Movies are a great way to pass the time. Sure, the purpose of some are to simply scare or even make you laugh, but some are meant to make you ask the deep and meaningful questions, even after the credits are finished rolling across your screen. Whether you watch them alone, with a partner, or with family and friends, cerebral movies can be thought-provoking in more ways than one.
The movies that make you think and provoke conversation regarding morals, values, love life, or even question overall life choices are those that make your head spin. Thought-provoking films can be lighthearted or incredibly dark but they all open your mind to new ideas and levels of thinking.
1. “Children of Men”
"Children of Men" is a 2006 British American dystopian movie starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. This beautifully shot cerebral movie offers a perspective on the state of humanity given near extinction, police states, immigration, and refugee camps.
As a dystopian film, "Children of Men" is dark and it’s one of the movies that make you think about the power of faith and hope in the bleakest of situations.
If documentaries aren’t your thing, Netflix released an original film titled “Okja” that gives viewers a fictional adventure story, plus dives into the unethical world of the meat industry.
Released in 2017, “Okja” follows Mija, a South Korean girl who for the past ten years has raised a special breed of “super pig.” Ten years earlier, 26 super pigs, created by the Mirando Corporation, were sent to farmers all around the world. Whichever proved to be the best, would be crowned the best pig in a competition sponsored by the Mirando Corporation, led by “environmentalist” Lucy Mirando, played by actress Tilda Swinton.
“Okja” sends a powerful message about the evils of mass farming and the meat industry as well as a look into the people fighting to end the unethical practice, at any cost.
You can stream “Okja” on Netflix.
3. “The Truman Show”
When it comes to entertainment, reality television is high on the list of what Americans broadcast on their TVs. The list ranges from dating shows, family ventures, and even game shows like “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race.”
Reality TV has long been accused of being scripted and reshot multiple times. It's to no one's surprise that certain lines and scenes are preplanned. But how far would we go for entertainment? And would we really care about the consequences?A perfect example of this is the 1998 film “The Truman Show.”
“The Truman Show” stars Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, an insurance salesman who has no clue that from an early age, his life has been watched by millions around the globe by hidden cameras that livestream his every move 24/7.
“The Truman Show” received positive critical acclaim and holds a 94 precent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film received many award nominations and won many, including three Golden Globes.
"Inception" is a cult classic film starring Leonardo DiCaprio that finds every single angle available for a cerebral movie and then makes you think about your perception during the film.
The movie makes you question the perspective of the protagonist while exploring the merits of tinkering with people's thoughts. In "Inception," the mind is a dangerous place that doesn't appreciate diversions and it defends itself fiercely.
When you think of all the things that don’t have a simple answer, it can be overwhelming. Think about the depths of the ocean, the universe, and even our brain.
The media has ran with the idea that we, as humans, only use about 10 percent of our brain at a time. This however, has been said to only be an urban legend.
The 2014 film, “Lucy” stars Hollywood badass Scarlett Johansson as Lucy, a woman who begins to unlock the parts of the brain that hold humanity back after accidentally having a large quantity of a mysterious synthetic drug, called CPH4, released into her system.
Lucy begins to develop both physical and mental capabilities such as strength, telepathy, telekinesis, the ability to not feel pain, and much, much more. She even has the power to change her appearance, such as her hair color and length just by thinking it into existence.
The film itself is visually mesmerizing in many ways and does a brilliant job of showing how Lucy, a woman who was exploited and taken advantage of became a being stronger and more dangerous than anyone could have ever begun to imagine.
Reese Witherspoon starred in the 2014 film “Wild,” a biographical adventure film based on Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.”
“Wild” follows Cheryl Strayed, who after the loss of her mother to cancer, falls into a depressive state and begins to use drugs as well as partake in anonymous sex to numb her pain. Her destructive behavior destroys her marriage and she gets a divorce.
Rotten Tomatoes rated the movie an 89 percent and described “Wild” as “powerfully moving and emotionally resonant.”
For me personally, I love watching a film that makes me question who I am and how my choices will leave an impact in the future. Movies have a way of presenting us with stories that leave us thinking about the way we handle our own life.
If anything, I know humanity as a whole wants an understanding of so many things. “Wild” features a strong female lead and is one of the movies that make you think about life, love, culture, and the world as a whole give us a push to look beyond what we already know and discover a new meaning.
7. “V for Vendetta”
"V for Vendetta" is another dystopian thriller to join our list of movies that make you think. The film stars Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, and John Hurt. "V for Vendetta" makes you think about propaganda, the powers of government, religious freedom, and political factions.
What does overturning "the powers that be" truly mean? This cerebral movie and the iconic Guy Fawkes mask is a cult classic and the film will remain a relevant art for an eternity - at least until the establishment is overthrown.
"Melancholia" is a beautifully shot movie about depression, starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Alexander Skarsgård. "Melancholia" is an abstract psychological Syfy film that's more of a cerebral movie than it is Syfy.
The film follows sisters, Justine (Kirsten) and Claire (Charlotte) during Justine's wedding. Although a wedding is a major event, the show is stolen by a rogue fictional planet that’s en route to collide with earth.
9. “12 Monkeys”
"12 Monkeys" is a quasi-dystopian science fiction classic starring Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stow, and Christopher Plummer. The film is set in both 1996 and 2035. In 1999 a deadly virus has wiped out most of humanity. In 2035, survivors have migrated underground and scientists work to develop a cure to the virus.
The catch, however, is that someone needs to go back in time to find the original host. "12 Monkey" one of the movies that make you think about the concept of time and the possibility that it's merely a construct.
10. “District 9”
"District 9" is a 2009 Syfy action film, set in South Africa, that examines “Othering” or the action that promotes racism is an ever-present societal issue. This cerebral movie keeps the viewer engaged as we follow Wikus van de Merwe perform his duties as a Department of Alien Affairs bureaucrat.
Through Wikus and found footage, we explore how segregated groups - despite the social or biological race- create economies and cultures, even in the most destitute conditions. "District 9" one of the movies that make you think about xenophobia, and the African Apartheid, which was the inspiration for the film.
11. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
"External Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is a 2004 romance comedy and Syfy drama. This cerebral movie stars Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, and Tom Wilkinson.
The film follows Joel Barisha and Clementine Kruczynski as they navigate a painful breakup. The movie asks the question of how to get over someone when painful memories still exist. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" one of the movies that make you think about what you stand to lose by undoing your hurtful experiences. Are you made better by forgetting painful experiences? Or, do you lose a crucial part of you?
“Gattaca” is a90sclassic Syfy thriller that stars Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. In the 90s, “Gattaca” was a forward-thinking cerebral film that explored what could happen if we "start playing God" or, experimenting with reproductive technologies and eugenics.
In 2027 “Gattaca,” genetic registries and biometrics were the norms. They were so commonplace that genetics was even a contributing factor to employment.
In reality, it didn't take the world until 2027 to begin utilizing reproduction and biometric technologies. Most smartphones unlock by scanning your finger or face and people are testing embryos for propensity to major diseases and deformities. Oddly enough, society doesn't feel broken because of it.
The ability to choose an embryo that won't mature into a physically disenfranchised human almost feels responsible. And, using biometrics to unlock personal devices feels like the epitome of safety. “Gattaca” one of the movies that make you think about how technology changes our society. Whether or not the changes are for the betterment of our futures is something we won’t know until we get there.