Experimental movies are a type of film that pushes the boundaries of traditional storytelling and filmmaking techniques. These films often eschew conventional narrative structures and use innovative approaches to explore themes and ideas.
Experimental movies can be challenging and unconventional, but they also offer unique and thought-provoking experiences for viewers.
These films are often made by independent filmmakers who are interested in exploring new ways of telling stories and expressing themselves through the medium of film.
In this article, we will be discussing some of the best experimental movies ever made, including works from some of the most innovative and groundbreaking filmmakers in history.
Best Experimental Movies
These films range from abstract and avant-garde to deeply personal and emotional, and they all offer a fascinating glimpse into the world of experimental cinema.
1. Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)
“Celine and Julie Go Boating” is a French film directed by Jacques Rivette and released in 1974. The film follows the story of two young women, Celine and Julie, who become friends and begin to experience strange occurrences while living in Paris.
The film’s narrative is full of surreal twists and turns, as the two women begin to enter each other’s dreams and change the course of each other’s lives.
The film is notable for its unconventional storytelling techniques, including long takes, improvisation, and a fragmented narrative structure that is both playful and mysterious.
“Celine and Julie Go Boating” was praised by critics for its innovative approach to narrative and its playful exploration of female friendship and identity. It has since become a cult classic and is widely regarded as one of the greatest works of the French New Wave.
- Celine and Julie Go Boating 2-DVD Set ( Cline et Julie vont en bateau ) ( Phantom Ladies Over Paris
- Celine and Julie Go Boating 2-DVD Set
- Cline et Julie vont en bateau
- Phantom Ladies Over Paris
- Dominique Labourier, Philippe Clvenot, Juliet Berto (Actors)
2. The Tree of Life (2011)
The Tree of Life is a 2011 drama film written and directed by Terrence Malick. The film tells the story of a Texas family in the 1950s, centering on the relationship between a strict father (Brad Pitt) and his young son Jack (Hunter McCracken).
The film also features Sean Penn as an older version of Jack, reflecting on his life and the loss of his brother.
The Tree of Life is notable for its ambitious and poetic storytelling, which blends family drama with cosmic themes and stunning visuals of nature and the universe.
The film was praised for its cinematography, music, and ambitious scope, and won the Palme d’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
While some critics and audiences found the film’s nonlinear structure and philosophical themes challenging, it has also been praised as a unique and visionary work of art that explores fundamental questions about life, death, and the human experience.
- Brad Pitt, Sean Penn (Actors)
- Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
3. Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees (1991)
“Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees” is an experimental film directed by David Blair and released in 1991. The film combines live-action footage with animation, stop-motion, and computer-generated imagery to create a surreal and dreamlike world.
The story follows Jacob Maker (played by Juan Carlos Hernandez), a beekeeper who discovers that his bees have developed a television system within their hive. As he begins to explore this strange phenomenon, he finds himself drawn into a bizarre world of conspiracy and espionage.
The film’s themes include the relationship between technology and nature, the power of mass media, and the nature of reality itself. Its unique visual style and nonlinear narrative structure have made it a cult classic among fans of avant-garde cinema.
Overall, “Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees” is a fascinating and thought-provoking film that defies easy categorization. Its blend of science fiction, fantasy, and experimental filmmaking makes it a truly one-of-a-kind viewing experience.
4. Dogville (2003)
“Dogville” is a 2003 drama film directed by Lars von Trier. The movie is set in the fictional town of Dogville, Colorado during the Great Depression and follows the arrival of a woman named Grace, played by Nicole Kidman.
Grace is on the run from gangsters and seeks refuge in the town, which is inhabited by a small community of people who agree to offer her shelter in exchange for her labor.
As Grace becomes more involved in the town’s affairs, she begins to uncover its dark secrets and the true nature of its residents.
The film is shot entirely on a sound stage with minimal set pieces, emphasizing the idea of the town as a construct and exploring themes of power, morality, and the human condition.
“Dogville” was praised by critics for its innovative approach to storytelling and cinematography, as well as its thought-provoking themes. The film also features a strong ensemble cast, including Lauren Bacall, Paul Bettany, and Stellan Skarsgård.
- Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned
- English (Subtitled), Spanish (Subtitled), French (Dubbed)
5. Mulholland Drive (2001)
“Mulholland Drive” is a psychological thriller film directed by David Lynch and released in 2001. The film tells the story of an aspiring actress named Betty Elms who arrives in Los Angeles and meets a woman suffering from amnesia.
The two women then embark on a quest to uncover the mystery behind the amnesiac woman’s true identity, which leads them down a dark and surreal path.
The film is known for its complex and surreal storytelling, its exploration of themes related to identity, reality, and memory, and its striking visuals and soundtrack.
The film’s nonlinear narrative structure and dreamlike sequences challenge the viewer’s perception of reality and create a sense of disorientation and confusion.
“Mulholland Drive” has received critical acclaim for its innovative storytelling, powerful performances, and stunning visuals. It won several awards at the Cannes Film Festival, including the Best Director award for Lynch.
Overall, “Mulholland Drive” is a thought-provoking and haunting film that offers a unique and unforgettable viewing experience. Its complex characters, surreal visuals, and intricate plot make it a must-see for fans of psychological thrillers and avant-garde cinema.
- Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux (Actors)
- David Lynch (Director)
- English (Subtitle)
- English (Publication Language)
- Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
6. Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947)
Dreams That Money Can Buy is a surrealist film released in 1947, directed by artist and filmmaker Hans Richter.
The film follows Joe, a man who starts selling dreams to people for money. Joe uses his clients’ dreams as material for his own artistic creations, but soon finds himself trapped in a world where reality and dreams blur together.
One of the most unique and groundbreaking aspects of Dreams That Money Can Buy is its use of various avant-garde artists and their works.
The film features segments directed by six different artists, each bringing their own distinct style and sensibility to the film.
These segments range from abstract animation to surrealistic live-action sequences, creating a dreamlike and otherworldly atmosphere throughout the film.
Dreams That Money Can Buy has been praised for its innovative use of art and cinema, as well as its exploration of themes such as the nature of creativity and the relationship between art and commerce.
The film’s experimental style and use of surrealism have influenced many filmmakers and artists over the years, making it a significant work in the history of cinema.
7. La Jetée (1962)
“La Jetée” is a French experimental film directed by Chris Marker and released in 1962. The film is notable for its use of a series of still images to tell the story rather than traditional motion picture footage.
The film tells the story of a man who is sent back in time from a post-apocalyptic future to find a solution to the problems of his own time.
He falls in love with a woman he sees in a photograph, and the film explores themes of memory, time, and the nature of love.
“La Jetée” is considered a landmark of the experimental film genre, and its influence can be seen in many films that followed.
Its use of still images to tell a story creates a dreamlike atmosphere that is both haunting and beautiful, and its themes of time and memory are universal and deeply resonant.
8. Gummo (1997)
“Gummo” is an American independent film written and directed by Harmony Korine, released in 1997.
The film is set in a small Ohio town in the aftermath of a devastating tornado, and follows a group of disaffected youth as they go about their daily lives in a surreal and chaotic world.
The film is notorious for its graphic and often disturbing imagery, as well as its fragmented and nonlinear narrative structure.
The characters in the film are portrayed as outcasts and misfits, engaging in a variety of strange and often unsettling activities.
Despite its controversial subject matter, “Gummo” has gained a cult following among fans of independent cinema, and is often praised for its bold and unconventional approach to filmmaking.
The film has been cited as an influence by numerous filmmakers and artists, and has been the subject of academic study and analysis.
9. Marketa Lazarová (1967)
Marketa Lazarová is a 1967 Czechoslovak historical drama film directed by František Vláčil. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Vladislav Vančura and tells the story of a fierce and violent conflict between two rival medieval clans, the Kozliks and the Lazars.
The film is noted for its atmospheric black-and-white cinematography and its unconventional, nonlinear storytelling. It explores themes of violence, power, and the clash between pagan and Christian beliefs.
The film’s characters are complex and morally ambiguous, and the film does not shy away from portraying the harsh realities of medieval life.
Marketa Lazarová is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Czechoslovak cinema and a landmark in European art-house filmmaking. It has been praised for its visual style, its powerful performances, and its unflinching portrayal of the brutality and complexity of human nature.
