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A LIST OF PHILOSOPHICAL FILMS

Below is a categorized list of about 200 noteworthy films that deal with philosophical and religious themes. For a more comprehensive list of around 500 titles, see the Philosophy and Film Database. Call numbers are included for Videos and DVDs in UT Martin’s library.

 

THE MEANING OF LIFE

Fight Club (1999; young executive seeks for meaning through anarchism and violence)

Gates of Heaven (1778; Errol Morris documentary explores impact of relocated pet cemetary) [VIDEO 4556]

Ghost World (2001; cynical young girl seeks for meaning while hurting everyone in her path) [DVD 123]

Leaving Las Vegas (1995; an alcoholic and a hooker enable each other) [DVD 100]

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983; series of avant-garde skits) [VIDEO 3448]

O Lucky Man (1973; Coffee salesman travels UK searching for meaning) [VIDEO 4566-67]

On the Beach (1959; last people alive after nuclear war search for meaning; remade in 2000) [VIDEO 2155 (1959 version)]

Quadrophenia (1979; young british mod self-destructs in quest for meaning)

The Razor's Edge (1946; from Somerset Maugham novel about quest for truth through Hindu mysticism; 1984 remake starring Bill Murray) [VIDEO 2827 (1946 version); VIDEO 4410 (1984 version)]

SLC punk! (1999; punk youth struggle to find individuality and meaning) [DVD 34]

The Swimmer (1968; a man swims in several neighborhood pools, revealing his self-deception) [DVD 59]

The Trial (1963; from Kafka’s surreal novel, a man is arrested but never told why) [VIDEO 1506]

Stalker (1979; science fiction story of a post-apocalyptic world of despair; in Russian) [DVD 119]

 

APPEARANCE/REALITY

The 13th Floor (1999; murder mystery set within a virtual reality in which people don’t know that they are only simulations) [DVD 26]

Dark City (1998; science fiction story) [DVD 121]

Existenz (1999; virtual reality device test marketed it on a group of people) [DVD 104]

The Matrix (1999; human minds are unknowingly connected to a virtual reality computer, and a messianic figure attempts to free everyone) [DVD 17]

Open your Eyes (1997; science fiction story, remade as Vanilla Sky; in Spanish) [VIDEO 4265]

Total Recall; (1990; science fiction story) [DVD 106]

Vanilla Sky (2001; science fiction story) [DVD 114]

Waking Life (2001; animated film about a man who floats in and out of philosophical discussions about the nature of reality) [DVD 99]

 

PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE

Brief History of Time (1992; documentary based on Stephen Hawking’s life and book) [VIDEO 2311]

Contact (1997; explores plausibility of extraterrestrial life) [DVD 8]

Mindwalk (1991; poet, politician and physicist discuss implications of quantum physics) [VIDEO 4514]

Primer (2004; startup company creates time machine)

Pi: Faith in Chaos (1998; mathematician tries to predict the stock market)

 

MIND/BODY

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001; child robot longs for human mother) [DVD 23]

Bicentennial Man (1999; follows robot’s 200-year quest to become human) [DVD 15]

Blade Runner (1982; science fiction story about human/android distinction) [DVD 46]

Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (1997; documentary about four people discusses animal and artificial intelligence) [DVD 11]

Final Fantasy (2001; animated science fiction film about spiritual residue of alien creatures) [DVD 27]

Ghost in the Shell (1995; animated Japanese science fiction film about artificial intelligence) [DVD 12]

I, Robot (2004; Robots revolt against humans)

 

PERSONAL IDENTITY

Being John Malkovich (1999; man gives tours of John Malkovich’s consciousness) [DVD 10]

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004; man and woman consciously lose memories and struggle with their identies)

Memento (2000; man with short term memory loss tries to solve wife’s murder) [DVD 30]

Multiplicity (1996; comedy about man with three clones) [DVD 25]

Solaris (1972 in Russian; planet re-creates dead people based on memories; 2002 English remake) [DVD 229 (Russian), DVD 231 (English)]

 

FREE WILL/DETERMINISM

A Clockwork Orange (1971; criminal brainwashed into becoming nonviolent) [DVD 7]

