Writers and filmmakers have drawn inspiration from philosophical ideas that extend back centuries to the year BCE ever since the invention of the motion picture camera. However, philosophy isn’t just found in movies; it may also be found in theatre productions, books, and music.
Hedonism is one of the more intriguing philosophical ideas presented on the big screen. Hedonism is the belief that one’s own pleasure should be their highest priority in life and is thought to have been established by Aristippus of Cyrene (435–355 BCE). This can include pleasurable bodily experiences, uplifting emotional insights, or any other kind of pleasure that uplifts the mind, body, and spirit.
Hedonistic film does not have any shortcomings. They are frequently portrayed as heroic stories of the human spirit. While some might regard the characters as wild, joyous, and free, others might see them as insane, vicious, and selfish. Hedonism can sometimes be viewed as a delightful experience, while other times it can push characters into the depths of the dark side of human nature. The top 10 films that best depict hedonism in cinema are listed below.
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Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Erotica must be considered to be a common form of hedonistic behaviour if drug usage occurs. Stanley Kubrick’s final movie, Eyes Wide Shut (1999), did not exactly enter the world without controversy. The main character in Eyes Wide Shut is Dr. William (Bill) Harford (Tom Cruise), who embarks on an ethereal, twilight voyage after learning that his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) has been pining for a different man.
Hedonism is specifically illustrated in this movie by the setting the characters are placed in rather than by the philosophies of the individual characters. The cult-like, ritual-like orgy scene is one particular moment that is today recognised as one of Kubrick’s more memorable, yet contentious, scenes. Bill wanders the night looking for sexual fulfilment as his own means of dealing with his and his wife’s revealing chat, the wife’s adultery still lingering in his mind. The first attempt is made by Marion, the deceased patient’s deceased patient’s daughter, who tries to seduce Bill. He disputes her. Then he encounters Domino, a prostitute. Then, Nick, a buddy of Bill’s, informs him of a masked sex party. Then Bill sneaks inside the party, but he is immediately in danger because no one else there recognises him.
In conclusion, Eyes Wide Shut is an illustration of using personal enjoyment as an escape from difficulties rather than dealing with them head-on.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name, Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) is a 118-minute mesmerising, drug-infused dream world that serves as a monument to contemporary hedonistic filmmaking. This movie is a strange journey that plays as a loose and enjoyable interpretation of the psychedelic drug epidemic of the 1970s, the decade it is based on.
Raoul Duke is a quirky, oddball journalist played by Johnny Depp. He embarks on a captivating road journey to Las Vegas with his attorney Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro), where the only thing they need for survival besides water and gas is a big stash of drugs.
Harold and Maude (1971)
Who would have ever imagined that a young man who was preoccupied with mortality and an elderly woman who was a free spirit could have such a lovely relationship? A glorious, joyful existence is achievable at any age, as Harold and Maude (1971) demonstrates. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The late Hal Ashby’s dark comedy, one of the genre’s all-time greats, portrays a taboo-breaking story about hedonism and the preservation of the human spirit.
Rich teenager Harold (Bud C ort) plays elaborate suicide pranks on the girls his parents have set him up to date and possibly marry. He meets the mysterious Maude (Ruth Gordon) while attending a stranger’s funeral (something it might be inferred he does frequently), and he soon develops an irrational romantic attachment to the elderly woman. Together, they wander the country’s streets in search of sheer amusement, laughs, and memories—along with a few stolen shovels.
Infinity Pool (2023)
It appears that controversial directors are increasingly striving to explore hedonistic impulses. The issue is approached in a more sadistic manner in Brandon Cronenberg’s (2023) film Infinity Pool, which he also wrote and directed. A fictional island’s all-inclusive beach is where author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgrd) and his wife Em Foster (Cleopatra Coleman) choose to spend their (at least their expectations of) tranquil and enjoyable holiday. James is experiencing protracted writer’s block and wants to get some perspective while looking for ideas for a new book. Together, the newlyweds and the elusive, enigmatic, and crazy Gabi Bauer (Mia Goth), who declares to be a huge fan of James’ art, cross paths. James kills a pedestrian while out exploring, starting a dark, spiralling trip into the island’s extremely unsettling hedonistic subculture.
