Some nights you just want to watch some sh*tty reality TV. And other nights you want to take a cinematic journey that will blow your intellectual hair back, amirite?

If you’re ready for the latter, then you’ve come to the right place. So without further ado, may we present … The Deep’s top 10 movies for the deep thinker:

Woman excitedly eating popcorn in a movie theatre
(Source: Giphy)

 

Primer (2004)

Primer is the ultimate low-budget, time travel sci-fi flick. After winning the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, Primer became a cult hit. We don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say it’s about two brilliant friends who discover how to time travel. “And then they live happily ever after?” you ask. Sure, sure. That’s totally what happens. Primer is the type of movie that will give your brain a workout in the best possible way.

Primer characters in a lab
Always tuck in your ties before time travel, y'all. (Source: IMDB)

 

Memento (2000)

"Remember Sammy Jankis." If you’ve seen Memento, you know. If you haven’t, well… you should.

Memento is a murder mystery told through the POV of an amnesiac named Leonard Shelby. Shelby suffers from anterograde amnesia, meaning he remembers everything from his life up to a point, but now suffers from short-term memory loss and cannot form new memories). Oh, and did we mention it’s told in reverse order? If this movie doesn’t get your mind moving, nothing will.

Scene from Memento holding polaroid up
"Do you remember this photo? Also, what's a photo?" (Source: Indie Wire)

 

Inception (2010)

When Shakespeare wrote, “to sleep, perchance to dream”, he couldn’t have known about Christopher Nolan’s Inception. But we feel confident that if The Bard were still alive today, he’d love this trippy masterpiece. Leonardo DiCaprio stars alongside an impressive cast in this mind-bending action/adventure film that asks: Can you plant the seed of an idea so deep in someone’s brain that they consider it an original thought? This movie will have you questioning your psychology, your sanity, and whether anything in your life is really real. No biggie. 

Leonardo Dicaprio with gun raised
But isn't Leo technically dreamy in every movie? (Source: Variety)

 

Waking Life (2001)

Almost a decade after Richard Linklater nailed that ‘70s vibe with Dazed and Confused (and launched Matthew McConaughey’s career, btw) he released this thinking-man’s flick. Featuring rotoscope-style animation and deep philosophical questions, Waking Life is not exactly a casual watch. (But stoned? Perhaps.) It dives into big questions about the nature of reality, existentialism, free will, and more. Think: a semester's worth of philosophy all wrapped into a movie about a kid moving through a lucid dream. 

Waking life scene with guy seemingly levitating by car
Waking Life: Now with 40% less gravity. (Source: IMDB)

 

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)

If you’d polled the average moviegoer in 1994, they’d probably have laughed at the idea that funnyman Jim Carrey would star in one of the most profound movies ever made (his biggest hits thus far were: Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask). And yet, we present to you: one of the most profound movies ever made. 

Carrey, alongside acting goddess Kate Winslet, stars in this gem of a film from the wildly creative minds of Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry. Eternal Sunshine tells the story of a woman (Winslet) who has all memories of her ex erased from her mind. In return, her ex (Carrey) undergoes the same procedure … but things go a little haywire. We won’t spoil it for you, but suffice to say, it’s a gorgeous movie with mind-blowing performances, a compelling premise and deep philosophical and emotional underpinnings. A thinking person’s romantic comedy, this one is a must-watch – and one of our favorite movies of all time.

JIm Carrey looking at Kate Winslet on the train
"Wait ... are you the girl from Titanic?". (Source: Film Speak)

 

Arrival

After aliens land ships in 12 spots around the world, a linguistics professor (played by Amy Adams) is called upon to figure out what they’re trying to tell us. As she does, there's a global debate over whether the aliens are here to help or hurt us. Gorgeous and poignant, Arrival explores themes of language, communication, and the nature of time itself.

The Arrival movie poster
Note: Amy Adams not drawn to scale. (Source: IMDB)

 

Being John Malkovich

John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, and – you guessed it – John Malkovich star in this mind-bending love story from the brain of Charlie Kaufman. After taking a new job, Cusack discovers that inside the building is a portal that *literally* takes him inside the mind of actor John Malkovich. Chaos ensues as he, Cameron, and Keener all battle it out for who can stay inside Malkovich’s head, potentially for good. You’ll want to watch this one over and over.


Being John Malkovich: Pretty solid wig budget, tbh. (Source: Far Out Magazine)

 

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind is based on the true story of mathematician, Nobel Prize winner and paranoid schizophrenic John Nash. Russell Crowe gives a powerful performance as Nash, a man whose brilliance helps him unravel mathematical puzzles that have vexed other mathematicians. Unfortunately, his genius comes with a price: he suffers from hallucinations and paranoia. A powerful look at the human psyche, this Ron Howard movie will have you wondering whether genius is truly worth some level of madness.  

Math scene from A Beautiful Mind
Carry the 1 ... ah, yes I see it now. (Source: Common Sense Media)

 

Ex Machina

Ex Machina is a riveting film – and not just because it’s the first time many of us saw Oscar Isaac on the big screen 🔥. At the heart of the movie is the question so many of us worry about nowadays: At some point soon, are we doomed to lose control of technology? The story revolves around a tech employee who gets to spend a week at his CEO’s estate. While there, he meets an A.I. prototype – and is asked to assess whether it behaves in truly human ways. Ex Machina is beautiful, haunting, and asks profound questions about the nature of humanity and our relationship with technology. See it before our robot overlords ban it in 2052. 

Ex Machina AI
Psssst. I'm a robot. (Source: Entertainment Weekly)

 

The Truman Show

Wait, there are two Jim Carrey movies on this list? Yup and #sorrynotsorry … ‘cause like Eternal Sunshine, The Truman Show is an all-timer. It’s the tale of a man who has no idea he’s the star of his own reality show. Unbeknownst to Truman Burbank, his “town” consists of thousands of actors and hidden cameras that document his life as he grows up. Outside his bubble, he’s the biggest celebrity on the planet as millions of people watch “The Truman Show” daily. This movie explores many great philosophical ideas like solipsism, existentialism, religion, and, well, reality TV.

Jim Carrey
Is it a bird? A plane? An array of drones filming my every move? (Source: Newsweek)

We think this is a solid list. But we wanna hear from you - did we miss any essential movies you think should have been on here? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Something to do off the screen:

playing the deep game with wine

Comments

  • Tina Chandler said:

    I was also going to say Mindwalk. Great film for deep thinkers!

    May 22, 2022

  • Kim said:

    We loved the movie, Powder. Our son, who at the time aspired to be a film director, walked out of the theatre saying, “Now, THAT’S the kind of movie I want to make!”

    May 15, 2022

  • George Ely said:

    My Dinner With Andre, Mindwalk are two I enjoyed. Also Farenheit 451

    May 09, 2022

  • ray belikoff said:

    Saw them all, loved them, especially
    “Arrival “.

    May 08, 2022

  • Melinda Blackwell said:

    Wow – 🤩 What a great list; thank you. Love your site, especially your conversation cards! I’m so tired of surface , thoughtless, and superficial conversations, especially with men; maybe with a game (competition) there can be authentic dialogue 🤔. Again Thanks.

    May 06, 2022


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