Around half of the population will experience a Lucid Dream once in their lives, without having to do anything special, and around one in four people regularly have lucid dreams, with the average being once a month.
In case you’re unsure, a Lucid Dream is just a dream that you’re aware of, and capable of controlling. In a lucid dream, the dreamscape itself is basically your plaything, and you can do almost anything you want.
To people that don’t regularly have Lucid Dreams, or to people that struggle to remember their dreams in general, this can be difficult to explain. Thankfully, popular culture has us covered, and there are a lot of films out there that feature imagery that makes understanding Lucid Dreams that much simpler.
This post will guide you through which films show Lucid Dreams, and break down whether what you see is appropriate and useful, or not.
The Best Films to Understand Lucid Dreaming
Vanilla Sky has been described as Lucid Dreaming; the movie, and it really holds up to that, featuring everything that experienced Lucid Dreamers will recognize, including;
- Images of flying over familiar places
- Fake awakenings
- A non-linear plot stream, including flashbacks
- Conscious and unconsciously guiding the dream
Even the ending, avoiding spoilers, is a big Lucid Dream shout-out. Back it up with a great cast, including Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Jason Lee, and decent performances all round, and you have a film that’s perfect for anyone wanting to understand Lucid Dreaming a little bit better.
A completely different film in both plot and aesthetic to Vanilla Sky, The Cell’s basic plot follows a psychologist, Catherine Dean, played by Jennifer Lopez, that has to descend into the mind and the dreamscape of a deranged serial killer, played by Vincent Donofrio, to find his victims.
But once she has descended into the representation of his mind, Catherine soon finds that the killer has far more control over the dreams than she thought.
From here, the world constantly shifts, and it turns into a game of cat and mouse. Featuring fantastic set design, and truly dreamlike images that change constantly, The Cell is a great representation of how dreams can become almost anything you can imagine, and how your mind affects your dreamscapes.
While the events of The Matrix might not strictly be Lucid Dreaming, as they follow their own rules based around computer programming, the number of similarities is strange and oddly specific.
Firstly, the characters start in a dreamscape, one that’s designed to protect itself, and keep itself hidden, in the way that a lot of people’s dreams also keep themselves hidden, non-lucid.
But then Neo, the main character, starts to notice little irregularities, and from there, wakes up into the world.
Over time, Neo, with the right teachers, and a little bit of self-belief, learns to alter the world around him with his mind, from giving himself superhuman abilities, to literally rewriting the structure of reality to change everything around him.
So even though it’s not strictly Lucid Dreaming, The Matrix is a great film to help understand what it might look and feel like and just a fantastic action movie on top of that.
An animated film about a device that literally gives people the ability to understand and manipulate their dreams sounds like the perfect movie for Lucid Dreamers, right?
Well, you’d be right. Featuring haunting visuals that perfectly illustrate what Lucid Dreaming can feel like, backed up by amazing animation and sound design. Also, despite the bright, clean art style and colorful imagery, it’s worth pointing out that this is not at all a film for children.
The fourth and final film by renowned Japanese auteur Satoshi Kon, Paprika is a highly rated masterpiece and a must see for anyone who likes animated films, anime in general, and especially films related to Lucid Dreaming.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
A long-running horror series with a memorable villain whose main shtick is that he stalks people in their dreams, almost anyone who knows cinema has heard of Freddy Krueger.
Nightmare on Elm Street is a great example of Lucid Dreaming for two reasons. One, it shows some truly memorable dreamlike imagery. And two, it shows that Lucid Dreaming isn’t all fun and games. It can be scary and you might see things you don’t want to see.
But, like a movie, at the end of the day, Lucid Dreaming is under your control. While you might witness things that scare you, the power to change them is in your hands, the same way that you can just decide to switch off a film and step away.
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Known for being the last film Heath Ledger ever acted in, the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has a star-studded cast and a plot that closely mirrors actual Lucid Dreams.
The crux of the film is the choice between making hard choices that lead to long-term fulfillment, or shorter-term, easy choices that lead to bad decisions, with characters going through this dreamscape in order to help deal with life issues.
This accurately reflects how Lucid Dreaming can be used as a tool to understand yourself and enrich your own life. By understanding your dreams, which can often reflect your subconscious wants, needs and desires, you can better understand yourself, and make better life choices.