113 Of The Best Mind-Bending Movies That’ll Give You Food For Thought
All kinds of trickery and sorcery messing with the human senses have long since been among the most popular forms of entertainment known to humankind. But what if that trickery and sorcery messes directly with your perception of reality, squeezing all comprehension out of your brain until you are puzzled beyond belief? Sounds harsh, right? Well, I’ll let you in on a secret—it’s mind-bending movies that fit the description to a T. Sure, it’s all in the presentation as I could’ve perfectly well introed you by telling you that ‘these movies will quiz your brain,’ but that would be diminishing the genius behind these thought-provoking, reality-defying movies. Yeah, so, here’s our list of the best mind-bending movies ever, to which you should proceed with caution, knowing that watching these selected bests will leave you baffled and confused.
Some of these dark movies are purely psychological thrillers based on the self-destructive abilities of the human mind. But that won’t happen to us, will it? Others rely heavily on the science fiction factors, which are basically the stuff that is very alien to a lot of us and is beyond our understanding. And then there’s always the surreal, blurring the lines between its reality and ours, submerging us into a viscous dark dream which we hope never to feel for real. The thing that connects all of these genres, though, is that they all explore the twisting paths of reality, spewing them out as if they came from the hidden corners of our own brains. Maybe that’s why we like them so much?
Well, without any more brain-picking and rallying you up to watch these amazing, mind-bending movies, just scroll on down below and check out our picks for yourself. To help you choose the next flick for a gripping evening’s entertainment, these twenty movies are supplied with descriptions to make your decision easier. After you are done checking out these psychological thrillers and science fiction movies, vote for the ones that have effed with your cranium the most (in a pleasurable way, of course), and share this article with your friends!
As the rule states, we should be keeping mum about David Fincher’s 1999 Fight Club, but after all, it’s been well over a decade since its release, so let’s say that the limitation period is over. Based on a 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club stars Hollywood’s heartthrob Brad Pitt, the man of many talents Edward Norton, and Tim Burton’s muse Helena Bonham Carter. Here Norton is a white-collar office worker and a very discontented one at that. Getting more bored by the minute, he forms a fight club with one Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). But is Tyler really here, and was he really the mastermind behind the upcoming revolt? Well, those questions can only be answered by you after watching or reading Fight Club.
Inception, a 2010 science fiction movie by Christopher Nolan, has been bending our minds ever since its release. Now, we aren’t here to explain it all to you since that would be taking away half of the fun of watching this movie, but we’ll try to tell you what to expect from it in general terms. Here, Leonardo DiCaprio is a professional mind thief whose expertise is infiltrating the subject's subconscious. Being a thief, he, of course, has a criminal record, and when an offer is given to him to eradicate it by completing a mammoth task, our protagonist accepts. From this point on, there are dreams, inside of dreams, inside of dreams, and the deeper you go into a person’s mind, the scarier it all gets. However, if watching this movie is a baffling experience to you, then a stellar cast and amazing cinematography will still leave you feeling entertained.
Memento, a 2000 mystery thriller movie, is the second entry on our list by Christopher Nolan. The first thing that makes your brain sweat in this movie is its non-linear narrative. You know, where half of the stuff did happen, others never happened, and some happened, but not at the time you thought it did. Another confusing thing is that our protagonist Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) suffers from anterograde amnesia, which doesn’t help at all in his quest of finding his wife’s killer. There’s a plot twist after a plot twist with warped memories guiding Leonard’s way. It is a very entertaining movie that will also give your brain the exercise it deserves.
The Sixth Sense
1999’s The Sixth Sense is the fourth movie by the director M. Night Shyamalan and the one that truly cemented his title as the maker of the most chilling psychological thrillers, known for their unique visual style. Okay, so since you’ve probably already seen this movie and all the other pages give away this detail in their descriptions of The Sixth Sense, we’ll tell you this - Bruce Willis is actually the one who’s dead. Although you might not suspect it or believe it unless you see this movie for yourself. Yes, there’s Haley Joel Osment being unimaginably cute and innocent, and yes, there’s Willis showing his broad acting range, but most importantly, there’s an amazing plot twist right in the end that’s so brutal it’ll leave you shaken.
The Prestige is a 2006 mystery thriller film by Christopher Nolan based on the book of the same name by Christopher Priest. It follows two rival stage magicians at the end of the 19th century in London. You know, the time when magicians were truly the height of entertainment. As showmanship requires, they both try to one-up each other with their illusions, and you all know how that ends - very fatally. The whole movie is an illusion within an illusion, set to confuse you and to make you question reality. Did Christopher Nolan succeed once again to eff with your mind? Watch the movie, and you’ll know. Or you won’t know anything at all. You’ll see.
