsara, by Ron Fricke

samsara

“Samsara” is a little documentary film made in 2011, by the same people who had collaborated on two similar in terms of style and theme films in the last decades, “Baraka” and “Chronos”. The movie’s title is the Sanskrit word for the loop of continuous life. Literally meaning “continuous flow”, the word has been used to describe the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, themes and terms shown within the film. The visuals are beautiful, and the musical score compliments them just right. The little blocks of visual narrative are linked together in an intricate flow, and the message is one of a global consciousness and interconnectedness.

3. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

“Uncle Boonmee” came out in 2010 and was the first Thai film to win the Palme d’Or. The titular character, Uncle Boonmee, is dying; during the course of his last living days, he goes on a journey to explore his past lives, together with his loved ones, whether in spirit or in physical form.

The film was actually the last part of a loosely linked film trilogy, titled “Primitive”, and was mostly focused on a particular area of Thailand. However, while the other two films of “Primitive” as a project focused more on the collective memory of the area in a more political and historical manner, “Uncle Boonmee” is more like “a personal diary”, according to the director.

It deals with matters of memory, transformation, reincarnation, and the nature of things facing death. A very interesting film for those not put off by the “artsyness” of it. However, it is not only a study on dying and previous lives, but also Weerasethakul’s tribute to the art of cinema.

4. Under the Skin, by Jonathan Glazer

Under the Skin

A very recent film, released just a few months ago, with Scarlett Johanson in one of her best, if not her best, performances in her entire career. The plot goes like this: Scarlett is an alien, whose name we never find out. She assumes human form and starts seducing men, leading them to her “harvesting place”, as one could call it. To say any more about the plot would completely ruin your experience. “Under the Skin” will leave you stunned, wide-eyed, trying to comprehend and interpret what you have seen. While the previous movies on this list deal with matters of life, death, and reincarnation, this one deals with consciousness as a human, personal experience.

The first lines in the film are our alien protagonist making sounds, learning how to speak, much like a baby. She develops a consciousness, she experiences growth and humanity, and comes face to face  with the experience of being human. Just watch the film. It hasn’t been called the new “2001: A Space Odyssey” for nothing.

5. Enter the Void, by Gaspar Noe

enter the void

Otherwise known as “acid on film“. This movie feels like one continuous trip, and with good reason. Noe’s use of bold, colorful neon lights, and first-person perspective can really mess up our perception (I mean, the camera blacks out momentarily when the protagonists blinks. Can’t get any more first-person than that).

Not only that, but after a while, the story goes even trippier; our protagonist dies, and we see his out-of-body journey through his eyes, as he travels through time and space, the tempo of the film getting faster and faster, climaxing (no pun intended) in a pretty disturbing sex scene. The end, however, is yet another plot twist, leaving us stupefied. Was this afterlife, or just a fleshing out of the theory that when we die, our mind’s perception of time makes us relive our life in a desperate effort to survive, looping round and round? Food for thought.

6. Anything by Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Tarkovsky

Literally, anything. “Solyaris”, “Stalker” and “The Mirror” are a very good start, and let’s not forget “Nostalghia“. Soviet cinema has always been special, but Tarkovsky is the pinnacle of thought-provoking and reflective film-making. Childhood, dreams, memory, the metaphysical and dream-like are trademarks of his films, and not one Tarkovsky film will make you feel the same after you see it.

There is a lot of symbolism in his works, and Tarkovsky’s goal was to create  a form of cinema that “sculpted time”, altering our perception and showing us just how relative everything is to that perception. He may not be the easiest filmmaker to get into, but once you try him, you’ll keep coming back, mesmerized, your mind baffled and at the same time enamored.

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Sofia

I am an undergrad Law student moonlighting as a writer and aspiring to one day gather enough experiences and turn them into ink and paper. The inctricacies of the human mind and its peculiar ways have always fascinated me, and urged me to explore more, not only the human mind, but humans and humanity as a whole, hopefully leading me to interesting findings. Literature, music and movie geek to boot.




