by Sara Sutterlin
In this list, we’ll look at films that capture the ambiance and tone of each astrological house. I’ll keep this simple. A birth chart is essentially made up of three components: planets, signs, and houses. If planets represent urges and motivations, and signs, like verbs, represent qualities of being and attitudes; the houses portray the backdrop and atmosphere where all of this unfolds.
The first house, ruled by Mars, is home to our physical bodies and the masks we wear (our ascendants). This is our lens through which we view the world. The embodiment. We find our disposition and our strength of will. Opposite to it is the 7th house of our relationships, of ourselves with others.
Films such as The Mask (1994), The Skin I Live In (2011), or Eyes Without A Face (1960) depict the ascendant’s power to control perception, as well as the journeys we take to become ourselves and our concepts of ourselves. If we look at Quentin Tarantino, with his own sun in Aries and his obsessions with revenge, redemption, and violence, one could have a difficult time picking just one of his films that fits this house. Kill Bill (2004) in particular feels like a good stand-in for the 1st house themes of selfhood, choices, destiny, and bodily autonomy.
David Cronenberg deserves a shout-out here. The master of body horror (and a personal favourite of mine), Cronenberg’s work has largely explored bodies and their consequences, transformations, and the impact of violence and trauma on them. Anything he made between 1975-1988 is going to be exploring 1st house themes.
In the 2nd house, ruled by Venus, we define our values and our self-worth. On the opposite end of the axis, the 8th house rules other people’s resources. In the 2nd, we look at our own. We strive for security and stability. We monetize our self-concept. We desire something to touch. We desire that which gives us substance. Our relationships to capital reveal themselves.
In Adam McKay’s The Big Short (2015), Mark Baum obsesses over integrity, wrestling with his disgust for the financial world and his own involvement in it. Insecurity and overconfidence are themes throughout each character’s storyline. The theme of security is also addressed concretely with the housing bubble and subsequent financial crash of 2008—and the impact it had on our homes, on the places people feel safe. Money and security are inextricably linked, and under capitalism, this is often where 2nd house action unfolds.
Honorable mention: Albert Brooks’ Lost in America (1985), which follows an upper middle-class couple as they abandon their cushy jobs to live off the grid.
But, the 2nd house is much more than tangible things like money. It’s also where talent, usually innate, and skills bloom. It’s what we possess, and what we hope to possess. In that way, Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) has raw 2nd house ambience. After all, Get Out investigates class, racism, self-worth, eugenics, privilege; the ugly behind the veneer. In it, the Armitage family’s violent entitlement grows even more monstrous with their ever-growing greed. Black people and their bodies are fetishized, lusted after, desired, and violently taken in an otherwise seemingly peaceful, supposedly safe and “natural” setting.
In the 3rd house, ruled by Mercury, we take our established values and exit the safety of our 2nd house cocoon to meet our neighbourhoods. It is where we learn to read the world, process what is going on around us, and interact with it. The 3rd house is a portrait of the people you see every day, of routine and its functions. The siblings, fellow students, first friends, cousins, neighbours, teachers, and bullies who shaped your voice and your mind.
James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News (1987) is a fantastic example of the 3rd house climate. The film delves into the impact of early childhood and its long-lasting influence on its characters and their career choices. Journalists and reporters are definitely 3rd house players, and so is the witty bouncy dialogue that carries us through the film.
A much less honorable, yet apt, illustration of 3rd house themes is Roman Polanski’s Carnage (2001). Listen, I know. But this isn’t called Sara’s list of impeachable films and unproblematic directors. It isn’t even called Sara’s favourite films (although, Broadcast News definitely is). Carnage simply acts out in a 3rd house landscape; with its feuding parents, schoolyard incidents involving their children, and… a lot of verbal sparring.
In the 4th house, ruled by the Moon, we retrace our roots and traditions, we acknowledge what is hereditary, we address what was internalized. We go home. The generational lives here. The private end of the axis, with the public sitting in the 10th.
Films like Secrets and Lies (1996) or How to Make an American Quilt (1995) come to mind. Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018) also exists in the 4th house world; where intergenerational trauma tangles behind closed doors. Or, uh, where your dead grandma decapitates herself with a saw. Lighter movies, like Albert Brooks’ Mother (1996), also do a good job reflecting the matriarchy and roots of the 4th house.
The best example I can think of, though, has to be Jean-Marc Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y (2005). The influence of the home on the psyche, the sway and power a parent’s opinion or authority can have, and how hard it can be to untangle ourselves from our roots so they don’t strangle us.
In the 5th house, we leave everything behind and indulge ourselves, define ourselves and our quest. Ruled by the Sun, we find strength to rebuild our egos through creative expression and unabashed selfhood. We roll the dice. We play.