2010 saw at least a couple of stellar mind-bending movies, and, wouldn’t you guess it, two of them star Leo DiCaprio. Much to our content, of course. So, as you’ve guessed, Shutter Island also came out in 2010, and it’s a neo-noir psychological thriller by Martin Scorcese. And yes, it is one of those movies where you have no idea what to believe in up until the end credits start rolling. To make it even more baffling and eerie, Shutter island is set on a desolate and barren island in which there’s a maximum-security psychiatric institution leading questionable practices. There’s seemingly no escape and no relief for our protagonist who came to investigate a crime there, but we’ve hit a point where telling anything else would be spoiling the movie for you. So, have a go at it, but prepare to feel very uneasy.
I guess we should’ve just named this list ‘Movies by Christopher Nolan,’ as our next submission, 2014’s Interstellar, is a stellar mind-bending movie that is also of Nolan’s magic. Now, in this epic science fiction movie, Matthew McConaughey is our protagonist living in a dystopian future. Together with a team of astronauts, he sets out on a journey through a wormhole to find a new home for humanity. Not only is Interstellar a scientifically accurate movie (good for those wishing to be scared of black holes for the rest of their lives), but also a beautiful examination of the human condition. It’s full of plot twists, heartbreaking, and heartwarming instances, making it into an uneasy yet thoroughly entertaining watch.
With the newest installment in this franchise gracing our screens just last year, you might’ve had a chance to revisit these epic, rule-bending movies by the Wachowski sisters. Starting your journey, of course, from the top with the 1999’s The Matrix. We love ourselves a chilly depiction of a dystopian future in which we might well imagine ourselves - a grimy, techy world and a never-ending illusion that everything is fine. Of course, we’d also like to hope that there will be our own Neo to save the day if ever such a future happens. But for now, we are thoroughly content immersing ourselves in this fantasy world, giving us food for thought and thrills watching the positively shocking action sequences.
Donnie Darko is a 2001 independent science fiction psychological thriller by Richard Kelly. It’s an ominous story of a troubled teenager Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), who starts seeing visions of Frank - a rabbit-like monster - who warns him that the world will end in 28 days. Soon, Donnie starts manipulating Frank to commit heinous crimes. The movie itself is chillingly ominous and menacing; it’s like watching clouds gathering right before the storm of the century. And when you think that it is basically about the teenage angst that you yourself have felt when growing up, it all starts to feel even eerier. A real cult classic movie that you should watch yesterday.
Predestination is a 2014 science fiction action thriller film (the further we go, the more of a mouthful the description seems to be getting), written and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig. Predestination sees Ethan Hawke as a time-traveling agent who hops through decades trying to solve a bombing. But, unbeknownst to him, he’s about to drive the predestination paradox to its limits by tinkering with his own past and future. This movie is a real whirlwind of exploits, both physical and psychological, that will leave you questioning the why’s and the how’s long after you are done watching. Unless that is, you give in and google for an explanation.
Gone Girl is a 2014 psychological thriller by David Fincher based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. The action in this movie is set in Missouri, which isn’t really a state known for its mystique, but the nonchalant environment actually does make it all just a tiny bit creepier. The story itself follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), who is the prime suspect in his wife’s (Rosemund Pike) disappearance. He claims that he loves her and would never hurt her, but all the evidence is pointing directly to him. On the other hand, Amy has some very different ideas about their relationship. It’s a twisty-turny story that will set its claws into you from the very first moment.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
We had our fair share of thrillers and horrors, and now it is time to lighten up the tone a bit with a romantic science fiction film called Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Although, if upon seeing the word ‘romantic’ you’re expecting a light, soapy watch, then you’ll be disappointed as Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is still pretty haunting in its own way. It borrows heftily from psychological dramas and serves our brains a quiz with its non-linear narrative full of magical realism. Basically, it’s an expose of the inner workings of human memory and love itself. Also, you would be surprised just how much on-screen chemistry the unlikely pair of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet shares - if anything else, you should watch this movie because of their stellar performances.
The Truman Show
The Truman Show is a 1998 psychological comedy-drama starring Jim Carrey, and we bet that you’ve seen this absolute gem already, but why not revisit it again? However, if it is your first time hearing about The Truman Show, let us spill some beans. Here, Jim Carrey is Truman Burbank, just a happy guy living his happy life in a happy little town. Some unexpected occurrences, though (like a lamp falling out of the skies and such), start raising Truman’s suspicion that something might not be right with his happy little life. And this won’t spoil the plot - Truman’s whole life is actually a staged reality show in which he’s the main character. This movie is very entertaining and very upsetting in equal parts - a true classic of the mind-bending movie category. Oh, and also, it’s family-friendly!
