Let’s face it, dreams can be pretty weird! While our physical body takes a well-earned rest, our brain continues to whirr away, transporting us to weird and wonderful worlds which can sometimes be enjoyable, frightening, or just downright strange.
Dreams are certainly a perplexing phenomenon, which makes them ripe for use in cinema.
Many films have used dreams in a number of interesting ways, whether it be to show the character’s innermost thoughts and desires or their worst nightmares!
Here are ten of our favourites.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
One of the earliest popular films about dreams is one of the most loved pieces of cinema of all time, The Wizard of Oz.
While in the original children’s novel of the story, the fantastical land of Oz is presented as a real (albeit faraway) place, in the film, the Dorothy and Toto’s adventures are actually all presented as one long dream sequence, and the characters Dorothy meets, such as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion are all actually versions of people from her real life!
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Much like The Wizard of Oz, this Disney classic takes place almost entirely during a dream sequence, as Alice drifts away into a colourful dream where she meets all manner of weird and wonderful characters such as the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit.
It’s an extremely vivid and at times strange movie, but that’s exactly what dreams are like sometimes!
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
This where things start to get a little darker as films strayed away from the colourful safety of dreams and into the darkness of nightmares!
And as far as nightmares go, this is a pretty scary one, giving birth to one of the most terrifying movie characters of all time in Freddy Krueger.
The Science of Sleep (2004)
Yes, it’s partly in French (and Spanish) and yes, it’s a little weird (but which films about dreams aren’t?), but The Science of Sleep is a must for any sleep nerds!
It explores everything from sleepwalking to REM sleep and lucid dreaming to sleep talking as it follows the story of eccentric Frenchman Stephane Miroux, whose dreams interfere with his ability to communicate in the real world.
The Matrix (1999)
In the Wachowski’s cyberpunk sci-fi movie, all of humanity live their lives in one shared dream, while in the ‘real’ world, intelligent machines have taken over and brought society as we know it to its knees.
Computer hacker Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) learns that whole life has been a lie and joins the rebellion against the machines along with others who have been freed from their dream-like existence.
Waking Life (2001)
This movie, known for its unique visual style where real life action was overlaid with animation, follows the life of a young man who is in a persistent state of lucid dreaming.
It explores some pretty deep stuff such as reality, free will and of course, the meaning of life.
The unique animation style only adds to the trippy dream-like nature of the film and makes this film a truly unique work!
Vanilla Sky (2001)
In Vanilla Sky, everything seems to be perfect for David Aames (Tom Cruise). He’s a wealthy and charismatic young man living his life in New York City, but he can’t shake the feeling that something is missing.
Without giving too much away, things begin to change when he meets Sofia (Penélope Cruz) and things start to leave the real world and enter that of dreams.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
This movie explores ideas of consciousness and memories through the eyes of a couple (played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) who have erased each other from their memories.
Carrey then goes on to regret the decision and enters into a dream-like state where their old and new memories collide as he tries to leave clues to get his ex to remember him.
Possibly the most well-known film about dreams is Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which blends elements of psychological thriller, mystery and heist movie.
In the film, main character Dominick Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) infiltrates people’s dreams to steal information, and things get pretty complicated as Cobb and his team enter level upon level of dreams within dreams to implant thoughts inside the subconscious of another.
It’s a film that will certainly leave you with plenty to mull over in your mind regarding the ending, and what it all means!
Shutter Island (2010)
Looks like 2010 wasn’t a great year for Leo and his dreams! While dreams aren’t necessarily as central to the plot as in Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is plagued by lucid dreams which are presented in some pretty powerful and disturbing scenes.
As with a lot of the films on the list, we can’t reveal too much plot-wise but you should definitely check it out for yourself!
As you can see, films about dreams can get pretty ‘out there’ and pretty abstract, but that’s all in the nature of dreams themselves!
So if you want a movie that’s going to get the old grey matter ticking and make you think about some pretty deep concepts, you could do worse than these films!