50 Best Mind-Bending Movies to Watch Now

50 Best Mind-Bending Movies to Watch Now

April 12, 2024

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Looking specifically for a “mind-bending” or “mind-blowing” movie on your streaming service of choice might not always give you what you’re looking for. Chances are you’ll be shown movies that have some sort of twist to them, usually something dealing in the realms of sci-fi, fantasy, or psychological thriller. But we want to help expand what these movies can be. At the end of the day, you’re looking for something that can genuinely surprise you and leave you thinking about things in a different way. And in this list we’ve compiled of little-known but highly-rated films, we hope to show that complex movies that leave you feeling dazed can come from any genre—and don’t need to rely on a cheap twist to be good.

41. The Double Life of Véronique (1991)

best

8.4

Country

France, Norway, Poland

Director

Krzysztof Kieślowski

Actors

Alain Frérot, Aleksander Bardini, Bogusława Schubert, Chantal Neuwirth

Moods

Mind-blowing, Original

Krzysztof Kieślowski’s drama stars Irène Jacob as two identical women living separate lives, and the intricate and indelible ways in which they are bound together. While Weronika, a Polish singer, balances her familial duties and intimate romantic relationship, a French music teacher named Véronique senses that she is not alone.

The Double Life of Véronique’s hypnotic and entrancing qualities will wash over you like a tide crashing over a bed of sand. It is a tough film to capture in words, when so much of it is just beyond words—Kieślowski’s film is one to be seen, sensed, and experienced. 

42. Sanctuary (2023)

best

8.4

Country

France, United States of America

Director

Zachary Wigon

Actors

Christopher Abbott, Margaret Qualley

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Gripping

Challenging, strange, and utterly captivating from start to finish, Sanctuary takes the relationship between a pathetic, wealthy man and a desperate, plucky young woman—a relationship built on consensual acts of sexual humiliation—and makes it so much more dynamic and entertaining than it has any right to be. The film takes place entirely in one hotel suite over the course of one night, becoming a series of increasingly absurd psychological scenarios, as the characters wrestle over ideas of power, shame, and identity by concealing and roleplaying various parts of themselves. It’s a wild take on several different genres that director Zachary Wigon is able to effortlessly weave together with excellent pacing, stunning visuals, and two truly committed performances from Christopher Abbott and a wonderfully unhinged Margaret Qualley.

43. There Are No Fakes (2019)

best

8.3

Director

Jamie Kastner

Moods

Mind-blowing

The highly unusual story of this documentary starts with Kevin Hearn, a member of the band Barenaked Ladies, realizing that his painting by famous Canadian Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau is a fake. When he sues the collector he bought it from, he starts a series of inquiries that unravel a story that gets progressively darker: drug dealing, organized crime, addiction, sexual abuse, and completely crazy characters (reminiscent of Tiger King).

Behind all of that, There Are No Fakes is about the exploitation not only of Indigenous art but of Indigenous people in Canada in general.

44. Brazil (1985)

best

8.3

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Terry Gilliam

Actors

Ann Way, Barbara Hicks, Bill Wallis, Bob Hoskins

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Mind-blowing

In the movie Brazil, our hero Sam Lowery (Jonathan Pryce) lives in a dystopian world that relies on the cold productivity grind of machines. He’s in a constant battle between the high-level dominating powers that be and the low-level beatdown scums of society. Saving him from complete misery is a recurring dream he has of a beautiful woman. There, nothing else matters but love, which fills his draining soul and makes his life seem worthwhile. 

The way director Terry Gilliam handles a serious matter in such a comedic way is fantastic, and the amount of thought and effort he puts into creating every single bit of existence in this film is mind-boggling. With Brazil, he succeeds in establishing his own style, making a mark for himself in an age when plenty of auteurs compete for mere recognition.

45. Moonage Daydream (2022)

best

8.3

Country

Germany, United States of America

Director

Brett Morgen

Actors

Bing Crosby, Catherine Deneuve, Charlie Chaplin, David Bowie

Moods

Mind-blowing, Original

Forget everything you know about the music biopic. One-on-one interviews, chronological storytelling, silent moments with the subjects—Moonage Daydream isn’t that kind of movie. Just as David Bowie isn’t your typical pop star, this documentary about him, directed by Brett Morgen, forgoes the usual beats for something extraordinary and fun.

Moonage Daydream is a concert, a light show, and a masterclass in collage editing. It’s a feast for the senses, a fantastic neon fever dream that paints a picture of Bowie in his own words, drawn from archival footage, interviews, and concerts past.

