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Waking Life (2001)



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

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


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

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



liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 59,955

My Rating

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.

May 7, 2002


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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.

October 31, 2006 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop 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.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

November 6, 2002 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune | Comment (1)
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

January 22, 2002 Full Review Source: New York Magazine/Vulture
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic IconTop 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.

December 5, 2001 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

November 8, 2001 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

a commercial ripoff designed to confuse art-house patrons

February 13, 2011 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews | Comments (3)
Old School Reviews

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

December 29, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
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?

November 22, 2010 Full Review Source:

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

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
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.

September 9, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4 | Comments (2)

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

July 24, 2007 Full Review Source:

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."

October 2, 2006 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
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.

July 1, 2006 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
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.

October 1, 2005 Full Review Source: Zertinet Movies
Zertinet Movies

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

January 15, 2005 Full Review Source: Looking Closer | Comment (1)
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.

January 9, 2005 Full Review Source:

It reminded me of college.

June 25, 2004 Full Review Source: Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

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

February 24, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

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.

November 12, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

A breath of fresh air.

October 16, 2003 Full Review Source:

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.

April 24, 2003 Full Review

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

April 5, 2003 Full Review Source: Killer Movie Reviews
Killer Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Waking Life

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.
March 24, 2014
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer

A fuck for all senses.
February 12, 2012

Super Reviewer

Basically an animated sequel to Linklater's debut (Slacker). Very impressive.
October 27, 2011
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

Boy, now this is a polarizing film. I wouldn't blame or argue with someone if they were to dismiss this film as boring, pretentious, intellectual bullshit. In many ways, that is true. I realize this is not a film for everyone, but I think everyone should still see it anyway. It is good to exercise the brain and participate in or experience philosophical discussions, which is pretty much what this whole film is: a 100 minute plot free series of (not necessarily connected) discussions about various aspects of life, philosophy, and film.

I like the animation technique of rotoscoping or filming things live action then drawing over it with wild colors. Linklater later used this same technique for A Scanner Darkly. The result of doing things this way is very surreal, trippy, and dream like, the appropriateness of which I don't think will go over too many peoples' heads.

I dug this film quite a lot, and found much to like, but I will be honest and say that I didn't quite grasp everything. Some of it went over my head, and I did get a little restless watching this, but overall, I respect it, especially since it reminded me of the fact that I (though not recently) love sitting down and having conversations like the ones presented here.

This is a very unique film with wonderful moments, a lot to chew on, a gorgeous look, and some excellent tunes. Do give this one a chance. Even if you end up hating it, you'll be doing yourself a favor, even if you don't realize it.
January 11, 2011
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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