Gattaca (1997; man struggles to overcome biological destiny) [DVD 38]

Groundhog Day (1993; man keeps reliving the same day) [DVD 32]

Hilary and Jackie (1998; biography of Jacqueline du Pré who mentally degenerates) [DVD 36]

Minority Report (2002; people imprisoned for predisposition to commit crimes) [DVD 117]

 

ETHICS

Brother's Keeper (1992; documentary on retarded elderly man charged with mercy killing his brother)

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989; explores the grounds of morality in a Godless world) [DVD 22]

The Emperor's Club (1989; prep school classics teacher tries to teach virtue)

House of Sand and Fog (2003; two people fight over ownership of home)

I Am David (2004; 12 year old boy escapes communist concentration camp and distrusts everyone)

In the Company of Men (1997; egoistic corporate middle managers exploit deaf woman)

Lorenzo’s Oil (1992; biography of Lorenzo Odones explores biomedical ethics) [VIDEO 4516]

 

CLONING

The Boys from Brazil (1978; Mengela makes clones of Hitler) [DVD 248]

The Island (2005; science fiction film explores cloning) [DVD 535]

Multiplicity (1996; comedy about man with three clones) [DVD 25]

The Sixth Day (2000; science fiction film explores cloning) [DVD 171]

 

SEXUAL MORALITY

Brokeback Mountain (2005; drama of two gay sheepherders)

Capturing the Friedmans (2003; documentary on father and son wrongly imprisoned for child molestation)

Kinsey (2004; true story of Alfred Kinsey's research into human sexuality)

The Laramie Project (2002; retells true story about a murdered homosexual)

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996; biography of publisher of Hustler Magazine explores pornography and free speech)

Saved! (2004; young girl in Christian highschool gets pregnant)

Wittgenstein (1993; biography of Wittgenstein explores homosexuality)

The Woodsman (2004; child molester released from prison)

 

ABORTION

The Cider House Rules (1999; physician's apprentice wrestles with abortion issue) [DVD 18]

Citizen Ruth (1996; pregnant homeless girl sparks abortion controversy) [DVD 18]

Palindromes (2005; 13 year old girl has abortion with surgical complications)

Rowe vs. Wade (1989; drama behind Supreme Court case explores abortion) [VIDEO 4565]

Vera Drake (2004; 1950's British Woman imprisoned for assisting in abortions)

 

JOURNALISTIC ETHICS

Control Room (2004; documentary of Al Jazeera news network)

Orwell Rolls in his Grave (2004; documentary describes monopolies in today's media companies) [DVD 782]

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004; documentary about Fox News)

Shattered Glass (2003; true life story of disgraced journalist Stephen Glass)

 

BUSINESS ETHICS

The Awful Truth (1999; Michael Moore documentary series explores social issues) [DVD 232-35]

The Big One (1997; Michael Moore documentary, explores corporate insensitivity towards workers) [VIDEO 4560]

A Civil Action (1999; explores corporations and environmental damage) [DVD 35]

The Corporation (2004; explores controversies in business ethics) [DVD 458]

Enron: The Smartes Guys in the Room (2005; documentary explores the bacKground end effects of Enron's business practices) [DVD 581]

The Future of Food (2004; documentary about the impact of genetically engineered plants on the food supply)

Life and Debt (2001: documentary on the effects of the International Monetary Fund on Jamaica

McLibel (2005; documentary explores law suit brought McDonald's against British activists) [DVD 647]

Roger and Me (1989; Michael Moore documentary, explores corporate insensitivity towards workers) [VIDEO 4417]

Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices (2005; documentary about the social impact of Walmart's business practices) [DVD 878]

The Yes Men (2004; two liberal activists impersonate members of the World Trade Organization)

 

POVERTY

Balseros (2003; documentary on 1994 exodus of refugees from Cuba to Miami)

Born Into Brothels (2004; documentary on children of prostitutes in India) [DVD 529]

City of Joy (1992; disillusioned doctor goes to India and faces the brutal reality of the caste system) [VIDEO 4524]

