Top-5 — Films to Watch if You Liked Inception

Posted: August 2, 2010 in Eric Raymer, Film, Top5
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[Posted by: Eric Raymer]
[Site Update: There is now a Top-5 Menu selection which shows you all of our “Top-5” lists]

Christopher Nolan’s Inception is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, mostly because of its unique Matryoshka doll plot structure and the way it blurs the line between dream and reality. I like movies that give me a little credit as a viewer and ask me to bring my brain to the theater instead of leaving it at home. If you want some more mind-twisting films that also dabble in dreamscapes, check these out. In no particular order:

1. The Cell / Tarsem Singh (2000)

Inception’s dream worlds were fun, but just not really dream-like. One of the weirdest things about dreams is their twisted logic – you know, how things that make perfect sense at the moment seem completely absurd in retrospect. The dreams in The Cell are as dark and surreal as any nightmare you’ve ever had, and rightfully so, as they live within the mind of a serial killer. Director Tarsem Singh’s incredible visuals and Vincent D’Orofino’s chillingly insane performance both overshadow the somewhat lackluster roles played by Jennifer Lopez (yes, J. Lo) and Vince Vaughn. This one flopped in theaters, but it’s definitely worth a second look.

2. Dark City / Alex Proyas (1998)

John Murdock knows that there’s something wrong with this city – why does the past he remembers not sync with the real world? Why did he just wake up in a hotel room with a dead hooker? And why on earth is it always night? If you liked questioning whether the world of Inception was real or just a dream, this sci-fi thriller will be right up your alley.

3. Triangle / Christopher Smith (2009)

When a group of young friends goes sailing and runs into what seems to be an abandoned cruise liner, they have no idea that they’re about to step into a scenario that will (literally) spiral quickly out of control. Triangle was unfortunately marketed as some sort of slasher-at-sea, but it’s way smarter than that. If you liked navigating the maze-like plot of Inception, Triangle will be a slightly more challenging puzzle for you to solve.

4. Paprika / Satoshi Kon (2006)

Satoshi Kon loves directing films that play with the notion of reality, and Paprika is no exception. The dream-invading technology of Paprika is similar to that of Inception, but instead of hijacking minds to steal thoughts, it’s used primarily as a therapeutic device to treat mental illness. Think of all the bad things that could happen if it fell into the wrong hands though, and you can probably see where this is going. The animation here is as good as any Miyazaki film and really lets loose when the boundary between dreams and reality starts to blur.

5. Waking Life / Richard Linklater (2001)

How do you know when you’re awake or when you’re dreaming? Are you dreaming right now? Are you sure? Waking Life takes a more philosophical look at the dream world and is like an hour and a half long bull session with a bunch of animated philosophy professors. It eschews a plot in favor of a string of ideas and conversation, all rendered in constantly shifting rotoscoped animation. Be forewarned: you’ll either really enjoy indulging yourself in a little bit of mental masturbation or find it kind of trite. Either way, it’ll probably make you think at least a little the next time you go to flick a light switch on or off…

I know there are lots of other similar films out there, so tell us your favorites in the comments!



  1. CMrok93 says:

    So glad you mentioned Waking Life. It’s gots a funny screenplay, that may twist some viewers minds in directions they didn’t expect, and the whole essence of the stry is perfect. Great list!

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