Deep Thoughts on the Big Screen: 5 Philosophical Movies

truman show gif

For the last two months, I have been facilitating a weekly discussion in pop culture and philosophy at the Longmont Senior Center. For the first half of the two-hour session, we watch clips from movies and TV shows, taking in poignant examples of the day’s topic. We might be talking about the nature of love or beauty, about epistemology or ethics. In two months, we have watched well over 100 clips, everything from Casablanca to Doctor Who.

Star Trek‘s Commander Data has been particularly helpful in prompting discussion of the human condition. Luke Skywalker and Yoda helped us to talk about free will and determinism. Scenes like this one from Witness, directed by Peter Weir, helped us to examine the good and bad in community. We have created our own community, a community of inquiry. At the Grey Havens Group, we do the same thing at our discussion group meetings.

We call these sessions Geek Philosophy. We held our first discussion at one of our monthly Inklingsiana meetings. Last spring, we hosted a multi-generational Geek Philosophy session at our Real Myth Symposium. We watched clips from science fiction-fantasy movies and TV shows then had what turned out to be an extremely heartening discussion about personal mortality and the mortality of our species. This month, we discussed the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Masks.” Next month, on November 12, we will be hosting a Star Wars and philosophy discussion so that we are prepared to fully appreciate The Force Awakens in December.

Tolkien believed that experiencing the ordinary in the extraordinary context of what he called a Fairy-story can cause us to shake free from the grip of “appropriation,” the tendency to see things as trite or insignificant just because we have gotten used to them. This is what Geek Philosophy is all about so, in the spirit of our community of inquiry, here is a list of my Top Five Philosophical Movies. These are the films that, at least for a while, helped me to see that there is no such thing as the ordinary.

Badgaladriel’s Top Five Philosophical Movies

(Beware of spoilers when clicking on links.)

  1. Groundhog Day, written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, directed by Harold Ramis (1993), “Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”
  2. The Truman Show, written by Andrew Niccol, directed by Peter Weir (1998), “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented. It’s as simple as that.”
  3. Blade Runner, written by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peeples, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, directed by Ridley Scott (1982), “It’s too bad she won’t live! But then again, who does?”
  4. Never Let Me Go, written by Alex Garland, based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, directed by Mark Romanek (2010), “You have to know who you are, and what you are. It’s the only way to lead decent lives.”
  5. Pleasantville, written and directed by Gary Ross (1998), “No, David. Nobody’s happy in a poodle skirt and a sweater set.”

What movies would make your list? What TV episodes have gotten you thinking over the years?

We hope you will join us for our next discussion. What might be the most exciting Geek Philosophy session is coming to you this winter! “Mythos and Logos: A Multi-Generational Philosophy Panel” will feature members of our young adult group, Grey Havens YA, in profound conversation with the senior adults of the Longmont Senior Center, January 20 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.. The topic will be “personal identity.” How do we see ourselves at seventeen or at seventy? What can we learn from each other and from the stories we love? For more information or to register, call 303-651-8411.

4 thoughts on “Deep Thoughts on the Big Screen: 5 Philosophical Movies

      • I have not read the book, just seen the movie, which blew me away. I will definitely check out Advantageous now.

      • I think you will love Advantageous. It is a little like the equally philosophical Children of Men but easier to watch. I can’t wait to see Cloud Atlas! I wish I had seen it when it was in theaters.

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