Five of Our Favorite Films To Zone Out With
Thinking and feeling are hard work! Sometimes you just need a movie that’s pure Zen, a movie to watch with your brain in neutral. Whether beautiful, weird, or just mindless fun, these are our favorite “zone out” movies.
Baraka, a seminal work of spiritual and environmental docu-art in the tradition of Koyaanisqatsi, has one of my favorite opening shots in film. A “snow monkey,” a Japanese macaque, sits tranquilly in a hot spring. The humanity in its face is undeniable and a reminder of the fact, cliché but true, that all creatures of the Earth share a kinship, sharing the trials and comforts of our island in the universe. The monkey’s sleepy eyes stare past the camera as though it is reflecting on the day or on the tasks tomorrow will bring. And who’s to say it isn’t?
The existential questions that arise from seventy seconds of monkey footage, set to the sound of a bamboo flute and interrupted only by a shot of stars swirling overhead, create a mood fit for introspection. And for daydreaming: Baraka lulls as it inspires, with slow pans through ancient temples reclaimed by jungle and super-long, super-still shots of people in ceremonial dress. While equally beautiful, there is less overt meaning in Baraka than in Koyaanisqatsi, which carries a pessimistic, millenialist message. Baraka is not as challenging a movie, but neither is it anxiety-producing. It is as soothing as a soak in a hot spring. — David Conrad
- Global rank: 1395
- Wins 50% of matchups
- 4 users have it at #1
- 30 users have it in their top 20
When I first saw David Lynch‘s INLAND EMPIRE, I was so hooked I had to watch it again the next night, then I read everything I could find online about it. At first maybe I was trying to figure it out, to tie all the disparate threads together — the actress who joins a movie adapted from a cursed foreign film, the character in the film who begins to be confused with the actress herself, the 1930s Polish story, the present-day prostitutes, the rabbit family, and above all the girl crying alone in her room.
But soon I began to realize a sharp dichotomy in the reviews I was reading between people who were trying to figure it out as if it were a puzzle film (they almost universally ended up hating the film) and people who accepted it as a surreal film that worked on emotional, intuitive logic rather than on analytical understanding. I realized the film worked for me on precisely that intuitive level, and on subsequent rewatches, I just let the images and the free associations they bring wash over me. I do zone out to some degree — trying not to almost constitutes resistance to what the film is trying to do. I think it has an internal logic to it, it’s not just random and meaningless, but it doesn’t make meaning in a way that you can definitively decipher. Instead, it taps into something deeper in your psyche, something primal and kind of dangerous. — Jandy Hardesty
- Global rank: 1672
- Wins 43% of matchups
- 8 users have it at #1
- 85 users have it in their top 20
The Man Who Fell to Earth
When I think of a zone out movie, I don’t view it as a “check your brain at the door” type of deal. It’s more like an opportunity to let my mind run free. An intuitive experience as opposed to one where I deliberately try to make sense of what’s going on. The images and the manner in which they are arranged strike a chord with my psyche. The relationship flows naturally.
I used to consider 2001: A Space Odyssey such a film until I got into too many debates with people who claimed that it had no meaning. Every film means something. The individuals involved in creating it must share some vision for its existence or it would never take form. So, I ended up losing 2001 as a go-to zone out flick. I analyzed it so much to explain why it had meaning that I can no longer separate my mind from that meaning.
Another Sci-Fi mindbender, The Man Who Fell to Earth, came along to fill the void. Starring David Bowie and directed by Nicolas Roeg, it’s a hallucinatory film from start to finish. What I like about it is that it has a lot of individual parts that are interesting enough to where I haven’t felt the need to put them together yet. I might not care if I ever put them together. Every scene is memorably odd and stands on its own. I bet The Man Who Fell to Earth would be just as captivating if I watched it in reverse. — Chad Hoolihan
- Global rank: 1288
- Wins 47% of matchups
- 1 user has it at #1
- 20 users have it in their top 20
I don’t make a lot of time for rewatching movies anymore. Since the summer after high school, I’m not sure I’ve watched any movie more than three times. And I don’t zone out to your more abstract movies like an Upstream Color or 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead, try to engage with their more abstract elements on an intellectual and emotional level. So I didn’t have an immediate answer to this question, because I don’t really have movies on in the background in my life.
But watching Tokyo Drifter this weekend, I found my own variation on the zone-out movie. It’s stylish, cool, filled with good music and fun fight scenes. But it’s a little brainless; I’d almost rather have it in my house as a painting than as a movie. After finishing it, I ran a web search for software that allows you to program your own video playlist. If the software were easily accessible, I’d love to have a channel of my own favorite tune-in, tune-out movies like The Departed, Hard Boiled, The Running Man, or Tokyo Drifter. These are movies that I enjoy, and would never mind rewatching, but that I’ll probably never go out of my way to rewatch. It’s hard to imagine sitting down and declaring, “Boy, it’s time to rewatch Hard Target!” But if it were on a broadcast, I might tune in and forget myself for a little while. — Alex Christian Lovendahl
- Global rank: 1821
- Wins 57% of matchups
- 0 users have it at #1
- 9 users have it in their top 20
Enter the Void
While seeing Enter the Void, I was thinking about the meaning of the film. But then I realized that even though there are some things that are quite easy to understand in it, the whole project leaves the viewer with unanswered questions. While watching it, simply become the main character, Oscar. Travel with him through the movie, forget about the world that is around you, and try to “feel” the film instead of “watching” it. There are many reasons to watch movies – like entertainment and the need for art. But when people want to merge themselves with the things they see on screen, a movie becomes something more than a movie. Enter the Void is an example of a piece of cinema that achieves that transcendence. — Andrzej Duralewski
- Global rank: 1785
- Wins 52% of matchups
- 5 users have it at #1
- 55 users have it in their top 20