Hollywood’s newest “vibe-based cinema” that features cult-like rituals, cloning, torture, and the misuse of power and manipulation is titled Infinity Pool. It will undoubtedly cause some audiences to look the other way or make them beg for me.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
One must eventually come to the realisation that there are things in life that are much more essential and desired than personal pleasure since hedonism may occasionally go down a very dark path. Many people use drugs to improve their perception of the world around them, while others use them to replace it. (2000)’s Requiem for a Dream investigates the latter.
Requiem for a Dream, a screenplay by Darren Aronofsky and a film directed by him, chronicles the tale of four different Coney Island residents and their drug-dependent utopias. The actors portraying them are Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. All of their utopias eventually turn dystopian and do more harm than good as the plot progresses.
Spring Breakers (2012)
Spring Breakers stars James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine.One of the first films to make the American independent entertainment firm A24 famous was A24 Spring Breakers (2012). This divisive film, written and directed by Harmony Korine, idolises the hedonistic lifestyle of taking a week off from the routine, boring experience of college and letting loose on the Florida beaches in the spring. In order to pay for their getaway from reality, four college girls rob a restaurant. They are later apprehended and released on bail by the criminal riffraff known as “Alien,” played by James Franco.
The movie Spring Breakers is perverse, morbid, and hardly funny. Spring Breakers is a sort of anthem for this idea because it is usual for college students to want a week to completely let loose and transform into an unfettered human spirit flowing freely across the planet. College girls Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hughens), and Cotty (Rachel Corine) take a tour of their hedonistic dreams, which end up spiralling into a slippery slope of partying, binge-drinking, drugs, dancing, and regrets.
The Holy Mountain (1973)
The Holy Mountain (1973), directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, is arguably one of the strangest films you will ever witness. It is a dreamlike, hypnotic trance about spiritual rebellion and a group of greedy people pursuing immortality. Hedonism isn’t necessarily a character in this movie’s agenda. Instead, it is about hedonistic characters who are looking for a way to prolong their existence on Earth in order to continue practising and pursing pleasure.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Just a rifle and two friends. Thelma & Louise (1991), a film that has become synonymous with female independence and liberation, is unafraid to show its lead characters engaging in hedonism. In this case, a particular event causes them to leave the real world and enter philosophy. On what was supposed to be a quick fishing trip, waitress Louise (Susan Sarandon) and housewife Thelma (Geena Davis) decide to tag along. After Louise murders a man who was trying to rape Thelma in a bar parking lot, their brief vacation quickly turns into a run from the cops.
Louise and Thelma are polar opposites in personality. Thelma is the pair’s wild card, not hesitant to talk to anyone or dance with a complete stranger while no one is looking. Louise is more dignified, cautious, and, to be honest, uninteresting. Louise’s brain has an adventurous muscle that has probably never been unlocked that is sparked by the murder she commits to defend her companions.
Thelma & Louise is a carefree, enjoyable trip that focuses more on friendship than anything else. It also explores the subtle skill of not caring.
The use and misuse of drugs is a frequent method of hedonist portrayal in pop culture and art. The drug at question in this instance is heroin, a “downer” derived from opium poppies. Through the narration of Renton, played by Ewan McGregor, director Danny Boyle addresses the British subculture of hedonistic drug use head-on in Trainspotting (1996). Renton deliberately chooses to prioritise the supreme pleasure this drug gives him over almost all other worthwhile activities in his life. Even more so, he asserts, it is “1000 times better than the best orgasm.”
Y tu mamá también (2001)
Nobody should be surprised that the pinnacle of hedonistic movie takes place on a cheerful and lucid road trip with three characters that represent the actual essence of what it is to be a hedonist: to cherish the time in front of you. The narrative of two adolescent boy best friends Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) who persuade a stunning, seductive older woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdu) to join them on a road trip is told in Alfonso Cuarón’s 2001 blockbuster Y tu mamá también (And Your Mother Too).
Together, the three characters discover certain truths about themselves, life, sex, love, and one another. Despite how bittersweet it is, Y tu mamá también will make viewers want for a worry-free road trip with their loved ones.
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