“Movies have these transcendent moments where everything is just right, from the dialogue to the music to the lighting to the narrative context; everything is just perfect, and something magical happens – the film breaks through the screen and does something to you.” ~Jason Silva

“The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.” ~Terry Pratchett

1.) The Zeitgeist Trilogy:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~R. Buckminster Fuller

This series has created much heated debate. Laced with scathing ideas that challenge the mainstream perception of things, it reveals the thin line between conspiracy theory and truth, while challenging the viewer to question everything using their own skeptical research. Although it is artistic propaganda in itself, it shows the other side of the coin of mainstream propaganda and provides a counter-intuitive, devil’s advocate perspective on the cultural dynamic. Just take it with a grain of salt and be sure to don your skeptic’s hat as well as your thinking cap.

Overall the trilogy advocates for a transition from the global money-based economic system to a post-scarcity economy, or resource-based economy. It aims to progressively evolve into an automated technological utopianism based on sustainable ecological concepts and the scientific administration of society. Once you get past all the religious, political, and economic buildup, you get to the best part of the series, in my opinion: The Venus Project.

2.) Fight Club:

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis… You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. You are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” ~Tyler Durden (Chuck Palahniuk)

Fight Club is one of those movies that punches you in the frontal lobe while it’s kicking you in the nuts. Based off the best-selling book of the same name, even the author, Chuck Palahniuk, admits the movie is better than the book. Which is incredibly rare. Usually the book is better than the movie. But this story was made for a cinematic experience.

Fight Club takes its viewer on a roller-coaster ride of insomnia, schizophrenia, and multiple personality disorders. But the title is deceiving. It’s less about fighting in a club and more about systematically dismantling civilization and creating anarchy through strategic civil-disobedience and the revolutionary shenanigans of Project Mayhem. It advocates for proactive yet simple anarchy through minimalism to replace inert yet complex materialistic consumerism, cryptically warning us all: “The things you own end up owning you.”

3.) The American Dream:

“Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes its laws.” ~Attributed to Mayer Amschel Rothschild

This is an entertaining, funny, and motivating cartoon film about the evils of fractional reserve banking. It’s a hard hitting look at how the problems we are faced with today regarding money, credit cards, loans, inflation, the IRS, and the banking system in general, are nothing new, and how leaders throughout history have warned us and fought against the idea of fractional reserve banking.

Hugely metaphorical, it must be taken with a grain of salt, but it humorously explains, in an empowering way, how money works and doesn’t work. It strikes at the heart of greed and power and how both can lead to evil if not checked and balanced by the power of the people. As Hartman tells Pile halfway through the film, “This discovery is called fractional reserve banking. In the wrong hands it is more powerful than the nuclear bomb in its ability to completely and utterly destroy a nation who is subjected to its perversions.”

4.) Into the Wild:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” ~ Christopher McCandless

Unlike Fight Club, the book Into the Wild is better than the movie. But the movie is still an amazing work of art. Sean Penn did a fantastic job in his directorial debut. He portrayed the pain and the pleasure of what it must have been like for Christopher McCandless to survive and ultimately die alone in the wild Alaskan bush.

The cinematography is spellbinding and seems like a character all its own as it carries Christopher from civilization to the open road to the deserts of Arizona and Mexico and, finally, into the Alaskan wilderness where he faces solitude, starvation, and ultimately death. This film strikes deeply into the human condition and leaves the viewer reeling with equal parts existential angst and a feral hunger for adventure.

5.) Samsara:

“Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun (fundamental awake human nature). Then the warrior (brave enough to look at & work with reality) can make a proper cup of tea.” ~Pema Chodron

This is a beautiful film with little to no words spoken. And it is all the more engaging because of that fact. Filled with stunning imagery, spellbinding music, and breathtaking cinematography, this film strikes at the heart of what it means to be a human being in relationship, or lack thereof, with other human beings and with their environment. Revealing both the dark and the light side of what it means to be a modern human, it will fill you with both love and anger toward the plight of humankind in all its shame and glory.

This six-minute clip about human consumption is an excerpt from the movie. If you haven’t seen it already, prepare to be moved. And here’s another clip from the movie that will blow your mind, portraying a disturbing artistic impression of the daily grind.

