Do you love trippy movies that make you question everything you’ve ever known about life? What about films with lots of twists and turns, amazing characters, and thrilling plots? If that sounds too good to be true, you clearly haven’t seen this lucid dream movies list.
Without further ado, sit back, relax, and allow me to blow your socks off with this incredible countdown.
1. Inception (2010)
Inception is a huge fan-favorite and one of the most successful movies about lucid dreams there is. Christopher Nolan, one of the biggest directors today, leads an amazing star-studded cast.
Inception follows the story of Dom Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is a world-class thief. However, instead of robbing banks, he steals valuable secrets from people’s minds.
He assembles a team to help him pull off one last job, but things go horribly awry. So, in the middle of the inception, the gang has to start improvising and thinking on their feet if they want to make it out alive.
In its opening weekend, Inception made over $62 million but has amassed over $829 million so far. The movie also received a total of eight Oscar nominations and won four. It’s even one of IMDB’s most popular pictures and comes in at number 13 on its Top Rated Movies list.
2. Vanilla Sky (2001)
Coming in hot at number two on my list of the best lucid dream movies is Vanilla Sky, a movie starring Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz.
Cruise plays David Aames, a charming and wealthy publishing executive who’s led a pretty carefree life. One night, at a friend’s party, he meets the woman of his dreams, Sofia Serrano. But Aames’ happiness doesn’t last long as his former friend with benefits, Julie Gianni, decides to take her own life and take David with her by driving her car off a bridge.
When he wakes up after the crash, Aames finds out he’s been accused of murder. His reality and lucid dreams all become jumbled, and he can’t seem to grasp what’s real and what’s not.
All in all, it’s a pretty complex and emotional movie, but one that’s still easy to follow and will keep you on the edge of your seat.
3. The Matrix (1999)
Another definite cult classic, The Matrix is a movie that will challenge all of your perceptions of what you think is real.
In the film, Keanu Reeves plays Neo, a hacker who believes he’s living in the year 1999. However, everything he thinks he knows will soon be disrupted when Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne, visits him.
Morpheus tells him that they’ve been living in a simulation, called The Matrix, created by artificial intelligence machines. Neo is tasked with leading the revolution against the computers and reclaiming the Earth.
The movie is a stunning work of cinematographic art that received four Oscars. What’s more, it has grossed over $465 million worldwide and changed the sci-fi landscape forever.
4. Paprika (2006)
Paprika is one of the most popular animated lucid dream movies in the world and one you can’t afford to miss. It’s based on the novel with the same name, written by Yasutaka Tsutsui.
Essentially, it’s a story of three psychologists who invented a machine, called the DC Mini, that allows them to monitor and record their patients’ dreams. However, someone has stolen the machine and is now using it to manipulate people.
The trio of therapists, along with a detective, and a sprite called Paprika, go on a quest to find the thief and stop him from doing more harm. The movie is as brilliant as it is thrilling, and the stunning animations make it a true cinematic masterpiece.
5. What Dreams May Come (1998)
What Dreams May Come is one of the best, most underrated lucid dream movies, starring Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr. It tells the story of a happy couple who go through a series of tragic events that land them both in paradise.
The first one to find himself in the colorful afterlife is Williams, who plays a neurosurgeon called Chris Nielsen. Cuba Gooding Jr, who is a messenger named Albert Lewis, acts as his guide through this incredible world that resembles Chris’ wife’s paintings. He soon finds out that his wife committed suicide, and now, he’s on a journey to reunite with her one last time.
What Dreams May Come is also based on a novel with the same name, written by Richard Matheson.
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Joel Barish is a mild-mannered guy who’s stuck at a dead-end job with barely any friends and doesn’t know how to get out of the rut. Clementine Kruczynski is his complete opposite, a free spirit, who changes her mind as often as she changes her hair color.
One faithful day, the two of them meet and soon begin their whirlwind romance. Unfortunately, Joel and Clementine end up breaking up, and she decides to erase all memories of him. Not wanting to be outdone, Joel decides to do the same thing, but midway through the process, he changes his mind.
As reality, dreams, and memories start overlapping, Joel scrambles to try and save Clementine from being erased. This is precisely why Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the most beautiful lucid dream movies — it depicts all the struggles of love, loss, and heartache.
7. Avatar (2009)
Brought to you by one of the greatest directors in Hollywood, James Cameron leads a star-studded cast in one of the most epic lucid dream movies, Avatar.
He both wrote and directed the movie, which became an instant classic and one of the most successful films of 2009. In fact, 11 years after its release, Avatar is still the second highest-grossing movie and has earned over $2 billion. The movie also got nine Oscar nominations, winning three of them.
Avatar, like many other movies on this list, tackles the questions of reality, spirituality, and loyalty. What sets it apart from any other film in the world are the unique and stunning visuals, which make it such a cult classic.
8. The Science of Sleep (2006)
Michel Gondry, the same person behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, wrote and directed The Science of Sleep. The movie follows a shy and insecure man, Stéphane, who moves to France to be closer to his mother. Once there, he meets and falls in love with his next-door neighbor, Stéphanie.
