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10 Best Cinematic Mindfucks
The twisty dreamy landscape of cinema
By Dirk Sonniksen
July 16, 2010
10 Best Cinematic Mindfucks
© Bob Trate/Mania
There is nothing more satisfying than a truly mind-bending cinematic experience. A movie in this category can be at times painful to watch, but it is also a thrilling puzzle that can have audiences pondering its meaning for days, weeks, or years. We have compiled a list of our favorite psychological mind-benders that we happily refer to as Cinematic Mindfucks. Enjoy.
10. Naked Lunch (1991)
“The Talking Asshole” and a drug called Black Meat are just a few of the highlights of the extreme weirdness of Naked Lunch. Based on the novel by William S. Burroughs and directed by David Cronenberg, Naked Lunch was destined to be a very strange flick. The film revolves around William Lee, a guy who kills bugs for a living, but ends up in a surreal reality called Interzone due to his exposure to insecticide. What transpires is a trippy journey with… yes, a lot of giant bugs and other oddities. Naked Lunch is funny, sad, disgusting, extremely strange, and worthy of our list.
9. The Jacket (2005)
Mental wards are no place to be in the movies, particularly when the experiments start and you’re locked in a morgue drawer. Such is the luck of Jack Starks who, while in the drawer, is transported to the future only to realize that he will die in the past. Jack meets Jackie and together they begin to unravel the riddle of Jack’s death. Jack also manages to alter the events of the future he returns to, which completely changes his relationship with Jackie… who he met in the future, creating the makings of a true cinematic mindfuck!
8. The Matrix (1999)
Do you take the red pill or the blue pill? That is just one question in this mind-boggling, reality-pondering film. It’s the future, and machines are using humans as energy in the peculiar land that is The Matrix. It’s up to Neo (The One) to unravel the mysteries of this computer-simulated reality. The Matrix was one of the first films to play upon the idea of computer mind control in a more modern sense, and became a smash hit that would lead to several more less-than-stellar sequels.
7. Donnie Darko (1991)
Donnie Darko has gone from relative obscurity to cult classic, and it’s easy to see why. Donnie is a seemingly normal kid who is caught up in a bizarre alternate universe. One universe will have to be put in check or the world will end. Donnie is the unwitting pawn in this strange adventure and will eventually make the ultimate sacrifice to make things right. Donnie Darko is a gem of a movie and a real head-scratcher, complete with time travel, falling plane engines, and a guy in a giant bunny suit.
6. Altered States (1980)
Altered States is a great reason to not take hallucinogenic drugs and hop into an isolation tank. William Hurt stars in this freaky feature about a scientist that goes to the outer reaches, a “trip” that transforms Edward Jessup into both an Australopithecus-type creature and a big lump of primordial goo. Altered States is a film that is a must-see, but might cause irreversible brain damage if you’re tripping during viewing. Beware! Don’t take the brown acid!
5. Vanilla Sky (2001)
Are dreams reality or the work of “Tech Support?” In Vanilla Sky, David Aames is a well-to-do fellow whose life gets complicated when his face is disfigured and he is arrested for murder. As if that wasn’t enough, David soon realizes that he has been living in a “lucid dream,” courtesy of Life Extension, and to make matters worse, David actually committed suicide and has been in some cryogenic state. He now has the option to continue living in the lucid dream or being woken up (so to speak) and live in a world in which he is unfamiliar. Got it? Yeah, it’s strange, and that’s why it makes our list.
4. Memento (2000)
Enter Leonard Shelby, a man on the trail of his wife’s murderer, but a trail that is truly a mindfuck that travels backward and forward through the entire film. Memento features the best use of a guy (played by Guy Pierce… hahah) with amnesia, the combination of black and white and color cinematography, and certainly the most resourceful use ever for tattoos. Memento is also a film that has to be watched in its entirety, or else one runs the risk of getting seriously confused.
3. Lost Highway (1997)
The directing career of David Lynch has been one continuous mindfuck, but no other film best exemplifies Lynch’s tendency toward the strange and bizarre like Lost Highway. Fred Madison is a guy who receives a cryptic caller at his house stating, “Dick Laurent is dead.” Many things transpire, with Fred eventually ending up on death row, turning into someone else entirely while on death row, being released from prison, having many other events transpire, turning back into Fred, and finding out that he was actually the cryptic caller stating “Dick Laurent is dead.” The movie is insane, and proves Lynch could be likewise.
2. The Machinist (2004)
The Machinist is another top-notch psychological thriller that has you guessing until the last minute, and one of our favorite Christian Bale flicks.Bale plays Trevor, a guy that is repressing memories, which can apparently be bad for your health. In Trevor’s case, said health problems take the shape of severe insomnia and a little weight loss. Trevor begins seeing people, but it’s those repressed memories playing tricks on him again. Eventually, Trevor ends up coming full-circle and finally gets a good night’s sleep… albeit in a jail cell.
1. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
A psychological mind-bender that was ahead of its time, Jacob’s Ladder plays with one’s sense of reality in a big way. Jason, a Vietnam vet, is having crazy flashbacks that seem to coincide with similar flashbacks by other soldiers in his platoon. Jason begins having trouble distinguishing reality from the strange hallucinations that are making his life a living hell. In the end we learn that Jacob has been dead the entire time, and that it appears that his flashbacks were possibly the light in his head flickering out.
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