There is something magical about the visual medium of storytelling, beyond the well-documented fact that we remember through visuals longer. They get imprinted, sometimes assimilating in our psyche deep and emerging somewhere later in life where you wonder if some magnificent vignette is from your dream or not.
Add to that the abstract depth of philosophy and you get endlessly fascinating cinema. Here at The Second Angle, we have compiled a list of underrated films with philosophical undertones, a delightful intersection of philosophy and cinema.
ZIZEK! trails the dynamic philosopher Slavoj Zizek as he trots the globe—going from New York City lecture halls, roaming the streets of Buenos Aires, pit-stopping at his home in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Zizek enlightens the amorphous workings and trappings of idealogy through a mish-mash of Lacanian psychoanalysis, Marxism, and pop culture critique. In the tender moments of the film, he turns the critical gaze inwards, analyzing his own fame and persona.
ZIZEK! is both an unforgettable peek into philosophical thoughts and a compelling portrait of an intellectual eccentric.
One of the most influential and iconoclastic personas of the last century, French philosopher and father of “deconstruction” Jacques Derrida has single-handedly revolutionized the way we perceive history, language, art, and film.
Applauded filmmakers Kirby Dick (Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist) and Amy Ziering Kofman have created an innovative and surprisingly entertaining portrait by the very concept of biography itself.
Scored enchantingly by Oscar-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Last Emperor), Derrida is a light and provocative peek into the life of visionary thinkers as he ruminates everything from Seinfeld to the sex lives of ancient philosophers.
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema
Cultural theorist philosopher superstar Slavoj Zizek collaborates again with director Sophie Fiennes (The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema) for another wildly entertaining path at the intersection of cinema and philosophy.
With infectious passion and a voracious appetite for popular culture, Zizek literally walks inside some true generation-defining movies, all the better to examine and deconstruct how they reinforce and fragment current ideologies.
As the ideology that emerges from our cinematic fantasies comes to light, striking questions emerge:
What hidden Catholic teachings lurk at the heart of The Sound of Music? What are the fascist political underpinnings of Jaws?
Taxi Driver, Zabriskie Point, The Searchers, The Dark Knight, John Carpenter’s They Live (“one of the forgotten masterpieces of the Hollywood Left”), Titanic, Kinder Eggs, verité news footage, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and propaganda epics from Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia all inform Zizek’s stimulating, provocative and often funny psychoanalytic-cinematic rant.
The Ister is a 2004 documentary film directed by David Barison and Daniel Ross. Martin Heidegger was arguably the world’s most influential philosopher in the 1930s and 1940s. Heidegger’s talks used The Ister as a trigger point for a deep dive into technology, cultural identity, political change, and the war which then gripped both Germany and the world.
Mathematician, scientist, and writer René Descartes is relentlessly, obsessively determined to establish the primacy of reason in Rossellini’s portrait of the travails of the “father of modern philosophy.” Cartesius is both entertaining and edifying.
As profoundly weighty as Rene’s now incredible statement “I think, therefore I am,” Roberto Rossellini’s Cartesius is an intimate, cerebral study of obsession and existential crisis.
These films are worth watching because philosophy is terrifying and exhilarating, and who greater to accompany in the journey, but the geniuses themselves.