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Waking Life (2001)


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 141
Fresh: 113
Rotten: 28

Critics Consensus: The talky, animated Waking Life is a unique, cerebral experience.

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 34
Fresh: 28
Rotten: 6

Critics Consensus: The talky, animated Waking Life is a unique, cerebral experience.


Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 60,166



Movie Info

A boy has a dream that he can float, but unless he holds on, he will drift away into the sky. Even when he is grown up, this idea recurs. After a strange accident, he walks through what may be a dream, flowing in and out of scenarios and encountering various characters. People he meets discuss science, philosophy and the life of dreaming and waking, and the protagonist gradually becomes alarmed that he cannot awake from this confusing dream.

R (for language and some violent images)
Drama , Animation , Art House & International , Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By:
Richard Linklater
In Theaters:
May 7, 2002
Box Office:
Fox Searchlight - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Waking Life

All Critics (148) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (113) | Rotten (28) | DVD (22)

This inventive animated film, which takes Linklater back to his roots in Austin and Slacker, represents a summation of all the philosophical concerns that have defined him as spokesperson for Gen-X.

Full Review… | October 31, 2006
Top Critic

The endless philosophising is a bit sophomoric and more jokes would help, but this is one of a kind that grows more absorbing the longer it runs.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

For a movie heralded as the cutting edge of visual innovation, Waking Life is disappointingly dull in every other respect.

Full Review… | November 6, 2002
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

If there was ever a film that made ontological exploration fun, this is it.

Full Review… | January 22, 2002
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

Exhilarating, transporting, funny and haunting -- and at times maddeningly heady or narcotically logy -- Waking Life doesn't compare to any other movie experience I've ever had.

Full Review… | December 5, 2001
Top Critic

An instant cult classic, one that's tailor-made for multiple viewings and bound to be popular among college students.

Full Review… | November 8, 2001
Miami Herald
Top Critic

a commercial ripoff designed to confuse art-house patrons

Full Review… | February 13, 2011
Old School Reviews

Love-it-or-hate-it film best for older teens.

Full Review… | December 29, 2010
Common Sense Media

A far-out-man poetry slam, art exhibit and imaginative philosophical discourse all at once drifts gently down a stream of consciousness until merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, "Waking Life" is but a dream. Who says existential fiction must be dreary?

Full Review… | November 22, 2010

A brilliant film that provokes thought, idea, and conversations...

Full Review… | April 29, 2009
Cinema Crazed

Form and content fit perfectly: even if the highbrow babbling gets a bit much, the hypnotic animation means that there is always something to watch, like characters suddenly dissolving into smoke or spectacles expanding.

Full Review… | September 9, 2008

A true independent film that uses animation techniques to their utmost.

Full Review… | July 24, 2007

The question comes up often in life: What's your favorite movie? Since October 2001, the answer has been easy and one I shoot back reflexively almost before someone's finished the question: "Waking Life."

Full Review… | October 2, 2006
Arizona Daily Star

The novelty of the much-lauded animation style wears off about halfway through, with the end result a film that's more interminable than anything else.

Full Review… | July 1, 2006
Reel Film Reviews

It is not the best film of the year, nor is it likely to be one that I purchase and watch often. Still, it is something that should be seen by everyone and experienced by any diehard film lover.

Full Review… | October 1, 2005
Zertinet Movies

I applaud Linklater for [directing] such an interesting ride. But it suffers from a lack of sensistivity to its audience...

Full Review… | January 15, 2005
Looking Closer

Linklater's most visually distinctive movie, with exquisitely detailed renderings ... that are at the same time unstable, floaty, in a way perfect for a dreamed reality.

Full Review… | January 9, 2005

It reminded me of college.

Full Review… | June 25, 2004

This audacious movie may put some people to sleep; for others, it'll be a wakeup call on the possibilities of screen storytelling

Full Review… | February 24, 2004

Waking Life takes a peek into that other ninety percent of the possibilities of the cinematic medium that nobody ever explores. Hopefully, others will follow.

Full Review… | November 12, 2003
Film Threat

A breath of fresh air.

Full Review… | October 16, 2003

Fascinante filme sobre a natureza dos sonhos e a forma com que estes refletem e transcendem a realidade. A animação é interessante, embora não explore tanto as possibilidades da mídia.

July 25, 2003
Cinema em Cena

The whole thing comes together in one of those deliriously exciting great leaps forward in film art.

Full Review… | April 24, 2003

Startling in its originality, dazzling in its erudition, it fearlessly tackles questions of free will, identity and . . . reality. . .

Full Review… | April 5, 2003
Killer Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Waking Life


Review coming to

Alexander Diminiano

Super Reviewer


As with "Slacker", some of the pieces will likely feel more underwhelming depending on the viewer, but as a compilation of concepts and emotions all tied together through the common theme of dreams, "Waking Life" is a much more enjoyable and mature film than "Slacker" in both content and form, an existential rollercoaster that encapsulates all of Linklater's work up until that point (almost literally), while almost daring himself to top it. With this film, though, Linklater's genius as a thinker finally seems to escape its shackles, just as "Before Sunrise" unleashed him as a storyteller who works beyond limitations.

Sam Barnett
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer

A fuck for all senses.

Alice Shen

Super Reviewer

Basically an animated sequel to Linklater's debut (Slacker). Very impressive.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

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