6. Twelve Monkeys (1996)
A feature-length adaptation of the groundbreaking short La Jetée by Chris Marker, Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys is one of the best techno-thrillers of the ‘90s — replete with all the requisite dingy futurescapes, zany chase sequences and colourfully dressed villains. Bruce Willis stars as the hero, a man who must go back in time to save the world from a deadly disease that has ravaged nearly all of mankind.
Yet, the effect of the movie is more cerebral than merely providing action thrills. The time-travel paradox of the movie makes for an intriguing exploration of being stuck between both the present and the past, leading to a conclusion that not feels wholly necessary but is also heartbreaking.
In this sense, it is a deeply philosophical movie about the importance of pursuing what is right despite knowing the eventual tragic outcome. Like with Inception and Leonardo DiCaprio, so much of this film’s greatness rests upon the strength of its lead. Willis imbues his protagonist with just the correct mixture of confusion, exhaustion and dogged perseverance in order to lift the film above other ‘90s thrillers and into the pantheon of the finest philosophical movies of all time.
7. Last Year In Marienbad (1961)
So much of Inception rests upon the uncanny — the sense that what you see has already happened before, albeit in a different form. The film that rests closest to this spirit is Alain Resnais’ Last Year In Marienbad. Possibly the master of non-linear narrative, Resnais’ films never take the straight and narrow path. Instead they use the infinite possibilities of editing in order to create a dream-like reverie on what it means to be human.
Like with Inception, many critics have spent their time trying to decipher the meaning of Last Year In Marienbad, as if it were as easy as solving a rubix cube. Yet it can be argued that Last Year in Marienbad is a film that doesn’t want to be solved.
Depicting the plight of two lovers (?) at a chateau, its uses hypnotic camerawork and sumptuous performances in order to create a rapturous mood of romance and reminiscence. It shouldn’t work as a film, its repetitiousness threatening to batter the viewer into submission and yell about its pretentiousness, yet it weaves a fine spell that lingers long after the curtain has come up.
8. Total Recall (1990)
Back at a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger threatened to become not only a movie star but a genuinely impressive actor in his own right, he starred in Total Recall, directed by Dutch provocateur Paul Verhoeven.
Based on the novel We Can Remember It for You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick, Total Recall concerns the idea of planting artificial memories into people’s minds. This is so they can go on holiday to places such as Mars without ever leaving the house. Things go wrong quickly however, when Schwarzenegger’s character Douglas Quaid starts to bring up suppressed memories of his previous time as a secret service agent. Soon people are out to kill him, and he has to find out why.
The film is so enjoyable and the satire so bleak and the violence so overwhelming that the viewer can forget the heady ideas about memory that are contained within its narrative. Initially, like much of Verhoeven’s work, misunderstood upon its release, the film is now considered one of the best science-fiction films of the 90s.
9. Dreamscape (1984)
Made in the midst of the 80s, where Indiana Jones rip-offs such as Romancing The Stone and King Solomon’s Mines (1985) were plentiful, the Dennis Quaid starring Dreamscapes ranks as the most entertaining. He stars as a man in possession of rare physic powers, which in typical masculine fashion, he only uses for gambling and womanising.
Things change however, when he discovers a potential conspiracy regarding the President Of The United States. Soon he has to infiltrate the mind of the POTUS and plant an idea inside his head.
Its a rarity the film works at all. Mixing together genres such as science-fiction, the political conspiracy thriller and romantic comedy, it should have been a hodgepodge of conflicting ideas. Yet, like Indiana Jones before it, all of this coalesces into a highly satisfying whole. Much of the credit of the film’s success can be pinned on the underrated Quaid, who has the necessary wit to be the straight man in the midst of so much exhilarating adventure.
10. Dark City (1998)
One of the things that made Inception so generously received was the special effects, which many argued were a new benchmark in science-fiction cinema. Of particular note was the way that cities bended into themselves, and structures achieved the kind of shape that could only exist within a dream.
Nonetheless, Dark City had experimented with the concept of moving skyscrapers before, and perhaps to even more unsettling effect. Still arguably underrated even today, especially coming a year before The Matrix changed science-fiction forever, its depiction of a city of dreams remains uniquely striking.
This isn’t the only similarity with Inception. Like with Christopher Nolan’s film, Dark City is also fascinated with the concept of memory, thought control and the role of machinery in the modern world. Yet its vision is notably darker.
Starring Rufus Sewell as John Murdoch, the film concerns a world where nearly every step is being controlled by evil overlords known as the Strangers. But it also contains extraordinary hope, the subplot of the film concerned with a romance that only deepens considering the artificial nature of the city’s construction. This sophomore effort by Alex Proyas still remains his best and most accomplished achievement.
Author Bio: Redmond Bacon is a professional film writer and amateur musician from London. Currently based in Berlin (Brexit), most of his waking hours are spent around either watching, discussing, or thinking about movies. Sometimes he reads a book.