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->''"There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming."''
-->-- '''Søren Kierkegaard''', a precursor to existentialism

Existentialism is the name given to a philosophical worldview that came into prominence and consciousness in the late forties and early fifties. It articulated itself as [[PostSomethingIsm a response]] to the soul-crushingly [[TheFatalist fatalistic]], [[WhatIsEvil morally relativistic]], DarknessInducedAudienceApathy-fostering worldview of [[StrawNihilist Nihilism]]. A tragic consequence of the scientific scepticism of [[UsefulNotes/TheEnlightenment The Enlightenment]], Nihilism {{deconstruct|ion}}s and rejects all ethics, ideals and meanings in life as meaningless unproven lies (e.g., science can't differentiate which {{morality|Tropes}} exists and which is {{propaganda|Piece}}). Alternatives to nihilism, such as religion, art, culture, society, ideology, nationalism, science, modernity, material wealth, fame and social respectability, came to seem as both unfulfilling and inadequate.

An existential worldview asserts the importance of active engagement, personal choice, and commitment. It shifts the focus away from ends to means. What you do and how you do certain actions matter as much as your reasons, motivations and justifications for the same. The existentialist agrees that "meaning" is an empty word, [[HumansAreFlawed our life sucks]] and [[YouCantFightFate there's nothing we can do about it]]. However, they also point out that each individual has the choice to ''make the most out of each hour of their empty lives''. Those who choose to spend it being bored, following others, {{wangst}}ing endlessly, adhering to [[ItAmusedMe hedonism]], or ForTheEvulz are ignoring their responsibility to themselves and to society, and are potentially [[SillyRabbitCynicismIsForLosers wasting their real virtues and qualities]]. As Creator/JeanPaulSartre said, "Man is condemned to be free", by which he meant that we have no choice but make a choice of some kind or another, some way or other to accommodate our selves with our lot in life. In other words [[TheAntiNihilist "Optimistic Nihilism."]]

The term "[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existential_angst#Angst Existential]] {{Angst}}" was even coined to describe the sudden feeling of QuicksandBox it gave them, especially if they had just abandoned the FreedomFromChoice provided by both religion and social peer pressure.

The TropeCodifier of Existentialism was the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in his famous statement "Existence precedes essence. " From this philosophy, meaning and our purpose in life (essence) is not predefined by a higher power (like God or destiny) but rather is the product of one's own finite existence and how he choose to live life. Sartre himself went further, citing Jesus's words on the cross in the Gospel of Matthew [[note]]"My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?"[[/note]]. However, as Sartre, and others, noted in his works, the concept of Existentialism identifies a particular strain of thought and idea across a diverse range of philosophical ideologies, rather than invent an entirely new dogma out of whole cloth. The earliest influences of Existentialism included UsefulNotes/{{Buddhism}}, the works of Søren Kierkegaard, the literature of novelists Creator/FyodorDostoevsky and Creator/LeoTolstoy, the Book of Ecclesiastes, Ancient Greek Tragedy, Epicureanism and Cynicism etc. But before Sartre, the biggest TropeMaker and popular stereotype of Existentialism (as the cynical StrawNihilist who tries to find meaning in life in a CrapsackWorld without God) was arguably the pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer and his late student, the notorious atheist Creator/FriedrichNietzsche.

Existentialism gained popularity in TheForties in France where it was used in club debates [[EarlyInstallmentWeirdness after early resistance]]. It emerged during the time of the Modernist movement (amidst incomprehensible scientific discoveries that inspired LovecraftianFiction, and of course the horrors of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, which contributed to further [[TrueArtIsAngsty popularity of Angst in the arts]]), when Jean-Paul Sartre [[TropeCodifier codified]] existential philosophy with three words: "Existence precedes essence." It was the reverse of most previous philosophical thought, which held that the essence (soul, purpose, meaning) of a thing came first. Existentialism coevolved with, and takes tropes and inspirations from, the artistic movement of PostModernism, which [[NoFourthWall dissolves the boundary between life and art and reality and fiction]]. Both are connected by the philosophy that life is art, and you can live your life as your own creative art.