The film has influenced numerous filmmakers and is considered a must-see for fans of world cinema.
10. Window Water Baby Moving (1959)
“Window Water Baby Moving” is a short experimental film directed by Stan Brakhage and released in 1959. The film documents the home birth of Brakhage’s second child, Myrrena, and is shot entirely from the perspective of Brakhage’s wife, Jane, as she gives birth.
The film is notable for its intimate and unflinching depiction of childbirth, as well as for its innovative use of visual abstraction and poetic imagery.
Brakhage experimented with various techniques such as scratching, painting, and manipulating the film stock to create a highly expressive and impressionistic style.
The film is also significant for its feminist subtext, as it foregrounds the experiences and perspectives of the mother rather than the father, which was highly unusual for the time.
“Window Water Baby Moving” challenged conventional notions of documentary filmmaking and paved the way for later works that would explore the personal and subjective dimensions of filmmaking.
Overall, “Window Water Baby Moving” is a groundbreaking work of experimental cinema that continues to influence filmmakers and artists today. Its exploration of the human body, childbirth, and the creative potential of the film medium make it a powerful and enduring work of art.
11. First Name: Carmen (1983)
“First Name: Carmen” is a 1983 French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The movie is a modern retelling of the story of Carmen, a famous opera by Georges Bizet.
The plot follows a young woman named Carmen who, together with a group of criminals, plans to rob a bank. Carmen becomes romantically involved with one of the hostages, Joseph, who falls in love with her.
However, their relationship becomes increasingly complicated as Carmen becomes more unpredictable and dangerous.
The film is known for its unconventional style, including long takes, jump cuts, and a nonlinear narrative structure. It also features a mix of drama, romance, and satire, as well as commentary on contemporary French society.
“First Name: Carmen” was a critical success and received numerous awards and nominations. The film is also considered a landmark in French cinema and one of Godard’s most innovative works.
12. The Color of Pomegranates (1969)
“The Color of Pomegranates” is an experimental biographical film directed by Sergei Parajanov and released in 1969.
The film is a poetic and visually stunning interpretation of the life of the 18th-century Armenian poet and troubadour Sayat-Nova.
Rather than following a conventional narrative structure, the film is composed of a series of tableaux vivants, or living pictures, that depict various moments and events from Sayat-Nova’s life.
The film is highly symbolic and uses richly textured images, music, and poetry to create a dreamlike and immersive experience for the viewer.
The film has been praised for its innovative and highly personal approach to biographical storytelling, as well as its stunning cinematography and use of color.
However, its unconventional style and emphasis on visual symbolism have also made it a challenging and polarizing work for some viewers.
Overall, “The Color of Pomegranates” is a unique and visionary work of cinema that offers a highly poetic and visually stunning exploration of the life of a beloved Armenian cultural figure.
Its blend of biography, poetry, and experimental filmmaking has made it a highly influential work in the history of world cinema.
13. Je Tu Il Elle (1974)
Je Tu Il Elle is a 1974 experimental film directed by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman. The film follows a young woman named Julie, who spends most of the film confined to her small apartment as she struggles to overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation.
The film is notable for its minimalist style and its exploration of themes such as gender identity, desire, and emotional connection.
One of the most striking aspects of Je Tu Il Elle is its use of long, static shots to convey a sense of stillness and emptiness. The camera often lingers on Julie’s face or on objects within her apartment, emphasizing the monotony and isolation of her daily routine.
Despite its slow pace and lack of action, the film manages to create a sense of tension and unease through its intense focus on Julie’s inner thoughts and emotions.
Je Tu Il Elle has been praised for its experimental style and its exploration of unconventional themes, as well as its feminist perspective on sexuality and desire.
The film’s frank portrayal of female sexuality and its rejection of traditional narrative structures have made it a significant work in the history of feminist and avant-garde cinema.
14. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)
“2 or 3 Things I Know About Her” is a French experimental film directed by Jean-Luc Godard and released in 1967.
The film is a study of a woman who works as a prostitute to support her family and explores themes of capitalism, consumer culture, and the dehumanization of modern life.
