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Waking Life (2001)

A man shuffles through a dream meeting various people and discussing the meanings and purposes of the universe.


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5 wins & 20 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Trevor Jack Brooks ...
Glover Gill ...
Lara Hicks ...
Ames Asbell ...
Leigh Mahoney ...
Sara Nelson ...
Jeanine Attaway ...
Erik Grostic ...
Boat Car Guy
Robert C. Solomon ...
Philosophy Professor
Eamonn Healy ...
Shape-Shifting Man
J.C. Shakespeare ...
Burning Man


Dreams. What are they? An escape from reality or reality itself? Waking Life follows the dream(s) of one man and his attempt to find and discern the absolute difference between waking life and the dreamworld. While trying to figure out a way to wake up, he runs into many people on his way; some of which offer one sentence asides on life, others delving deeply into existential questions and life's mysteries. We become the main character. It becomes our dream and our questions being asked and answered. Can we control our dreams? What are they telling us about life? About death? About ourselves and where we come from and where we are going? The film does not answer all these for us. Instead, it inspires us to ask the questions and find the answers ourselves. Written by Jeff Mellinger <jmell@uclink4.berkeley.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some violent images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

16 November 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Despertando a la vida  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$88,977 (USA) (19 October 2001)


$2,892,011 (USA) (26 April 2002)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The movie took 3 weeks to shoot and another 3 weeks to edit using Final Cut Pro. It also took 15 months to animate. See more »


Ryan Power: A thousand years is but an instant. There's nothing new, nothing different; same pattern over and over. The same clouds, same music, the same things I felt an hour or an eternity ago. There's nothing here for me now, nothing at all. Now I remember, this happened to me before. This is why I left. You have begun to find your answers. Although it will seem difficult the rewards will be great. Exercise your human mind as fully as possible knowing that it is only an exercise. Build beautiful ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The end credits are all rendered in moving, squirming letters. See more »


Features Saturday Night Live (1975) See more »


Ballade 3
Performed by TOSCA
Written by Glover Gill
Courtesy of Nois Records
See more »

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User Reviews

pretentious garbage
15 December 2001 | by (Illinois) – See all my reviews

Let me begin by saying that reviewing this movie puts you into a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario. If you think it sucked, well, you're just too stupid to understand it, or you don't have the attention span. "Why don't you just go see Monster's Inc.", they'll rebut. So you are forced to say that you like it. I'd be willing to bet that at least 50% of those saying it is great (with no specificity) are just trying to avoid looking like they can't understand it.

Now, onto my review. I wonder if the people who call Linklater brilliant think that he somehow wrote all these theories? That he is some metaphysical genius that invented all these positions? I would hope not, as he obviously didn't. Which leaves me to ask, "What did he do that deserves my praise?" The guy went to a university with a tape recorder, got some real-audio of some Psychology 101 and Philosohpy 101 lectures, and paid some animators to draw someone saying them.

The theories discussed are not advanced. They are fairly common and easy enough to follow. Even the boy admits, "they sound familiar, like I'd heard them somewhere". They don't get more complex. They don't refute each other. They don't build. They don't reach a conclusion. They are just strewn together, willy-nilly. If you're going to make a film exploring all of these issues, at least do me the favor of taking a position on them... give me some insight, some enlightenment. To just present them without organization or taking a position just seems to translate to me as: "See how much I know??" Like a discussion with someone after their first philosophy class, when they recite theory to you, without questioning, challenging, or even favoring any of it.

I feel that the use of the plot being that the boy was dreaming (or dead) was to hide the fact that Linklater DIDN'T have any profound point to make. Only in a dream could he get away with an incomprehensible, poorly organized blob of discussion on a topic. Had this movie been set in the real, waking world, he would have had to go somewhere with this... to make a point or take a position. But as it was he could just let it be slop.

See this movie only if you'd like to pretend you and your friends are intellectuals for a night. Then log onto imdb.com and write about how profound and moving it was, but don't, whatever you do, say why. Just saying that it was deep and explored reality and the mind will suffice.

Did this movie make for a stimulating evening? It could. But don't think that this movie is intellectually superior to another just because it uses big words and discusses metaphysics. You can analyze pop movies and try to pull meaning from it, too. And at least the pop movies mask it in the DETAILS OF A STORY instead of just purely PRESENTING YOU WITH RAW THEORY. Is Moby Dick just about a whale? Is Star Wars just about rescuing a princess? No. These tales explore quite a bit of human dynamics and philosophy, but at least they have the sense of ART to present it in a masked way.

This is not an art film. It isn't even a film. It's an intro class lecture with pictures.

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