Cinema could be grouped into two very general categories – art cinema and mainstream cinema. Of course, there are many films that don’t really fit into either one of those groupings, as well as movies that could be considered both mainstream and art house. However, art films do generally tend to be weirder and more daring, further exploring psychological and ontological themes, and often times offering a more mentally stimulating and emotionally compelling experience. Hard-core art films aren’t for everyone, but there is a whole family of weird, unorthodox, visually unique and surreal films that could be called cinematic head trips.
For a film to replicate a drug-like feeling, trance or mood is difficult to pull-off and a rare thing, and when a movie can truly take the audience into deepest parts of the mind or let them explore worlds and psychological states never before filmed, it can be a glorious, miraculous thing. Weird movies are considered a specialty for many cinephiles, this writer included, and represent a breed of cinema that contains some of the most fun films to watch, think about, dissect and talk about.
15. The Fountain
Darren Aronofsky’s metaphysical epic The Fountain spans a millennium, is rich in symbolism and features gorgeous art direction and production design. Three separate, interwoven stories concerning a characters Tomas, Tommy and Tom (all portrayed by Hugh Jackman) make up the film – one taking place in the sixteenth century, one present-day, and set in 2500.
This nonlinear epic grapples largely with the juxtaposed themes of premature death and eternal life, and as a whole the film is overwhelming and moving. Countless interpretations of this film are out there, but whether you enjoy analyzing and dissecting it, or simply sitting back and letting it immerse you as a visual and emotional experience, The Fountain will grab on to you and not let go.
14. Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko is a masterpiece of bizarre ideas integrated with familiar landscapes and universal themes. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a disturbed teenager who sees visions of a giant bunny rabbit named Frank who predicts the end of the world; all this as well as time travel and other highly scientific concepts play into this complex, dark tale.
There’s no shortage of dark iconography, disturbing events and just generally abnormal happenings that populate Donnie Darko, and the surprising part is not how bizarre it is, but how moving.
House is a freaky film that is energetic, maddening and off-the-wall crazy. With its weird group of characters that speak unnaturally, the odd editing and visual style and the unforgettable, hilariously twisted last act, this is surely a trip of a movie, and one that will leave you questioning what you just watched.
House follows no rules, and loves going on unexpected routes and taking the viewer to some really messed-up and joyfully bizarre places. When a piano can eat a person, you know you’ve entered a cinematic world that you won’t want to leave.
12. Spirited Away
Spirited Away is something of a Japanese Alice in Wonderland, and it ranks among the very finest and most visually astonishing films of Hayao Miyazaki. This is a majestic masterpiece filled with fantastical vistas beyond imagination and bizarre creatures both lovable and terrifying.
A supernatural, trippy journey for a young girl named Chihiro, the main character, also happens to be an equally amazing and memorizing experience for the viewer. The most impressive thing about Spirited Away is how interesting the characters actually are, and how richly textured and detailed the story and landscape are.
Eraserhead is one of the most fearless debut films of all time, and it’s also one of the most promising of things to come. And David Lynch certainly delivered on that promise; his whole filmography is full of cinematic head-trips venturing into highly surreal and hypnotic territory, and it all starts here.
Eraserhead’s grainy, industrial black and white look is a perfect backdrop for this nightmare of a film, and even though it’s absurd and jaw-droppingly repulsive, it’s always effective and scary. The tale of a new father tending to his ever-wailing mutant child lends itself to many metaphorical interpretations, and Lynch’s distinct, thoroughly original voice permeates his first masterpiece.
10. Enter the Void
Gaspar Noë’s Enter the Void is all about crazy drugs, and it’s an especially unique piece of filmmaking as it’s shot entirely in first-person. After a drug dealer living in Tokyo is shot and killed, his soul drifts around the city watching all kinds of weird things, including the repercussions of his death.
The neon haze and hallucinatory look and sequences really give Enter the Void a distinct feel and one-of-a-kind vibe, and it’s truly unforgettable. Noë was directly inspired by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and his film ranks among the most ambitious and interesting in cinema history.
9. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
The ontological Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is easily one of the weirdest films of the twenty-first century, but unlike many of the other titles on this list, it is has a slower, calmer and more natural pacing, opposed to the frenetic, crazy feel of many other films that could be grouped along with Uncle Boonmee.
This tale of spirituality and reincarnation is visually majestic and breathtakingly beautiful, but there’s no shortage of highly unconventional plotting, and all kinds of things that you’ve never seen in a movie before – including a highly memorable scene of catfish-on-woman love.