Is it 4 A.M. and you can't sleep? Did you just hop out of the shower after having a long, deep, internal monologue? Are you ready to get your philosophy on? Well throw some popcorn in the microwave and look no further because these movies are guaranteed to leave you staring at your screen as the credits roll wondering what it really was that you just watched.
"Donnie Darko" (2001)
A cult classic film by writer and director Richard Kelly staring the one and only Jake Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko follows the tale of a young boy whose monster rabbit friend "Frank" informs him that the world is ending. Although the premise of the film seems rather obscure, the main character, Donnie Darko, is simply an ordinary teenage boy who finds himself caught in an anything-but-ordinary situation. If you're looking for a movie that's going to leave you sitting on your couch for hours afterward wondering what just happened, this is definitely the film for you.
"Cloud Atlas" (2012)
This is one of those movies where you can't look away. Literally. Directed by the Wachowskis, Cloud Atlas weaves together six different stories from different eras, but each separate tale contains so many aspects of the one before that you could miss something just by blinking. The film is so beautifully put together that each individual plot could have been made into its own movie. Based on the novel by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas places its six protagonists in dilemmas that at the surface appear dramatically different but are ultimately connected in every way. The best word to describe the film is elegant, and it is a must-see for any philosophy geek.
One of the more recent movies on this list, Interstellar is a space-centered science-fiction movie directed by Christopher Nolan which contemplates the situations that humanity may find itself in some time in the future. Although the movie aims to move across dimensions and place space exploration and all it entails in a truly extravagant light, it mainly focuses on one family and contains extremely relatable characters that cause the viewer to understand the characters' pain despite being years away from them. The movie is nearly three hours long, but those searching for an emotional take on the human condition with a sci-fi spin will certainly enjoy Interstellar.
"The Twilight Zone: Eye of the Beholder" (S2E6) (1960)
Yes, I know that this isn't a movie, but it certainly deserves the merit of one. The Twilight Zone is a TV series from the 1960s that essentially tells twisted, mind-boggling tales. If you've ever heard someone say "There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity," it was probably a reference to The Twilight Zone's introduction. This episode specifically contemplates human existence and more specifically human perspective. It's a very short episode, but if you enjoy it be sure to watch more of the series as well!
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (2013)
I never thought that I would see a Ben Stiller movie on a list like this, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (based on James Thurber's novel of the same title) just hit too close to home for me to not include it. The movie follows your everyday average Joe as he goes to work at Life Magazine. Everything about his life seems ordinary, except for his excessive daydreaming. The film follows Walter Mitty through his mid-life crisis as he follows his path to a sort of "modern-day enlightenment." The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a movie for everyone and is a great choice when you're down in the dumps and need a pick-me-up.
"Black Mirror: San Junipero" (S3E4) (2016)
Yes, I know that this one isn't a movie either, but it DEFINITELY deserves the merit of one. Black Mirror is a British series that has been referred to as the "modern-day Twilight Zone" (hence it's inclusion on this list). This episode is truly a 1980s old-school love story between the two main characters Yorkie and Kelly. However, as the episode evolves, the reality of the existential dilemma that these characters find themselves in begins to present itself to the viewer in one of the most aesthetically pleasing visuals of our time.
Finally, a film adaptation of Carl Sagan's novel of the same title, Contact is a science-fiction film about a woman (Dr. Arroway played by Jodie Foster) who uses radio frequencies to search for and interact with life on other planets. The two and a half hour movie is filled with emotional twists and turns as you root for the protagonist, but it also allows the viewer to sit back and truly understand their place in a universe so much bigger than they are. Fans of space, science-fiction, and philosophy will all enjoy Contact.