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32 Comments

  1. northstar January 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    First and sixth movies. I believe our lives are real. However, through meditation, one can change the past which changes the present. And one can meditate and create the future.
    Second, Third and Fourth: Yup, reincarnation is real. Why would one person be born rich or beautiful or athletic and another be born opposite? See also, Edgar Cayce.
    Fifth: One can meditate and lift out and experience a trip of incredible music, colors, love.

    • Baconman March 16, 2017 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      “However, through meditation, one can change the past which changes the present. And one can meditate and create the future.”

      Why do you believe that is possible?

  2. JR February 10, 2015 at 2:37 am - Reply

    I’ve only watched one of the movies on this list, Samsara, and it brought me to this page. I strongly recommend it to anyone. Just go into it with a clear, open, free mind and an intent to receive some sort of message. Samsara was what I believe began my spiritual journey (only about 2 weeks ago). When I started watching the movie, I had no idea what the meaning of the word Samsara was. Not even 20 minutes into the movie, I was in such a deep meditative state and so overwhelmed by the message I received through it, (which is stated above “the message is one of a global consciousness and interconnectedness”) I had to pause the movie around the 20 minute mark. It was as if I “woke up”. For the first time in my life, I felt interconnected with not just the world, but the universe. I had to Google this feeling and I ultimately ended up reading on Buddhism. From my readings, it was what explained the state I was in the most. Coincidentally or maybe not so coincidental, it was through reading about Buddhism, I learned what the title of the film Samsara was. I am still seeking for the truth. I believe we all should. I can’t call myself a practicing Buddhist since this all happened to me a couple weeks ago, but I know without a doubt in my mind, that around 20 minutes into Samsara, I was awakened and in a momentary state of enlightenment. I can’t wait to start watching the rest of the movies listed here to help expand my consciousness. Thank you for this list and I wish all peace, love & light 🙂

  3. Erik March 18, 2015 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    Great list of Movies thanks for sharing love finding quality videos to expand the mind.

  4. accelerator December 29, 2015 at 5:04 am - Reply

    Some other good films about human potential.. and the mind and spirit.. are:

    Altered States by Ken Russell

    Light Years Away (or – Les années lumière)… by Alain Tanner

    It’s ard to find this rare film about meditation.. but.. soon.. I will upload it to my utube channel – AcceleratorPlus

    Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach is a good film.. but the book is much better.
    The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and

    The Zero Theorem…. by Terry Gilliam

    Powder

    Brainstorm

    Flatliners

    AND.. not to be missed..

    The Dream of the Ridiculous Man by Dostoyevsky

    This is a Utopian Vision that explains the Bible’s hidden agenda.. as it goes beneath the symbolism and allegory.. explaining what the stories really mean..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8YjiSma110

  5. GmanAtheist October 18, 2016 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    Human imagination is a tool that the brain uses to explain that which we don’t understand or wish to be true. Never confuse reality with the supernatural. These movies are great and inspire deep thought, They are simply a door to our imaginations, nothing more. Personal experiences when watching these movies vary from mind to mind, depending on the core belief system of that mind. As an atheist I appreciate the wonderful diversity of human imaginings, Make sure you come back to reality after watching these movies, or you might become delusional and waste your life on that which is not real. 🙂

  6. Tony November 5, 2016 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    There are signs everywhere that shows us what reality is. It all depends how narcissistic we are to notice.

  7. sondra February 23, 2017 at 7:39 am - Reply

    I realise that these comments are anywhere from a few months, to a couple of years old, but i cannot resist a good forum.
    All those movies except, into the void, I have not seen. But, Im going looking for them, right Now!

  8. Marie October 17, 2017 at 3:50 am - Reply

    Thanks for the list,haven’t watched any of them ,I searched them all, thought Id share my findings:
    #1 Waking Life (available on Netflix and ,Starz free wit subscription)
    #2 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is 3.99 for rent various sites, available on DVDs on Netflix
    #3 Samsara is 99 cents on Amazon for rent,(best value I found)
    #4 Under the Skin,is also 3.99 for rent everywere
    #5 Enter The Void,free with Sundance NOW subscription (an Amazon channel, get a free trial and watch it :)l ) or 2.99 google play best value
    #6 Andrei Tarkovsky movies, The mirror free on YouTube ,other wise google play has best rental prices (vary by movie)

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