It is important to stress that, befitting a philosophy of individuality and self-created meaning, thinkers both pre-existential, existential, and post-existential differ wildly in their conclusions and their sentiments. You'll find that many of the people held up as examples of existentialism indignantly claimed that they weren't -- probably a side-effect of the fact that nonconformity is one of the school's main tenets ("Once you label me, you negate me" is a famous line of Kierkegaard's). For instance, Søren Kierkegaard was a Protestant Priest and a devout Christian, and some of his works were about [[DeconReconSwitch finding and discovering a new modern approach to religious belief]]. A strain and approach that anticipated and inspired other thinkers interested in reconciling religion with the modern world. Creator/FriedrichNietzsche however was an atheist, as was most of the post-war French thinkers (Sartre, Camus, Beauvoir). Yet even Nietzsche differed from the latter by means of his distinct pessimism, his strong sense of {{Irony}} which allowed him to advocate ideas and views that are inherently contradictory and paradoxical. Active existentialists like Sartre, and his circle of friends, as well as the school of literature and philosophy that he inspired, advocated ideas that were intended to be clear, humanistic, bridge together ideas and views even from sources that were on the opposite spectrum. For Sartre, who was sympathetic to Marxism, existentialism was primarily a means of advocating and advancing social criticism into contemporary society, and criticizing colonialism, racism and advocating social justice. The likes of Creator/AlbertCamus differed with Sartre in his political sympathies and he also rejected the label of existentialism and advocated instead the idea of "the absurd" which was a middle ground between Nietzschean pessimism and Sartrean humanism. As such existentialism was originally, and ''intentionally'' a very diverse school of thought rather than a single authoritative ideology or beliefs. Some historians see it as simply a cultural and intellectual movement rather than a real philosophy. That's about as far as we can cover the philosophical side of existentialism.

You see, existentialism is one of those rare serious intellectual strains whose ideas entered the cultural lexicon and became important and relevant to mainstream popular culture. One reason for this is that the original existentialists actually wrote for a non-academic audience, and by means of word-of-mouth, the ForeignCultureFetish for Americans for forties and fifties' UsefulNotes/{{France}}, and the counter-culture of TheSixties and TheSeventies, the ideas spread and inspired much popular philosophy, campus radicals, literary and genre fiction, popular musicians and film-makers. Such works differ in many ways from philosophical existentialism for the understandable reason that as works of entertainment, they are more interested in using it as sources of conflict and dramatic tension, than as serious philosophical inquiry and research. Existentialist ideas inform works of art by [[TrueArtIsAngsty providing greater inner conflict and tension]] as well as [[TropesAreTools a source and method]] for deeper characterization. It led to the introduction of general ambiguity; a questioning of motives, and separating motivation from actions in manners that are supposed to make the audience question their identification with the protagonist. Audiences became reluctant to accept a character doing something right on face value; it became important to know what that particular "right thing" was, how did this character decide if it was "right" or not, or if [[JustFollowingOrders said character did it because someone else told him it was right]]. Stories inspired by existentialism often paved the way for conclusions that were [[SoWhatDoWeDoNow tentative]], [[TheEndOrIsIt skeptical]], and [[GainaxEnding unresolved]], even when the plots were otherwise simple and straightforward. It also leads to stories with MoralityKitchenSink and GrayAndGreyMorality. Existentialist works can be tragic, pessimistic and end on a DownerEnding but it can also be affirmative, optimistic, have BittersweetEnding and EarnYourHappyEnding.

In the popular culture, existentialism becomes a short-hand for individuality, and involves character tropes such as having a personal ''raison d'être'' (reason for existence), BeYourself, DesperatelyLookingForAPurposeInLife, IAmWhatIAm, living out your GoalInLife, EarnYourHappyEnding, and sometimes moments of YouAreNotAlone. This gives a [[WorldOfCardboardSpeech world-of-cardboard]][=/=]PatrickStewartSpeech [[ShutUpHannibal to the nihilists]] and {{reconstruct|ion}}s the "[[WhatYouAreInTheDark meaning in life]]" concept. Existentialist character types include TheAntiNihilist and TheUbermensch (the extreme {{Blue And Orange| Morality}} version). The KnightInSourArmor and the DeterminedDefeatist have some elements of this, as does the VictoriousLoser.

