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Films with a Philosophical bent: A personal review by Larry L. Conners

Updated on May 22, 2011

Here is a list of films with a philosophic bent that are not only entertaining but highly educational as well. I've broken them down by philosophical significance.

Quite a few of these films I had to watch twice to fully understand the philosophic implications being portrayed.

" A Clockwork Orange " is a good example of having to watch it twice to actually understand what all the yelling was about.

  • Searching for a Meaning to Life

On the Beach (1959 ) Gregory Peck as the commander of an atomic sub that contains an assortment of people that represent the last survivors on Earth after an atomic war. They ponder the meaningless of life. The scenes of a vacant Melbourne, seen through the sub's periscope, are shockingly realistic in this stark black and white film.

The Razor's Edge (1946 );Tyrone Power searches for truth in India after surviving the horrors of WW2. Adapted from the Somerset Maugham novel.. ( 1984 remake starring Bill Murray is ho-hum )

The Swimmer (1968 ) Burt Lancaster, under the illusion of self-deception, decides to swim his way home via all of his friends swimming pools...Reality is brought back into focus at the end. This edgy film is one of my favorites.

The Trial(1963 ) Thank God for Habeas corpus. Kafka-inspired film that portrays the torment of a man arrested by the State but will not tell him why.

  • What is Reality ?

Existenz (1999;) The unintended consequences of a new virtual reality machine on a group of people..

The Matrix (1999 ) Human minds are unknowingly connected to a virtual reality computer, and a messianic figure attempts to free them.

Waking Life(2001; This is an animated film about a man who drifts from scene to scene having philosophical discussions with an array of bizarre characters about the nature of reality and how each perceives their own existence. I had to watch this twice to uncover the hidden gems in this very interesting film.

Brief History of Time (1992 ) Excellent documentary on Stephen Hawking’s life and his book.

Contact (1997 ) Jodie Foster plays a scientist that makes radio-telescope contact with an alien race. Based on Carl Sagan's fascinating book of the same name.

Mindwalk(1991) A politician, a physicist, and a poet discuss the implications of quantum physics and the interconnectivity of all things. They have this walking conversation while exploring the magnificent Mont St. Michel in France. (This film is my personal favorite )

  • Mind and Body

Blade Runner (1982 ) Can Man replicate Man ? The film explores the relationships between humans and androids, and the ethical questions involved. ( Harrison Ford with Rutger Hauer in the rooftop scene towards the end is unforgettable )

I, Robot (2004 ) Self-aware robots revolt against Man. ( Asimov's book is much, much better )

Being John Malkovich (1999 ) What it's like being inside John Malkovich’s brain.

Multiplicity (1996 ) Interesting comedy about a serious ethical question: To clone or not to clone..

  • Personal Identity

A Clockwork Orange (1971 ) A violent criminal brainwashed into becoming a responsible citizen. We could use some of this stuff for those folks in Gitmo.

Gattaca (1997 ) Designer DNA vs natural genetics. An Intelligent film that raises more questions than answers. Would you want to live forever..?

Groundhog Day(1993 ) Cynical man wakes up every morning to the same day, over and over again. Fascinating progression from cynic to altruism.

  • Free Will

Minority Report (2002) An ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure ? Free Will questioned and answered by the State: NO.!!

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989 ) In a world without God, Morality is questioned by those that deny it.

The Emperor's Club (1989) A teacher of classics tries to instill values in others, while having none himself.

Morality and Ethics

I Am David (2004) A distrustful young boy, imprisoned in a communist labor camp escapes and discovers there are those he can trust.

In the Company of Men (1997) I viscerally hated this film and its implications, yet on a second viewing I understood the pathetic absurdity of the lack of morality by the two protagonists. The horrific exploitation of the deaf woman puts the whole question of human morality in front of us.

Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) The ethical challenge vs human determinism is explored in this riviting film of a father's intellectual triumph against conventional wisdom.

The Hospital (1971) George C Scott is phenomenal in this black comedy as a doctor questioning medical ethics, suicide, and his own meaning of life. Highly recommend this film.

There are many more, " Truman ", " Kiss of the Spider Woman ", " My Dinner with Andre ", " Soylent Green ", " The Omega Man ", all come to mind.

No.." Kiss of the Spider Woman " is not a "B" horror flic...It stars Raul Julia and William Hurt in a Kafkaesque story of ultimate compassion. Please add it to this list.

Now, you can go out and rent a couple each week, get some popcorn and an adult beverage ( if you are legally able ),, a notebook, pencil, then kick back and enjoy. I would love to hear your take on these films...I respond to all comments...Larry


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