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Can't Sleep? Nod Off With One of These Movies About Dreams

ladder to the moon surrounded by stars

ladder to the moon surrounded by stars

According to Psychology Today, dreams are the stories our brains tell during sleep. Dreams have fascinated humans throughout history. Theories abound about the meaning of dreams — from ancient medicine men, on to Freud, and today's psychologists. Most of us have wondered what a particularly vivid dream means. It is no wonder that movies sometimes delve into the mysterious realm of dreams. Here are a few of our favorite movies about dreams.

Rebecca (1949)

"Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again," is the opening line of Rebecca. The heroine's real life was a nightmare until she solved the mystery of her beloved husband's first wife. Then, the vast, haunting estate of Manderley becomes her nightmare. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this movie delivers on chills and mysteries. The housekeeper is chilling enough to haunt your dreams. The film is not rated, but it contains no offensive scenes or language. 

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Waking up from her dream time in Oz, Dorothy is thrilled to be back in Kansas again. The Wizard of Oz remains a family-favorite, fantastic tale of an elaborate dream about a frightening and enlightening trip to the mythical Emerald City. Dorothy's companions are enlightened, as well. The scarecrow gets a heart; the lion finds his courage; the tin man learns he is intelligent. The Wizard is exposed as a colossal ego hiding behind an elaborate, scary screen. He is a ventriloquist from Omaha and also a balloonist. If ratings were done in the '30s, this is a solid "G." 

Vanilla Sky (2001)

Open Your Eyes is a Spanish film about a disfigured man and his attempts to overcome his past. His dreams keep exposing fragments of it. Critics call it "an intelligent story," and it captivated audiences in Spain. Tom Cruise produced and starred in its equally successful remake, Vanilla Sky. The character loses his looks and his mind and in this mystery of love, murder, and revenge. Which of his memories are real, and which memories are dreams? The film is rated R.

8 1/2 (1963)

Federico Fellini's masterpiece 8 1/2 is considered one of the greatest films of all time. The movie features a creatively blocked movie director and the dreams he has as he frantically seeks a motive to make his next movie. His inner struggles and his memories duke it out in his dreams. Fellini won his third Oscar for the film, this one for the best foreign-language film. He was nominated for the best director but lost to Tony Richardson, who directed Tom Jones. The film is not rated, but the subject matter is adult.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, this film makes dreams an essential facet of marital fidelity. The lines blur between fantasy and reality. It is Director Stanley Kubrick's last film and released posthumously. The renowned movie reviewer Robert Ebert calls it a "bedroom odyssey" and Kubrick's riskiest. It is rated R.

Paprika (2006)

This film is an anime that dives into the dream world. It is a psychological suspense movie based around dream therapy. The main character uses mechanical devices to invade people's dreams to analyze them and to cure mental disorders. The devices are stolen, and thieves invade people's dreams causing suicides, insanity, and turning some victims into their robots that slavishly follow their orders. The movie is a Japanese science-fiction psychological thriller. It is rated R.

Brazil (1985)

The hero deals with his mind-numbing job in a harebrained, dystopian bureaucracy by becoming a winged superhero in his daydreams. When he meets his real-life dream girl, he aspires to become his dream hero to win her affection. Critics call it hilarious, jaded, and wildly inventive. It is rated R for some strong violence.

Dreams (1990)

In this film, Master Director Akira Kurosawa presents eight brightly colored dreams. A young boy witnesses a forest wedding of fox spirits. Next, the same boy talks with the spirits of peach trees after they have been cut down. Other dreams show mountain climbers struggling through a blizzard, encountering ghosts of Japan's past, walking into a Van Gogh painting, and meeting a 103-year-old man in a utopian village. The film is rated PG, and the dreamlike quality of the dreams may encourage your own. 

Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)

Masami Hata and William Hurtz direct this Japanese-American animated musical adventure fantasy. According to film reviewer Matt Crowley, the movie is like a dream: "scattered, strange, and ineffably moving." In Slumberland, Nemo meets a pompous professor, a petulant princess, and a mischievous clown, all of whom Nemo had seen in a circus parade. After he is crowned prince, he inadvertently unleashes the evils on Slumberland and must rescue the king. Like many dreams, Nemo's is sparked by a real event and populated by people he had seen. The movie is rated G.

The Good Night (2007)

Martin Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow star as an unhappy couple in this fantasy drama. The leading man, a musician, is tired of his live-in girlfriend. He becomes enthralled with a beautiful seductress played by Penélope Cruz. She enters his dreams, and he tries to control his dream-state so he can spend more and more time with her. When he sees his dream woman's on a bus billboard, he discovers she is real. Fate brings them together in the real world, suggesting dreams can come true. The movie is rated R for strong language and sexual situations. 

Our fascination with dreams is bound to continue. Psychologists are divided when it comes to attributing meanings to dreams. The fact that there is no clear answer leads to fascinating explorations of dreams in film, stories, and articles in popular and professional publications. But most experts agree that getting your mind off the things that make you toss and turn will help you get to sleep. Pick up a book or turn on a movie to give your brain a break from your worries. 

Pass the popcorn!

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