Children Underground (2001; documentary on homeless children in Romania) [DVD 577]

Dark Days (2000; documentary of homeless people living in New York City subway tunnel)

The Devil's Miner (2005; documentary about children working in Bolivian silver mine)

It Was a Wonderful Life (1993; documentary about homeless women live in their cars)

 

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Dead Man Walking (1995; man on death row comforted by nun)

Deadline (2004; documentary on Illinois governor George Ryan who granted clemency to death row inmates)

The Life of David Gale (2003; philosophy professor faces the death penalty) [DVD 575]

Mr. Death (2000; Errol Morris documentary about Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. explores death penalty, holocaust denial) [DVD 47]

The Thin Blue Line (1988; Errol Morris documentary about an innocent man on death row) [VIDEO 2478]

 

ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS

The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005; father and daughter try to maintain ecological lifestyle)

Baraka (1992; nonverbal film documentary on the effects of modernization) [DVD 649]

Butterfly (2000; documentary about environmental activist Julia Butterfly who lived in a tree for two years)

The Future of Food (2004; documentary about the impact of genetically engineered plants on the food supply)

Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance (1983; nonverbal film documentary on the effects of modernization) [DVD 650]

Mindwalk (1991; poet, politician and physicist discuss interconnectedness of all things) [VIDEO 4514]

 

RACISM

American History X (1998; neo-Nazi rejects racism)

The Believer (2001; true story of Danny Balint, a young New York Jew who join a neo-nazi organization)

Crash (2005; explores varieties of racism)

Downfall (2004; Hitler's last days) [DVD 510]

Lost Boys of Sudan (2003; documentary on Sudanese refugees relocated in the U.S.) [VIDEO 516]

Max (2002; fictionalized account of Hitler's racist youth)

The Ogre (1996; naive Frenchman assists Nazis) [DVD 202]

Promises (2001; documentary on racial attitudes of Israeli and Palestinian children)

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002; true story of aboriginal Australian girls who escape racist relocation policy) [DVD 170]

 

GENOCIDE

The Grey Zone (2002; true story of Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz forced by the Nazis to help exterminate fellow Jews)

Hotel Rwanda (2005; genocide in Rwanda) [DVD 582]

The Killing Fields (1984; true story of Cambodian man fleeing from genocide) [VIDEO 2594]

Mr. Death (2000; Errol Morris documentary about Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. explores death penalty, holocaust denial) [DVD 47]

Nuremberg (2000; drama about WW2 war crimes trial) [DVD 19]

 

WAR

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930; antiwar message from German side of WW I) [VIDEO 384]

Deterrence (1998; remake of Failsafe explores nuclear war)

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004; explores US reaction to 9/11 attack) [DVD 344]

The Fog of War (2004; Errol Morris documentary on former Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara) [DVD 322]

Hearts and Minds (1974; documentary about war atrocities in Vietnam) [VIDEO 256]

Iraq for Sale (2006; documentary about business motives behind the US war with Iraq)

Occupation Dreamland (2005; documentary explores army soldiers' attitudes about the US war with Iraq)

Team America: World Police (2004; satire on American involvement in wars)

Steal This Movie! (2000; biography of 1960s anti-war activist Abbie HOffman)

The Weather Underground (2002; documentary of radical 1960s anti-war terrorist group)

Why we Fight (2005; documentary about the causes of the US war with Iraq)

Winter Soldier (1972; documentary about war atrocities in Vietnam) [DVD 813]

 

COLLECTIVISM AND TOTALITARIANISM

1984 (1990; based on George Orwell’s novel exploring totalitarianism) [VIDEO 1668]

Animal Farm (1952 animated film based on George Orwell’s novel exploring communist totalitarianism; 1999 remake using talking animal computer effects) [VIDEO 4395 (of 1952), DVD 20 (of 1999)]

Antz (1998; computer animated cartoon explores individualism vs. collectivism) [VIDEO 3625]

Equilibrium (2002; totalitarian regime controls population by suppressing emotions)

Fountainhead (1949; Ayn Rand novel, attack on collectivism) [VIDEO 2016]