46. Anomalisa (2016)

best

8.3

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson

Actors

David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan

Moods

Character-driven, Depressing, Mind-blowing

Putting the inherent eeriness of stop motion animation to perfect use, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s Anomalisa create a legitimately disturbing experience of a man’s paranoid delusions, as he tries desperately to make a real human connection while perceiving everyone around him as the same person. It’s that (unfortunately) rare animated film that understands that this medium can tell complex, even terrifying, stories for grown-ups while respecting their intelligence. And it’s still gorgeously put together, with seamless movements from the character puppets and evocative lighting and cinematography that puts the film firmly in the uncanny valley. It’s a tougher watch than it looks, but the depth of feeling it captures is nothing short of totally human.

47. Gather (2020)

best

8.2

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Sanjay Rawal

Moods

Inspiring, Instructive, Mind-blowing

This insightful and uplifting documentary is about a growing movement within indigenous communities: obtaining food sovereignty by going back to pre-genocide ways of cultivating food.

The violent changes that have affected indigenous communities don’t impact just the people, but also the animals, the fish, and the land. All of these are now bearing the brunt of climate change.

Historically, North American governments forbid Native people from fishing and cultivating their foods as a way to repress them and create dependency. Gather is as much a recognition of the damage that was done as it is a forward-looking vision about how these communities are taking control of their faiths.

48. Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Martin Scorsese

Actors

Barry Corbin, Ben Hall, Brendan Fraser, Cara Jade Myers

Moods

A-list actors, Action-packed, Challenging

Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon isn’t a whodunnit; in fact, it’s closer to a who-didn’t-do-it. We know from the very beginning who is responsible for committing the brutal serial murders of wealthy Osage Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma that the film chronicles: pretty much every single one of their white neighbors, spearheaded by William Hale (a skin-crawling Robert De Niro). Scorsese, most often associated with mafia stories, stealthily suggests here that the most dangerous gang of all is the one into which all these perpetrators have been born. That’s an idea he investigates through the confused loyalties of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart, the Judas-like husband of Mollie (movie-stealer Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman who owns lucrative oil headrights that William wants to fatten his own pockets with. This searing epic — based on a harrowing chapter of real American history — is an unsparing and self-implicating look at complicity and greed in the eye, a monumental movie that cements its maker as one of the greatest to ever do it.

49. Leave the World Behind (2023)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Sam Esmail

Actors

Alexis Rae Forlenza, Charlie Evans, Ethan Hawke, Farrah Mackenzie

Moods

A-list actors, Challenging, Character-driven

The key to what makes this apocalyptic thriller from Mr Robot and Homecoming showrunner Sam Esmail so unnerving is how resolute it is about not taking place in an alternate timeline. Making references to memorable events in recent history and namechecking real brands and cultural touchstones (like Tesla and Friends), Leave the World Behind is uncannily familiar — which, when combined with the film’s meticulous crafting of tension, makes it all the more unsettling.

Though taking place amidst an ambiguous national emergency, the film is largely set in one house — a claustrophobic setting that puts the characters’ self-conceits and prejudices under a microscope and forces them to confront their own impotence in an analog world. If it all sounds a bit “we live in a society,” be assured that Leave the World Behind cleverly manages to avoid the pitfalls of seeming like a bad Black Mirror ripoff by sidestepping expectations and deploying all the atmospheric tools in its arsenal. Withholding key plot and character information to increase our own paranoia means the movie always runs the risk of disappointment when explanations are finally given, but its focus on the human drama and its well-set-up ending ultimately eclipse any niggling frustrations.

50. Leonor Will Never Die (2022)

best

8.2

Country

Philippines, United States of America

Director

Female director, Martika Ramirez Escobar

Actors

Anthony Falcon, Bong Cabrera, Martika Ramirez Escobar, Miguel Almendras

Moods

Mind-blowing, Original, Thought-provoking

At times looking and sounding like a real Filipino action film from 50 years ago, while painstakingly edited to juggle storylines across several realities, Leonor Will Never Die is worth seeing for its originality and ambition alone. Among so many other films that function as sanitized “love letters to cinema,” this one bears the distinction of still feeling charmingly scrappy and improvised even with how meticulously it’s crafted. It doesn’t simply pine for a bygone era of movies, but it actively explores what purpose movies serve to us as individuals and as communities. Where it arrives with regard to healing and acceptance and bringing people together feels entirely earned, even if it might not always be easy to understand.

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