Wiki/TheOtherWiki [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism has an article and analysis on this subject.]] See also {{Absurdism}}, {{Postmodernism}}, {{Romanticism}}, {{Deconstruction}} and Individualism.

!!Existentialism in fiction / Works with some Existential elements:


[[folder: Anime & Manga]]
* Mentioned in ''Manga/BlackLagoon''
--> '''chapter 85''' Only the me who is alive is definitely here. Will I be murdered or die a dog's death? How I die and how I live are choices only I can make. Only I can decide. Isn't it the greatest? Doesn't it make you damn excited?
* ''Anime/CowboyBebop''. Spike Spiegel states that in his youth he didn't care about dying, which made him a fearless hitman for TheSyndicate. Then he fell in love with a girl named Julia and felt like wanting to live for the first time. He's contrasted with [[ArchEnemy Vicious]] who still sticks to a nihilistic world view. When Spike gets ready to confront Vicious in the SeriesFinale he says he isn't going there to die but to find out if he was ever alive.
* ''Franchise/GhostInTheShell'' In particular the two Mamoru Oshii movies deal with machine intelligence determining its own fate and nature against the will of its creators.
* ''LightNovel/KinosJourney'': The eponymous traveller is on a journey that has no destination and with "the world is not beautiful, therefore it is" as a motto.
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'': Several of the involved factions struggle for the power to redefine what it means to be human, but even more so the original series concludes with protagonist Shinji coming to terms with his nihilistic self-loathing.
* ''Anime/TengenToppaGurrenLagann'', much like the above example, also has the main character Simon dealing with a nilistic sense of self-loathing (bonus points for being an {{Expy}} of Shinji) and learning to find worth in himself through self-esteem. His mentor/surrogate brother is a heroic example of an {{Ubermensch}} who makes up his own values and morality and encourages Simon to take up his way of thinking. The good guys are always actively engaging in change whereas the antagonists are inactive and trying to keep things as they are out of a sense of hopelessness. The show constantly enforces the idea that people should think for themselves and live their lives how they want to, no matter what anyone else say, the morality of the show is actually a case of GreyAndGrayMorality. And when faced the fact that [[spoiler: their way of life was actually gonna bring the entire universe]], Simon and his team adapt an [[TheAntiNihilist existentialist]] approach.
%%* ''SoraNoWoto''
* ''LightNovel/{{Baccano}}'''s primary theme is that, while the world might be a big ball of senseless chaos (hence the series' name[[note]]"Ruckus" in Italian[[/note]]), that doesn't mean you can't pull subjective meaning out of it.
* Surprisingly ''Manga/OnePiece'' contains a great deal of Existentialist themes. It has many characters, including the heroes talk about fulfilling their [[GoalInLife dreams]], wondering whether or not they [[DesperatelyLookingForAPurposeInLife even have a purpose in this world or even deserved to live]], and trying to enjoy their lives as best they can, despite living in a CrapsackWorld while being [[YouAreNotAlone there for each other]]. The story also condemns [[ItAmusedMe hedonism]] and ForTheEvulz, and has several [[TheUbermensch Ubermensch]] as important characters most prominently [[TheHero Luffy]], Whitebeard, and Gold Roger
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' deals a lot with existentialist themes, as well as other philosophy topics. The title character himself could even be considered a full-blown Kierkegaardian Knight of Faith as his creed is that he will never give up and that he will achieve seemingly impossible ambitions through sheer hard work and belief. Case in point, early on promises that he will become [[TheLeader Hokage]] one day even if he never rises above Genin, ("low ninja", the lowest ninja rank)- sure enough, three years later he is indeed still a Genin while everyone else he knows from his class is Chuunin ("middle ninja") or higher, yet he is also one of the most powerful ninja alive and several characters- including the current Hokage herself [[spoiler: and even her ''dead'' predecessors]] consider him a shoe-in for the role.
