Overview of Postmodern Movies

Like television, postmodern movies and films are a mainstay of mass-market American culture. The range of independent films to big budget Hollywood blockbusters all exhibit (and build off of) many of the Postmodern motifs shared by other art forms. Below you will find a description of the most significant themes and examples of related moves.

Pastiche Self-referential, tongue-in-cheek, rehashes of classic pop culture
Flattening of Affect Technology, violence, drugs, and the media lead to detached, emotionless, unauthentic lives
Hyperreality Technologically created realities are often more authentic or desirable than the real world
Time Bending Time travel provides another way to shape reality and play "what if" games with society
Altered States Drugs, mental illness and technology provide a dark, often psychedelic, gateway to new internal realities
More Human than Human Artificial intelligence, robotics, and cybernetics seek to enhance, or replace, humanity

Postmodern Movies by Category

Pastiche in Postmodern Movies and Film


Pulp Fiction - Quirky tribute to old Hollywood crime dramas and "Pulp" magazines, filled with numerous pop culture references

Jackie Brown - Tarantino's spin on "blaxploitation" action flicks of the 1970's that manages to reinvent Pam Grier and her co-stars

Kill Bill, Volume 1 - Stylized fusion and tribute of Hong Kong action flicks and spaghetti Westerns, filled with exaggerated stereotypes

Scream - A postmodern slasher movie, where the killer and his victims knowingly play out the clich├ęd plots of classic horror films

Scary Movie - Low brow, third order simulacra, is a pastiche of other pastiches (Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer)

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark - Campy cult comedy that follows a vampire TV hostess as fate brings her to suburbia

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Tongue-in-cheek horror/comedy that follows a suburban high school student and vampire hunter

This is Spinal Tap - Mockumentary about a fictitious British band on their American comeback tour

Austin Powers - Mock Bond film pays homage to the popular culture of the Swinging 60's, British Invasion, and ridiculous Spy flicks

  Flattening of Affect in Postmodern Movies and Film

Flattening of Affect

2001 - A Space Odyssey - Sci-Fi space tale where the ship's computer (HAL) shows more emotion than the machine-like human crew

Natural Born Killers - Victims of traumatized childhoods become serial killers glorified by the mass media

A Clockwork Orange - A dystopian examination of ultra-violence, social conditioning, free will, and post-industrial alienation

American Psycho - A look at our culture's desensitization to violence via a Wall Street professional and cold blooded killer

Rules of Attraction - A modern love triangle between numbed, self-absorbed, over-priviledged students at a fictional New England college

Less Than Zero - A rich college student in the 80's binges on sex, drugs, and alcohol and goes from having it all to having nothing

The Stepford Wives - Postmodern-feminist tale where the dull subservient lives of suburban women is part of a plot to replace them

Fight Club - Violent and schizophrenic tale of a man and his underground society, full of plot twists, ironies, and anarchy

Gattaca - Dull and sterile society where genetic imperfections relegate "real" people to menial lives

Apocalypse Now - Classic movie where the horrors of war lead to detachment and insanity

The Deer Hunter - Commentary on the futility of war follows long time friends trying to cope with their return to "normal" lives

Taxi Driver - A life of loneliness and alienation in the big city drives this taxi driver (Robert Deniro) to insanity and violence

Lost in Translation - A chance friendship of two lost souls in a foreign land brings true emotion to their affectless lives

  Hyperreality in Postmodern Movies and Film


The Matrix Trilogy - Cyberpunk twist where the world is in fact a simulated prison for humanity run by intelligent machine agents

The Thirteenth Floor - Murder mystery set in a virtual recreation of 1930's Los Angeles

Total Recall - Adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story with the ambiguous premise that the whole experience was an implanted memory

eXistenZ - A designer gets lost in her own virtual reality game, full of Kafkaesque references and hallucinations

The Truman Show - A sense that the world is not quite right leads Truman to find that he is the star of an expansive reality TV hoax

Kick-Ass - Comic book geeks turned vigilantes make their superhero fantasies a bloody reality in this dark action-comedy

Inception - A team of con-men and architects loses touch with reality as they delve ever deeper into their targets' dreams

  Time Bending in Postmodern Movies and Film

Time Bending

12 Monkeys - A man is forced to travel through time to find the reason for humanity's near extinction by a deadly virus

Paycheck - Scientist investigates why he turned down a $90M paycheck for a self-addressed envelope he doesn't remember sending

Dark City - A retro-futuristic setting where mysterious beings bend space and time to test the limits of humanity

Minority Report - A cop uses knowledge of the future to make arrests before crimes are actually committed

Primer - Time-travel thriller that looks at the paradoxes and ethical implications of the ability to change the past

Memento - Flashbacks lead the viewer back in time to better experience the life of a man with no long term memory

Donnie Darko - Cult classic about a troubled teenager and his attempt to save the world, covers topics like time travel and free will

  Altered States in Postmodern Movies and Film

Altered States

Videodrome - Sleazy cable TV operator's hallucinogenic nightmare of the "new flesh": merging of television with the human body

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - The drug-fueled chronicles of a journalist's hallucinogenic search for the American Dream

Naked Lunch - Fusion of Burrough's novel and his own life, follows a junkie author through his paranoid and Kafkaesque experiences

A Scanner Darkly - An undercover narcotics agent gets hooked and leads a double life as the hunter and the hunted

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind - A mind-bending look at reality when altered memories are used as a cure for heartbreak

A Beautiful Mind - Anti-social and schizoprenic genius John Nash battles back from a reality of his own creation

  More Human Than Human in Postmodern Movies and Film

More Human than Human

Blade Runner - Simulacra-focused movie follows an android hunter who himself may be one of the "more human than human" copies

Screamers - Another movie based on a Philip K. Dick story, features a war against machines self-evolved to mimick humans

Artificial Intelligence - Pinocchio-like story of a robot boy and his quest to be "real"

Robocop - A cybernetically enhanced cop seeks to regain his identity in a dystopian future driven by capitalism and the mass media

Wall-E - Redemption comes from a garbage robot in its quest for love after technology wastes away earth and all of mankind

District 9 - A ruthless bureaucrat becomes a better person after turning into one of the aliens he most despises

Terminator Salvation - Ex-con Marcus gets a second chance as a cyborg and makes the ultimate sacrifice for John Connor

Avatar - Crippled Marine dons "new flesh" and regains his humanity among an indigenous alien population he was sent to eradicate

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postmodern movies and films by category