So, I originally created this list about a month ago, but because of movies I have recently seen and other ones that I did not think of at the time, I decided to come back to it and amend it.
Please excuse my language, but I am not being obscene just to be obscene. I feel that these are the only words that appropriately convey the meaning I am going for. What I mean by “mind fuck films” are movies that are hard to pin down what exactly is going on. Even after the extreme twist ending, when the credits role, you remain sitting, stunned in your seat. Your only response is “What?” What I think best characterizes all these movies is that they expose a rift between what we perceive as reality and what actually is reality, and by doing so make us question how we see the world. I believe these are some of the most thought provoking movies, and also some of the most artistic and creative.
10. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
In this imaginative movie, characters quite literally venture into the imagiation of Doctor Parnassus, a man who made a deal with the devil to become immortal at the cost of daughter’s life. This movie has a stellar cast including Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, Heath Ledger, Johny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law. The story line is whimsical and innovative, and the acid trip images is enough to get your mind spinning.
9. The Fountain
The Fountain is incredible. It follows three story lines. In the first, Hugh Jackman plays a researcher desperately determined to save his wife Izzi (Rachel Weisz) from her terminal brain cancer. In second story which follows the book Izzi is writing, Jackman plays a conquistador in the New World trying to find the Fountain of Youth. In the third, Jackman is some kind of space traveler who is in love with a tree which is a personification of Izzi. Get that? The 3 intertwined stories all reflect each other in a riveting way. And let’s face it, the more fantastic, sci-fi third story is very strange and at times makes you wonder, why the hell is Hugh Jackman feeling up a tree? But it’s still a great mind fuck movie, and will also make you ball.
8. The Prestige
I promise I’m not including another Hugh Jackman movie because I think he’s hot.I love this movie, and not just because of all the yummy actors. The Prestige is a movie about two rivaling magicians in early twentieth century London. Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) have escalated their tricks in response to their rivalry until both magicians resort to drastic measures to outdo the other. The audience doesn’t find out until the end what exactly Angier and Borden are doing, but even after the shocking ending, you are left with the important question, what are people willing to do simply to get ahead?
7. Donnie Darko
I don’t know if I can describe this cult classic 80’s movie’s plot in just a few sentences, but I’ll give it a try. Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a disturbed teenager who is “visited” by a strange bunny periodically who persuades Donnie to commit a number of strange crimes and also tells him the world is going to end in 28 days. I don’t know how to say anymore without writing another page about this movie, so I will stop there. Just take me on my word that this movie is a total mind fuck.
6. A Clockwork Orange
Unlike most of the other movies on this list, A Clockwork Orange doesn’t have some unexpected twist ending so shocking it dissolves your brain. However, I included this movie because of how it forces viewers to question the world around them plus a slew of philosophical issues. Alex Delarge (Malcolm McDowell) lands in prison due to his sociopathic tendencies and joins a treatment program to get out as quickly as possible. Researchers have developed a way to keep criminals from committing crimes again by aversion therapy. Alex is drugged and forced to watch violent movies for hours on end. After two weeks of this treatment, Alex is physically unable to commit a crime, not because he doesn’t want to, but simply because his body won’t allow him to. I’m sure I don’t need to say anything more for the poignant themes to be extrapolated.
5. Pan’s Labyrinth
I knew this movie was really going to scare me, but I had also heard how good it was, so I forced myself to sit through it. And I was right. It terrified me. I still shudder at the thought of that eye monster thing. But, it was well worth it, because this movie is incredible. It is also a mind fuck. This Spanish movie takes place in Spain after the Spanish Civil War. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is a young girl whose mother (Ariadna Gil) has married a powerful yet dangerous man, Captain Vidal (Sergis López). To escape, Ofelia wanders Vidal’s extensive property and finds a large maze where she meets a faun (Doug Jones) who tells her she’s a princess and must complete a few tasks to take her throne. It’s never very clear what exactly is going on in this movie. Is Ofelia actively imaging these things? Or has she lost her grip on reality and truly believes they’re happening? Or are they actually occurring? I think an argument could be made for all three. Either way, this is an incredible movie that everyone should see. That is if they can get through the eye monster without dying from fear, like I almost did.
4. Being John Malkovich
This movie is…odd, but great. Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is an out of work puppet master who falls in love with Maxine (Catherine Keener) a woman who wants nothing to do with him. Schwartz happens upon a portal into the mind of the actor John Malkovich (played by himself). Through controlling Malkovich’s body, Schwartz gains the confidence to earn Maxine’s love, but not without angering his girlfriend (Cameron Diaz) and Dr. Lestor, (Orson Bean) a man who claims to already possess real-estate on Malkovich’s body so he and a bunch of other old people can be young forever. Yes, it is as weird as it sounds, but it’s a great movie. And a total mind fuck.
3. Black Swan
This movie is a piece of art. And really disturbing. And you will be scratching your head until you’re bald. Nina (Natalie Portman) is a technical ballerina who earns the lead part of Odette in Swan Lake. She isn’t performing as well as her director (Vincent Cassel) would hope. Nina starts feeling threatened by her understudy, a more lively dancer and bolder person, Lily (Mila Kunis). As the pressure mounts, Nina starts losing her grip on reality. I’ve seen this movie twice, and I’m still not completely sure which scenes are in Nina’s head and what actually happens. For a dark descent into someone’s subconscious, some phenomenal dancing, and a mind fuck, see this movie.
2. Fight Club
This movie is incredible in so many ways. Where do I start? The narrator (Edward Norton) is completely disillusioned by the monotony of his life. He starts to feel alive when he meets the articulate and confident Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Durden and the narrator become inspired to create Fight Club, a group in which men beat the shit out of each other to feel something real. After a while, Fight Club becomes organized into a an anti-corporate terrorist gang called Project Mayhem. The narrator has to reign in the inevitable domino effect he’s started and fight to control the wild Tyler Durden. I can only think of one further thing to say. What is the only rule of Fight Club? You don’t talk about Fight Club.
When I came up with the idea of creating this list, I knew instantly what my number 1 would be. I think anyone who has seen this movie would agree that there is no bigger mind fuck than Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece Memento. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) has anterograde amnesia. His brain can’t create new memories or retrieve old ones. Leonard only knows one thing for sure because he tattooed it on his body: John G. killed his wife. Through his strange network of tattoos and intensive note taking, Leonard is working hard to find his wife’s killer despite his damaged brain. The movie has a backwards structure. The beginning is chronologically speaking the last event in the timeline, while the end is the first. This allows the audience to somehow experience what Leonard faces. You have to piece information together pretty much every scene. So Memento is definitely not one of those movies you can just sit back and turn off your brain. You constantly have to work to know what’s happening, and even after the end you’re still not quite sure. But it is well worth the effort. Definitely one of the best movies ever made.
Please let me know if you think I have neglected a fantastic mind fuck film.