The Power of the Unconscious Mind

by prtkahn

Created 08/25/12

Edit List

I wanted to construct a list of films in the Collection with truly extraordinary dream, daydream, or hallucination sequences.

  • Any such list without this film, including its famous dream sequence designed by Salvador Dali, would be incomplete--and the bonus features on this disc which demonstrate how it would have appeared if included in its entirety are invaluable.

  • Wendy Hiller's dream--in tartan!--is one of the most charming sequences in all of Powell and Pressburger's ouevre.

  • The thunderstorm in "The Street"; enough said.

  • A black comedy before Hollywood was ready for them, this underrated gem of a Sturges film has three unforgettable fantasy sequences in which Rex Harrison imagines offing his wife, the supposedly unfaithful Linda Darnell, as he conducts three distinct orchestral works.

  • Germi's film covers much of the same territory as Sturges's, except that the husband in this case isn't moved by jealousy, but the sincere desire to kill his devoted wife and marry his nubile young niece in her place. Nonetheless, some drolly delightful wish-fulfillment scenes of Marcello Mastroianni dispatching the clingy and overly-solicitous Daniela Rocca.

  • Who can forget Catherine Deneuve being entranced in her daydreams by the sounds of carriage bells and yowling cats as she's whipped and then raped by two coachmen, or has mud (or is it excrement?) flung at her while she wears a virginal white dress?

  • The images of the water pouring into Richard Chamberlain's car through his radio, or of a street in downtown Sydney underwater, are viscerally powerful and won't leave you anytime soon.

  • This film dissolves into the one of the bizarrest endings imaginable, as Sissy Spacek helplessly watches Shelley Duvall assist Janice Rule through the pains of childbirth...you're left wondering whether the whole movie hasn't been a nightmare.

  • My favorite Fellini film--and with good reason: the images of creepily chanting nuns, memories of a childhood visit to the circus, and a treehouse like no other.

  • From the outset, as Alexander witnesses a statue come to life and then Death stalking his grandmother's parlor, to the end, as he receives a cuff to the head by the ghost of his late stepfather, you're never quite sure which scenes with ghosts or other fantastic elements are merely in his imagination and which are truly experienced by him.

  • After its title sequence, this Bergman classic opens with one of the most disturbing dreams in cinema--and it takes place in broad daylight, no less.

  • The drug-fueled hallucinations of Johnny Depp are a treat; the lizards in the bar is a personal favorite.

  • I almost forgot this one--and the wish-fulfillment scenes with Billy as military hero of his own country, or gunning down his nagging parents, make it an obvious candidate for the list.

  • I was recently reminded of the unsettling dream sequences Mia Farrow experiences in this film; superb.

  • How could I have possibly left this one out when I first crafted this list? The final scene's as disturbing a hallucination as you're ever likely to see portrayed on celluloid.

  • I recently watched this early Polanski film for the first time, and it jumped out at me as an obvious candidate for inclusion on the list. His virtuosity in depicting Catherine Deneuve's deteriorating sanity as she roams her apartment is gripping to watch.

  • The scene in which the figures on the magazine covers in the porno store converse with one another (ostensibly a dream of River Phoenix's character, if memory serves) is, so far as I know, unique in cinema.


  • By Ross McLeod
    November 05, 2012
    05:14 PM

    great list there !
  • By Maybecedarian
    November 05, 2012
    07:11 PM

    Brazil, as mentioned above, and 8 1/2 would both make great additions to this list.
  • By Russell Fry
    November 05, 2012
    09:05 PM

    Brazil of course... Max's dream of solving the world's hardest geometry equation in Rushmore always cracks me up. If... and Carnival of Souls could both arguably find their places on here as well. Still, nice list. Always good to see The Last Wave, an under appreciated classic.
  • By David_Zou
    November 05, 2012
    10:14 PM

    Kagemusha,Evan's Childhood,8 1/2,The Small Back Room,Seduced and Abandoned,The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie...
  • By Filiusd99993
    November 05, 2012
    10:47 PM

    Also, the Drunken Angel dream sequence, which is epic.
  • By prtkahn
    November 06, 2012
    07:32 AM

    Many of the suggestions you folks are leaving are wonderful; please keep them coming. In some of the cases, I haven't seen the films yet, and in others, it's just been so long that I've forgotten how good the dream sequences in them are. While I didn't include 8 1/2 or Brazil, I hope you'll give me credit for at least including other films by Fellini and Gilliam in the list.
  • By Manish M.
    November 06, 2012
    09:16 PM

    great list (and awesome concept too!). I think I would add The Ballet of the Red Shoes from The Red Shoes. It starts as a ballet in a traditional theater setting but evolves into a sexual, hallucinatory dream sequence playing out all the inner desires of protagonist Victoria Page. But I mean I don't want to rain on your parade, you've got some great choices here
  • By Kurt
    November 09, 2012
    04:09 PM

    Blood of a Poet, Jigoku, and Life During Wartime all have very cool dream like sequences. Jigoku is more like being in limbo.
  • By pleh?
    November 15, 2012
    03:29 AM

    The Last Temptation of Christ?
  • By JustinDW
    November 18, 2012
    03:24 PM

    Sorry to say that there are only a few films on this lest that I've seen, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Rosemary's Baby, Wild Strawberries, Repulsion and My Own Private Idaho are truly great examples of cinematic flights of fancy, each one in a very different way.
  • By TheIronTonic
    November 28, 2012
    02:32 AM

    Naked lunch! Videodrome!
  • By D.j. West
    December 02, 2012
    03:33 PM

    David Lynch?
  • By Gail B.
    December 21, 2012
    08:36 AM

    Atlantic City should be on this list.
  • By prtkahn
    December 21, 2012
    08:57 PM

    These are all great recommendations you've been suggesting; thank you! Some of them I own but haven't yet had the chance to watch (Jigoku and Videodrome), others I've only watched once, a long time ago (The Red Shoes, Blood of a Poet), and yet others in the Collection I only know by title (Life During Wartime, Naked Lunch).
  • By Collection
    January 18, 2013
    07:07 PM

    Have enjoyed your list ever since it was first featured by The Criterion Collection in November 2012. Would be interested to see what you think of
  • By EugeneC
    January 29, 2013
    03:50 PM

    Excellent list! Here's to all the brave directors and screenwriters and actors who made these films come to life.
  • By Eric Levy
    February 21, 2013
    12:31 PM

    Great idea for a list! And excellent suggestions from everyone. One more I can add: Tarkovsky's SOLARIS.
  • By Stevie_PapaD
    April 01, 2013
    02:27 PM

    You should check out Sisters. DePalma paying homage to one of the best.
  • By Eric Levy
    July 06, 2014
    11:42 AM

    Roeg's INSIGNIFICANCE would fit too.
  • By prtkahn
    July 06, 2014
    03:23 PM

    Thanks, Eric, and to everyone else who's offered suggestions. I've still yet to see Spirit of the Beehive or Insignificance, and although I saw Solaris many years ago in college, my recollection of it is hazy; I certainly need to watch the Tarkovsky entries in the Collection.