** The first major villain, Zabuza, makes a point of saying that ninja- and evil ninja, like him- try to become something other than human; a common theme amongst later villains is taking this idea literally, as several attempt to transcend their humanity in various ways, both ethically (eg. severing all bonds to clan and country, or viewing godhood as a way of looking at the world) and physically (eg. experimenting on themselves, turning themselves into living puppets etc.). Many characters, hero and villain, could be considered wannabe or actual [[TheUbermensch Ubermenschen]].
** Common themes in the series include loneliness, isolation, alienation and despair, with Naruto himself and others like Gaara and Sasuke experiencing real, serious loneliness and pain due to their miserable childhoods and horrible traumatic experiences. Characters like Neji discuss determinism and free will and are portrayed as fatalists, and the story doesn't shy from the fact that all of these characters are basically child soldiers (current or grown-up) with all that implies.
* ''LightNovel/BlackBullet''. Yes, just because you live [[CrapsackWorld in a shitty world]] where the Gastrea virus have killed off a good portion of humanity and [[AllOfTheOtherReindeer societies treating the cursed children as total trash]], doesn't necessarily mean that you should just fall over and die, you do have some purpose to live. [[spoiler:Case in point, when Rentaro lost his right leg, right arm, and left eye 10 years ago for saving Kisara's life, he was rushed to the hospital and was given two sheets of paper. One was a death certificate, the other was a contract that will allow Rentaro to live with ArtificialLimbs and become a mechanized soldier through the "New Human Creation Plan." Encouraged by the words of his foster father ("If you don't want to die, live"), Rentaro decided to pick the latter and signed up for the "New Human Creation Plan;" feeling that he has a purpose in life.]]
** The existentialist themes are highlighted further [[spoiler: at the end of volume 6. While Kisara and Rentaro do not agree with their ethics and their purpose of life [[note]]Kisara's dedication of revenge on her Tendo family lineage and Rentaro's utilitarian ethics of "[[TheNeedsOfMany sacrificing his own happiness for the sake of others]]"[[/note]], they accept each other [[BeYourself as who]] [[IAmWhatIAm they are]] and prefer not to stop each other as they see their reason for their existence to be subjective.]]
* ''Anime/GargantiaOnTheVerdurousPlanet''. The protagonist, Ledo, was raised as a ChildSoldier with one goal in life, to defeat the Hideauze in a never-ending war. However, when he ended up in the ocean planet known as Earth, Ledo [[DesperatelyLookingForAPurposeInLife slowly begins to question his own purpose in life]] and [[WhatMeasureIsANonHuman wonder what it's means to be an actual human being]]. [[spoiler: This philosophy is also used to deconstruct the Galactic Alliance's utiltiarian ethics, as it shows that human nature is [[GreyAndGrayMorality too complex]] for humanity in space to be limited to a single objective (which is destroying the Hideauze) and fails to put into consideration that humanity in general can change as evident with Ledo's CharacterDevelopment. In addition, Ledo also accepts the reality that has kept hidden by the Galactic Alliance, such as the truth that the Hideauze are actually genetically modified humans.]]
* The works of Creator/GenUrobuchi tend to have strong existentialist themes, with characters who discover that the world doesn't work the way they thought it did and having to then define themselves as their own individuals, rather than by the standards they used before. The process is never portrayed as fun or easy, but the characters come out the other end much stronger people.
* ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'' features several nods to existentialism. They talk a lot about freedom of choice and despair The ending of the anime is basically a kierkegaardian leap of faith to protect people from despair. The Rebellion movie has a lot of Nietzschean themes and quotes his famous "god is dead". Homuras journey of doing the same "pointless" task over and over to protect herself from despair is similar to Nietzsches eternal return as well as Albert Camus "Myth of Sysiphus".

