Top 10 Most Popular Sleep-Related Movies and Films

Woman watching laptop in bed while partner sleeps
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In considering an activity that occupies one-third of our lives, it is hardly surprising that there are many sleep-related movies and films, at least in the name. Though their titles touch on many of the topics of sleep, many of the themes and plots of the movies do not. However, that doesn’t make them any less entertaining In this Top 10, there is a surprising diversity of films, from classic horrors to enduring romantic comedies to a beloved Disney animation. Many of these movies are peopled by the great actors of our time, so read on and discover some familiar favorites. If the spirit moves you, pop some corn, grab a box of candy, and settle in for one of these great sleep-related movies.

1. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Tagline: What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?

One of the top-grossing romantic comedies of all time, Sleepless in Seattle earned $227,799,884 at the box office and is a perennial sentimental favorite. Tom Hanks stars as Sam, a recent widower and new Seattleite who lives with his young son Jonah. When Jonah calls into a national radio show on Christmas Eve to find his dad a new wife, hundreds of women respond to his heart-rending tale. Sam’s anonymous name on the radio, Sleepless in Seattle, speaks to insomnia caused by his grief. One listener is an unhappily engaged woman in New York played by Meg Ryan who decides to write to him. As the movie unfolds, they try to sort out their feelings and discover if it can truly be love at such a distance.

Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Bill Pullman, Rosie O’Donnell
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Drama
Length: 105 minutes

2. Sleep No More (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) (1956)

Tagline: There was nothing to hold ontoexcept each other.

A classic of science fiction and horror about an alien invasion, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was also released under its less-familiar title Sleep No More. A doctor in the small town of Santa Mira, California, investigates an epidemic of patients accusing their loved ones of being imposters. He soon discovers that rather than mass hysteria, the townspeople are being replaced while they sleep by duplicates grown from plant-like pods. These "pod people" lack emotion and are working to replace the human race, but can the doctor avoid sleep—and a form of sleep paralysis—and stop them in time? In what is considered a metaphor in the era of McCarthyism, this is often hailed as one of the great movies of the past century.

Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Length: 80 minutes

3. Insomnia (2002)

Tagline: Don’t close your eyes.

After a 17-year-old girl is murdered in the small fishing village of Nightmute, Alaska, two LAPD detectives are sent to help investigate the case. One of them, played by Al Pacino, is under scrutiny back home for planting false evidence in an abduction case. With his partner set to testify against him, Pacino designs a trap to catch the murderer—but something goes horribly wrong. He finds himself struggling to crack the case while the perpetual daylight of the Alaskan summer provokes insomnia that threatens his sanity.

Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
Genre: Thriller
Length: 118 minutes

4. Sleeper (1973)

Tagline: A love story about two people who hate each other. 200 years in the future.

Loosely based on the H.G. Wells novel The Sleeper Awakes, this Woody Allen flick is a science fiction comedy taking place 200 years in the future. Miles Monroe (Allen) is a jazz musician and health-food store owner living in Manhattan in 1973. After being cryogenically frozen without his consent, he is revived to help overthrow a police state in the future. When disguised as a servant robot to escape imprisonment, he falls in love with the socialite played by Diane Keaton. They ultimately team together to try to end the oppressive dictatorship.

Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Genre: Comedy/Sci-Fi
Length: 89 minutes

5. Awakenings (1990)

Tagline: There is no such thing as a simple miracle.

Based on the novel by Oliver Sacks, Awakenings is about a young doctor who works on a ward of comatose patients who survived a prior epidemic of brain infections. Many of these patients persist in a catatonic state, frozen in their bodies. Despite their general inability to communicate, the doctor is determined to find a way to reach them. After attending a university lecture about the effects of a drug called L-Dopa in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, the doctor is convinced this may help his own patients to awaken from their comas. He gives the drug with great success, and finds himself awakened to the joys of life, but will the effects last?

Starring: Robert De Niro, Robin Williams
Genre: Drama
Length: 121 minutes

6. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Tagline: Awaken to a World of Wonders!

Based on a classic fairytale dating to the 17th century, Sleeping Beauty is one of the great Disney animated films. The movie opens with the christening of a newborn princess. When the evil sorceress Maleficent is not invited, she curses the titular character, Princess Aurora, to die when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday. Her fairy godmothers secret her away and raise her in a cottage in the woods. Despite their protections, the curse is fulfilled. It is softened, however, and rather than dying she falls into a deep sleep until she is awakened by her true love’s kiss. The fairies put all the kingdom into slumber until the spell is broken, and she lies in repose with a red rose in her hand, waiting for the day when her prince will come.

Genre: Animation/Family/Romance/Musical/Fantasy
Length: 75 minutes

7. The Big Sleep (1946/1978)

Tagline: Some days business is goodand some days it's murder! (1946) The type of man she hated ... was the type she wanted! (1978)

This is the movie so nice they made it twice, first in 1946 and then again in 1978. Based on the novel by Ray Chandler and adapted into a screenplay by the great William Faulkner, The Big Sleep focuses on the work of a private investigator, Philip Marlowe. In the opening, he is called to the mansion of the elderly General Sternwood to investigate the blackmail of his daughter. While hot on the case, he becomes mired in the life and death of the blackmailer, who extorts clients from his rare book shop. It is a complex plot, consisting of many double-crossing characters in a seedy underworld, and is brought masterfully to the screen in both versions.

Starring: Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (1946); Robert Mitchum and Jimmy Stewart (1978)
Genre: Crime/Drama/Film-Noir/Mystery/Thriller/Romance
Length: 114 minutes (1946); 99 minutes (1978)

8. Somewhere in Dreamland (1936)

If you can find a copy of this short animation, perhaps edited into the 1995 movie Betty Boop Confidential, it is sure to warm your heart. Set in the Great Depression, a young boy and girl gather firewood and carry it home to their poor mother, passing by three merchants’ shops. After drooling over sweets in the window of the baker’s shop, they return to their dinner of stale bread and water. When the boy is finished eating, he in jest tells his mother he is still hungry, and she begins crying. The children are put to bed with a song and dream of a land filled with all the treats they could desire. When they awake, they discover the kindness of strangers in their midst.

Genre: Animation
Length: 9 minutes

9. Chasing Sleep (2000)

Tagline: The nightmare begins when you open your eyes...

When a college professor’s wife doesn’t come home one day, it sets into motion a series of unusual events in his life. As he tries to piece together what became of her, he finds himself more anxious with great difficulties sleeping and increasing confusion. (Unfortunately, he seems unaware of good sleep habits.) While he unravels the hidden past of his wife and attempts to discover who may have killed her, he gradually loses contact with reality. The ambiguous ending will give you something to talk about but may leave you scratching your head.

Starring: Jeff Daniels
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Length: 104 minutes

10. Sleepers (1996)

Tagline: When friendship runs deeper than blood.

Although medications that cause drowsiness, such as sedatives, are sometimes called sleepers, this movie has a different topic. In the summer of 1967, four boys play a prank by stealing a hot dog cart in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. When it falls down a subway station staircase and nearly crushes a man to death, they are sent to the Wilkinson Home for Boys where they are abused by their guards. When they encounter one of their former tormenters 15 years later, two of the boys, who are now gangsters, exact their revenge. (Incidentally, it is likely that they suffered from PTSD, which can often cause disturbing nightmares in REM sleep.) Subsequently, the others seek to acquit their friends while systematically exposing the abuse that they endured as children.

Starring: Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Minnie Driver, Dustin Hoffman, Brad Pitt
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Length: 147 minutes

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