6.) Interstellar:

“Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, and learn, too late, they grieved it on its way. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” ~Dylan Thomas

This movie will get your exploratory pioneering juices flowing. Delving deeply into concepts such as Time, Gravity, and Love, it keeps you on the edge of your seat as you travel through wormholes and experience the crushing loneliness of space. You can almost feel the gravity, or lack thereof, equally pressing and releasing you into a finite creature that can never escape Time. This short clip gets at the heart of the movie’s meaning.

Although we cannot escape Time, we can create art that transcends it. This film is precisely such art, and there’s even phenomenal science backing it up. It’s a hero’s call to exploring the last frontier, empowering the trailblazing adventurer hidden deep within our collective soul. As Cooper (Mathew McConaughey’s character) says, “Mankind was born on Earth… it was never meant to die here.”

7.) What the Bleep Do We Know:

“Quantum physics really begins to point to this discovery. It says that you can’t have a Universe without mind entering into it, and that the mind is actually shaping the very thing that is being perceived.” ~Fred Alan Wolf

Although professional scientists in the fields of physics, chemistry, and engineering help to ground this film into digestible science, it has been criticized for both misrepresenting science and containing pseudoscience. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining piece explaining the spiritual connection between quantum physics and consciousness (quantum mysticism). Take it with a grain of salt, sure, but as long as you’re not placing all your eggs into any basket, let alone in this particular basket, then it will have you questioning reality in imaginative and novel ways.

What The Bleep gives a new age perspective on questioning what we think we know about the universe, our place in it, and how we perceive both the universe and ourselves in the grand scheme of things. If it doesn’t do anything else for you, it will at least help you think more philosophically about what you think reality is.

8.) Inception:

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm?… An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere… can grow to define or destroy you.” ~Dominick Cobb

Clever, innovative, and exhilarating, Inception is that rare film that succeeds viscerally as well as intellectually. It tackles the profound “what if” scenario of what would happen if people were able to share a dream space while given the ability to access somebody’s unconscious mind in order to persuade that person to act a certain way in real life. The film takes us on a rollercoaster ride through different levels of dreaming which, in the end, leaves us questioning if reality itself might be a dream. As Zhuangzi’s Zen parable goes, “I dreamt I was a butterfly. Then I awaked as myself. Now I do not know whether I was a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”

The film even goes into time dilation and the possibility of falling so deeply into a dream that it becomes a kind of psychological prison. There are certain dream scenarios where the main character Cobb has been in the same dream for fifty-plus years, all in the span of a single sleep cycle. Fascinating stuff, perhaps reminding us all of some of the more deeply enchanting dreams we might have had throughout the course of our lives.

9.) Primer:

“If you always want what you can’t have, what do you want when you can have anything?” ~Shane Carruth

This is a low-budget film, but don’t let that dissuade you. It is filled with mind-bending science and jaw dropping twists and turns. This time travel movie has a more refreshing and practical take on the idea of time travel, based on a simple time-loop. It has a down-to-earth feel to it despite the heavy math and science.

Based on the idea that most of history’s breakthrough discoveries occurred by accident, the two main characters in the movie stumble upon the idea for time travel as a side effect of electromagnetically reducing the weight of an object by effecting gravity in a closed box. Their clashing personalities lead to problems as to how their creation should be used, ultimately leading to multiple versions of themselves wreaking havoc on the timeline.

Rotten Tomatoes had the following to say about the film: “Dense, obtuse, but stimulating, Primer is a film ready for viewers who are ready for a cerebral challenge. One of the best science fiction films for the thinking man (…or woman).”

10.) The Matrix:

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” ~Morpheus

Thus, was born the most impactful metaphor of our time. What list of mind-blowing movies would be complete without The Matrix? Perhaps no other movie has seeped into our collective consciousness like this movie has. It’s got everything: deep philosophy, moral conundrums, a hero’s journey, killer robots, Kung Fu. Best of all, it gave us the red-pill/blue-pill metaphor representing truth and deception.

From a philosophical standpoint there is a whole wealth of insight portrayed in this movie: multiple layers of Plato’s allegory of the cave, a crash course in western epistemology and eastern brahman, Descartes’ Great Deceiver, and the dynamic of the life-death-rebirth process. This is one of the very few movies that makes a sweeping statement about the full range of the human condition as applied to the mind, body, and soul.

Honorable MentionsFour Horsemen, Memento, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Donnie Darko, Being John Malkovich

Featured image: (Into The Wild, Paramount Vantage)