I have a theory that every true cinephile deals with deep bouts of insomnia and anxiety. We look to enter other worlds and other lives when anxiety and the trials of life keep us up at night. All cinephiles have movies that we go to when those bouts of insomnia and anxiety take over. There are some perfect movies for insomniacs.
In a two-part series, I will break down my ten favorite movies I go to when unable to sleep or when I’m battling severe anxiety. Maybe these films will find their way into your insomnia rotation. In no particular order, here are my first five movies.
Lost In Translation
Lost In Translation makes my list for a multitude of reasons. One of which is very obvious, the main characters themselves are insomniacs due to jet lag halfway across the world. When this movie came out, it struck me in a way that I could not stop watching it, day and night. I was enthralled with the story, the performances and the humanity of it. By the time it was released on video I was working security overnights and I happened to have a portable DVD player and Lost In Translation was in regular rotation during my movie watching marathons. To this day, this movie feels best when I watch it at an awkward hour like 2 am or 7:30 am. With all that said it’s a modern classic no matter what hour you watch it.
Greg Mattola’s highly underrated coming of age film was the first time we got to see the great on-screen chemistry between Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. One thing that is very difficult to do in cinema is capture nostalgia. Woody Allen has been a master of it when it comes to the 1940’s and 1950’s. Mattola did a masterful job capturing the 1980’s over a summer working a run-down theme park in Pittsburgh. Adventureland has a killer soundtrack and gives off that great comfort feeling you look for when in a bad mental state or in a state where you need to get comfortable when you can’t seem to fall asleep.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is one of the most mind-bending yet endearing and truthful romance films of the last 30 years or more. With a unique concept yet not one that hasn’t gone through the mind of anyone coming off a break-up, I wish I could forget you. It’s a unique storytelling style, and original narration makes it a perfect movie for an insomniac. It is as much of an experience as it is a movie. You can read my whole write up on the film here.
Another mark of a good movie to watch in the middle of the night is one whose majority takes place at night. With not only a dark subject it primarily takes place when the sun is set. Another mind-bending type movie, which is precisely the state of mind of the insomniac, Fight Club feeds off this and takes you on a ride and eventually knocks you out. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton were at the top of their game when they teamed up for this ultimate guy movie classic.
I am a firm believer that ANY Paul Thomas Anderson film could fit here, but for some reason, Magnolia sticks out to me here. It may just be because I first saw it late at night on cable after it had come out and before I knew the genius he was. It could also be the pacing that his movies tend to have. There are moments of uncomfortable silence that match the uncomfortableness of insomnia or anxiety. It contains one of my favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances. His screen time with Jason Robards is an acting class amongst itself.
Be prepared for another list of late night movies for insomniacs.