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/{{Batman}}'' in modernized takes is often presented as an existential hero. This is especially the case of ''ComicBook/BatmanTheDarkKnightReturns'' which deals with him after he's lost his youth, his early strength, initial motivations, and even reputation as a hero [[spoiler:and in the end his secret identity]], but finally becomes Batman again simply because he finds it meaningful and valuable in and of itself.
* In Creator/WillEisner dealt with this in many of his comics:
** In ''ComicBook/TheSpirit'' he often wrote stories where the titular heroic character wasn't even the center of his own narrative, and whose actions rarely drive the plot. The supporting-characters, villains, and even one-shot characters (such as Gerhard Schnobble) are more interesting and capable of change and complexity than the hero.
** ''A life force'' the major character, [[WhatDoYouMeanItsNotSymbolic a Jewish carpenter]] has just been told that the study hall he built for a local synagogue won't be named after him but a rich benefactor, making him feel like the four years he spent building it are wasted. On the way home he has a heart attack. He sees a cockroach on the sidewalk struggling to survive and figures they are NotSoDifferent, but also starts to wonder why he wants to live in the first place. He figures that either God created man or man created God but in either case the meaning of life is anyone's guess. Eventually he concludes that staying alive is the only thing everyone agrees on and manages to do that. Towards the end of the story [[spoiler: he divorces his overbearing wife and starts a relationship with a NewOldFlame he genuinely loves because he doesn't want to be a cockroach who's only concerned with staying alive]].
* ThePunisher has made it his purpose in life to kill as many criminals as he can. Everything he does is based on attaining this goal. He knows he can't kill them all, ''but it won't be for lack of trying.''
* Jon on both ''ComicStrip/{{Garfield}}'' and ''Webcomic/GarfieldMinusGarfield'' explains [[http://www.gocomics.com/garfieldminusgarfield/2013/08/21#.Ukmd6z-IqV0 existential angst]].
* ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'': Few people are the heroes of anything other than their own stories, nobody is truly consistent to who they think they are, and everyone is capable of making changes, both positively and negatively. Events which seem special and important in one era become meaningless later on, while more important actions are TheGreatestStoryNeverTold.
** [[SociopathicHero Rorschach]] decides that, instead of abandoning rules and discipline due to a nihilistic outlook, his rules and principles are all the more important in a world that has no more meaning other than the one we impose on it.
** A more impressive example is the non-superhero character, Dr. Malcolm Long who has a crisis after serving as Rorsharch's prison psychologist which makes him question his middle-class lifestyle and belief that his profession is actually having a wider difference. In the end, he admits that even if there is no reward and even if his angst is upsetting his marriage, helping people in whatever small way you can is what matters most.
** Dr. Manhattan, the closest thing to God in this world, has grown aloof from humanity even as the apocalypse looms. Yet he later comes to recognize that the value of life lies in the sheer improbability of existence in the first place.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Blog/ThePredespairKids'': [[BadassBookworm Kyoji Nakamura]] has existentialism at the core of his character. He views concepts like hope and justice has being inherently meaningless, but not worthless. That we're the ones who give morals their value. He also sees despair as a disease that needs to be cured.