So it should be no surprise that my absolute top pick for the 5th house is the late Jacques Demy musical, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967). A total ice cream cake of a movie filled with artists and head-in-the-cloud romantics who don’t merely want, but NEED to ballet jazz their way through life—longing, wishing, dreaming, and insisting on the freedom required to do these things. The need to be oneself is so powerfully represented here: a true homage to the house of Leo.
Children are often associated with the 5th house. The childhoods we had, the children we raise, the children we remain. Raising Arizona (1987) is, despite my personal aversion to it, another fine example of 5th house energy—risk-taking, recklessness, joy, and silliness. Dating—especially the impulsive, impractical and hot kind—is also right on theme here.
In the 6th house of Virgo, ruled by Mercury, we are reminded of duty, service, health, responsibility, and usefulness and brought back to “real life”. Nestled between the 5th house of individuality and desire, and the 7th house of partnerships and collaborations, the 6th house is where we acknowledge our responsibilities. It is the everyday routine; what we need to do, not what we want to do. We put our whims aside.
The best example of this I could come up with is the Martin Scorsese film Bringing Out the Dead (1999) in which Nic Cage plays a burnt-out, workaholic paramedic. His inability to quit his job holds him in a vice of responsibility and guilt. Medical workers especially, and other healers and bodyworkers, are definitely 6th house players.
Films like Office Space (1999), Clerks (1994), or Good Burger (1997) also explore going to work and who are when we’re there.
The 7th house sits opposite the 1st, on the axis of the self and the ones around you. Ruled by Venus, in this house, we partner up. Movies like True Love (1989) or Muriel’s Wedding (1996) come to mind.
In Muriel’s Wedding, for example, Muriel’s world is described and defined through the people around her, and the relationships she forms and ends. Her quest for justice and balance, beauty and fairness in a life that is mostly made up of social cruelty—is a truly Venusian/Libran pursuit. While the film is about Muriel’s emancipation from the suffocating social situations of her old life, it’s equally about Muriel’s desire for a union and for understanding from another human being, which can mean platonic comfort.
But marriage is only one outcome of our relationships. Enemies are also a part of the landscape. In the 12th house, enemies are hidden, but in the 7th they are right in your face. Films like There Will Be Blood (2014) and The Prestige (2006) boil over with these tensions. The people around us aren’t always on our side.
In the 8th house, ruled by Pluto, on the other end of the value axis from the 2nd, there is what we owe, the debt we were born into. There are other people’s resources, the roles wealth imposes on us. There is death and what follows it, how we deal with loss, and how we are reborn. In the 7th house we connect, but in the 8th we merge. This is where the “I” truly dies and becomes a “we”. We face our intimacy demons. We point to our pain and kill it, we give birth to our healing.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favorite (2018) lives in what I would consider an 8th house vibe. Power dynamics and jealousies inevitably blend into chaos; the idea of not being loved back, or being abandoned, reawakens primal fears; adults become petulant children; sex is weaponized. The Favorite is a portrait of the envy and greed in personal relationships and the hell we make of them sometimes. The triangle between Queen Anne, Sarah, and Abigail is made up of everyday tenderness, cruelty, and competition.
In Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (2016), the erotic power of obsession propels the backstabbing lovers to find shared freedom. There’s repressed trauma, unlocked memories, the subconscious coming to the surface. What must we kill in order to be born? Who helps us remember and heal?
Ruled by Jupiter, in the 9th house, we seek the Truth. The Sebastián Silva film Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus (2013)—in which we follow Michael Cera’s unlikeable Jamie around Chile as his whiteness, entitlement, pain, and emptiness drive him closer and closer to what he believes will bring relief or meaning—serves as a fantastic example of 9th house themes.
In the 8th house, we acknowledged our suffering, but in the 9th—reborn and ready—we must find meaning to go on. 9th house situations are often lived out during travel, or away from the birthplace in some way. The clashing philosophies and spiritualities throughout the film, as well as their intersections and interactions, are prime examples when trying to describe the journeys we take in the 9th house.
John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt (2008) also belongs on this list. Set in 1964, a Catholic nurse in the Bronx suspects a Priest of sexual abuse on a child. Doubt hits 9th house concerns like religion, faith, truth, and justice. The importance of perspective is a truly Sagittarian lesson and exemplified through the different ways the characters define their moral responsibilities.
In the 10th house, ruled by Saturn, we see our aspirations for the titles we could hold. Our behaviours become our reputations. We acknowledge our ambitions. We examine our relationship to authority. Sitting opposite to the 4th house of interiority and privacy, the 10th is what we make of ourselves and how society measures our lives.
