If you've ever encountered philosophy in a formal setting before, and you're anything like me, the thought might have crossed your mind that some of the material was strangely familiar. If you are anything like me, that familiarity will doubtless stem from the plot to a film you once watched. Obviously you can get the same themes from all those crazy books you're supposed to read, but since reading material for philosophy generally serves only as a trigger for more self-directed thought and discussion, I reckon the films are just as good.

So here, for your pleasure, are some films I recommend watching if you're studying philosophy (for yourself or as part of a course). They're mainly relevant the the whole existantialism/idealism/metaphysics/time things because that's what I'm into.

Note: if you think philosophy is a waste of time, take another angle - these are all good films that are thought provoking enough to watch, enjoy and discuss with your friends whilst under the influence of your favourite drug(s).

When you next see the following films, consider some of these questions. This can be fun if you like arguments, but confusing and upsetting if you don't like to be challenged!

  • The Matrix - mentioning this here will be enough to make proper philosophers physically judder, but see decimetre's comments in The Matrix.
  • Dark City - just like the Matrix, we're presented with a 'chosen one' with powers to alter his own reality. What is real? What isn't real? What can we know? What is knowledge? What is belief?
  • The Man With Two Brains - can we be sure of anything? How important are our senses to reinforce our belief system?
  • Ghost Dog (and Rashomon) - different people experience the same events in different ways. What should we believe? How should we live? Are our ethical standards the only true standards?
  • Fight Club - Must a cohesive system of beliefs be true? Are material possessions everything? (Does human fat really make good soap?)
  • Being John Malkovich - Is it morally wrong to control another person? Can you know for sure if you're in control of your own actions?
  • Possible Worlds - Could there be a radically different universe, identical up until one choice? Are we defined by our actions or do we define our actions? Do we have a predetermined destiny?
  • Back the the Future - could you meet your future self? What would happen if you interfered with you own past? (can Deloreans really fly?)
  • Bill and Ted - Could Ted choose not to put the keys where his future self found them in the past? Can Bill and Ted choose not to become world altering rock stars? Is there a possible world where they fail?
  • Blade Runner - If it looks human, sounds human, smells human and thinks it's human... why wouldn't it be human?
  • Pi - Is nature governed by Mathematics? Can something be truly random? Is everything predictible? (Should mad mathematicians need a license to buy a drill?)
  • Memento - Are cause and effect really what they seem? (Like Fight Club) does a cohesive system of belief justify knowledge?

The answers to all these questions may or may not lie in good books about Existentialism, Epistemology, Skepticism, Metaphysics, Time Travel, The Mind, Theology, Ethics.

Thanks to JerboaKolinowski for kind contributions...

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