12 Stunning Movies That Pull You Into Their Dreamlands

Movies are perhaps the best art form for exploring dreams. They can pull us into their unique worlds with sounds and images that can tell surreal and strange stories. Unsurprisingly, many movies have leaned on this ability to draw viewers into dreamy worlds.

So when someone asks for the best dreamy movies in an online film forum, other movie fans are excited to recommend their favorites. 

1. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Picnic at Hanging Rock 1975 Peter Weir
Image Credit: B.E.F. Film Distributors

Based on the novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock centers on a small Australian town after the disappearance of several young women and their teacher while on a field trip. It’s less a mystery film than an atmosphere film, as there’s never any tension or belief that the girls will be found.

Instead, the film explores the strangeness of their disappearance through mood. 

2. The Tree of Life (2011)

The Tree of Life Jessica Chastain
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Several of Terrence Malick’s films are mentioned as beautifully dreamy. But his 2011 opus The Tree of Life is the most widely agreed upon. The film parallels the story of a man’s childhood in the 1950s with the birth of the universe. It’s a gorgeous and unique film that feels particularly dreamlike because of its fluctuations between the personal and the cosmic. 

3. Dreams (1990)

Dreams 1990 Akira Kurosawa
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Some movie lovers aren’t sure if it’s too obvious to recommend Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, which follows a man through eight different dream sequences, each inspired by one of Kurosawa’s dreams. One fan of the film says, “This movie took me out of my own existence and made me contemplate nature, death, war, and the yin and yang of beautiful and ugly things.” 

4. Waking Life (2001)

Ethan Hawke in Waking Life 2001
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Another dreamy film that’s explicitly about dreams, Richard Linklater’s Waking Life follows a young man as he wanders through strange and dreamy worlds where he engages in conversations with various people. The roto-scoped film features discussions about the nature of reality, dreams, and the possibility of lucid dreaming. 

5. The Fall (2006)

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Image Credit: Roadside Attractions

The Fall pulls viewers into a gorgeous fantasy world full of stunningly bright colors and larger-than-life characters. But that world isn’t real within the film either. It’s not a dream but an imaginary world born of the story a man tells a hospitalized girl about five heroes seeking revenge on a villainous ruler that may inspire dreams in viewers. 

6. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982)

Pink Floyd - The Wall 1982 Alan Parker
Image Credit: United International Pictures

Not all dreams are good dreams, and Pink Floyd – The Wall certainly falls closer to a nightmare than a cozy dream. The film, a cinematic adaptation of the band’s concept album of the same name, uses the songs from the album and a combination of live-action and animation to bring to life the story of a young man struggling to connect with those around him. It’s a film that may not take place in dreams but heavily features sequences within the protagonist’s mind. 

7. Persona (1966)

Liv Ullmann in Persona (1966)
Image Credit: United Artists.

Ingmar Bergman’s Persona is perhaps the most dreamlike film among the filmmaker’s many dreamy films. The movie takes place entirely on one island and follows the developing relationship between a sick actress and her nurse as they begin to loosen the boundaries between them. 

8. Fantastic Planet (1973)

Fantastic Planet 1973
Photo Credit: Argos Films

One of the most celebrated animated films of all time, Fantastic Planet brings viewers to a strange and beautiful world that’s just as close to a dream as it is to science fiction. Based on the novel Oms en série by Stefan Wul, the film tells the story of humans living on a planet ruled by giant blue humanoid creatures called Draags and their attempts to make a life for themselves free of the Draags.

The story is relatively straightforward, but the film’s wonderfully strange animated flora and fauna make it a dreamy journey. 

9. Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

Where The Wild Things Are Paul Dano, Sonny Gerasimowicz
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Films about entering another world will always seem dreamy. But when those other worlds are as different from ours as the island home to the eponymous Wild Things in Where the Wild Things Are, it’s impossible not to feel like you’re being drifted off to a dream world. Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak’s children’s book of the same name, expands on the book in ways that add drama and powerful emotion to the story of a young boy escaping to a land full of Wild Things. 

10. Coraline (2009)

Coraline Dakota Fanning
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Coraline is an animated cousin of Where the Wild Things Are and a much scarier movie. Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, the film follows the eponymous Coraline as she discovers a world parallel to her own, a dreamlike world where her parents aren’t constantly working and can pay as much attention to her as she wants. But soon, she discovers that this world is hiding a dangerous secret.

It’s a horror film for children that’s also one of the most beautiful stop-motion films ever made. 

11. House (1977)

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Image Credit: Toho

House, sometimes known by its transliterated name Hausu, is one of the most delightfully chaotic movies ever made. The film follows a group of seven teen girls who visit one of the girls’ sick aunts. But when they arrive, they find that the aunt’s home is haunted, not just by a ghost, but that the house itself is a supernatural being.

It’s a horror movie setup, but the execution is pure, surreal fun. 

12. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

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Image Credit: Maya Deren

The only short film I’ve included here is also one of the greatest short films of all time. Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon is a landmark of avant-garde cinema that can’t precisely be summarized but essentially follows a woman through repeated attempts to catch a strange figure with a mirror for a face. Each chase is slightly different from the one before, but none could be called “realistic.”

It’s a stunning film that leaves some viewers unsettled and others elated, and there’s maybe nothing dreamier than that. 

This thread inspired this post.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Kyle Logan is a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Alternative Press, Cultured Vultures, Film Stories, Looper, and more. Kyle is particularly interested in horror and animation, as well as genre films written and directed by queer people and women. Along with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.