Top 10 Gnostic Themed Movies

in philosophy •  10 months ago

What is Gnosticism?

First of all, let's get a quick description of Gnostic philosophy. In a nutshell, Gnosticism stems from the Greek word Gnosis, meaning direct experiential Knowledge. In the most inclusive definition of Gnosticism, it simply means one who seeks direct experiential knowledge of the Truth behind the self, the universe and the divine. It often postulates a universe created by and ruled over by a malevolent force (often referred to as the Demiurge) bent on keeping humanity ignorant and obedient. The task of the individual is to free oneself from the delusions keeping one in servitude by obtaining forbidden knowledge. Stories that fit the Gnostic theme are often dystopian in nature.

10 - Logan's Run (1976)

People living in domed cities in the future. All the pleasures of this world are readily available, including food and sex. Everyone is young because once you turn 30 years old you get "renewed" in a ceremony called "Carrousel." The story follows a man who's job it is to catch runners trying to avoid renewal. One evening he meets a mysterious woman who exposes him to some disturbing truths. A classic Gnostic Dystopian adventure.

Buy Logan's Run on BluRay

9 - Total Recall (1990)

Based on a story by Philip K. Dick, this has to be one of Schwarzenegger's best films. This takes place in a future where humanity has expanded beyond the Earth to travel space and colonize other planets. Our protagonist is a regular blue collar worker living on Earth. He's married with no kids and feeling bored with his life decides to go to a virtual travel agency who agree to implant false memories of an adventurous vacation to Mars. This is where things start to get crazy. Mutants, corporate conspiracies, an alien cover-up and mind bending twists that keep you wondering what is truth and what is a delusion.

P.S. A remake of this movie that came out in 2012, but it wasn't nearly as good as the original 1990 film.

Buy Total Recall on BluRay

8 - Equilibrium (2002)

This film reminds me of a cross between the novels Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury with an aesthetic reminiscent of The Matrix movies. The context is a world in which feelings have become taboo. In order to protect the population from experiencing uncomfortable feelings and to maintain social order, everything that evokes strong emotion (artwork, music, books, etc...) is banned and all citizens are required to take drugs that dull the emotions. The protagonist is a "Grammaton Cleric" which is essentially an elite police detective. However, if you look at the title, "Grammaton" is short for Tetragrammaton, literally meaning "Word of Four Letters" and is a reference to YHVH, the primary name of God in the Hebrew Bible. According to Gnostic thought, YHVH is the Demiurge, so to be a Grammaton Cleric implies that one is an agent of the Demiurge. After accidentally missing a dose of his emotion suppressing injection, our protagonist begins to awaken to a whole new world of emotional experiences.

Buy Equilibrium on BluRay

7 - Pleasantville (1998)

Modern brother and sister (our protagonists) get sucked into a television and find themselves in the universe of an idyllic 1950's era show similar to Leave It To Beaver. Everything is in black and white and the citizens of the town are pathetically innocent. The introduction of the siblings into this environment proves to be a corrupting influence. As the townsfolk begin to awaken to a world of greater possibilities (most notably sex, violence, art and literature) the people and environments exhibit more and more color. Those still in black and white do what they can to stop the spread of this corruption. One scene in particular is a thinly veiled Gnostic retelling of the Temptation of Eve myth from the biblical book of Genesis. The Demiurge character is a television repair man and is played by Don Knotts in this film.

Buy Pleasantville on BluRay

6 - The Truman Show (1998)

Like most Jim Carey movies, this one is quite silly in tone, however the message is far from shallow. Our protagonist, Truman, was raised from birth in the world's largest film studio. This studio encompasses an island covered with a dome. Everything about the environment is controlled, including the weather. Everyone except for Truman is an actor, but Truman is led to believe it is real. The entire elaborate project is designed for the entertainment of the viewing public, who watch Truman's every move through countless hidden cameras. As is usual for these Gnostic themed stories, an encounter with a woman who exposes him to forbidden knowledge becomes the trigger which inspires our protagonist to engage in a pursuit of Truth at all costs.

Buy The Truman Show on BluRay

5 - Vanilla Sky (2001)

This is a Hollywood remake of the Spanish film, Abre los ojos. I highly suspect this film was inspired by the Philip K. Dick novel, Ubik. Our protagonist in this film is David, a man who seems to have it all: Successful career, good looks, money, loyal friends and a budding romantic relationship. That is, until an obsessed former lover gets revenge by committing suicide via car accident with David in the passenger seat. David survives the crash but his body receives a lot of damage, especially his face. Suffering from chronic pain and a devastating loss of self-esteem, David struggles to pull his life back together. Paranoia, hallucinations and mysterious strangers lead David through a roller coaster of beautiful and terrifying experiences in his quest for Love and Truth.

Buy Vanilla Sky on BluRay

4 - They Live (1988)

This movie is horribly cheesy, but that's part of it's charm. The story follows a down and out man looking for work who stumbles across a pair of sunglasses which reveal the truth of the world to the wearer. Who really controls the planet and can anybody do something about it? Absolutely must see this cult classic.

Buy They Live on BluRay

3 - The Matrix Trilogy (1999 to 2003)

Ok, so I'm cheating a bit with this one by lumping the entire Trilogy into one entry. I would also include the Animatrix in there as well. The overarching mythos of The Matrix films cover a range of different Gnostic modalities. The first film is Mandaean in nature, meaning an epic battle between the forces of ultimate good and ultimate evil. This classic form of Gnostic dualism is quite stark in the first installment. As we go through the series the lines begin to blur and other factors come into the picture. It is no longer a simple "us vs. them" scenario. This series includes all the classic elements, including the Architect character as the Demiurge and the dark haired woman who initiates the protagonist into forbidden knowledge. One could watch these movies dozens of times and still find new concepts to contemplate.