Stéphane, who’s always had trouble separating dreams from reality, can’t find a way to express his feelings to her. So he goes to the one place where he knows anything is possible — his dreams.
The Science of Sleep is an incredible movie that is going to challenge your perception of reality. It’s truly a work of art in every sense of that phrase; there’s no way you’ll feel indifferent about it after watching it.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Wes Craven classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street is the ultimate crossover of slasher and lucid dream movies.
The film’s main character, Freddy Krueger, was a child murderer who died in a horrific fire on Elm Street. Now, he’s come back to haunt the children of the people who killed him. He enters their dreams, stalks them, and starts killing them off one by one. To survive, the teenagers, led by Nancy Thompson, must figure out a way to bring him into the real world and stop him once and for all.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is still such a huge hit that it has had eight sequels so far. What’s more, in 2010, Wesley Strick wrote and directed a remake.
10. Waking Life (2001)
A movie that poses more questions than it answers, Waking Life is truly a one-of-a-kind cinematic masterpiece. It’s a film that explains lucid dreaming like no other and poses serious philosophical questions and conundrums.
In it, a young man, Wiley Wiggins, finds himself in a constant state of lucid dreaming. He floats through his dreams, meeting different people, and having deep conversations with them about life and death.
One of the things that make Waking Life a standout is that it was created using rotoscoping. Essentially, this technique turns real-life action into animation, showing the dream world from an entirely different perspective.
Waking Life won a few awards for its innovation of the genre and use of animation. It’s definitely an underrated movie that’s not talked about enough, and one you can’t afford to miss.
11. Dreamscape (1984)
A lot of people seem to think that Inception was based on the movie Dreamscape, and it’s not difficult to see why. The 1984 sci-fi flick stars Dennis Quaid, Max von Sydow, and Christopher Plummer.
It tells the story of a talented psychic who’s recruited as a part of a study on dream therapy. His main goal is to implant an idea into the president’s mind, but of course, things go horribly wrong. Quaid, playing Alex Gardner, soon learns that there’s another psychic like him that’s using their abilities to kill people.
Dreamscape, albeit a bit outdated, is a definite classic. If you’ve already seen and loved Inception, you should watch the movie that, in a way, started it all.
12. The Good Night (2007)
The Good Night is a story of Gary Shaller, a washed-up, middle-aged pop star. His life isn’t going according to plan, and he feels lost. Then, one magical night, he meets the woman of his dreams, who is madly in love with him.
Unfortunately, he can only see her once he goes to bed and falls asleep. So, he starts coming up with different methods that’ll help him stay in the dream world for longer. Of course, his relationship with his friends and wife suffers as he tries to decide between staying in the real world and going back to sleep.
Martin Freeman gives a brilliant performance as Gary Shaller, while Gwyneth Paltrow, Penélope Cruz, Danny DeVito, and Simon Pegg follow him every step of the way.
13. The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
On the thirteenth floor of a corporate building, a group of computer scientists has created a gateway to a parallel world. One of the main scientists on the project, Hannon Fuller, has made an extremely important discovery. But knowing there is someone after him, he decides to leave a message to his close friend and colleague, Douglas Hall, in the virtual world.
Unfortunately, someone kills Fuller that same night, and Hall becomes the main suspect. To make matters worse, Hall discovers a bloody shirt in his bathroom and has no idea what he did the night Fuller was killed.
Now, he has to go back into the parallel world and track down the message Fuller left him. But what he discovers is much more serious and sinister than he could’ve ever imagined.
14. Total Recall (1990)
Do you love Arnold Schwarzenegger and lucid dream movies? If so, the action sci-fi hit from the ‘90s, Total Recall, is right up your alley.
The movie tells the story of a man, Quaid, who keeps having dreams about Mars. Wanting to fulfill that dream without actually leaving the planet, Quaid visits a corporation, Rekall, that promises to implant an actual memory into his brain. But something goes horribly wrong during the procedure, and Quaid finds out that not everything is as it seems.
In fact, at some point in his life, he was a secret agent on an important mission. But the people who wiped his memory back then are now coming after him, trying to kill him once and for all.
Total Recall was so popular that there’s also a remake from 2012, starring Colin Farell, Kate Beckinsale, and Jessica Biel.
15. Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko is a true outcast and loner. He doesn’t get along with his family, doesn’t have a lot of friends, and isn’t doing well in school.
Donnie does have a girlfriend, Gretchen, and with her help and a nudge from the school’s psychiatrist, he tries to tap into his subconsciousness. There, somewhere far beyond the realm of reality, Donnie meets Frank, a bunny that only he can see.
Donnie Darko also has a director’s cut version you can watch. The main difference between the two is that the original leaves more to the viewer’s imagination. In contrast, the director’s cut explains the movie a bit better.
All in all, Donnie Darko is truly a unique masterpiece, one with a plot that’s never been done before or after.
That was my list of the top 15 lucid dream movies that are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. They’ll challenge your perception of life and reality, as well as what it means to dream and be human.