[[folder:Films -- Animated]]
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Rango}}'': "No man can walk out on his own story." While this may sound like an argument for predestination, the film itself is about how an individual dropped into a harsh and confusing world discovers that only he can answer the question, “Who am I?”

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* Creator/WoodyAllen is probably the American film-maker who did more than any director to introduce "existentialist motifs" in mainstream films. Sometimes its PlayedForLaughs, other times its SeriousBusiness. The most well-known examples are ''Film/CrimesAndMisdemeanors'' and ''Film/MatchPoint''.
--> '''Professor Levy''': "We are all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions. Moral choices. Some are on a grand scale. Most of these choices are on lesser points. But! We define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are in fact the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to have been included, in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying, and even to find joy from simple things like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more."
%%* ''Film/BeingThere''
%%** "Life is a state of mind."
* {{Played with}} in ''Film/FightClub''. The plot revolves around a white collar worker having some mental issues, derived from his existential crisis because he finds that he can't find any purpose in his existence.
--> "We are God's unwanted children? So be it!" '''Tyler'''
* ''Film/LaJetee'' has probably one of the most beautiful quotes ever to describe this philosophy: "Time builds itself painlessly around them. Their only landmarks are the flavor of the moment they are living and the markings on the walls."
%%* ''Film/{{Love}}''
%%* ''Film/MontyPythonsTheMeaningOfLife''
%%** On a darkly humorous note (well, this ''is'' Monty Python), there's one scene featuring a French waiter who at first looks like an AntiNihilist... turns out he's just parroting what his mother taught him, devoid of conviction.
* ''Film/RebelWithoutACause'' is an early mainstream attempt at handling existentialism. The teenage protagonists find that they have no war to fight and no great cause to support, growing up in the middle of TheFifties. Along with that there is a pretty memorable scene involving a [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIMmdsU9n5o planetarium]].
-->'''Jim Stark''': If only I had one day in my life where I didn't feel confused, where I felt like I belonged.
%%* ''Film/SynecdocheNewYork''
%%** Not to mention every other script by Charlie Kaufman.
%%* ''Film/TheTreeOfLife''
%%** "When the child was a child, it didn't know it was a child. Everything was full of life, and all life was one." Written by German poet Peter Handke and delivered solemnly by Bruno Ganz.
%%* ''Film/ZorbaTheGreek''
%%** Based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis (see below).
* The Blu Ray extras for ''Film/TwoThousandOneASpaceOdyssey'' contain this quote from Creator/StanleyKubrick:
-->The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent. But if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
* ''Film/{{Silence}}'' by Creator/MartinScorsese, adapting Creator/ShusakuEndo's novel has the main character confronting the seeming absence of God, and the meaning of his faith in the face of failure and [[spoiler:forced apostasy]].
--> '''Fr. Rodrigues''': "Even if God was silent, everything I have done, everything I have said...would have spoken for him."
* ''Film/TheTerminator'' has [[ArcWords "No fate but what we make"]] central to the movie - the protagonists constantly redefining the future according to their choices rather than letting the [[CrapsackWorld world fall into a predetermined state of devastation]]. However, the setting is less "uncaring universe" and more "[[AIIsACrapshoot Killer robots actively attempting to wipe out mankind]] [[GrandfatherParadox while humans play silly buggers with the time-space continuum]]".
* ''Film/WingsOfDesire'' is about an angel choosing to be human, and it's more or less a story about the meaning of life and why HumansAreSpecial even after the horrors of the twentieth century, and the seeming absence of God in people's daily lives.

%%* ''Alexis Zorba''
%%* ''Literature/AsILayDying''
%%* ''Literature/{{Candide}}'' Generally considered to be one of the forerunners. Famous for the phrase, "That is well said, but we must cultivate our garden."
%%* ''CrimeAndPunishment''
%%* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}''
* [[http://revfitz.com/existential-terror-breakfast/ Existential Terror and Breakfast]]: Revolves around the terrible existential dread one feels when they fail to be actively engaged.
* ''Literature/HisDarkMaterials'': If GodIsEvil and the best afterlife we can hope for is to [[CessationOfExistence dissolve into pure energy]], then it is our duty to have a story to tell when we look back on our lives.
* ''La Nausée'' (''Nausea''): The book holds a dark, melancholic take on Antoine, the protagonist, uses this philosophy to avoid the darkness he sees and feels as the eponymous title suggests, nauseous and tired as he moves through a life of dead-end relationships, boredom and limited satisfaction.
%%* ''Literature/NotesFromUnderground''
%%* ''Steppenwolf''
* Creator/JamesJoyce was a Modernist and his works greatly inspired many of the thinkers and philosophers of the existentialist movement by his characters struggle with identity, culture, language and beliefs, in all his works. The most famous assertion is in ''Literature/APortraitOfTheArtistAsAYoungMan''.
--> '''Stephen Dedalus''': ''"The soul is born, first in those moments I told you of. It has a slow and dark birth, more mysterious than the birth of the body. When the soul of a man is born in this country, there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets."''
* ''Literature/TheStranger'': This novella is often cited as an example. [[WordOfGod Albert Camus denied this]], but it's worth noting that he became commonly known as the "godfather of existentialism". The book itself could be labeled as Absurdist or Nihilist; either that or it was just a character study of a psychopath. Fundamentally, the novel is about a man who is not fully aware of his motivations and whose actions are not fully explicable or comprehensible, and the ending is about how even such a man when he confronts a death without the possibility of salvation, redemption, the promise of an afterlife, is nonetheless capable of asserting courage in the face of death.
* ''Literature/TheUnbearableLightnessOfBeing'': The book actually opens with a contemplation on Nietzsche's concept of "eternal return" (which is then refuted).
* [[HiddenDepths Perhaps surprisingly]], ''Franchise/ConanTheBarbarian'':
-->''"I have known many gods. He who denies them is as blind as he who trusts them too deeply. I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom's realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer's Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."''