The film is shot in a highly stylized and experimental manner, with long tracking shots and unconventional camera angles. It also includes voiceover narration and intertitles that comment on the action and provide context for the viewer.
“2 or 3 Things I Know About Her” is considered one of Godard’s most challenging and thought-provoking works, and it remains a key film in the history of experimental cinema.
Its use of unconventional narrative techniques and its exploration of complex themes make it a fascinating and rewarding viewing experience for those interested in experimental film.
15. The Hart of London (1970)
“The Hart of London” is a Canadian experimental film directed by Jack Chambers and released in 1970. The film is a poetic meditation on life and death, using a montage of images to explore the natural beauty of the Canadian landscape and the human condition.
The film is structured as a series of visual and aural collages, incorporating footage of wildlife, industry, and everyday life. The film’s imagery is often abstract and fragmented, emphasizing the fleeting and transitory nature of existence.
“The Hart of London” is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Canadian avant-garde cinema.
The film has been praised for its stunning visuals, its innovative use of sound, and its ability to evoke a sense of transcendence and wonder in the viewer.
It has been studied and analyzed by scholars and filmmakers alike, and remains a seminal work in the history of experimental film.
16. Prelude: Dog Star Man (1962)
Prelude: Dog Star Man is a 1962 experimental film directed by Stan Brakhage. The film is a meditation on the human experience, using a series of abstract images and sounds to explore themes of life, death, and rebirth.
The film is divided into five parts, each exploring a different aspect of the human condition. The imagery ranges from the microscopic to the cosmic, with Brakhage using a variety of techniques such as painting directly on the filmstrip, hand-processing, and rapid editing.
Prelude: Dog Star Man is considered one of Brakhage’s most significant works and a landmark in avant-garde cinema.
The film’s abstract imagery and unconventional editing challenged traditional notions of narrative and meaning in film. It has influenced generations of experimental filmmakers and is regarded as a masterpiece of the genre.
While the film can be challenging to watch for those not familiar with experimental cinema, it is a powerful and deeply personal exploration of the human condition that continues to inspire and provoke audiences today.
17. Notre musique (2004)
“Notre musique” is a film directed by Jean-Luc Godard and released in 2004. The film is divided into three parts, “Hell,” “Purgatory,” and “Paradise,” and explores themes of war, violence, and reconciliation.
The first part, “Hell,” is a series of images of war and violence, including footage of the Holocaust and the bombing of Hiroshima.
The second part, “Purgatory,” follows a group of writers and intellectuals who have gathered at a literary conference in Sarajevo, where they discuss the role of art and literature in responding to war and violence.
The final part, “Paradise,” takes place in the imaginary city of Jerusalem, where an Israeli filmmaker and a Palestinian poet meet and discuss the possibility of peace and reconciliation.
Through its nonlinear structure and poetic imagery, “Notre musique” presents a meditation on the human condition and the struggle for peace in a world torn by conflict.
The film is deeply philosophical, and raises important questions about the nature of art, the role of memory and history, and the possibility of transcending violence and hatred.
Overall, “Notre musique” is a powerful and thought-provoking film that invites the viewer to reflect on some of the most pressing issues of our time. Its innovative style and profound insights make it a landmark work of cinema.
18. 88:88 (2015)
“88:88” is a 2015 independent film directed by Isiah Medina. The movie is a nonlinear, experimental documentary that explores the director’s personal experiences and struggles with poverty and mental illness.
The film features a mix of footage shot by Medina, found footage, and computer-generated images. It also includes voiceovers, music, and sound effects, all of which contribute to its abstract, dreamlike atmosphere.
“88:88” has been praised for its innovative approach to documentary filmmaking and its use of multiple media formats to create a unique, immersive experience. The film has also been noted for its commentary on social inequality and the challenges faced by those living in poverty.
Despite its experimental style, “88:88” has resonated with audiences and has been screened at several film festivals around the world.
19. Weekend (1967)
“Weekend” is a French art film directed by Jean-Luc Godard and released in 1967. The film is a darkly comic and surreal satire that critiques bourgeois society and capitalism through the story of a young couple’s journey through the French countryside.
The film follows Corinne and Roland, a wealthy, bourgeois couple who set out on a weekend trip to the French countryside.