Buy The Matrix Trilogy and Animatrix on BluRay

2 - The Thirteenth Floor (1999)

I absolutely love this movie! It has some similarities with The Matrix in that it involves a simulated universe that can be experienced. The main character discovers that his boss has been secretly entering into the simulated environment they have been building. Now his boss turns up dead and it looks like murder. Our hero decides to enter into the simulation in order to find clues to help solve the crime but finds much more than he went looking for.

Buy The Thirteenth Floor on DVD

1 - Dark City (1998)

Finally we reach my top pick for amazing Gnostic themed movies. This movie should be watched at night in a darkened room for the full effect. Dark City has a film noir feel with a bit of gothic steampunk mixed in. Man wakes up in a hotel bathtub with no memories. The phone rings and a frantic voice implores him to flee the building. He notices a dead prostitute on the floor with spirals carved into her flesh. On his way out he narrowly escapes from these super pale Nosferatu looking guys wearing wool cassocks and bowler hats. What more can I say without giving it away? The symbolism of this movie is out of this world. If you haven't seen this movie, endeavor to see it tonight!

Buy Dark City on BluRay

Notable Mentions:

The Island (2005)

A fun action film that's essentially a remake of Logan's Run with an added twist.

Buy The Island on BluRay

Zardoz (1974)

Strange science fiction movie from the 70's. The costumes are hilarious and much of the movie ends up being unintentionally funny. However, if you can look past all of that, there is a powerful lesson of empowerment through disobedience and an insatiable curiosity. One of the characters seems to be inspired by the infamous English occultist Aleister Crowley.

Buy Zardoz on BluRay

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This post received a 2.8% upvote from @randowhale thanks to @jeremycrow! For more information, click here!

Interesting enough to inspire me to look further into Gnosis. Thank you.

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Awesome! Glad my post inspired you.

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This post has received a 2.58 % upvote from @boomerang.

Great list, thanks!

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You're very welcome! Glad you like it.

Very good list! Have you had a chance to watch Aronofsky's 'Mother!" yet?

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Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. I haven't had a chance to watch that one yet, but I have heard it's good and has gnostic themes. I'll definitely see it at some point. Thanks for the recommendation!

I upvoted for no other reason than you had the good sense to list Dark City #1.

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It's so good! I don't think I'd ever get bored of it. Well, maybe if I watched it a thousand times. haha

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Nice article you shared here @jeremycrow

This post has received a 0.89 % upvote from @booster thanks to: @jeremycrow.

WOW, what a great list of movies! I've not really seen many of them so I will have to check these out! Bookmarked for sure! Thanks for putting this together. :)

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Thanks so much for your kind words! These are some kick ass films. Did you manage to check any of them out yet?

@jeremycrow got you a $1.67 @minnowbooster upgoat, nice!
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All hail the selfgoat!

I've seen most of these. I'll have to check out the few I haven't seen. Dark City is one of my all time favourite films. Quite a trip!

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You'll have to let me know what you think once you get a chance to see them. :)

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Pleasantville, Equilibrium and The Thirteenth Floor are the three I haven't seen. Have you seen The Frame? It also fits in its own weird kind of way. I also didn't seen the two mentions The Island and Zardoz. So I could call it five I need to see...

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I've never seen The Frame, but I'll definitely check that out! Thanks for the suggestion.

This is an awesome post! Combining my favorite things, Gnostic philosophy with Scifiction movies.

I'd never thought of the above movies as fitting that bill, but your analysis does a great job of making the case. And I realize a few of those films I have never seen. I will definitely have to check them out now. Thanks!

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Hey, I know this is late, but better late than never. Glad you enjoyed the post! Did you end up watching any of these? What did you think?

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What a great idea for a list! I'm a hardcore cinephile so I've seen all of them except The 13th Floor (I'm on it now, haha) and I love a lot of these. Keep up the good work, you got my follow.

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Glad you enjoyed the list! 13th Floor is one of my all time favorites. There is a certain scene which really blew my mind and I often think about it to this day. Thanks for the follow! Followed you back. :)

Amazing list, I loved The Matrix Trilogy. Its still worth re-watching it.

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The Matrix Trilogy is pretty amazing. Glad you enjoyed the list!

Dude you've got good taste in movies!

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Thanks man! Which ones on this list are your favorites? Are there any I missed you think should have been mentioned? I'd love to hear any suggestions you have.

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It's hard to choose a favorites among this list because each movie is special on its own. The movie which effected me most was the matrix and dark city.
If i suggest similar movie them then it would be " waking life" & west world

Btw love your list, wish i could resteemit so it could stayed on my blog

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Thanks again! Dark City has to be my personal favorite, although 13th Floor has a scene which really stuck with me. To this day I have flashes of it that continue to make me question the nature of reality. Good call on mentioning Waking Life and West World! Those are both excellent movies with gnostic themes. I must have seen Waking Life about 15 times. The new tv series based on the West World novel is also quite good. Have you seen it?

I forgot about Vanilla Sky, I loved that one.
I haven't seen all of these so thanks for the list!

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I still haven't seen the original Spanish movie, "Abre los ojos," but I've heard it's just as good or even better.

i look for films all of the time. this list is pretty good. i have actually googled "gnostic movies" and watched a few of these trailers before. right on man. thanks.

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It's my pleasure! Did you end up watching any of the movies from the list you hadn't seen previously? I'd be interested to hear your impressions.