30 Mind Bending Movies That Will Get You Thinking
Recently we took a look at the best heartwarming and sweet family movies. Now it’s time to journey into the weird, intense, twisted, and mysterious with the best mind bending movies. Since the dawn of Hollywood, mind bending films have been a staple of the silver screen. These thrilling and strange tales take audiences down the rabbit hole, complete with more twists and turns that you can poke a stick at.
Some filmmakers specialize in mind bending films that leave audiences in a state of shock. These great mind twisting flicks have a reputation for slowly unraveling a mysterious plot, leading to a twist ending that usually offers more questions than answers. Mind bending films come in a wide variety of genres, including science fiction films that take audiences on twisting adventures through space and time and psychological thrillers and horror movies that draw viewers into haunting worlds with shocking plot twists that leave the audience reeling.
Many filmmakers blend various genres to create epic mind bending films with ambiguous endings. In fact, ambiguous storylines and vague endings are a staple of mind bending cinema. Hollywood wouldn’t be the same without these fantastic movies. So let’s take a trip through Hollywood and the world of cinema to discover films that will bend your mind.
30 Mind Bending Movies That Will Get You Thinking
1. The Sixth Sense (1999)
The critically acclaimed The Sixth Sense takes mind-bending plot twists to a new level. Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the plot revolves around a child psychologist who begins seeing a patient claiming he can see dead people. The film brilliantly builds tension with its chilling atmosphere and incredible performances.
The twist ending still shocks audiences on repeated viewings. With one of the greatest endings in cinema, The Sixth Sense became the second highest-grossing movie of 1999. Furthermore, it launched Shyamalan’s career, becoming one of the most prominent directors in Hollywood.Watch on Apple TV
2. Memento (2000)
Christopher Nolan has a unique skill for making mind bending movies that twist the mind like a pretzel. It all started with the critically acclaimed Memento. Leonard Shelby is determined to find the people that attacked him and killed his wife. But it’s tricky as Leonard suffers from amnesia and the inability to form new memories, also known as anterograde amnesia. Therefore, he uses polaroids and tattoos to keep track of information he can’t remember.
Considered one of the best movies of the 2000s, it uses a nonlinear narrative with two perspectives to put the viewer in Leonard’s shoes. One set of events unfolds in black & white chronological order, but scenes shot in color happen in reverse order. The two storylines collide in a mind bending ending. Critics and fans consider Memento one of Nolan’s greatest movies.Watch on HBOMax
3. Fight Club (1999)
Directed by David Fincher, Fight Club follows the unnamed narrator who is unsatisfied with his mundane life and tedious job. Everything changes when he forms an underground fight club with enigmatic soap salesman Tyler Durden. Fight Club became a cult classic due to the stellar cast, directing, and mind bending plot twist.
Despite starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helen Bonham Carter, it bombed at the box office. After its home video release, it gained cult status, eventually becoming one of the greatest cult movies of all time.Watch on Prime
4. Black Swan (2010)
Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is a psychological tale set in the world of ballet. The compelling plot focuses on ballerina Nina Sayers who lands the demanding lead role in the New York City Ballet’s production of Swan Lake. However, Sayers begins to unravel and descends into madness when a rival adds extra pressure to the young ballerina.
The critically and commercially acclaimed Black Swan became one of the best movies of 2010. Fans and critics praised Aronofsky’s directing and the nail-biting plot. Natalie Portman won Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her performance as a troubled ballet dancer.Watch on Prime
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Regarded among the greatest movies of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey pioneered groundbreaking techniques in visual effects. Furthermore, it was one of the first films to depict space accurately. Using unconventional storytelling methods, director Stanley Kubrick brings the viewers into a mysterious and bleak futuristic world.
It follows a group of astronauts and scientists who travel to Jupiter with a supercomputer HAL to investigate a strange alien monolith. The film’s ambiguous nature and ending remain hotly debated among critics and fans.Watch on HBOMax
6. Interstellar (2014)
Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar takes place in a future where humanity struggles to survive after a blight caused a global famine. A group of astronauts travels into a wormhole, hoping to discover a new home for humans. The mind-bending plot takes viewers on an intense journey through space and time.