The Last Emperor (1987; biography of Pu Yi, China's last monarch, depicts traditional Chinese religious ritual) [DVD 103]

Lost Horizon (1937; group discovers a Tibetan utopia) [VIDEO 516]

Reds (1981; American journalists caught up in Russian Communist Revolution

 

GUNS AND VIOLENCE

Bowling for Columbine (2002; Michael Moore documentary explores gun control) [DVD 95]

Lord of War (2005; an arms dealer stuggles with the consequences of his job) [DVD 708]

 

AESTHETICS

I shot Andy Warhol (1996; biography of Valerie Solanas, Warhol’s would-be assassin, explores avant-garde film) [DVD 37]

My Dinner with Andre (1981; dinner dialogue explores philosophy of theatre) [DVD 13]

My Architect: A Son's Journey (2003; documentary architect Louis I. Kahn)

Pollock (2000; biography of Jackson Pollock explores philosophy of art) [DVD 21]

Rivers and Tides (2003; documentary on sculptor Andy Goldsworthy)

 

PROBLEM OF EVIL

The Book of Life (1998; Jesus arrives at JFK airport for his second coming, and verbally battles with Satan) [DVD 249]

The Quarrel (1991; a conservative and a liberal Jew debate implications of the Holocaust) [DVD 107]

The Rapture (1991; a woman’s unsuccessful quest for salvation) [VIDEO 4531]

The Seventh Seal (1957; a disillusioned knight returns from the crusades questioning God’s existence; in Swedish) [DVD 33]

Shadowlands (1993; biography of C.S. Lewis) [DVD 9]

 

FAITH AND MIRACLES

Agnes of God (1985; murder investigation in a convent explores the possibility of miracles) [DVD 105]

Elmer Gantry (1960; manipulative evangelist) [VIDEO 369]

Leap of Faith (1992; manipulative evangelist) [DVD 223]

The Miracle Woman (1931; manipulative evangelist) [VIDEO 4533]

The Next Voice You Hear (1950; God’s voice comes out of the radio) [VIDEO 4532]

Phenomenon (1996; man seeks to understand his new supernatural abilities) [DVD 116]

Powder (1995; allegory about unappreciated messianic figures and miracle workers) [DVD 16]

A Question of Faith (2000; monks investigate alleged miracle in their monastery) [DVD 31]

Resurrection (1980; woman has near-death experience after with she can miraculously heal) [VIDEO 4523]

The Third Miracle (1999; Catholic priest investigates veracity of miracle reports) [VIDEO 4530]

 

REDEMPTION

The Apostle (1998; southern evangelist seeks redemption after committing murder) [DVD 55]

The Mission (1986; 18th century slave trader seeks redemption after committing murder) [DVD 101]

The Reckoning (2004; medieval priest on the run for murder)

 

RELIGIOUS DEPROGRAMMING

The Devil's Playground (2002; documentary on the effects of rumspringa on Amish youth) [DVD 576]

Holy Smoke! (2000; woman is coaxed out of a religious cult by a manipulative deprogrammer) [DVD 98]

 

INDIGENOUS RELIGIONS

Serpent and the Rainbow (1988; Harvard anthropologist investigates voodoo zombification drugs) [DVD 174]

 

HINDUISM

Devi (1960; woman has vision of Hindu goddess Kali; in Hindi)

Mahabharata (1989; six-hour drama based on Hindu classic; in Hindi)

 

BUDDHISM

The Cup (1999; exiled Tibetan Buddhist youth in monastery rent TV to watch World Cup game)

Kundun (1997; biography of Tibetan Buddhism’s 14th Dalai Lama, Kundun) [DVD 172]

Little Buddha (1994; story of Buddha and a possible reincarnation of a Tibetan monk) [DVD 97]

Siddhartha (1973; man during the time of Buddha seeks for enlightenment, based on Hermann Hesse’s novel) [DVD 131]

Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East (1989; elderly Zen master befriends an orphaned boy; in Korean)

 

JUDAISM

The Chosen (1981; friendship between a liberal and conservative Jew) [DVD 126]

Great Sadness of Zohara (1983; spiritual quest of Orthodox woman)

