I’m a big movie buff and love watching movies about dreams. Dream movies are a fun way to expand your awareness and understanding of dreams. Lose yourself in in the dream-like world of Doctor Parnassus, or experience a society with a zero crime-rate due to prophetic dreams in The Minority Report.
The following is a list of the 11 best movies about dreams I have watched and enjoyed over the years – I hope you find these dream movies enjoyable as well.
1. Inception (2010)
Inception is a modern classic of dream movies, and has help to awaken a widespread interest in lucid dreaming. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, rent it now! It’s unlike any other movie and well worth a watch.
Dom Cobb is a new kind of thief: rather than stealing objects, he steals secrets stored deep within the subconscious mind. In order to achieve this feat, he enters into people’s dreams.
Now, rather than stealing a secret, he must plant an idea. The job is considered nearly impossible, but Cobb takes it on – planning three layers of dreams within dreams. The movie leaves us questioning what is real and what is a dream.
This movie explores many dream themes including: lucid dreaming, creating dream scenes and dream characters, layers of dreams, false awakenings, and a dream within a dream.
2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
The fifth installment in the Harry Potter series offers a look into Harry’s dreams. Plagued by his encounter with Voldemort at the end of the fourth film, Harry has nightmares about the incident as well as about the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. With the connection between Harry and Voldemort well established, Harry receives dreams and visions of Voldemort’s activities.
This dream movie explores prophetic dreams as well as the connection to other people through shared dreams and visions.
3. Waking Life (2001)
Waking life follows the main character through a perpetual lucid dream as he attempts to discover the difference between walking life and the dream world. Through his encounters in the dream world, he discusses the meaning of the Universe and the purpose of the life. The film leaves us with many questions about the nature of reality and an ambiguous ending.
Is this a dream? How can you really be sure?
4. 1408 (2007)
Have you ever woken up feeling relieved that “it was just a dream?” But what would happen if you couldn’t wake up and it wasn’t a dream? Thus is the story of Mike Enslin. As this riveting story unfolds, we find ourselves living Mike’s bad dream that he just can’t wake up from.
Classified as a horror movie, this film follows Mike Enslin (John Cusack), a writer who investigates paranormal activities. As part of his investigation he decides to check into the legendary room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel – which is not available to guests. After much coaxing and threatening, Mike is finally allowed to spend the night in room 1408.
Upon checking in, strange and paranormal phenomenon begin happening in the room. Like a bad dream that you can never wake up from, Mike learns the hard way that guests can check into room 1408 – but they can’t leave.
5. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Dr. Parnassus runs a sideshow in London which allows guests to travel through a magical mirror to explore their own imaginations. Through dream-like imagery, guests must choose between self-fulfilling enlightenment and gratifying ignorance. Inside the Imaginarium, the scenes read like a dream and offer the viewer a glimpse of the dream world.
As an interesting side-note: I was an extra in this movie during the final scene. I wore a red jacket, walked behind two nuns, and waved to Verne J. Troyer (most famous for playing Mini-Me). Sadly, the movie director did not recognize my innate talent as a background performer and I did not receive any face time post-production.
6. Minority Report (2002)
One of the most universally intriguing aspects of dreaming is the ability of dreams to show us the future. This dream movie explores what could happen if we systematically harnessed pre-cognitive dreams to stop crime.
Set in the year 2054, John Anderton (Tom Cruise) lives in a society with a zero crime-rate thanks to the help of the law enforcement squad known as “Pre-crime”. By translating visions of pre-cognitive dreams, the Pre-crime unit has the ability to stop a crime before it happens.
When Anderton becomes the subject of one of these pre-cognitive dreams, he must find the ‘minority report,’ an alternate dream that might prove his innocence. This dream movie explores the power of pre-cognitive/psychic dreams versus an individual’s free-will.
7. The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix Trilogy is already a classic. If you haven’t seen the Matrix, this is another must-watch. This movie centers on philosophies relevant to our time including the nature of reality and our ability to control our surroundings. If your life is a dream, do you really want to wake up?
Thomas Anderson is computer programmer by day and the sophisticated hacker, Neo, by night. He has led a relatively normal life working at his corporate job. That is, until one day he is contacted by the legendary computer hacker, Morpheus. Morpheus gives Neo a choice: he can continue living in the world that his is in, or he can learn the truth about reality and existence.
Neo opts for the truth, which is a one-way street to a completely different reality. Upon entering the “real” world, Neo learns that the life he previously lived was a creation only in his mind. In reality, sophisticated machines feed off the energy of humans, while their minds are trapped in a virtual reality known as the Matrix.
Now aware of the Matrix, Neo learns how to control his surroundings. Life inside the Matrix is like an on-going lucid dream where anything is possible, all at the speed of thought.
8. The Good Night (2007)
Have you ever been enjoying a dream so much, you wanted to stay in bed to keep it going? I know I have! This movie explores the connection between waking life and dream life by following the story of a young man who would rather be dreaming than living his life.
The Good Night follows the story of Gary Shaller, a 34-year old man having a mid-life crisis. His career is going nowhere, and he is in an unhappy marriage. But all is not lost. He finds the love of his love, Anna. The only caveat is that she is a character in his dreams. Now Gary must learn to control his dreams through various lucid dreaming techniques in order to remain in his fantasy world.
Through his encounters, Gary gains a new perspective on life and ultimately gets the life of his dreams.
9. Groundhog Day (1991)
Groundhog Dog was one of my favorite movies as a kid. With its repeating plot and themes, this movie is reminiscent of a reoccurring lucid dream. Through the sheer number of times Phil repeats the same day, he learns to control his environment and finally get the fulfillment he craves.
Phil Connors, a TV weatherman, is sent to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities – an assignment he clearly does not want to do. He hates the town, he hates the festivities, and he hates his colleagues. Eager to get back to Pittsburg, Phil leads the team into an on-coming blizzard, which he did not see coming. Unfortunately for him, the team is unable to travel and must spend another night in Punxsutawney. Upon awakening the next morning, Phil discovers that is not the day after Groundhog Day – it is in fact Groundhog Day all over again…
This movie explores consciousness and false awakenings. In a dream-like way, Phil navigates the same day over and over and over again. Learning from the past and trying new approaches, Phil begins to appreciate the town, the festival, and the people of Punxsutawney.
10. What Dreams May Come (1998)
In our dreams, we are the sole creator of our reality and our experience. This visually stunning movie takes the theme of creating your own reality to the next level. Sure, you create your dreams, but do you create your waking reality too?
When Chris Neilson (Robin Williams) dies unexpectedly in a car crash, he finds himself in a beautiful world reminiscent of his artist wife’s paintings – still dripping with fresh paint. But his wife isn’t there. Chris decides to risk eternity in heaven to save his wife from Hell.
This dream movie is a metaphysical story about the after-life and the astral plane. It explores reality creation and deals with the idea of living in your own personal Heaven or your own personal Hell.
11. Somewhere in Time
Time travel is an idea that plagues modern science. But what if the secret to successful time travel lay in your dreams? In this dream movie Richard learns how to travel back in time through his dreams.
On the opening night of his first play writer Richard Collier meets an old lady who begs him to “come back to me”. Mystified, he attempts to learn more about her, and discovers she is the famous actress from the early 1900s, Elise McKenna.
Richard becomes more and more obsessed with Elise and learns a technique for self-hypnosis in the dream state, to travel back in time to meet her. They fall in love, much to the dismay of her stage manager. Can their love outlast the immense problems caused by their “time” difference? And can Richard remain in a time that is not his?