Critics and fans praised the brilliant science fiction flick for its stellar ensemble cast, scientific accuracy, and cinematography. It hit theatres to rave reviews and quickly became one of the best science fiction movies of the 00s.Watch on Paramount+
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2014)
The critically acclaimed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a mind bending romantic film. Fans and critics consider it one of the greatest romantic movies of all time. Written by Charlie Kaufman, it revolves around a couple who have their memories erased.
After a nasty fight, Joel (portrayed by Jim Carrey) is shocked to find out his girlfriend, Clementine (portrayed by Kate Winslet), had her memories of him erased by a company called Lacuna. Joel decides to have the same procedure and experiences his memories erasing. The beautiful romantic story takes viewers on a science fiction ride through love, heartbreak, and reconciliation.Watch on iQIYI
8. Blade Runner (1982)
Set in a dystopian future, the Tyrell Corporation creates artificial humans known as replicants to work in space colonies. Former cop Rick Deckard returns to track down a group of rogue replicants who escaped to Earth. However, Deckard might not be who he appears to be.
At first, the critically acclaimed Blade Runner bombed at the box office and failed to impress critics. But as was often the case of 80s movies, once released on VHS, the complex and mind-bending plot soon gained cult status.
Eventually, it became regarded as one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. Blade Runner features a bleak depiction of the future with shocking twists and turns. A sequel, Blade Runner 2049, hit theatres in 2017 and is well worth a watch.Watch on Prime
9. Donnie Darko (2001)
The cult classic Donnie Darko tells the tale of a troubled teenager who avoids a fatal and strange accident while sleepwalking in October 1988. He then begins seeing visions of a mysterious person in a rabbit suit, Frank, who informs Donnie the world will end in 28 days.
Dealing with themes of death, fate, and chance, Donnie Darko is a mind bending movie that requires several re-watches. Directed by Richard Kelly, it did poorly at the box office despite a cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Patrick Swayze. After the DVD release, Donnie Darko grew in popularity, becoming a cult classic.Watch on Hulu
10. Inception (2010)
Considered one of the best movies of 2010, Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a mind-bending thriller that had audiences walking out in a stupor. The classic film is famous for its ensemble cast, cinematography, dream sequences, and ambiguous ending.
Professional thief Dom Cobb (portrayed by Leonardo Dicaprio) steals information by entering the subconscious of his targets. He can clear his criminal history by planting an idea into his next target’s subconscious. The movie’s famously ambiguous ending has viewers re-watching the classic flick hundreds of times.Watch on Hulu
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11. Arrival (2016)
The universally acclaimed drama Arrival will bend your mind and break your heart. It takes viewers on an emotional ride while exploring time travel and communicating with extraterrestrials with a unique approach.
Starring Amy Adams, humans panic when twelve extraterrestrial ships arrive on Earth. Thus, the U.S. army brings in a linguist Louise Banks to communicate with the aliens. Critics praised the captivating movie’s cinematography, cast, and approach to time travel. Considered one of the best movies of 2016, it deals with themes of free will, family, communication, and loss.Watch on Hulu
12. Rope (1957)
Iconic filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense and building tension. He knew how to “rope” the audience into his thrilling films. For instance, the classic psychological thriller Rope has audiences on the edge of their seats.
Inspired by the real-life case of Leopold and Loeb, two college friends murder their classmate to commit the perfect murder. The two friends host a dinner party with the dead body hidden in a nearby chest. Hitchcock plays with viewers’ minds, making them accomplices in the murder as only the two killers and the audience know what happened before the party.Watch on Apple TV
13. The Shining (1980)
The Shining follows writer Jack Torrance who accepts a position as a caretaker at the Overlook hotel during the winter season. Jack, his wife, and son, who has psychic abilities called “the shining,” live alone in the historic hotel. After a snowstorm cuts them off from the rest of the world, Jack unravels and descends into madness.
