If there's one thing movies do better than any other art form, it's weirdness. The combination of sight, sound, and music make for a perfect cocktail to take the audience away on a wild and spaced-out ride; and in recent years filmmakers have even started using film as a way to explore heady philosophical ideas like the nature of identity, time, and consciousness.
With this in mind, the following are ten movies that have some of the most far-out, inventive, and thought-provoking plotlines in film history. There are countless honorable mentions that could have easily made this list.
If you want to mystify an audience, you can't go wrong by taking a page out of the magician's book of tricks, which is exactly what director Christopher Nolan did with his 2006 film The Prestige. The story follows two turn-of-the-century magicians who get into a fierce rivalry after one of them invents an extraordinary -- and totally inexplicable -- new trick. It's a film filled with twists, reversals, and red herrings, and it asks some pretty lofty questions about the nature of identity and obsession which are bound to keep you thinking. It's like a ninety-minute magic trick transplanted to the screen—but unlike so many magic tricks, it features a payoff that's actually worth sticking around for.
Watch the trailer for The Prestige here...
If you're in the mood for a movie that's really going to make you think, look no further than Seconds, a little-known gem from the late 1960's starring Rock Hudson. The film follows the story of a middle-aged banker who is contacted by a shadowy organization that offers a most-tempting service: new life. For a fee, the company fakes the man's death, sets him up in a brand new career and house, and gives him plastic surgery so that he comes out looking like the famously handsome Mr. Hudson. Not a bad deal, right? Well, think again. These being the movies, things are much more complicated than they seem, and the story soon takes an abrupt turn toward the creepy. Director John Frankenheimer used some truly revolutionary shooting techniques for the movie, and the result is a harrowing and hallucinatory experience that you won't easily forget. Brian Wilson sure didn't. According to his biography, seeing Seconds while in the middle of his drug years and teetering on the edge of schizophrenia affected the Beach Boys front man deeply, and he claims that after watching the film he didn't go to the movies again for almost fifteen years.
8. A Clockwork Orange
Watch the trailer for A Clockwork Orange here...
Taking your viewers on a wild ride doesn't always require millions in special effects and a convoluted plot—sometimes it's just about taking a good idea and exploring it for all it's worth. Such is the case with 2007's The Man From Earth, a small independent film that unfolds like a mixture of a well-written stage play and a brilliant philosophical treatise. The story centers on John Oldman, a college professor who, during a party with some friends, makes the bizarre claim that he is immortal. He explains that he was born in Cro-Magnon times, but never aged, and that for 10,000 years he has been walking the Earth, moving every five years so that no one will catch on to his secret. His friends are understandably skeptical, but they are willing to play along with what they think is a game, and what follows is a lengthy dialogue on the nature of time, knowledge, and aging that never ceases to be fascinating. It's a film that's confined to a single room and a single subject, but even though it's shot on the smallest scale possible, the ideas it presents and the questions it raises are bigger and more ambitious than movies with budgets ten times bigger.
Time travel movies are always one of the easiest ways to throw an audience for a loop, simply because of the inherent paradoxes and logical traps that jumping back or forward in time creates. It's a plot device that's been used time and again, but rarely has it been employed as effectively as it was in Primer, a 2004 science fiction film about two struggling engineers who accidentally invent a time machine. Primer is a movie that's notable for two things: being made independently for $7,000, and having one of the most convoluted, mind-blowing, and intentionally dense plot lines of all time. The filmmakers choose not to spoon-feed their audience any information, and the result is a movie that features a good deal of technical banter and hard science. The heady dialogue and twisty plotting is guaranteed to lose some of the audience, but for those that get into it, Primer is ultimately one of the most rewarding and thought-provoking movies of the last few years.
Watch the trailer for Mulholland Drive here...
Watch the trailer for The Matrix here...
Watch the trailer for Fight Club here...
The late 90s might have been a renaissance of inventive style and bold ideas on screen, but none of it would have been possible if not for the 1968 release of Stanley Kubrick's seminal film 2001: A Space Odyssey. It might be difficult to understand now, but before 2001, the kinds of ideas that would become the staple of modern mindbenders just weren't being addressed in mainstream film, and science fiction was certainly not taken seriously as a genre. Kubrick not only spent millions constructing the most realistic vision of space travel then possible, but he matched it all with a story that actually tried to tackle not just the origin of humanity as a thinking species, but also speculated on where our next scientific leaps might take us. I won't even pretend to know exactly what the final third of the movie means, and I don't know if anyone really does for sure, but what is certain is that 2001 gave its viewers more food for thought than any movie before it, and forty years later it still hasn't lost one ounce of mystery or inventiveness.
Related Article: Top 10 Mind Bending Movies
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