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Danny Boyle’s latest movie, Trance has hit theaters over the weekend. We got a movie about that mind and twisted and turned constantly during its running time. To celebrate let us look at some of the most mind bending movies ever made, with a mix of blockbusters, independent movies and art-house offerings.
10. The Matrix
One of the great sci-fi action movies is The Wachowskis’ The Matrix, which used ideas from cyberpunk, referenced Simulacra and Simulation, explored Plato’s Cave Allegory and borrowed concepts from George Orwell’s Nineteenth-Eighty Four. The Matrix can be seen on a basic level of knowing that the world is fake you and that you are not limited by the rules of reality. The Matrix sequels are also mind bending, but for all the wrong reasons.
The other movie that is literally set in the mind is Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Inception works both as an entertaining action movie and as a more thematic movie about the nature of the mind, the dreamscape, the sense of reality and guilt, as Lee Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his crew attempt to implant an idea deep in the mind of an industrialist’s heir.
8. Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko is a cult classic and made Jake Gyllenhaal a star as he plays Donald “Donnie” Darko, a teenager with social problems, takes medicine for schizophrenia and seeing a giant rabbit, called Frank. And if that is not bizarre enough Donnie ends up learning that the world is going to end in 27 days and he starts to research philosophy and the ethics of time travel, reading a book written by a former teacher. It is certainly a movie that many moviegoers have enjoyed over the years.
Christopher Nolan is renounced for bringing in psychological themes and that was certainly the case with his first American movie, Memento. Memento tells the story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man who suffers from anterograde amnesia and therefore cannot form any short-term memories, as he investigates the rape and death of his wife. Nolan told the story of the movie backwards as we see the pieces of the puzzle of why Leonard killed a man and how people are willing to use him during his mission.
Released before The Matrix and Inception is David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, a sci-fi movie set in the near future where people are able to plug organic games consoles into their spinal cords and get sucked into virtual reality. eXistenZ tells how Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the world’s most famous computer game designer becomes a target of terrorists and with her security guard, Ted (Jude Law) have to go into the game world to find out why, leading them to worlds within worlds.
5. The Machinist
Between making American Psycho and Batman Begins, Christian Bale made the thriller The Machinist. Bale’s weight went down to 120 lbs. as he plays Trevor Reznik, a machinist who suffers from insomnia for a year, questioning his own sanity and sense of reality because of his own sleep deprivation.
4. The Skin I Live In
From Spain is Pedro Almodóvar’s psychological thriller The Skin I Live In, a movie that you should go in as blind as possible, as it twist and turns constantly. Antonio Banderas stars as Robert Ledgard, a skin surgeon who has made artificial skin and to test it he has a woman held captive in his home, Vera Cruz (Elena Anaya). But Vera has an even stranger and darker story once it is revealed.
3. The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A movie that literally explores the mind is Michel Gondry’s The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is set mostly in the mind of Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) as he goes through a process to erase all his memories of his former girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet). But during the process, Joel realizes he loves Clementine and tries to hide her in his own fleeting memories.
2. Mulholland Drive
David Lynch is known for making many strange and surreal movies during his career. His 2001 thriller, Mulholland Drive, seemed like a straight forward movie, as it tells the story of a woman with amnesia, Rita (Laura Harring) befriends an aspiring actress, Betty (Naomi Watts), as the two women try to find out who Rita really is. It all seems like a good thriller for the first two thirds before going into what the hellish territory for the final act.
Dishonorable Mention: Southland Tales
Richard Kelly made a real splash when he made Donnie Darko and it became a cult classic. His follow-up movie, Southland Tales, was seen as a highly anticipated movie and it was even set up to be an event, as prequel comics were published. But when it premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival it bombed badly and Kelly had to spend a year re-editing it. And what we got was still an incoherent mess that confused anyone who dared to watch it as it explores time travel, an overload of characters and stories, nuclear terrorism and Neo-Marxist terrorists, clones/twins and Seann William Scott becoming the new messiah. Southland Tales bombed badly, becoming a straight-to-DVD release in many nations and Kelly now has a reputation akin to M. Night Shyamalan. The most memorial scene is Justin Timberlake randomly lip-syncing to The Killers “All These Thing I Have Done”.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick is seen as one of the greatest directors ever to have lived and has made many classics over his careers. One of them is 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the most daring sci-fi movies ever made as it takes us on a journey from the dawn of man to the discovery to a new species. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a highly ambitious film that for large periods was mostly silence as it explores its themes, leading to one of the most surreal final acts in all of cinema history.