Along the way, they encounter a series of bizarre characters and situations, including a traffic jam caused by a deadly car crash, a group of hippie revolutionaries, and a cannibalistic family.
The film is known for its innovative visual style, which includes jump cuts, freeze frames, and long tracking shots. It also features elements of Brechtian theater, with characters breaking the fourth wall to address the audience directly.
Overall, “Weekend” is a highly experimental and challenging work of cinema that combines social critique with surrealism and black humor.
Its unconventional storytelling and style have made it a landmark film in the history of French New Wave cinema and a major influence on avant-garde and independent filmmakers.
20. F for Fake (1973)
F for Fake is a 1973 experimental documentary film directed by Orson Welles.
The film is a playful examination of the nature of art and forgery, featuring interviews with famous art forger Elmyr de Hory and biographer Clifford Irving, who famously wrote a fraudulent biography of Howard Hughes.
One of the most notable aspects of F for Fake is its unconventional structure, which incorporates elements of fiction and autobiography into its documentary format.
The film features a series of interwoven stories and interviews, which are presented in a non-linear fashion and often blur the lines between truth and fiction.
F for Fake has been praised for its inventive style and its exploration of themes such as authenticity and illusion.
The film’s use of multiple narrative threads and its blurring of fact and fiction have influenced many filmmakers over the years, making it a significant work in the history of experimental cinema.
21. Synecdoche, New York (2008)
“Synecdoche, New York” is an American experimental film directed by Charlie Kaufman and released in 2008. The film is a complex and surreal exploration of life, art, and the nature of reality.
The story follows a theater director named Caden Cotard, who is given a grant to create a new play. As he becomes increasingly obsessed with his work, his personal life begins to unravel, and the lines between reality and fiction become increasingly blurred.
“Synecdoche, New York” is a challenging and deeply philosophical film that explores complex ideas about identity, consciousness, and the nature of existence.
Kaufman’s signature style of mixing surreal and fantastical elements with grounded realism is on full display, and the film rewards repeat viewings with its dense and layered storytelling.
Overall, “Synecdoche, New York” is a fascinating and deeply moving film that will appeal to fans of experimental cinema and those interested in exploring the complexities of the human experience.
22. Outer Space (1999)
“Outer Space” is an experimental film directed by Austrian filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky and released in 1999.
The film is a montage of found footage from an old Hollywood horror film, with Tscherkassky manipulating and re-editing the footage to create a new, abstract work of cinema.
The film’s imagery is heavily distorted and fragmented, creating a dreamlike and surreal atmosphere.
Tscherkassky uses a variety of techniques to manipulate the footage, including scratching and hand-painting the film stock, as well as layering multiple images on top of each other.
“Outer Space” is widely regarded as a groundbreaking work of experimental cinema, and has been praised for its innovative use of found footage and its exploration of the subconscious mind.
The film has been the subject of extensive academic study and analysis, and has been screened at film festivals around the world.
23. Out 1: Spectre (1972)
Out 1: Spectre is a 1972 French film directed by Jacques Rivette and co-written by Rivette and Suzanne Schiffman.
The film is a sprawling and complex work that follows the lives of a group of Parisians, including actors, con artists, and bohemians, as they engage in a series of interrelated intrigues and conspiracies.
Out 1: Spectre is known for its unconventional structure and its lengthy running time, which exceeds 12 hours in total.
The film was originally intended to be a television series, but was re-edited and released as a feature film due to its length. The film is divided into eight episodes, each of which focuses on a different character or group of characters and their various schemes and machinations.
The film has been praised for its intricate plot, its improvisational performances, and its vivid portrayal of Parisian bohemia in the 1970s.
It has also been noted for its influence on later filmmakers, particularly those working in the fields of independent and experimental cinema.
While Out 1: Spectre can be challenging to watch due to its length and complex structure, it is considered a landmark work of French cinema and a key example of the New Wave movement.
24. Chelsea Girls (1966)
“Chelsea Girls” is a film directed by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey and released in 1966. It is a unique and groundbreaking film that is considered a seminal work of avant-garde cinema.
The film consists of twelve reels, each featuring a different segment of footage shot in various locations around New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. The reels are projected simultaneously on two screens, with the sound alternating between the two screens.
