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Waking Life (2001)

R  |   |  Animation, Drama, Fantasy  |  16 November 2001 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 46,115 users   Metascore: 82/100
Reviews: 506 user | 135 critic | 31 from Metacritic.com

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


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5 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »



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Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, apparently playing themselves, share their lives over the course of an evening meal at a restaurant. Gregory, a theater director from New York, is the more ... See full summary »

Director: Louis Malle
Stars: Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn, Jean Lenauer


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 | Add 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
See  »

Did You Know?


Another clip from the Monkey's lecture film shows Kurt Cobain in concert spinning his guitar over his head and throwing it into an amplifier. This was taken from the documentary he conceived in 1993 called "Live, Tonight, Sold Out". See more »


Quiet Woman at Restaurant: When it was over, all I could think about was how this entire notion of oneself, what we are, is just this logical structure, a place to momentarily house all the abstractions. It was a time to become conscious, to give form and coherence to the mystery, and I had been a part of that. It was a gift. Life was raging all around me and every moment was magical. I loved all the people, dealing with all the contradictory impulses - that's what I loved the most, connecting with the people. Looking ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

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


References Dreams (1990) See more »


Pelo Negro
Performed by TOSCA
Written by Glover Gill
Courtesy of Nois Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Score one for the dreamers
27 January 2003 | by (Notre Dame, IN) – See all my reviews

Waking Life is among a handful of films (Woyzeck, Magnolia, The Passion of Anna) that really frustrate me, because as much as I love them I can't necessarily recommend them to everyone. There are certain films for which one needs to be on a certain wavelength to enjoy, no matter how cultured or intelligent. This film is best for those who have sat around thinking about the big questions in life for long periods of time, dying for someone to talk to about them. I guess Waking Life isn't about those questions so much as it's about the people who are asking them, the wonderers, the thinkers, and especially the dreamers. For those who can appreciate it, it's a cleansing experience, one of a purity and beauty that has no equal in the films I've been fortunate enough to see.

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