[[folder:Live Action TV ]]
%%* The ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' episode "Objects In Space" had existentialist themes, according to Creator/JossWhedon's commentary.
* On ''Series/RedDwarf'' the crew members encounter the Inquisitor, a Mechanoid who has seen the end of existence and come to the conclusion that there is no God. He travels through time to demand from every creature that they justify their existence. Turns out everybody he judges is [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tGO79BtWUI judged by themselves]].
-->'''Rimmer''': Everybody is judged by their own selves?\\
'''Inquisitor(as Rimmer)''': It's a bit metaphysical but it's the only fair way.\\
** With the ironic result that, of the four of them, the two who are found innocent are the egomaniacal Cat and Rimmer, who refuses to accept any blame for his many faults. So the ones who are condemned are the unselfish Kryten and generally decent guy Lister, because they actually hold themselves to a higher standard and recognize that they have failed to live up to it. So ultimately, the Inquisitor's crusade is eliminating nice people and leaving the universe filled with jerks.
** Also this quote from the ship's computer Holly:
-->'''Holly''': As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you? \\

* The Music/PinkFloyd album ''Music/TheDarkSideOfTheMoon''.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/{{Planescape}}'': Living next door to angels and demons and being able to visit gods and meet them in person, the people of [[CityPlanet Sigil]] have long given up on religion and the city is dominated by several philosophical factions that seek to find meaning in existence.

* Creator/HenrikIbsen dug into Existentialism more than once, primarily because he was pretty up-to-date on Kierkegaard. The most outstanding example in his corpus of plays should be ''Theatre/PeerGynt'', a play who touches on existential issues ''a lot''. The thematic inversion, ''Theatre/{{Brand}}'', also counts here.
* ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'' by Creator/WilliamShakespeare expresses this, most famously in the "to be or not to be" monologue. Hamlet is a very conscious and self-reflexive character who longs for deeper motivations, and uncertain about the correct course of his actions.
* Much like Creator/JamesJoyce, his mentor, Creator/SamuelBeckett codified it in many of his plays, which theatre critic Martin Esslin (against Beckett's wishes) identified as the "theatre of the absurd".
** ''Theatre/WaitingForGodot'' has an AmbiguousSituation for a plot, sparse limited action of two characters who are waiting for someone who might ''or'' might not come. The suspense and frustration, and the comedy of the plot, comes from the fact that they cannot know for certain what the correct thing to do is.
** ''Krapp's Last Tape'' likewise deals with a man contemplating his memories and lonely life in total solitude:
--> ''Perhaps my best years are gone. When there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn't want them back. Not with the fire in me now. No, I wouldn't want them back.''
%%** Possibly the most famous example in theatre.
%%* ''Theatre/RosencrantzAndGuildensternAreDead''
%%** Which is to be expected, being an JustForFun/XMeetsY of the previous two plays.
* Creator/JeanPaulSartre's play ''Theatre/NoExit'' which deals with three characters in the afterlife, who in life, were horrible to themselves and to other people, and whose ultimate punishment is simply being themselves. Famous for the phrase, "[[ItWasHisSled Hell is other people.]]"
* ''Theatre/McQueen'', taking two suicidal characters who accidentally interrupt each others' attempts and then journey together realising that YouAreNotAlone and discovering that they can always wait around to see things that the younger non-depressed versions of themselves are excited by, though still questioning the idea of existence and what it means to exist - what makes you mean anything? Dahlia even says "[[DressingToDie I came for... a dress to die in]]... If I'm in this then I will mean something."

