-Donnie Darko (2001)
This 2001 cult film is bound to remain in your mind after you’ve watched it. The atmosphere throughout the film is dark, intense and very absorbing. The movie is about a troubled teenage boy name Donnie Darko who has numerous visions of a large bunny that makes him commit some bizarre crimes. All these visions are related to doomsday in one way or another. The whole film manages to blend romance, humor, thrill, suspense and drama beautifully into the narrative. Moreover, Donnie Darko is the type of film that one will not likely understand after the first viewing (or not understand at all). The film’s themes of death, the end of time, destiny and dreams allow for an open interpretation of its message. There are two versions of the film (the original one and the director’s cut). Watch the DIRECTOR’S CUT! (Trust me)
-Mulholland Drive (2001)
A list of mind bending movies would be incomplete without any David Lynch film. The guy excels in this field. In fact, his movies are a lot like paintings and works of art; they are abstract and can mean something different for each person. Many film critics have advised audiences not to try too hard to decipher the message of this film as it is one that is meant to be ‘felt’, not understood. Nevertheless, Mulholland Drive is David Lynch at his finest. It is about a young and beautiful actress named Betty who comes to Los Angeles with dreams of making it big in Hollywood. She meets a woman (Harring) suffering from Amnesia. Both of these women then find themselves in the midst of a murder mystery and search for answers in the ‘dark’ world of Hollywood. The atmosphere of the whole film is absolutely surreal. There are many dream sequences that are so visually intriguing that they will leave you stunned. David Lynch has given the film the tagline “A love story in the city of dreams”. Overall, watching Mulholland Drive is such an intoxicating and electric experience that you will never witness watching any other film.
David Lynch’s first feature film can definitely be considered one of his finest. Shot in black and white, Eraserhead is about a man named Henry Spencer who is frustrated with his life in the industrial environment. To add to his woes, his girlfriend gives birth to a mutated and deformed child. If this doesn’t sound like one of the most messed up stories to you, then what will? This film is full of hallucinations and surreal imagery that will leave you shocked. The most crucial aspect of the film that influences the whole ‘atmosphere’ is the musical score, which is nothing short of brilliant. Eraserhead deals with various themes like technology and sex, and the relationship between the two.
-Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Deemed as the greatest film of the 2000s by film critic, Roger Ebert, Synecdoche New York is a very dark yet comical film about the concept of life and death. The film follows a struggling theatre director who directs the stage production of a new play that is based on actors playing their real life selves and involves the creation of a life-size replica of New York City. However, the previous sentence cannot paint the whole picture of the movie. Synecdoche, New York is a movie that is best understood by the emotions and feelings it invokes. It is a neurotic look into the human life and how quickly it fades away. Moreover, the movie feels so surreal yet its imagery is nothing but reality. Synecdoche, New York is definitely one of the most conceptually ambitious movies ever made.
-Lost Highway (1997)
Another David Lynch film on the list. Surprise! There’s nothing we can do about it. The guy is undoubtedly the master of surrealism. Watching the movie is a very intense experience right from the very engaging opening scene. The film is about a man who is accused of killing his wife and hence put to jail. In prison, he morphs into another man and starts a whole new life which contains some implicit parallels from his previous one. One technical aspect in which the film excels is the lighting throughout the scenes which perfectly sets the mood and tone of each particular scene.
-Inland Empire (2006)
Three hours of impenetrable surrealism is bound to make your head go round and round. David Lynch’s most recent feature film (which came out a whole ten years ago!) is about ‘a woman in trouble’. That woman (played brilliantly by Laura Dern) is an actress who gets deeply immersed into the character she is playing in the film. This immersion blurs the line between reality and dreams. Again, it cannot be said enough that plot summaries for David Lynch movies are just a formality. You have to go see the film for yourself and figure out what it means to you. This is the first film that he has shot in a digital format which makes the cinematography really unique compared to his other films. Inland Empire is, in some ways, similar to Lynch’s Mulholland Drive in that it has a recurring theme of the ‘dark side’ of Hollywood and the show business, in general. Overall, watching the film is a frustrating yet rewarding experience.
Coherence is one of the best recent indie films that come to mind. This sci-fi film is about a strange series of events that occur with a group of friends on the night a comet is passing over them. Most of the film takes place inside a single house which makes the whole movie watching experience more immersive and intimate. Coherence is the type of sci-fi film that relies more on rich dialogue and a thought provoking narrative compared to visual effects. The result is great. This thriller is bound to keep you on the edge of your seats and will satisfy both sci-fi buffs and other viewers.
Christopher Nolan really entered into the spotlight with this gem of a movie. Memento tells the story of a man, suffering from short-term memory loss, who is looking for his wife’s killer. Guy Pearce gives a stellar performance in the film. But what makes Memento truly great is the nonlinear structure of the narrative. The story progresses via alternating scenes which are forwards (presented in black and white) and backwards (presented in color). Be prepared to be trapped in the maze of Nolan’s creative mind!
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a very unique film in two ways. Firstly, it manages to elegantly blend together the seemingly distant genres of romance, sci-fi, and drama. Secondly, it brings out one of the best performances of Jim Carrey’s career. It’s a really dramatic and serious role; a role which we are not used to see him playing. The events of the film take place inside a the brains of a couple who have undergone a procedure to erase eachother from their memories after they had troubles in their relationship. The atmosphere of the film is very dream-like at times. Moreover, this is one of the rare romantic movies that hits the jackpot when it comes to invoking genuine feelings and emotions.
-Being John Malkovich (1999)
This film is imaginative, entertaining and even comedic. One of the best things about it is the originality of its ideas. It’s about a puppeteer who discovers a portal that transports one into the mind of the actor, John Malkovich. I know it seems like it but this movie is not just some mental masturbation. It is full of many genuine ideas and themes such as sexuality, love, and identity. These themes get more complex and denser as the film progresses. Being John Malkovich can even be considered to be a thriller packed with emotion. The ideas behind it are so rich that you can really see that this is creativity at its finest.