Based on the Stephen King novel, The Shining is famous for its mind bending plot and ambiguous ending. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, it received mixed reviews upon its release, although opinions on the movie changed as many horror fans now consider it one of the greatest movies of the genre.Watch on Tubi
14. The Usual Suspects (1995)
The Usual Suspects revolves around the interrogation of con-man Roger “Verbal” Kint after a deadly massacre on a ship. Verbal’s gripping tale features a mysterious crime lord known as Keyser Söze. By hiding, Verbal managed to survive to tell this story.
After a slow start, The Usual Suspects gained widespread acclaim for the directing and stellar ensemble cast. The film’s most famous for its final mind-bending plot twist that ranks as one of cinema’s greatest twists.Watch on Paramount+
15. American Psycho (2000)
Set in 1987, the twisted tale of Patrick Bateman unfolds in the critically acclaimed American Psycho. Starring Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, a typical 1980s New York Bank investor living the high life with his gorgeous fiance and wealthy colleagues. Bateman lives a double life as a sick and sadistic serial killer.
Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name, American Psycho is one of the most popular movies of the 2000s. As Bateman’s life unravels, he and the audience question reality and whether what they are seeing is real or just in Bateman’s mind.Watch on HBOMax
16. Coherence (2013)
As Miller’s Comet passes by Earth, eight friends meet for a typical dinner party. Already a tense situation, the night takes a strange turn of events when multiple houses from different realities of the eight friends appear.
The mind-bending tale becomes stranger and more complex as the eight friends unravel. Soon, only one reality will remain. Influenced by the classic TV series The Twilight Zone, critics praised the film for its writing, directing, and casting.Watch on Tubi
17. Mulholland Drive (2001)
David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive is a mind-bending neo-noir mystery that ends with more questions than answers. While it divided fans, many regard it as one of Lynch’s best films. It’s set in Los Angeles and follows an aspiring actress who meets an amnesiac woman in her apartment. That’s just the beginning, as both women go on a strange journey through the world-famous city.
Critics praised the cinematography, surrealist approach, and ambiguous ending. Mullholland Drive presents more questions than answers as it takes viewers down a rabbit hole full of twists and turns.Watch on Prime
18. The Truman Show (1998)
Truman Burbank grew up living an ordinary life in a small town with a white picket fence. But Truman’s unaware that his life is a reality TV show filmed on a giant sound stage full of actors playing his wife and best friend.
Starring Jim Carry, The Truman Show hit theatres to rave reviews and universal praise. The psychological flick blends genres of romance, metafiction, comedy, and science fiction. It quickly became one of the best movies of 1998.Watch on Roku
19. Holy Motors (2012)
Set in Paris, Holy Motors follows a mysterious actor named Mr. Oscar, who drives around in a white limousine with his driver Celine. The mind-bending movie keeps viewers guessing as Mr. Oscar draws them into his mysterious world.
Throughout the day, Mr. Oscar performs several times in different roles for cameras he can’t see. Critics and fans praised the captivating and strange tale of the actor in the critically acclaimed Holy Motors.
20. Seven (1995)
David Fincher’s Seven is a mind bending thriller that influenced an entire generation of films that followed. With one of the greatest twist endings in cinema, Seven follows disillusioned detective William Somerset and new transfer David Mills as they track down a deadly serial killer.
The killer leaves behind a chilling calling card using the seven deadly sins. Fincher slowly unravels the nail-biting mystery until the final gripping moments with Millis and the audience screaming, “What’s in the box?”Watch on Tubi
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21. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut is regarded as a masterpiece of the 1990s. Dr. William “Bill” Harford goes on a bizarre journey for two days after discovering his wife contemplated an affair with a naval officer.
Portrayed by Tom Cruise, Bill faces temptations, jealousy, and danger after attending a mysterious party put on by a secret society. Kubrick completed the critically acclaimed film just days before his sudden death.Watch on Apple TV
22. Upstream Color (2013)
Filmmaker Shane Carruth has a knack for creating mind bending movies full of twists and turns. He made his feature film debut with Primer and followed it up with the weird and wonderful Upstream Color. The critically acclaimed movie deals with themes of loss, birth, and death in a mind-bending science-fiction thriller.