Kadosh (1999; drama about Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community; in Hebrew) [DVD 122]

Masada (1981; six-hour drama about the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE)

The Quarrel (1991; a conservative and a liberal Jew debate implications of the Holocaust) [DVD 107]

Time of Favor (2000; tensions between religious and secular forces in modern Israel) [DVD 112]

Women (1996; drama about 19th century childless wife of a Jerusalem Rabbi) [DVD 102]

 

ISLAM

The Message (1976; biography of Muhammad)

Khartoum (1966; story of 19th century Muslim holy warrior declaring himself to be the Madhi) [VIDEO 1069]

 

CHRISTIANITY

Cardinal Richelieu (1935; biography of Richelieu)

Constantine and the Cross (1962; Christianity vs. Roman Empire in 4th CN)

Francesco (1989; biography of St. Francis) [VIDEO 4563]

God’s Army (2000; depicts contemporary Mormon missionary experience) [DVD 265]

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964; movie drama of Jesus based on Matthew; in Italian) [VIDEO 320]

Luther (2003; biography of Luther) [DVD 513]

A Man for All Seasons (1966; Thomas More vs. Henry VIII, formation of Anglican Church) [VIDEO 20]

Martin Luther (1953; biography of Luther)  

Quo Vadis? (1951; Christian persecution under Nero)

 

CATHOLIC ISSUES

Anchoress (1993; medieval catholic girl searches for religion outside of church) [DVD 120]

The Cardinal (1963; Irish-American priest becomes a Cardinal) [DVD 128]

Catholics (1973; Irish priest investigated for returning to Latin Mass)

The Diary of a Country Priest (1954; young priest struggles in his first parish; in French)

Dogma (1999; satire on traditional catholic theology) [DVD 127]

Extramuros (1985; 16th century Spanish lesbian nuns fake stigmata; in Spanish)

Hell House (2001; protestant fundamentalist depiction of hell on halloween)

Mass Appeal (1984; conflict between old-school priest and young reformist seminarian) [VIDEO 4564]

The Nun (1971; single mother forced into convent; in French) [VIDEO 4559]

The Nun's Story (1959; nun in Belgian Congo) [VIDEO 2159]

The Priest (1995; a secretly gay young priest replaces an older more pragmatic priest) [DVD 125]

 

JESUS-RELATED FICTION

Barabbas (1962; Barabbas struggles to accept being pardoned in lieu of Jesus) [DVD 251]

The Body (2001; archaeologist discovers the body of Jesus) [DVD 111]

The Book of Life (1998; Jesus arrives at JFK airport for his second coming, and verbally battles with Satan) [DVD 249]

The Fourth Wise Man (1985; a man tries to visit the baby Jesus but after delays sees Jesus on the cross) [DVD 230]

The Inquiry (1987; mystery about missing body of Jesus) [VIDEO 4561]

The Body (2001; archaeologist discovers the body of Jesus) [DVD 111]

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973; musical explores the question of who Jesus was) [VIDEO 2235]

Jesus of Montreal (1989; actors perform Passion Play) [VIDEO 4517]

Last Temptation of Christ (1988; Jesus doubts his divine calling) [VIDEO 1117]

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979; unsuspecting bystander’s life parallels that of Jesus) [DVD 124]

The Robe (1953; Roman guard at Jesus’ crucifixion) [VIDEO 2881]

 

CLASHES BETWEEN RELIGIONS

Black Robe (1991; Catholic and Native American) [VIDEO 3410]

Four Days in July (1984; Irish Catholic and Protestant) [VIDEO 4562]

Keeping the Faith (2000; Catholic priest and Jewish rabbi fall for the same girl) [DVD 118]

The Other Side of Heaven (2002; biography of John Groberg, Mormon missionary in Tonga) [DVD 113]

Stolen Summer (2002; Catholic boy tries to convert son of Jewish rabbi) [DVD 130]

 

RELIGION AND SECULARISM

Inherit the Wind (1960; dramatization of Scopes Monkey Trial regarding creation and evolution) [VIDEO 319]

Leon Morin, Priest (1961; Catholic priest confronts communist atheist; in French)

 
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