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12 Films About Sleeping: Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Guides | October 16, 2012 | Comments ()


The Science of Sleep
Perhaps the least liked of all Michel Gondry's films finds a man (Gael Garcia Bernal) struggling to separate reality from dreamland when he falls in love with his beautiful neighbor (Charlotte Gainsbourg). There's several elements that make this one fascinating, not only the vivid handling of fantasy but the effects that have marked Gondry's career, including a scene where Bernal's hands are enormous and terrifying. The plot may be thin but the details and visuals are gossamer, lilting and beautiful.

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Sleepless in Seattle
I kind of hate this movie. Sacrilege I know, especially to Ephron completists, however nothing happens in this movie. Two zany people, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, make up a lot of crap in their heads and somehow imagine themselves to be in love. I guess that isn't that different from regular life, hey-oh. The title refers to Tom Hanks or his son not being able to sleep, which makes it perhaps the only film about not falling asleep.

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Sleeping Beauty
Julia Leigh's film revolves around a sordid underworld where beautiful and expensive female prostitutes are drugged and sleep through their conquests. It is as fascinating as it is beautiful, though the power dichotomy could not be more upsetting. Their absolute stupor while drugged looks inviting though the thought of being manhandled while so thoroughly passed out is enough to make the skin crawl. Sleeping Beauty explores one of the most terrifying aspects of sleep, the loss of power that is inevitable when we are rendered unconscious, at the mercy of those around us. Yeah, most of us aren't being sexed up while unconscious, but it's the general principle!

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Inception
You are waiting for a train. That train is filled with pillows and blankies and you will get to sleep for as long as you want without anyone bothering you. When you wake up you can just slip back into unconsciousness. Leonardo DiCaprio leads a team of thieves who infiltrate the mind, but hey, is there really anyone who hasn't seen this film yet? Perhaps never before has a movie so thoroughly explored the levels of consciousness and depth of the mind, and again, while it's a rendered state in the film, it plays around with something that seems so inviting, the idea that we could control our dreams or the minds of others, even partially.

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Sleeping Beauty
The Disney one! Yes, cheesy perhaps and I doubt sincerely you're going to go out and watch it, but I feel like Princesses were always passing out left and right. Snow White? Yep, ate the apple and got herself a glass coffin. Aurora? Yep, pricked her finger and fell into a deep sleep. In any case, no one's ever looked more angelic, setting up entire generations of girls and boys to expect women to look perfect while they sleep. Hands folded, hair all in place, perhaps a gentle smile. Aurora drooling and splayed out all over the bed would be more realistic, but fairy tales are already all lies so sleep lies are the least worrisome of the bunch.

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Before Sunrise
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy stay up all night, fall in love, fight, make up, and talk talk talk. Look at these young goons, staying up late because of feelings and the fact they might not see each other again. Go to bed already! Whenever I see anyone awake when they should be asleep, it just feels like a waste of precious sleep, as if it were a limited commodity that others would kill for.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street
Sleep should be a sacred and safe space, restful and welcoming, but helplessness turns to terror as people struggle to stay awake in this horror thriller. A mad man haunts the dreams of teenagers who know that as soon as they fall asleep, they become the prey of the violent Freddy Krueger. Any movie that scares people into not falling asleep should be tried as a criminal offense, but this idea's so good it's remarkable that no one has capitalized on it before 1984.

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Little Nemo in Slumberland
Fun fact, I thought the movie Finding Nemo was this one for a long time. I really like Little Nemo, the style of the visuals, but this movie is also kind of scary. I haven't seen it in ages, but no list about sleep related films would be complete without it. A young boy finds solace in his fantasies and the world of Slumberland, but both the waking world and the dreaming may be destroyed. I want a bed to fly around in, that would be just perfect.

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True Stories
This movie featuring the music of the Talking Heads also stars lead man David Byrne, but is included here for the scenes of Swoosie Kurtz laying in bed. A woman so rich she never needs to get out of bed, imagine that. She has all kinds of devices and instruments to make her life easier, and while laying in bed all day might get kind of boring, the idea that beds are not simply for sleeping is taken to extremes here. There's a kind of beauty in everything being in its right place, and beds are made for sleeping. (And other stuff, but let's not get tawdry.)

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Sleepwalk With Me
With the assistance of "This American Life" star Ira Glass, comedian Mike Birbiglia made a movie about his life-endangering experiences sleepwalking and his everyday life. Terrifying, hilarious and robust, Birbiglia relates stressful relational issues in his life to his burgeoning sleepwalking problems. Nothing is as scary as the idea that we act without knowing, and the thought of uncontrollable and genuine sleepwalking is one of the scariest side effects of sleep, the very opposite of restful.

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Fight Club
A bit gauche considering it featured heavily in last week's list about hitting rock bottom, but this one is mostly all about insomnia and the confusion it causes throughout life. Edward Norton's face is so gaunt and terrifying, grey and defeated as he jets around the country as an insurance claims adjuster who can't seem to fall asleep. It's this heightened state of exhaustion and confusion that leads to one of the biggest breakthroughs in the world -- the meeting of Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and the descent into a whole new insane way of life, fighting other men to wake up and feel alive.

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