Unless you've been sound asleep or living in your own dream world, you know that the summer's most mind-twisting movie—Christopher Nolan's Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio—opens this weekend. Dreams make fertile fodder for a filmmaker's imagination because they open up the possibility of bending the rules, which Inception surely does, but the idea of getting into other people's heads while they are dreaming is not a new one. Here are three dreamy (or nightmarish) movies that might have inspired Nolan.
Jennifer Lopez stars as a psychologist who has mastered a new technology that allows her to enter the unconscious mind of a subject. When a twisted serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio) is captured and a seizure renders him comatose, the FBI enlists Lopez to navigate the dark labyrinth of the killer's mind in an attempt to discover the location of his last victim, who is still alive but running out of time. The gorgeously surreal cinematography is a perfect example of how dreams allow a director to push the limits of visual creativity, as Nolan does in Inception
as well. Another similarity is that Lopez digs around in people's minds trying to uncover secrets, just like DiCaprio does in Nolan's latest.
This engaging 1984 film stars Dennis Quaid as a gifted psychic who takes part in a government experiment that helps him project himself into the dreams of others. The head of the research department (Christopher Plummer) has more sinister plans and enlists another psychic (David Patrick Kelly) to attempt to assassinate the president in his dreams. The vivid dream sequences are imaginative, even if the effects seem dated, and David Patrick Kelly's snake man is the stuff of nightmares. Watch this on DVD or Blu-ray and then check out its contemporary big-budget cousin, Inception
—you're not dreaming if you notice more than a few similarities.
A Nightmare on Elm Street:
The entire Elm Street
series (nine films if you include Freddy Vs. Jason
and the recent remake of the original) is about a razor-gloved dream demon named Freddy Krueger who attacks people in their nightmares. If Freddy kills you in your dream you die for real, and the horribly burned bogeyman knows how to figure out what scares you most and then turn your fears against you. In Inception
, DiCaprio's past comes back to haunt him in the dream world and compromises his ability to complete the mission.
Got a favorite dream movie? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.