I recently watched Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game (2017) and felt it exemplified a 10th house atmosphere. Ex Olympic athlete turned card shark and poker princess Molly Bloom’s road to transformation is informed by discipline, the impact of her father (Saturn ruling), as well as public image and resilience. Her abilities turn into notoriety and we follow her as she deals with the benefits and the consequences of such a public figure in a secret world.
Gus Van Sant’s To Die For (1995) is a very fun, very fucked up example of claiming power, changing your social status, and desiring recognition or fame. From seducing teenagers to convincing them to murder her husband, Susanne Stone has a one-track mind when it comes to making her career dreams come true and people are often just pawns to be used or discarded. Similarly, Election (1999)’s Tracy Fleeb exists in a similar world of girlboss political career ambitions. The 10th house is often the backdrop for political endeavors and politicians at large.
Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000) also sprang to mind. Patrick Bateman is (extremely) unwell and constantly agonizing over his social position and power. Bateman is obsessed with control, and the film’s vision of asserting it, while at times exaggerated and terrifying, is still fitting in this house of status.
Co-ruled by Saturn and Uranus, the 11th house is where we become aware of the greater good and our place within the collective. We realize that our personal ambitions are shared, the size of their impact and that they serve more than ourselves. There’s an “assembling the team” energy here. Kevin Smith movies come to mind, with their rag-tag gang of misfits put on a play spirit. Mallrats (1995) and Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) especially celebrate kinship and mutual interests.
I also think of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014) (as one does, constantly) as a fine illustration of this terrain. Sitting opposite to the 5th house of the love we give, in the 11th house, we receive that love right back. It Follow’s protagonist, Jay, is being chased by a relentless and murderous sex demon that only she can see and who can take the form of anyone it wants. Her friends are quick to mobilize, despite their inability to see the thing terrifying their friend. Some of them are willing to sacrifice themselves in order to see what she does. Others simply help any way they can.
The pool scene, in particular, is full of these misguided but passionate efforts. In an attempt to destroy the demon, they pack up the electronics from their respective homes, hoping to lure the monster into the pool, trapping and hopefully electrocuting it. This messy, complicated, teenage definition of friendship is ultimately a reflection of the power in collaboration and collective courage.
Side note to briefly mention the anachronistic clues peppered through the film—the strange seashell e-reader, the cars, etc—feel like an unintentional nod to the planets co-ruling here, with Saturn and the inevitably of time and death through Yara’s choice quote from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot mixed in with the synth-y, shocking newness of Uranus.
There’s a compelling argument to be made for the inclusion of Cronenberg’s Crash (1996) in this list but I’m not the one who’s going to write it. I’ll just say that, again, the power of the collective. Our ability to find common ground with each other, no matter how… specific, extreme, or even violent is most definitely at play here. Go ahead and try to imagine a Friends type sitcom with the Crash gang. I’ll wait.
The 12th house is harder to define. It is the urge for dissolution, the need for solitude to reflect: it is where we go when we go inward. Ruled by Neptune, there’s an elusiveness to it that escapes the conscious world. Astrologer Robert Sasportas describes it with a Ken Wilber quote, comparing it to a “divine homesickness”. There’s a desire to return to something more boundless. Wanting fullness, but also fearing it. Not looking at things directly.
Paranoia and naïveté are constants in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), in which a fantasy becomes a fear. What scares us and why are residents of the 12th house. Those unconscious fears, the ones that puppeteer us without knowing, that float in the pool of the subconscious. The film is an odyssey of the soul, as we follow Bill through the city, through his mind and watch how impotent his status makes him. A rich martyr. What if you can’t tell the truth? And of course, the lull, or force of complacency.
John Hancock’s Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) follows Jessica, newly released from a psychiatric hospital, as she moves out to the country with some friends and attempts to start fresh. It best exemplifies the isolation that can keep us in our heads. A beautiful, deeply empathetic film that explores the nagging paranoia and lingering uncertainty of the mind.
I mentioned enemies earlier, but contrary to the open and in-your-face detractors of the 7th house, in the 12th house it’s what isn’t said—the hidden enemies and the ones we make up in our mind. The dreamy nature of the film, the pull of the water, and Jessica’s inner monologue also add to the foggy, distinctly 12th house atmosphere of it all.
I’d be remiss not to bring up Cronenberg for a third and final time and suggest both Scanners (1981) and The Dead Zone (1983), where psychicness and blank spaces, the things we cannot see, are the missing puzzle piece.
Abbas Kiarostami’s last film, Like Someone In Love (2012)—with its cases of mistaken identity, sex work (which is considered by some astrologers as existing on the 6th-12th house axis), and our own personal mysteries and boundaries, or lack thereof—is another good example. The impenetrable characters of the film wish to be known, albeit at arm’s length, and on their terms only.
Final shout out to Paprika (2006) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), which both inspect and traverse de-construction, dreams, and the subconscious.