The best philosophical films provide something for everyone, whether it’s hard-hitting issues like existentialism or explanations of beliefs.
In the world of cinema, there are countless films about art and culture, as well as philosophy, for those who are interested in learning from specialists. Themes such as existentialism, ethics, and even popular culture are frequently explored in documentaries about philosophical issues.
If you don’t have a background in the subject, you may have to take what you learn with a grain of salt when it comes to philosophy movies. Then again, there are a few films that stand out because of their ability to convey complicated philosophical concepts in a visually attractive or even hilarious way.
1. What The Bleep Do We Know!? (2004)
What the Bleep Do We Know!?, a 2004 documentary-style film made by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente, brings together quantum physics and consciousness. To them, matter and thinking are inextricably linked in their view of the cosmos as a whole.
In many ways, it’s a terrific movie that will make you examine your own reality, but not always for the better. Why Do We Even Care? Pseudo-science underpins this philosophical exercise, which draws heavily on quotes taken out of context and expanded upon from actual interviews with chemists and physicists. Filmgoers familiar with quantum mysticism may find the film enjoyable; others who have not may find it crazy.
2. When Nietzsche Wept (2007)
A touching depiction of Friedrich Nietzsche’s life and work, When Nietzsche Wept is directed and written by Pinchas Perry. With the help of Sigmund Freud’s life story and his association with the famed psychiatrist, a biopic about him was made in 2007.
As Nietzsche recounts his life story, he also explains some of his most significant contributions to philosophy. Film depicts his famous “God is dead” proclamation and Freud’s early beliefs about psychoanalysis. Students of philosophy may love When Nietzsche Wept, but cinema buffs may be put off by the low production value, bad acting, and questionable editing.
3. Being In The World (2010)
Martin Heidegger’s central philosophical theory regarding the “Dasein” is explored and depicted in the 2010 documentary Being in the World. In an effort to make the phenomenological notion understandable to the general public, Tao Ruspoli interviews modern philosophers like Hubert Dreyfus, Taylor Carman, and Mark Wrathall.
Speaking heads are nothing new in this film, and neither is the soothing music or dramatic B-roll that accompany them. Although the documentary’s explanations of Heidegger’s ideas are simplistic, most viewers will come away from it having gained a greater grasp of the philosopher’s life and work.
4. I Heart Huckabees (2004)
I Heart Huckabee’s take on existential comedy will undoubtedly be pleasant to fans who enjoy dark humor. As two “existential detectives,” they help their clients find purpose in their lives, whether it’s through work or love, in the 2004 film.
When it comes to showing life’s absurdity, director David O. Russell does a fantastic job. In the end, the various plot threads come together to enable the characters and the audience realize how interconnected everything is. If you’re a fan of wacky films about philosophical issues, you should absolutely check this one out. Those who aren’t will be disappointed.
5. Goodbye To Language (2014)
Goodbye to Language, the latest film by Jean-Luc Godard, is one of the director’s most enigmatic, which is saying a lot coming from aficionados of his work. From two different views, the 2014 3D experimental film depicts the same love tale over and over again.
Using layers of pictures and sound, the artsy video recounts more than a romance story, but rather presents it as it’s supposed to be. Godard offers a fresh viewpoint on life that may not appeal to everyone, but for those who can, the film and all of its eccentricities are richly satisfying.
6. The Ister (2004)
The Ister follows directors David Barison and Daniel Ross as they travel the length of the Danube interviewing modern thinkers about a wide range of themes. The plot of this 2004 film appears confusing at first, but the film’s themes of war, poetry, technology, and more come together in an unexpectedly moving way.
If you don’t have a basic understanding of Heideggerian theory, you may find yourself a little lost in the film’s intellectual content and theories. It’s a tough yet rewarding picture for those who are able to overlook its dated cinematography.
7. Sisyphus (1974)
Anyone who is familiar with the myth of Sisyphus will like this little clip. A marvelously basic approach by Marcell Jankovics perfectly captures the Greek figure’s plight. The 2-minute film features a simplistic art style consisting mainly of dark brush strokes on a white background and absorbing sound effects that will almost be too unpleasant to watch at times.
Because the myth of Sisyphus is one of never-ending toil and contentment, it is important that the 1974 film be challenging for the audience to sit through. It’s hardly a mind-boggling masterpiece, but it gets the point across in a clear and concise manner.
8. The Pervert’s Guide To Ideology (2012)
A 2012 documentary by Sophie Fiennes about Slavoj iek, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, highlights the intellectual and psychological qualities of the Czech philosopher. Like its predecessor, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, it takes the philosopher into familiar movie situations.
As iek explores the prevalent ideas and hidden ideological layers in popular culture, the sequel sharpens the focus on ideology. The Dark Knight, Full Metal Jacket, and even The Sound of Music are all referenced throughout the movie. The movie can either be enlightening or problematic, depending on the political and philosophical leanings of the audience, but the majority of its sequences are virtually always amusing.
9. Examined Life (2008)
Examined Life, directed by Astra Taylor, is frequently recognized as one of the greatest philosophical films ever made for its innovative use of the talking-head format. Filmed in 2008, the film shows contemporary philosophers engaging with other people on the street rather than interviewing them at home or work.
Judith Butler, Peter Singer, and Avital Ronell are some of the most well-known philosophers of our time, and their works’ key principles are explained in a way that is accessible to the general public. The documentary’s critics may claim that it simplifies hard issues, but most of its devotees believe that it is an excellent demonstration of how philosophy can help people better understand and live their lives.
10. Waking Life (2001)
Waking Life, the new film from director Richard Linklater, is a must-see for anyone with even a passing interest in philosophy. The entire film was rotoscoped for this 2001 avant-garde experiment. There is no better way to express the film’s primary concepts than through its visual style.
The story revolves around the adventures of a young man as he wanders through a surreal world filled with bizarre characters. People from many walks of life approach him, asking him about everything from lucid dreams to the purpose of life. From beginning to end, it’s a riveting picture that leaves many of its notions open to interpretation.