The Machinist is a 2002 psychological thriller film by Brad Anderson, starring Christian Bale, who underwent a drastic change for the role by losing 62 pounds (28 kg). That, of course, isn’t the sole factor why this movie and Bale’s acting is so impressive, as this movie will give you a dose of sickening unease. Bale here is the title character, a machinist who hasn’t slept for a year. After spending this much time without proper shut-eye, his mind starts playing nasty tricks on him, causing him endless paranoia and delusions. And you know what, this movie will not leave you doubting the fact that the human mind is truly the scariest matter on Earth.
1997’s The Game is a thriller film directed by David Fincher. As you’ve already noticed, Fincher and Nolan are probably the most famous directors of mind-bending movies since every other submission on our list falls under one of their names. But it isn’t a bad thing at all, since you know that the movies by these geniuses will be far better than good, and such is the case with The Game, too. It tells the story of one investment banker, who, upon receiving a mysterious gift from his brother, enters a game that engulfs all of his life. Soon, the lines between real life and The Game are blurred, and a sinister conspiracy slowly reveals itself in front of our very own eyes. Although this movie wasn’t as successful in the box-office department as Fincher’s previous works (and the ones to come), it got a myriad of praises from critics and serious periodicals such as The New York Times.
Coherence is a 2013 surreal science fiction psychological thriller movie (told you the genre descriptions will get more amusing with each submission, didn’t I?) directed by James Ward Byrkit in his directorial debut. The movie follows Emily Foxler’s character, aptly named Em, who deals with strange and ominous supernatural occurrences after a comet passes right next to the Earth. There are mystical physics phenomena, split realities, and altered states of mind, all of which end in a very unexplained, ominous way. Now, if you’re looking for a movie that’s just about to break your brain, give Coherence a try.
Source Code is a 2011 science fiction thriller film directed by Duncan Jones, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, and Vera Farmiga. The premise sounds deceptively simple - Gyllenhaal’s character, a U.S. Army captain, named Colter Stevens, gets an eight-minute real-life recreation video of a train explosion. Colter then has to figure out who did it and identify the terrorist responsible just from this video. So, where’s the mind-bending aspect in that? Well, not to spoil too much, but this movie is kind of like a very dark imagining of Groundhog Day, supplying us with alternate timelines, occurrences repeating themselves over and over again, all the while leaving us questioning which one of them was real, and which one a dark fantasy.
The Butterfly Effect
The Butterfly Effect is a 2004 science-fiction thriller starring Ashton Kutcher at the height of his fame together with Amy Smart. Okay, so here’s how it goes - Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) is a twenty-year-old college student who used to constantly black out during his childhood. Now Evan figures out a way to go back to those times when he was completely out of it by inhabiting his then-child body with his now-adult brain. So, of course, he starts to change his past behaviors, thus altering the future and causing unintended consequences for himself and those around him. Did we already mention that the human mind is the scariest thing ever? We did? Oh, so there’s probably no need to repeat that meddling with your own brain is never a good idea, and the consequences suffered by our protagonist should ward you off it once and for all.
A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film based on Anthony Burgess’s novel of the same and adapted, produced, and directed by the genius of cinematography and everything film Stanley Kubrick. And droogs, it is full-on disturbing. Like the book, the movie follows the story of four juvenile delinquents having a go at mind-altering substances, employing violence anywhere they go, all with an impeccable style and flair. Soon enough, their leader Alex gets caught and sent into a correctional facility to make him into a law-abiding citizen. Basically, this movie shows everything that’s wrong with our society in such a way that it will leave you quizzing your own morals. Oh, and also, you’re bound to find an unexplained love for Beethoven’s music, we bet on that.
Get Out is a 2017 horror movie - a debut feature of the writer and director Jordan Peele. It stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, who are a couple on the screen. She’s your regular white chick with an appreciation of the black culture, and he is a black dude with huge talent and deep knowledge of society’s prejudice. The pair travels to her parent’s lake house for a soiree, and soon enough, it starts to get very, very, very creepy. This movie is not the scary-in-your-face type, but rather something that creeps up on you and grips you with its cold, clawed paws. Besides the psychological unease that you feel throughout this movie, it also serves as an amazing example of black comedy with an ending that almost sees your heart leaping out of your chest from suspense.