The strange tale follows two people unaware they are experiencing the effects of a parasite. They go on an intense emotional journey as they try to unravel a mysterious few days they can’t remember.Watch on Apple TV
23. The Prestige (2006)
At the end of the 19th century, two magicians, Robert Angier and Alfred Bowden, engage in a bitter feud as they attempt to create the perfect teleportation trick. Both men sacrifice their families, identity, and lives for the sake of the trick.
Christopher Nolan’s gripping and captivating psychological thriller keeps viewers guessing with a series of twists and turns ending with the ultimate trick. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale lead a stellar ensemble cast in a thrilling tale with audiences in a daze as they try to unravel the mystery.Watch on Hulu
24. Predestination (2014)
Ethan Hawke stars in the Australian sci-fi thriller Predestination. It follows an agent of the Temporal Bureau as he travels through time to complete his mission. He soon realizes that his future, present, and past are all entangled in ways he couldn’t imagine.
The exciting time-traveling movie twists time and bends the mind beyond belief. Critics and audiences praised the movie’s lead transgender character and its unique approach to time travel.Watch on Hulu
25. The Fountain (2006)
Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain is a mind bending love story that occurs in three storylines loosely connected. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz portray couples in love in three scenarios in which the queen or wife is terminally ill in all three. In each timeline, the husband is determined to discover the secret of eternal life or cure death.
The ambiguous movie is unclear how the three narratives connect and it’s unclear if all the events are actually transpiring. The complex and epic romantic tale deals with eternal life, love, and death and will leave you with more questions than answers.Watch on Apple TV
26. Primer (2004)
Independent film Primer is famous for its mind bending plot, low budget, and minimal cast. Written, produced, and directed by star Shane Carruth, Primer revolves around two engineers, Abe and Aaron, who create a time machine. While Abe is cautious not to interfere with the past, Aaron is impulsive and breaks all the rules.
The critically acclaimed Primer twists viewers’ minds with its new approach to the time travel movie. It’s one of the most popular low-budget independent movies.Watch on Prime
27. Shutter Island (2010)
Directed by the iconic Martin Scorsese, the psychological thriller Shutter Island slowly builds tension until unleashing a fury of intense twists and turns. U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels and his partner travel to a psychiatric facility on the mysterious Shutter Island to investigate a patient’s death.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, The nail-biting ending leaves audiences in a daze of confusion. It’s easily one of Scorsese’s scariest movies.Watch on Netflix
28. Being John Malkovich (1999)
Writer Charlie Kaufman made his feature film debut with the strange and compelling psychological comedy Being John Malkovich. It follows a puppeteer, Craig Schwartz, who finds a secret portal into the mind of actor John Malkovich.
Craig and his co-worker Maxine decided to charge people to use the portal with dire consequences. The odd tale draws in the audience with incredible writing, acting, and a compelling plot.Watch on Prime
29. Inland Empire (2006)
Legendary director David Lynch took a different approach with the mind-twisting horror film Inland Empire. Lynch shot the movie over three years using a simple Sony handheld camera. The unique approach gives the surrealist horror movie a personal feel.
The plot follows a Hollywood actress who can’t separate reality from the cursed fictional character she’s playing. She goes down a strange rabbit hole ending with the final dance sequence sure to leave you baffled.Watch on Prime
30. Dark City (1998)
When John Murdoch awakens in a hotel bathtub, he has no memories and doesn’t know how he got there. He then goes on a mind bending journey searching for the woman he loves while evading capture from the police and alien beings called The Strangers.
Initially, Dark City was a bomb at the box office and failed to impress critics. However, it gained cult status for its incredible cinematography, compelling story, and science-fiction themes. Furthermore, Dark City was highly influential on the groundbreaking Matrix, which came out a year later.Watch on Prime
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