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11 MOVIES THAT MAKE YOU RETHINK EVERYTHING

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The power of film is on full display in the list below, as each and every entry is a movie that philosophically spins you in another direction. These films were highly influential, and have helped shape the mind you read here. Fair warning: if you don’t want to turn out to be a free thinker, unencumbered by such stultifying concepts as time and space and guilt and facts, then perhaps you need not expose yourself to such visionary fare. But if you dare to seek, then perhaps you, too, can free your mind enough to allow your own self to believe you’re actually a foot taller than you are.

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”
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This list blew up in a hurry, so I had to be a bit more ruthless than I wanted to be, which means picking one of two Jim Carey films. So “The Truman Show” is getting the boot, though it certainly merits placement. (Sorry, list making is a tough business.) But while both films will make you question the very existence of reality, or at least the very perception of it, Michel’s Gondry and Charlie Kaufman’s masterpiece is the winner. Sure, both films make a powerful case for perception determining reality, but only in “Sunshine” does that come with a hopeful future where one can completely forget about their ex.

“Dead Poets Society”
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Just because “The Truman Show” didn’t make the cut, that doesn’t mean director Peter Weir should be left out. And few movies have made me rethink everything as much as “Dead Poets Society.” Most people start to see things in a much more “carpe diem” light after seeing this one. While that’s certainly world-turning stuff, I also learned a different lesson from Neil Perry killing himself because his dad didn’t want him dressing up like a nymph: f**k Shakespeare. That’s a lesson that’s changed my life for the better. Once you shake off such time-honored beliefs about what society holds sacred, that’s when you can really start carpe diem-ing with the best of ’em.

“Inception”
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Another tough choice, this time between not two, but four Christopher Nolan movies: “Inception,” “Interstellar,” “The Prestige” and “Memento.” All four question everything we’ve ever been taught about the elasticity of time and space, and all four f**k with your brain in their own unique and twisted way. But for me, “Inception” is the one that comes closest to a possible reality. For how else can you explain reality except to say that it is very much a dream state? Should you need more proof than the fact that I actually think I’m living a dream by writing lists for Mandatory — which had to be an idea planted by someone far less intelligent than me — then perhaps you don’t believe in the reality of dreams at all.

“Waking Life”
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“Your life is yours to create” is a powerful message to grasp, especially for someone trying to find their way in the world, as many of Richard Linklater’s characters are wont to do. Many of his ideas appeal to the young and miserable, who wouldn’t mind shedding such a shackling reality. But while some of his other films convey messages more subtly, “Waking Life” is by far the most overtly philosophical, getting into ideas as complex as ideating itself. If you can grasp all the reality-questioning theories explored within, then you could probably parlay that into an undergrad philosophy degree from Phoenix University. So give it a shot.

“Fight Club”
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Like every list, a lot of this comes down to how I was personally affected by the entry. And few films have had a more lasting effect on my way of life than David Fincher’s “Fight Club.” I was ready to burn down Corporate America after I first saw it. And everything’s been different since, as I actually haven’t held an office job again, for fear of punching myself repeatedly in the face. But I still love IKEA. Sorry, Tyler.

“Super Size Me”
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Another film that fundamentally changed everything about the way I actually live (because it ruined McDonald’s for me), and therefore made life far less worth living while at the same time insuring that I would live longer.

“The Matrix”
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This film allows you to realize that life is more than what it appears to be. But it also makes a pretty good case for taking pills to make you forget about that reality.

“Into the Wild”
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I grew up in Colorado, so I fancied myself a bit of an outdoorsman and an environmentalist, which in turn helped me develop a less-is-more philosophy. I have no idea why I also became distrustful of hierarchical society in general, but it’s just another thing I have in common with Christopher McCandless, the young man whose life and death inspired this film. Perhaps in knowing I had so much in common with such a man messed me up, especially after seeing what ultimately became of him — dying alone on a frozen tundra that his own hubris led him to in the first place. So consequently, since viewing the film, I’ve given up camping and started rigorously amassing worldly possessions and feeling much better about consuming in general.

“The Lobster”
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I used to believe in love. Then I got married. And sometime after that I saw this bizarre film, which ruthlessly attacks the timeless institutions of love and marriage by presenting a land where those unfit for love are turned into animals. The good news is that if you are unfit, you get to choose which animal you want to end up as. Or you can go out into the woods and hang out with the rest of the unloved losers — though you’re not allowed to love any of them — and hide from all the couples out there making a daily forage into the woods to hunt you down. All of this basically made my boring idea of love and marriage seem all the more enticing.

“Life of Pi”
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This film helps you learn that man is a formidable beast in his own right. When faced with unbearable hardship, he can transcend his dire lot by using the power of his own mind. It also makes a pretty good case for killing off the hyena population.

“Magnolia”
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I don’t know if I’ve ever fully understood why P.T. Anderson unleashed those raining toads upon what had been, up until that point, a very realistic film. But I understood on a visceral level what that amphibious rain meant: It just doesn’t matter. Even if the apocalypse is coming, even if God is sending down plagues in your direction, the necessary sequence of events is going to occur. The universe will go on chugging, as it was gassed up to do. It is, as it must be, and must always be. Which does make you rethink everything, but isn’t exactly helpful information to learn. However, I have greatly benefited from another eye-opening aspect of the film: the girl-getting philosophy of Tom Cruise’s self-help guru Frank Mackey, which basically boils down to “Respect The Cock, Tame The Cunt.

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