Sucker Punch, opening in the U.S. today, is a movie about dreams - about the need for fantasy and imagination, as tools to process difficult aspects of real life and even ways to escape from real life. Movies about dreams have always been a popular subgenre, and here are five of the best.
NOTE #1: Inception isn't on here because it's not even a year old and everyone already knows about it. Everyone.
NOTE #2: [insert-any-of-a-thousand-Anime-titles-here] isn't on here because Anime looooooooooves dream stories, and I only have so much space.
Everyone seems to have forgotten that this ever existed - even at the time of release, its biggest infamy came from being the second film to receive the PG-13 rating (after Red Dawn.)
It's one of many would-be star vehicles for actor Dennis Quaid, who had to wait a long time to have big-time starring hits to call his own. Here, he's a psychic conscripted into what he thinks is a scientific endeavor to use his and other psychics' abilities to treat mental disorders by entering patients' dreams. When he discovers the project's real intent is to develop the technology to carry out political assassinations using nightmares, he rebels.
The premise is a lot of fun, but the limits of budget and mid-80s FX technology don't permit for the dream sequences to look or feel much different from other interchangeable sci fi/fantasy films of the same period. It's a good watch, though - and makes a nice lightweight counterpart to the similarly-themed, but grimmer, Inception.
Somewhere in Time (1980)
According to the book Superman vs. Hollywood, and show business lore in general, Christopher Reeve - nervous about the effect that his impending mega-fame as Superman might have on his still-young career - is said to have cornered then-former 007 Sean Connery at a party to ask his advice about typecasting. According to the story, the advice went something like this: "... if it is a hit, then find yourself something completely different to do right away." That Reeve immediately followed the international superhero blockbuster with this bizarre time-travel/romance hybrid is often taken as evidence that Connery's advice was taken to heart.
Based on a Richard Matheson book, Time is one of the standouts of the small subgenre of romantic melodramas that use sci fi/fantasy elements as a means of rendering the requisite doomed romance ... well, doomed (see also: The Time Traveler's Wife.) Reeve is a present-day playwright who falls in love with the photo of a woman from 1912, whom he believes he also met as an old woman the night before she died (it's complicated). He attempts to use a technique involving dreamlike self-hypnosis to travel back to her time.
It's a truly odd film - many people can't get past trying to work out the mechanics of the time-travel-dream-hypnosis angle - but it has a fiercely devoted fanbase, and if nothing else offers up a refreshingly unconventional extension of what the sci fi/fantasy genre can be expanded into.