Philosophers Pick Philosophical Movies
The Guardian had Julian Baggini, Christine Korsgaard, Ursula Coope, Peter Singer, Susan Haack, Kenneth Taylor, and Slavoj Žižek each pick a movie and draw out its philosophical themes. The movies picked were Memento, It’s a Wonderful Life, Gattaca, Ida, Galaxy Quest, Force Majeure, and Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … and Spring. Can you guess which philosopher picked which movie?
The selections are here. Feel free to suggest other philosophically rich movies in the comments.
The Prestige! Brilliant on personal identity, amongst other themesReport
Krzysztof Kieslowski, Dekalog. Not exactly a movie (10 hour long episodes). But many of the episodes are very worthwhile for philosophers.Report
The Fantastic Mr Fox. Raises questions about the relationship between one’s nature and one’s good, as in the following bit of dialogue:
Mr. Fox: [sighs] Who am I, Kylie?
Kylie: Who how? What now?
Mr. Fox: Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I’m saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you’ll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?
Kylie: I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it sounds illegal.Report
Doubt – a probing examination of the titular concept, its epistemic status, its ethical implications, and its cultural embeddedness.
Also, Minority Report, for its focus deterministic prophecy and the interesting implications for responsibility and punishment.Report
Groundhog Day is a great supplement to the Nicomachean Ethics. As one of my students pointed out, it even contains a critique of each of the lives that is “said to be” good.
Fitzcarraldo raises fascinating questions about meaningfulness, subjective and objective value, etc. I’ve paired it with Wolf’s Meaning in Life and Hurka’s The Best Things in Life.Report
Groundhog Day is also a great supplement to existentialism: the repeating day premise, and the various ways Murray’s character tries responding to it, works well with both Nietzche’s idea of the eternal return and Camus’ use of the Sisyphus story.Report
Upstream Color – Free will, personal identity and self-alienation!Report
The Act of Killing (2012).
An incredible documentary that brings up all kinds of philosophical topics, most notably evil (the banal and not-so-banal kinds). Also a fascinating study of the reactive attitudes and sentiments: regret, empathy, remorse.Report
I know that some people will say that it tries too hard to be philosophical, but I nominate Spielberg’s AI. I love the scene in which the artificial boy blunders into a room full of boxed-up, unactivated artificial boys who look just like him and at that moment realizes that Monica, his human mother, will never love him and throws himself into the ocean, where he remains for two thousand years.Report
The Prestige (2006) is a great one for personal identity (Parfit’s teletransporter cases), moral responsibility, moral luck, and consequentialism (bad means justifying good ends).
Her (2013) raises issues about consciousness and AI (the Turing Test), love, sexuality, and enhancement (our relationship to technology).
Vanilla Sky (2001): epistemology, skepticism, disability, Nozick’s experience machine, the good life, the value of knowledge and authenticity.
The Eighth Day (1996): disability, the value of persons, well-being/the good life.
Some other worthwhile and entertaining philosophical films: Crimes and Misdemeanors; I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newark and PETA; Surviving Progress; No Impact Man; Still Alice; The Act of Killing; Google Baby.Report