With film, the audience can go through a series of emotions. Horror will scare you, comedies will make you laugh, a thriller will get your adrenaline pumping, but it can be so much more. A filmmaker can set their eyes for a genre for their film and make it so much more. With giving the audience twists, ambiguity, or an elaborate plot to follow, they can make a movie that will mess with the minds of their audience. These feelings can give a film another level that opens up for discussion as the moviegoers leave the theater to talk amongst themselves about their experience. You might feel confused, shocked, or unsure of what to think after watching a movie that took you on a psychological trip. Out of the many films that will ruin your day by how much your mind will be messed with, here are just ten movies that will make you think and struggle with what you experienced.
Darren Aronofsky is known for making some unusual movies that will confuse the audience. His latest film from last year was one of the most divisive films of 2017. A young couple gets visited by some strangers then more people come to their home who are fans of the husband (Javier Bardem). His wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and his lives are disrupted by hundreds of more people flocking to their home. By the end, I had to google the meaning behind the movie as you go through a chaotic and confusing journey. Once I found the answer, it all made sense and goes along with the themes in Aronofsky’s other work perfectly.
#9: Gone Girl
David Fincher’s adaption from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is excellent. Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing one day. The police investigate and start to suspect Nick of killing her and disposing of her body. However, what really happens is far darker than imaginable. Amy faked her death to get her husband to be put on death row. Nick lawyers up and tries to battle it out. This all-out war between two sociopaths who were in love and now want the worst for one another is an incredible psychological journey. As the audience learns about Amy and Nick, you see a side of psychopathy that you don’t usually see in a film. Both of them are awful people destined to be together. As you learn about their characters, you will get to see evidence that shows which one is the real monster. Full of some dark twists and powerful moments, this is a must watch. Maybe don’t watch this with your significant other.
#8: American Psycho
I would say that this is Christian Bale’s best work ever. Patrick Bateman is a full-on psychopathic serial killer while maintaining his job as a successful investment banking executive. You are viewing the entire film through his eyes which will make you question reality. His words and actions are sometimes ambiguous, but other times direct to the people around him. As everything you witness is not quite right as you see the truth behind his psychosis. With the reveal that all of the murders were inside his head, the twist is one of the best in cinematic history. For decades after the book and even the movie, fans wanted answers. Did he ever kill anyone? Is he really a psychopath? Those I will leave to you to go explore for yourself.
Dennis Villeneuve is on a roll with hits such as Sicario and Arrival. Right before those came out, he released Prisoners, an underrated drama involving two families whose youngest daughters go missing. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) must find the girls while trying to keep the families as calm as possible. His main worry is the father of one of the families, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) who is on the brink of insanity for his missing daughter. He kidnaps whom he thinks took his child, Alex Jones (Paul Dano) and brutally tortures him for days. All the while, the real kidnapper is loose. This reveal of who really did it is excellent, but not the final punch to the audience with its ambiguous ending that leaves Keller’s fate up in the air. Prisoners is a brutal, slow-paced, and emotionally draining film. If you love Villeneuve’s style then you must watch this film, it is easily his best work yet.
#6: Shutter Island
While many tend to dismiss Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, I love it. This is one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s best movies, and it will scramble your brains. As Teddy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) search for a missing patient at a mental asylum on an island. The reveal of Teddy being a patient the whole time had my friend and I jump out of his couch as we scream at the TV. The hospital tried an experiment to help Teddy get better by having him live as this detective. With the ambiguous ending and subtle clues as to Teddy’s psychological issues makes for an excellent film that many did not like. Shutter Island will be divisive amongst readers, but for those of you that loved this movie, this was for you.
#5: Ex Machina
While the story of AI getting so advanced that it creates evil robots is not original at all. In storytelling, it does not require to be completely original. Alex Garland’s directorial debut and adaption of the graphic novel of the same name as the film is an excellent debut to the director’s chair. With being the writer and director, he has been able to craft a chilling narrative of a young programmer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) who gets to come to the CEO of his company’s home. When he meets Nathan (Oscar Isaac) things seem normal until he starts talking to Ava (Alica Vikander). The film’s ending is no huge surprise, while still delivering on an impactful conclusion. What makes this film most impactful is the ominous feeling with Nathan. Things feel wrong at all time. While any actual action or suspense comes from the last fifteen or so minutes, you feel uneasy about the entire movie. The setting of isolation and the eccentric CEO makes Caleb uncomfortable until he finds out the truth, which is more horrifying than he thought resulting in an utter disaster.
One of Christopher Nolan’s most beloved and well-known films is Inception. In the dream world, just about anything is possible. Seeing buildings fold in on themselves and rooms spinning as people fight, this movie is a trip to watch. The ending has caused people to debate, unlike any other film I can think of. To this day I hear people discuss whether the conclusion was a dream or not. Of course, answers can be found online, but it is always a lot of fun to discuss what happened in a movie when everyone’s perception is entirely different.
Dennis Villeneuve is on this list again for his next best film, Arrival. A beautiful and thought-provoking film that delivers something different for the alien invasion subgenre. Humans around the world are reacting differently. Some countries are aiming their tanks to fire at the alien ships, while others try to communicate with them. The film has a typical Villeneuve ambiguous ending as he hones in on his style as a director. Most movies with a message tend to be too direct, but Arrival will have you thinking for a while as you digest the conclusion. If you are looking for an intelligent sci-fi flick, this should be your number one choice.
Alex Garland’s second film that he has directed came out earlier this year. Annihilation is adapted from the first novel in the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. When promoting the movie, Alex says he is “adapting from the unadaptable” which makes sense based on the ambiguous ending. I can only imagine reading this whole trilogy and trying to figure out what happens. While Annihilation can be followed along, the last twenty minutes or so will lose you. Sadly, the internet is all I have to understand this film since the box office performance was weak, so don’t expect the whole trilogy to be made. If you read my review, then you would know how much I loved this gorgeous sci-fi flick.
#1: The Shining
While Stephen King may hate the film adaption of his classic novel, many including myself see The Shining as one of Kubrick’s best movies. The film is a slow grind to see Jack (Jack Nicholson) spiral down to madness, while his wife Shelly (Wendy Duvall) and his son Danny (Danny Lloyd) must suffer. Full of weird imagery such as people in animal costumes having sex and elevators spewing out blood, this might be the most mind-boggling classic ever made, at least it is up there. On top of the constant confusion, the ending which shows a picture of Jack from an old photo gives the audience one last image to make them rethink everything that they just saw. Try deciphering this one, it will be a challenge.
Those were just ten of the many confusing movies out there. What did you think of my list? Also, be sure to comment what you find to be movies that will scramble your brain and make you think long after you have finished the film.
Header image via Warner Bros. Pictures