Recommend to me some "deep" movies

Please suggest some movies that are heavy on the philosophy, either original philosophical ideas (implications) or restatements and explorations of earlier works (references). This was one of my favorite aspects of The Matrix, and I understand there are films that do it even better. But most of the films I see never get any deeper than, “When you can balance a tack hammer on your head, you will head off your foes with a balanced attack!”

Just to get me started, I would like something that’s original (not based on a book, say) and English-language (just so I can catch all the nuances). If you have to pick one based on a book, try to pick one that’s better than the book with respect to this. (Otherwise I might as well just read the book.)

Also, if there’s a particular philosophical work you think I should read (or read about) in conjunction with the film you suggest, please give it too.

Thank you!

The Life of Brian undercuts all the questions about “what is great” or “what is important.”

Crimes and Misdemeanors raises lots of tough questions with no easy answers.

I would preface my answer with a quotation from V. F. Perkins’s Film as Film:
“We are mistaken if we persuade ourselves that one film is more subtle or profound than another on the grounds that its typical reference points include data drawn from the philosophy of Hegel or the poetry of Goethe rather than from conventions of dress or fashion in motor transport.”

Put another way, fiction ( be it cinematic or literary) is not the best way of transmitting ideas. If you want to study the philosophy of Plato, then read Plato rather than any number of novels.

One final attempt: Johnny Guitar is a vastly more profound film than either Gandhi or Dances With Wolves. The depth of a film is not to be found in the obscurity of the theme it treats, but in the wit, style and economy with which it treats it.

So, if you want my recommendations for profound English-language films: Johnny Guitar, River of No Return, Vertigo, Raging Bull and Ulzana’s Raid.

Pi . great classic.

Altered States


are two that come to mind.

Dang, Krok, you beat me to it! I believe this is W.A.'s best film. He makes a comedy that manages to touch on some very difficult issues.

Another good one is Judgement at Nurenberg.

The American film noirs of Fritz Lang
The westerns of Anthony Mann
The color films of Powell/Pressburger
Anything by Douglas Sirk
Intruder in the Dust
On Dangerous Ground
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Passenger

Try: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, Her Lover.

I agree with with Jabba that movies aren’t the best medium for communicating complex systems of thought but they are exceptionally good at delivering powerful sensory impressions and emotional snapshots. In fact, with the notable exception of my first choice, I think movies are often better when they leave the deeper themes to the sub-text. Having said that, here are my nominations:

I’ll third Crimes and Misdemeanors. It explores the nature of morality in an amoral universe in an engaging and heartfelt manner. Woody Allen at his existential best.

Also, try Solaris (the original is better, I think, but the remake is still very good filmmaking). It’s a solipsistic take on memory and the nature of perceived reality.

Blade Runner also deals with the nature of humanity and how memory defines our identities.

Lastly, try an under-rated little Martin Scorcese gem, Bringing Out The Dead. It’s about a burnt-out ambulance driver learning to come to grips with his role as a witness to both life and death. It has a lot of profound things to say about death as a part of life and comes to an optimistic conclusion.

Kubrick’s 2001 and Clockwork Orange. The book on which the latter is based is an exceptional read too.

One of the most interesting films that I have ever seen is Naked by Mike Leigh. Throughout this film, I could sense a strong intellectual undercurrent. There are a few explicit scenes too where the protagonist talks about his view of Life.

Somewhat related (though the films are very very different) is Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. Contrary to what you asked for, this is in German and is very stimulating.

Personally, I feel bar none, the best movies in that vein to watch are:

  1. Waking Life
  2. My Dinner With Andre
  3. The Beast (the russian tank in afghanistan movie, not the one about the big octopus)
  4. Contact
  1. Until the End of the World
  2. Henry and June
  3. Koyaanisqatsi
  4. Crimes of Passion
  5. The Trial
  6. Citizen Kane
  7. 1984

I’m a big Terry Gilliam fan. Check out Brazil, The Fisher King, or The 12 Monkeys.

Todd Solondz is another “heavy” filmmaker. His major works are Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, and Storytelling.

Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan is another thought provoker. Check out Exotica for a start; if you end up not liking the “heavy” aspects, you can still enjoy the strip club scenes.

Any Peter Greenaway film (I prefer Drowning By Numbers and Belly of an Architect.)

Depending on your POV, Fight Club has a lot to offer intellectually, for a Hollywood film. And way better than the book too.

Ju Dou,
although its nigh on impossible to find.beleive me, ive tried.
Magnolia, or Hard Eight by PT anderson

I find David Lynch movies to cause massive brain seizures when trying to apply logic or normality towards a scene. 1 leads to 2 leads to 3 leads to bananas leads to 3 again…

Also, many children’s movies are surprisingly deep. Try
The 5,000 fingers of Dr. T by Dr. Seuss (I first watched this in a philosophy class when studying existentialism)
Willly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Lots of concepts of right and wrong or good and bad get thrown at you.
[iThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen* Less deep, but some parts make ya think…
Narnia movies if you are into that sort of thing…

As mentioned above, Koyaanisqatsi or “life out of balance,” and the sequal Powaqqatsi or “life in transformation” are about the deepest movies I’ve seen, especially considering that there are no words spoken. The camera work really makes you think though. I guess there is a third installation Naqoyqatsi or “life in war” is out, but I haven’t seen it. Definitely watch these.


Lonely are the Brave, a 1962 film by David Miller, starring Kirk Douglas, and that is nowhere near famous enough.

It’s superficially about an old cowboy, who is alienated in the modern-day (well, 1962) West, in which his way of life and values have become irrelevant. But the film just uses a setting that is familiar to the audience (the Western) to make a wider pointer about liberty, how people perceive it, appreciate it, or more to the point don’t. Kirk discovers that most people aren’t really that fussed about freedom. They’ll trade some freedom for an easier, quieter life. They don’t question laws, rules or authority, and are hostile to anyone who does, even though he may in fact be harmless. Breaking rules is seen as harmful in itself.

It’s very moving, it’s affecting, it makes you think, especially if you’re prone to musing over such matters, as I am. Look it up on Amazon:

further to tomcats suggestion, if lynch is good place to start. but if anyone reckons they actually understand Lost Highway, their lying. excellent scene with the creepy little guy and his mobile though.

jim jarmusch stuffs good aswell:
mystery train, ghost dog
or paris, texas

or even A.I. surprising for a speilberg film, even though its blatantly pinocchio

About as deep as a child’s wading pool (only “The Matrix” has a less-deserved reputation for its depth). If you actually think about the film, it’s utter nonsense that consistently undercuts all its main points.

There’s always Ingmar Bergman. Shame is probably my favorite, but there’s a lot in The Naked Night, Wild Strawberries, Through a Glass Darkly, Persona, and Cries and Whispers.

I don’t care for Riddley Scott, but I ended up thinking about the implications of Thelma and Louise more than any other film.

I personally think they’re utter crap, but a lot of people like Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Three Colors” Trilogy: Blue, White and Red.

My Dinner with Andre, of course.

The Iron Giant has a lot to say for an animated film.