I watch therefore I am: 10 of the Best Philosophical Movies

Compiling just 10 is difficult so we’ve created a full list of recommended philosophical movies and documentaries with summarised ratings in our watch section, which we add to weekly. If you have any films you’d like to recommend, please comment below and we’ll make time to reply and watch them.

“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”
― Ingmar Bergman

Looking to watch them online? 123 Movies isn’t a bad phrase to google. So, here we are 10 of the best philosophical films:

1. Rashomon


Rashomon is a brilliant but bleak and very dramatic examination of epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge, the need for certainty and its frail attainment. Exploring how our personal perceptions cloud reality, this is a must-see for anyone that enjoys the high ranks of cinematic achievement.

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2.  I Heart Huckabees


A quirky existential comedy that preys on the curiosity of the human spirit, exploring existentialism with dry and demented humor. Lily Tomlin and the wonderful Dustin Hoffman play a couple of “existential detectives” hired by Jason Schwartzman to investigate a series of “coincidences” involving a very tall mysterious African man. A great movie if you’re in the mood to revive in your mind the ultimate questions “who are we?”, “what are we?”, “why are we?” and laugh along the way.

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3. Waking Life


A far-out poetry slam/art exhibit and imaginative philosophical discourse all at once. Waking Life takes a peek into that other ninety nine percent of possibilities the cinematic medium rarely explores. Who says existential fiction must be dreary? This is an animated masterpiece. 

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4. Blade Runner


One of the most intelligent and profound science-fiction films of all time. Among the philosophical themes explored in Blade Runner are:
– The dehumanization of people through a society shaped by technological and capitalistic excess.
– The roles of creator and creation, their mutual enslavement.
– The nature of humanity itself: emotions, memory, purpose, desire, cruelty, technological mastery of environment, mortality and death.
– The meaning of existence and much more.
All intertwined through stunning visual imagery of a dark futuristic cityscape, this deserves the highest ranks of recognition and long remembrance in film history. One of the best philosophical movies.

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5. Gattaca


One of the most under-rated pieces of cinema I’ve explored. With breathtaking cinematography Gattaca strives to explore the ideas of genetic engineering, wisely stressing the subtle theological questions of whether man ought to tamper with ‘God’s’ work, and whether the result would actually better society and humanity. It is prolific, stylish, thought-provoking, and one of the few science fiction movies that totally forgoes special effects.

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6. Dark City


This is what ‘The Matrix’ could of been. Dark City floods the screen with cinematic and literary references ranging from Murnau and Lang to Kafka and Orwell, creating a unique yet utterly convincing world. Exploring the philosophical themes of memory, thought control, human will and the altering of reality, but engaging mostly in the degree to which it creates and sustains a visually startling alternate universe. Part film noir, part science fiction, part fantasy, and part psychotic dreamscape, Dark City is a visual marvel of a cinematic experience.

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7. Mr Nobody

A young boy stands on a station platform. The train is about to leave. Should he go with his mother or stay with his father? An infinity of possibilities rise from this decision. As long as he doesn’t choose, anything is possible. Every life deserves to be lived. This film dances around multiverse theory, Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, free will and all sorts of thoughtful mind feed. Seriously underrated philosophical film.

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8. Groundhog Day


Exploring arguably the most accurate analogy for the Buddhist transformation of becoming a bodhisattva Groundhog Day explores an array of free will related philosophical themes. To paraphrase Reality Sandwich “…it’s a movie about a bad-enough man—selfish, vain, and insecure man (played by Bill Murray) who becomes wise and good through timeless recurrence. It is about a man whose experience of a break in the time-space continuum allows him to harvest the wisdom of a thousand well-lived lifetimes within a single day. True reality is revealed to contain a perfect present; each instant unfolds a fresh Buddha field of opportunity to awaken us to our true nature, which turns out to be inherently loving and turned toward the light.” A quintessential comedy with a life changing message, Groundhog Day turned out to be one of the most beautiful and mind-enriching films I’ve ever seen.

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9. A Scanner Darkly


Another trippy rotoscopic animation directed by Richard Linklater. This Phillip K. Dick adaptation focuses on a combination of psychology, paranoia, science fiction motifs, political critical response, drug use reflections, humane concern, environmentalism, eastern philosophy, theology, and humor. The message is clear and the animation creates a world unlike any other in film making, remaining funny, disturbing and thought-provoking all at once.

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10. Solaris


An addictive and serenely maddening but brilliantly imaginative work of art. Tarkovsky’s speculative visions enfold the mysteries of death and rebirth, the lost paradise of childhood, the power of art to define identity and the menace of science as destructive vanity. Two truths drive this film: the inadequacy of human-kind to understand the Universe, and the inadequacy of human-kind to understand the human heart. It’s hard to put this film into words, I can only suggest multiple viewings.

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