The 30 Best Surrealist Films Not Directed by Luis Bunuel

24. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Dir. Michel Gondry

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

One of the most original and outgoing love stories in cinematic history, the story follows Jim Carry, in one of the few serious roles of his career, as Joel Barish and Kate Winslet as Clementine Kruczynski who upon meeting are profoundly drawn to each other despite Clementine being Joel’s opposite. After spending two years together, Clementine breaks up with Joel as a result of a fight and contacts a company named Lacuna, Inc. to erase all memories of their relationship.

Joel finds out about the procedure and decides to do it also. The procedure takes place while Joel is sleeping. As the procedure is taking its normal course, Joel’s memories begin to fade, Joel finds himself reliving all the relationship in reverse, upon experiencing the love he felt for Clementine, he fights off the procedure, trying to save at least one memory. Despite all his efforts all the memories are slowly erased, only holding to Clementine last words “Meet me in Montauk”.

This is a film about break ups and analyzing if it was all worth it, brilliantly constructed and played, you feel for the characters and understand their decisions while on the edge of your seat trying to root for Joel to amend the errors of his past so he can construct a future.


25. The Science of Sleep (2006) Dir. Michel Gondry


Gael Garcia plays Stéphane, a man who literally daydreams, loosing himself in his imagination, which makes it almost impossible for him to interact in the real world. Stéphane goes back to his home town in France after the death of his father. His mother finds a job for him in a calendar printing company, where they don´t fully embrace his ideas, meanwhile Stéphane meets Stephanie played by Charlotte Gainsbourg.

At first, Stéhane is interested in Zoe Stephanie’s friend, but after spending time with Stephanie, he starts to fall for her. After that moment the film lapses into two different realities, often making it difficult to understand where a dream starts and where reality ends, the film is full of surreal elements that question every subconscious effect on the character that a dream might project. One scene in particular was inspired by a recurring childhood nightmare Michel Gondry had, his hand grew bigger and couldn’t do anything about it, that is one of many reasons you should watch Gondry’s personal project.


26. Inland Empire (2006) Dir. David Lynch

inland empire

Nikki (Laura Dern) is an actress preparing to make a big come back for what might be the biggest role of her career, warned by an old lady that she is going to get the part but when she does a series of events are going to unfold, as predicted she gets the part and starts filming the remake of a cursed and unfinished Polish film. While rehearsing for a scene, she realizes she is falling for her co-star (Theroux), running away from set she realizes the movie and her life are merging into one.

The film is very open to many interpretations, and often is hard to understand. Some say that Lynch is mimicking Alice in Wonderland in a sitcom version, the film might deal with reincarnation, or simply it might be considered as a criticism of the old vs. the new film industry, this is a must see film that has to be re-watched several times to get a hold on Lynch’s subconscious.


27. Brand Upon the Brain! (2006) Dir. Guy Maddin

Brand Upon the Brain! (2006)

With eerie Gothic settings that remind one of the golden age of German silent films with modern day intrigue, Brand Upon the Brain! Tells the story of Guy Maddin’s childhood years when he was witness some bizarre events that made him leave the island at age 10. Guy starts giving two coats of paint to the lighthouse as his mother instructed him, thus making him remember the occurrences that happened many years before.

He was left in an Orphanage with her sister, managed by an over possessive mother and a mad scientist for a father, while painting, Guy recalls his crush on a girl named Wendy who is investigating a mysterious sets of events related to holes in the neck of the orphan children and a the harvesting of orphan nectar.

Shot in Maddin’s usual black and white style with great visual aesthetics, filled with dark humor, the film is one of a kind coming of age journey and has some of Guy’s personal experiences, full of motifs such as, hard kept secrets, gender confusion, sibling rivalry, over-protectiveness, and love triangles. This eccentric masterpiece moves somewhere between the absurd and the sublime, taking the viewer to a journey into a 10 year old boy’s recollection of a fantasy childhood.


28. The Fall (2006) Dir. Tarsem Singh


Set in Los Angeles near the 1920’s a stuntman, Roy, is hospitalized because he failed to do a stunt with a horse to impress an actress in a film they were doing together. In the hospital he meets Alexandria, a young Rumanian girl who is recovering from a broken arm.

On their first meeting, Roy tells him a story about the meaning of his name and Alexander the Great, they are interrupted by the doctors, Roy promises Alexandria he’ll tell her a great story if she returns the next day. The next morning Alexandria goes to hear the story but in return Roy asks for a favor, she must be a bandit for him.

As Roy starts telling his story, Alexandria’s imagination comes to life, entering a surreal world with the masked bandit, Charles Darwin, a silent Indian warrior, Otta Benga, a former slave, and Luigi, an explosive expert, all with one common goal – the destruction of the evil Governor Odious. As the story takes shape and moves forward, it starts to intertwine with reality and unknown to Alexandria’s knowledge she is helping Roy accomplish his final task.

This film is filmed on location all around the world, with excellent costume design, a vivid interpretation for color by director Tarsem. With a unique tone to the feeling following a broken character in for redemption and the innocence and purity of a girl who stands for what is right in a corrupted world who will become his ultimate salvation. The Fall has one of the best opening montages in years, accompanied by Beethoven’s seventh symphony and a great soundtrack through the film.


29. Enter the Void (2009) Dir. Gaspar Noé

Enter the Void

Oscar played by Nathaniel Brown and Linda played by Paz de la Huerta are siblings who live in Tokyo, Oscar is a drug dealer who has a thing for the Tibetan book of the dead, Linda works as a Stripper. After a drug exchange gone wrong, Oscar is shot and killed by the police.

As he dies Oscar sees his life in chronological order, following the tragic death of his parents in a car accident, how he and Linda promise to be together after the incident just to be separated into different foster homes, leading up to where they reunited again in Tokyo and ultimately Oscar’s death. After that Oscar leaves his dead body to hoover over Tokyo and experience the aftermath of Oscar’s demise on his loved ones.

Brilliantly directed by Gaspar Noé who is known for his crude and brutal way of film making, this film is very different from what you have seen before as you experience what it would it be like to die and be in limbo on earth, it has a very emotional power as Oscar witness everything around him, seeing his loved ones grief and not be able to do anything about it, the way the film is directed gives us almost a voyeuristic sense of the story.


30. Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall his Past Lives (2010) Dir.Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

In the last days of Uncle Boonme, he decides to spend it surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside; Boonme is taken care of by a male nurse from Laos and some members of his family, surrounded by nature he is ready to depart.

Astounded by the appearance of his dead wife, just as beautiful as the first time they met, and his long lost son who now looks like some kind of bigfoot, trying to make some sense of his illness, Boonme takes a journey through the forest into a cavern where the spirits live, the cavern is the birth place of his first life, journeying through his many lives to comprehend why he is there in the first place.

The film is hard to understand upon first viewing, but as you re-watch, you get things that were present in the first place but may seem invisible, the movie deals with the frail line between reality and fantasy as the spirit world goes back, it follows the interconnection between spiritualism and nature, with one romantic almost Shakespearean scene with a catfish.

Author Bio: Daniel Miranda is a Consultant/Entrepreneur from Mexico. He is a cinema aficionado and travel enthusiast. His favorite directors are Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman, Tarsem, Wim Wenders, Steve McQueen and Ridley Scott.