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed'': There is no God. There is no Devil. There are only [[HumansAreFlawed Flawed Humans]], the children of flawed {{Precursors}}. So if we wish to live in peace, prosperity and freedom, ''we'' must build a civilisation that permits those things.
--> "[[{{Deconstruction}} Nothing is true,]] [[{{Reconstruction}} everything is permitted.]]"
* ''VideoGame/{{BioShock}}'' and its sequel ''VideoGame/BioshockInfinite'' is generally a {{Deconstruction}} of the notion of player choice, stated beliefs, motivations and actions. The first game articulates is by means of Nietzsche via Creator/AynRand:
--> '''Andrew Ryan''': ''In the end what separates a man from a slave? Money? Power? No, a man chooses, and a slave obeys! You think you have memories. A farm. A family. An airplane. A crash. And then this place. Was there really a family? Did that airplane crash, or, was it hijacked? Forced down, forced down by something less than a man, something bred to sleepwalk through life unless activated by a simple phrase, spoken by their kindly master.''
%%* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasy''
%%** Existentialist themes appear over almost the entire series, but most notably in ''Final Fantasy VII''.
%%* ''VideoGame/LegacyOfKain''
%%** To the extent that the series literally ends with [[spoiler: you having to fight against God.]]
* The CentralTheme of the Franchise/DishonoredSeries (''VideoGame/{{Dishonored}}'' and ''VideoGame/{{Dishonored2}}'' especially) deal with power, choice and WhatYouAreInTheDark. The game provides the players and their villains with abilities and resources and makes their choice on how they use that power the central dramatic conflict. You are judged by your smallest and your biggest actions, all of which have consequences and for which you alone are responsible.
* ''Franchise/MassEffect'': While rarely directly concerning itself with philosophy, the solution to basically every problem Shepard helps solve is to teach the involved parties to determine their own fates and overcome prejudices that prevented a peaceful compromise.
* ''VideoGame/NierAutomata'' feature heavy existentialist themes, often questioning the meaning of life and existence through the eyes of androids and robotic characters in a crapsack, nihilistic world.
-->"A future is not given to you. It is something you must take for yourself."
* ''VideoGame/SpecOpsTheLine'' puts the whole First Person Shooter genre and its attendant military simulation base under an existentialist microscope, showing how the hero's actions get absurd in light of MotiveDecay, with Captain Walker (and by extension the player) revealed to be in bad faith:
--> '''Colonel Konrad''': ''The truth, Walker, is that you're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not: a hero.''

* ''Webcomic/ExistentialComics'': It's right in the name, of course, and the philosophy is discussed in several comics, usually featuring such existentialists as Creator/JeanPaulSartre and his partner Simone de Beauvoir.

* Comedian Kevin Bridges did a bit about how God created the universe, but 'pissed off' because he had other properties to attend to. Humanity's only response to a godless world is to be like a teenager having a party when his parents are away for the weekend. At a wild party it's a given you'll get roughed up a bit.
* Alexander Dugin, who is an advisor of Vladimir Putin (some even suspect his main influence) and who is connected to a large group of radical politicians from all over the world (ranging from Syriza in greece, to Front National in France to some politicians of the Alternative for Germany, Turkey and Japan) is strongly influenced by existentialism and wants to change the subject of political theory from class/race/individualism to Dasein/Existence. Dugin wrote several books on Heidegger, stated that US americans need to adopt existentialist ideas to thrive, and published an article where he used the philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre to analyse David Bowie. During his early days, he and Eduard Limonov used Punk/Heavy Metal music concerts as a platform to advertise their philosophy.
* Both Ayn Rand and Julius Evola critizised Existentialism, while at the same time making extremely similar points and referring to Existentialist authors like Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. In case of Julius Evola, his philosophy was later combined with existentialist ideas by philosophers like Alain de Benoist and Alexander Dugin. (In fact, most of the european new right is basically a fusion of Heideggerian Existentialism and Evolaian traditionalism.)
* German Neurologist Dr. Hans Georg Häusel wrote books about human drives/will, where he connected the phenomena described by Nietzsche, Sartre, Kierkegaard etc. to several brain structures. He theorized that humans have 3 main motivations: Nietzschean Will to Power, Heideggerian Existential Angst, and something which is similar to Kierkegaards "Aesthethic Stage". His works are frequently taught in german advertising lectures. For example , often, in these lectures, it is recommended to apply to the "Aesthethic stage" to advertise food and baveraged, to apply to Existential Angst to advertise everything security related, and to apply to the will to power for the advertisement of "efficient" tools and machinery.