Hello, Mr. Sandman: Top 10 Dream Movies
Hollywood is, as the cliche goes, a dream factory, and Freudian analysts and movie theorists alike have compared movie-watching to dreaming. The list of memorable dream movies could go on practically ad infinitum, but here is an eclectic list of 10 of the greatest, ranging from movies with classic dream sequences to those that come seductively or unnervingly close to capturing the mood and logic of our dreams and nightmares.
The movie that brought Japanese cult auteur Takashi Miike to international attention begins as a romance between a widower and an apparently demure young woman, then shifts into the most horrifying avenging-angel scenario. As the violence mounts, the line between reality and fantasy vanishes, and the effect is of a nightmare from which there is no escape.
2. Last Year at Mariebad
A nameless man tries to convince a nameless woman that they had met before, but is he unearthing a repressed memory or implanting a false one? A movie in which nothing is what it seems and everything seems to happen at once, Alain Resnais’s ultra-chic head-scratcher is an unsolvable puzzle that mimics the “logic” of the unconscious.
3. Living In Oblivion
Tom DiCillo’s comic meta movie, about the perils of low-budget indie filmmaking, consists largely of dream sequences and culminates in the ultimate meta-dream sequence, complete with smoke machines and an irate dwarf. Steve Buscemi plays the beleaugered filmmaker hero, whose last name, Reve, means “dream” in French.
4. Mulholland Drive
Any number of David Lynch films, from Eraserhead to Inland Empire could have made it onto this list. But this poisoned valentine to the dream factory is the ultimate expression of Lynch’s deep love-hate relationship with Hollywood. Split into mirror-image halves and filled with alter-egos, the movie could be a death-bed dream on the part of its struggling-actress heroine (Naomi Watts).
In the near-future Japan of Satoshi Kon’s delirious anime, a psychiatric institute has developed dream machines that allow researchers to plug into the restless minds of sleeping patients. When the devices go missing, all hell breaks loose, leading the movie and its characters into the deepest recesses of the unconscious: a sinister and chaotic world rendered with vivid, eye-popping invention.
6. The Science of Sleep
The overstimulated hero (Gael Garcia Bernal) of Michel Gondry’s mournful ode to childhood regression has a hard time distinguishing his dreams from his waking life. Gondry has said that the dreams in the movie, romper-room fantasies filled with elaborate cardboard and papier-mache props, are based on his own.
7. Un Chien Andalou
With the help of his friend Salvador Dalí, Luis Bunuel began his movie career with one of the most shocking openings in film history: a close-up of a razor slicing into a woman’s eyeball. The rest of this 16-minute short is nearly as outrageous and every bit as visceral—and a wellspring of dream imagery for years to come.
Dreams are all-important in Alfred Hitchcock’s perverse portrait of romantic pathology. James Stewart’s acrophobic detective becomes obsessed with an enigmatic woman (or, more to the point, haunted by her image). The movie has the feel of a hallucination, and mid-movie, the hero’s irrational passion spills over into a semi-psychedelic nightmare that ends with him plunging from a tower.
David Cronenberg’s best movies are mind-expanding head trips, none more so than this cross between techno paranoia and body horror. As James Woods’s sleazy cable-TV entrepreneur stumbles through a maze of altered states, the movie becomes a disturbing meditation on the power of images to affect us in ways we don’t immediately understand, and on the relationship between what we watch and who we are.
10. Waking Life
Richard Linklater, American cinema’s master of free-associative dialogue, explores the edges of consciousness in this sleepwalk about the adventures of a lucid dreamer. The innovative rotoscope technique converts live action to animation, turning reality into something as fluid as a dream.
Want in glimpse inside a celebrity’s mind? Watch DREAMSTATES to find out what Quest Love, Will Forte and Sebastian Junger dream about.