The 30 Best Surrealist Films Not Directed by Luis Bunuel

16. Pastoral: To Die in the Country (1974) Dir.Shüji Terayama

japanese new wave films

This surreal autobiographical drama begins with Terayama’s childhood almost in a conventional narrative, the director treats us to his childhood environment, his disturbed connection with his father, his over possessive mother and his first childhood crush, a married woman who he plans to run away with, Later we see Teryama as a grown man struggling to make a movie about his childhood.

This is a tour of how a normal man is out to make a personal meditation on his life and the events that unfolded throughout, using dreams and memories to perfectly paint a portrait into human’s psyche and existence.


17. Eraserhead (1977) Dir. David Lynch


Jack Nance plays Henry Spencer in David Lynch’s disturbingly first feature masterpiece, set in a distant apocalyptical future, blending science fiction and horror in a superb way.

Henry journeys through male paranoia while facing numerous obstacles trying to meet someone of the opposite sex, having a major crush on the girl across the hall, he is invited to dinner with Mary X’s parents and in a twist he is informed Mary had his child and now they must marry. The child is a monster-like creature with numerous health problems; Mary ditches Henry and the baby, now Henry must take care of the baby while figuring out what to do with his life and the girl across the hall.

The film was an instant cult classic, generating a universe of his own, it is hard to comprehend at times but it has such a force that delivered David Lynch to instant notoriety. Filled with surreal imagery and elements and sexual undercurrents, Eraserhead is one of Lynch’s masterpieces.


18. Videodrome (1983) Dir. David Cronenberg

videodrome movie

Videodrome criticizes the dangers of sexuality and technological obsession. James Woods plays Max Renn, the president of a television station in Toronto, out for a game changer; he is looking for an intense TV show for his sex-oriented network. In the lookout for his game changer, he finds a show called Videodrome which broadcast pornographic snuff films of actual murders.

Intrigued, aroused, and haunted by it, he goes out to seek the truth and who is behind Videodrome, thing become even more disturbing as his search for the truth narrows, feeding his addiction and making it even stronger just to finally see actually Videodrome is infecting the outside world and screwing with his sanity.

Videodrome is a psycho-sexual thriller that criticizes modern society and their morbidness towards taboo subjects, reflecting it with a hidden alliance with the government, this film pushes the boundaries of comfort and sanity through the story. Ahead of its time, Videodrome might be right in portraying society as it is.


19. Alice (1988) Dir. Jan Svankmajer

Alice (1988)

This is a free and open adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland about a girl named Alice who appears to be in her room, when a rabbit comes back to life and breaks free of his glass prison. The white rabbit runs through the drawer of her desk into a cave that becomes wonderland, Alice follows the white rabbit and finds the adventure of her life.

This is a re-imagining of Alice, the director strips away all the sweetness and innocence of the other films and makes this one more mature and brutal than ever before. Filled with great clay animation and surreal scenery that actually transports us to wonderland, this is one of the best achievements for movies in this genre. It may not be suitable for children because of its brutal and sick twists on the characters, if you think you knew Alice, think again.


20. Naked Lunch (1991) David Cronenberg


Peter Weller plays William Lee, an exterminator who simply drifts through life living each day monotonously, until one day he finds out his wife played by Judy Davis is stealing some chemicals he uses to produce his insecticide to use as a drug. He then is arrested by the police and begins hallucinating due to exposure of the drug. That exposure opens his eyes to a new world where he is a secret agent assigned to kill his wife, he accidentally kills her by playing game based on William Tell.

After ironically completing his mission, Lee sets off to the Interzone where he becomes a writer and starts writing his story, after some time his writing machine comes to life in the form of a bug with a giant penis who tells Lee he must find Dr. Benway and discover the truth behind a narcotics operation.

The film is a semi autobiography based on the life of William S. Burroughs, and the real life incident with Joan Vollmer who made him become a writer. Throughout the film the viewer often tries to assimilate what is happening for real and what may be happening due to the effects of the hallucinogen Lee consumed. The story is dark and full of despair, with a gruesome transformation and unexpected twists. At the end Cronenberg delivers a masterpiece that many said it could not be adapted to film, only the visionary style of Cronenberg could have accomplished it.


21. Underground (1995) Dir. Emir Kusturica


Underground is one of cinema’s lesser known jewels, It tells the story about a group of friends named Blacky, Marko and Marko’s brother Ivan, the movie opens in Belgrade in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It is 1941 and a Nazi invasion just hit Belgrade, the Nazis began by bombing the city and wreaking havoc. The resistance is quickly defeated and the Nazi army invades and occupies the city, forcing many citizens to go underground into hiding, Marko sets up a stash of weapons and jewels where everybody is hiding and Vera, Blacky’s wife, goes into labor just as they go into hiding, passing away moments after naming their son Jovan.

Three years pass by and the two best friends are in the weapons business with the communists, after a series of events with the Nazis, Blacky is injured and forced to recover underground in the cellar with the other people. Several years later in the midst of the Cold War, Marko is a high-ranking member of the revolutionary party, tricking Blacky and the others who are still underground hiding to believe the war is still on and it has only been 15 years since they went into hiding and not 20.

Marko also profits from the arms the people underground are producing to fight the alleged Nazis and defend their country, meanwhile a movie director wants to make a movie about the heroic life of Marko, at first he denies but is charmed into accepting the deal and they start filming, Blacky, tired of waiting underground, seizes the opportunity when everybody is drunk and encouraged to fight off the German occupation. Meanwhile back at the surface they are filming a crucial scene with extras playing Nazis soldiers, all hell breaks loose when Blacky and the rest go out and start a fight.

Much like Bertolucci’s 1900, this film covers a great extent of a country plagued by three wars, and tells a unique and sometimes comedic masterpiece.


22. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) Dir. Terry Gilliam

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Have you ever imagined a film being an acid trip? Well in Terry Gilliam´s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas you can. The film is a full on balls to the wall acid trip from beginning to end, Depp and Del Toro smoothly deliver what might be one of the most crazy and outgoing performances of their careers.

Duke (Depp) and Gonzo (Del Toro) are out on a road trip through the Nevada desert on their way to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, they use the opportunity to ingest all the drugs they can, fighting off bats, witnessing a Reptile orgy which is one of the most fucked-up moments in the film, witnessing and participating in the Vietnam War, and trashing every room they stay in.

The main reason to watch this film is the collaboration between Depp and Gilliam and the acid trip you will ride along with these two.


23. Being John Malkovich (1999) Dir. Spike Jonze 


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be inside the mind and take control of someone else? Now you can in Spike Jonze film. Craig Schwartz finds a door behind a cabinet that takes you directly through the mind of actor John Malkovich, being able to observe and feel whatever Malkovich does. Only after 15 minutes he is ejected and thrown out of Malkovich’s mind and dropped into a ditch, seeing an advantage he shows Maxine (Catherine Keener) who he has feelings for but they are not returned and decides to take advantage of the situation, driving Malkovich insane and questioning his very existence.

This is a great film full of comedic elements, with great performances by the cast, and an extraordinary performance by Malkovich, by portraying himself.