24 Mind-Bending Movies That Will Melt Your Brain
Movies are meant to entertain. You pay $8 for the opportunity to tune out the real world and escape your droll existence with 24 frames of colorful adventure per second. Though I occasionally enjoy turning my brain off while watching movies like Transformers or Predators for sheer thrills, these films aren’t the reason why I fell in love with cinema. On the contrary, the most fun that I’ve ever had at the movies has been when I’ve been challenged by the material and required to question the characters, their motives and the narrative itself. Here are 24 mind-boggling movies that made us think hard.
24. Source Code
The Movie: So, one minute you’re flying missions in Afghanistan, the next you’re in some other guy’s body on a commuter train that’s about to explode. When it does, you’re in a strange cockpit being debriefed by Vera Farmiga on a flickering monitor. She says you have to keep getting blown up on the train until you catch the bomber. Who are you? Is this a test? Why does the routine only last 8 minutes? Is there such a thing as a commuter worth saving? A confused Jake Gyllenhaal has to work it all out. Fast.
Mind-bending Moment: After all this, Captain Colter is informed that even if he stops the bomber, everybody on board still dies. Bummer.
The Movie: Christopher Nolan’s sophisticatedly surreal heist movie nail-bitingly rolled out during four concurrent dream sequences is the cinematic experience of the year. Leo DiCaprio played Cobb, the corporate raider who steals ideas while his victims sleep with help of Ellen Page’s “architect”, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s fixer and Tom Hardy’s chameleon-like tea-leaf.
Mind-bending Moment: When Leo demonstrates his dream structures to a bewildered Ellen Page as a Paris arrondisement rears up and folds over on top of itself like a gigantic pop-up book.
22. Altered States
The Movie: Boundary-pushing scientist Eddie Jessup (William Hurt) submits himself to a series of mind-expanding experiments by enclosing himself in a sensory-deprivation chamber and taking hallucinogenic drugs. However, his hopes of exploring different levels of human consciousness are dashed when he devolves into a simian monster.
Mind-bending Moment: The scene where Jessup – after regressing to an ape – attacks the campus security guards, is chased by a pack of wild dogs into the local zoo and kills and eats a sheep for his supper before turning back into the kindly professor.
21. The Game
The Movie: The casual boredom of investment banker Nicholas Van Orton’s (Michael Douglas) life is broken by a weird gift from his wayward brother (Sean Penn) – participation in a life-altering game run by a company that clandestinely ruins him and also seems to have the power to change an implausible number of real-world events.
Mind-bending Moment: When Nicholas jumps from a building after shooting his brother and crashes through a glass roof…only to land on a inflatable mat. He comes round to find his friends and family – all alive – in the ballroom.
20. Fight Club
The Movie: Brain-befuddling specialist David Fincher directs this classic thriller that starred Ed Norton as an IKEA-loving loser who is dazzled by his charismatic new friend, soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). It’s not surprising – Tyler advocates men deal with their pent-up frustations by beating the hell out of each other. Pretty soon, “Fight Clubs” have spread across the country…but it soon becomes apparent that Tyler wants to go much further…
Mind-bending Moment: Ed Norton and Marla (Helena Bonham-Carter) holding hands and watching as the anti-capitalist attack gets underway with bank buildings exploding across the city.
19. Jacob’s Ladder
The Movie: In this 70s-set psychological freak-out, Vietnam veteran (Tim Robbins), who is suffering a series of horrific visions, discovers that several of his old war buddies are experiencing similar mind-blowing illusions. And so he begins to ask questions of his former employers – the army – about what really happened to his unit behind enemy lines.
Mind-bending Moment: Not a moment but a process – director Adrian Lyne used an old horror technique in which an actor is recorded waving his head around at a low frame rate, resulting in horrific fast motion when played back. The bit when the horned nasties attack Tim in the subway isn’t nice, either.