The film features a cast of characters, mostly played by Warhol’s Factory regulars, who engage in conversations and various activities such as drug use, lounging in bed, and discussing their experiences and relationships.
The segments are largely improvised, and the film has a raw, unscripted feel.
“Chelsea Girls” is notable for its experimental style, which includes split-screen images, slow-motion footage, and disjointed editing. It also has a distinctive aesthetic, with its black and white photography and grainy texture.
The film is often interpreted as a commentary on the bohemian lifestyle and culture of the time, as well as an exploration of themes such as sexuality, identity, and the nature of celebrity. It is also considered a landmark work of the “underground” cinema movement of the 1960s.
Overall, “Chelsea Girls” is a fascinating and challenging film that pushes the boundaries of traditional filmmaking and offers a unique glimpse into a particular time and place in American culture.
25. Out 1 (1971)
“Out 1” is a French film directed by Jacques Rivette and released in 1971. It is a monumental work of experimental cinema that clocks in at a staggering 13 hours in length, divided into eight episodes.
The film centers around a group of actors and artists in Paris who become embroiled in a complex and mysterious conspiracy.
The characters form various alliances and relationships, and the plot weaves together elements of theater, philosophy, politics, and art.
“Out 1” is known for its improvisational approach to filmmaking, with many scenes featuring extended, unscripted dialogue and interactions between the characters.
The film also includes elements of the avant-garde and surrealism, as well as a fragmented narrative structure that challenges the viewer’s understanding of the story.
Despite its length and challenging style, “Out 1” has become a cult classic and has been praised for its innovative approach to cinema.
It is considered a landmark work of French New Wave and experimental cinema.
3 Characteristics of Experimental Movies
Experimental movies are a diverse category of films that often break with traditional narrative structures, stylistic conventions, and production methods. Here are three characteristics that are often found in experimental movies:
Non-linear narratives: Many experimental movies abandon the traditional linear narrative structure of beginning, middle, and end, and instead use a fragmented or circular approach to storytelling.
Unconventional filmmaking techniques: Experimental movies often use unconventional techniques, such as extreme close-ups, jump cuts, long takes, or montage to create an emotional or intellectual impact on the viewer.
Non-traditional subject matter: Experimental movies may explore unconventional or abstract themes, or use imagery that is unfamiliar or even disturbing to the viewer.
These films may also challenge traditional ideas of genre, blending elements of drama, documentary, and avant-garde cinema in new and unexpected ways.
3 Reasons To Watch Experimental Movies
Creativity and innovation: Experimental movies often push the boundaries of conventional filmmaking, using unconventional techniques and styles to explore new forms of storytelling.
Watching experimental movies can expose you to new ideas and approaches to filmmaking that you might not have encountered before.
Emphasis on visuals and sound: Many experimental movies focus heavily on visuals and sound, using innovative techniques to create striking and immersive cinematic experiences.
This can be particularly engaging for viewers who appreciate the technical aspects of filmmaking, such as cinematography, editing, and sound design.
Challenge to traditional narratives: Experimental movies often subvert or challenge traditional narrative structures, opting instead for more abstract or non-linear approaches to storytelling.
This can be a refreshing change of pace for viewers who are tired of formulaic Hollywood films and are looking for something more intellectually stimulating.
Additionally, experimental movies can offer unique perspectives on social issues or personal experiences, providing a more nuanced and complex understanding of the world.
Best Experimental Movies – Wrap Up
In conclusion, experimental movies push the boundaries of traditional filmmaking and offer a unique viewing experience that can challenge and inspire audiences. The films discussed in this series range from the surreal to the philosophical, exploring complex ideas about identity, reality, and the human experience.
Some of the best experimental movies include “La Jetée,” a groundbreaking French science-fiction film that uses still images to tell its story; “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her,” a poetic.
Deeply personal meditation on life in 1960s Paris; and “Synecdoche, New York,” a surreal and philosophical exploration of art, identity, and the nature of existence.
Experimental movies may not be for everyone, but for those willing to explore new and unconventional forms of cinema, these films offer a rich and rewarding viewing experience.
They challenge us to think differently about the world around us and offer new perspectives on the human condition.