18 Incredible Movies That Make You Think
When it comes to movie watching, our film of choice often depends on our mood. Sometimes we want to laugh, while other times we want to cry. Or maybe you just want to see some mindless action and leave your brain at the door. Whatever you are feeling there is a movie genre for you. This is also true when it comes to movies that make you think.
These movies cover a crosssection of genres but all have one thing in common; working your brain into overdrive. These thought-provoking flicks often need repeat viewings and will have you searching the internet for answers about what you just watched. They make for great debates with friends where you can dissect what you have seen and give your opinion on what just happened.
Some of these movies are intentionally made in a way that has you asking questions about society, governments, the human condition, and the way you live your life, while others are just mindfucks that range from surreal to puzzling and will leave you scratching your head.
We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite movies that will get your mind ticking over and have you questioning everything you know.
18 Incredible Movies That Make You Think
1. Memento (2000)
It might take you a few watches before you fully understand what the hell is going on in Mememto. Christopher Nolan’s reverse neo-noir is an incredible piece of filmmaking with a star turn from lead Guy Pearce. He plays Leonard Shelby, a man suffering from anterograde amnesia, meaning he can’t make short-term memories. On the hunt for his wife’s killers, Shelby encounters several mysterious characters who all have their own motives for helping.
The nonlinear plot only adds to the confusion, despite the two main narratives meeting at the end. Thankfully there is also a version of the film that plays out in chronological order, which certainly makes a lot more sense. Narrative aside, Memento is a clever flick that turned Pearce into a bonafide movie star and cemented Joe Pantoliano as a famous “that guy.”Watch on HBOMax
2. Ex Machina (2014)
Ex Machina went under the radar when first released in 2014, but after getting critics talking, it became a minor hit, going on to win Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards. The movie focuses on Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a computer programmer who wins a competition and gets an invite to visit famous tech CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). When he arrives he finds out he is part of a test to determine whether he can identify the artificially intelligent robot Ava (Alicia Vikander).
Dealing with themes surrounding ethics, A.I., and human morals, Ex Machina asks some big questions that are very relevant to the way civilization is heading. Visually stunning with smart dialogue and an incredible performance from Vikander, Ex Machina is certainly one of the best movies that will make you think released this past decade.Watch on HBOMax
3. Fight Club (1999)
A 90s classic, on the surface, Fight Club is a movie about two men (Brad Pitt and Edward Norton) who form an underground fight club. But beneath that basic premise is a movie about commercialism, philosophy, class, and the image of men from that time period. It breaks down masculinity and looks at male identity through director David Fincher’s visceral cinematography, surreal humor, and brilliant editing.
*Spoiler Alert* The final act when you find out Pitt and Norton are the same person still shocks on repeated viewings, while the supporting cast of Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, and Jared Leto are all incredible.Watch on Disney+
4. Lost Highway (1997)
You could put almost any David Lynch movie on this list and it would be a worthy addition. We lean towards one of Lynch’s early flicks, Lost Highway. The movie doesn’t make a lot of sense from the get-go and pretty much ends the same way. Bill Pullman is a musician being watched by someone, who is then framed for murder, disappears, and is replaced by mechanic Balthazar Getty.
Weird, strange, and puzzling are words that certainly sum up Lost Highway. The surreal narrative structure and Lynch’s intriguing use of dialogue all help make this film an interesting watch that doesn’t really make any sense.Watch on DIRECTV
5. Donnie Darko (2001)
Over two decades since Donnie Darko hit cinemas, watching Richard Kelly’s mind-bending debut feature still leaves you with more questions than answers. Jake Gyllenhaal (in a breakout role) plays the title character, Donnie Darko, who is visited in his dreams by Frank the rabbit who informs him the world is ending in 28 days. After surviving a freak accident, Darko is guided by Frank to commit a series of crimes before the sad yet tender ending leaves you wondering what the fuck you just watched.
It’s a dreamy walk through 80s Americana suburbia with standout performances from Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Seth Rogen, Drew Barrymore, and Patrick Swayze playing against type as a creepy motivational speaker with a shady past. Even if the movie makes little sense, it did gift us Gary Jules covering his band Tears for Fears 1982 hit “Mad World,” which is just tremendous.Watch on Prime
6. Upstream Color (2013)
After the success of his indie debut Primer, Shane Carruth gets even weirder in Upstream Color. There’s a lot going on, with themes of disconnection, life cycles, existential doubt, and other deep subjects permeating through this unique science fiction meets drama movie.
It’s best to go in without knowing too much, and even if you do understand the basic premise (parasites invading people’s bodies and the impact that has on them), it doesn’t really prepare you for what happens. Just sit back, take it all in, enjoy the ride, and be ready to jump on Google to find more answers after watching.Watch on Apple Tv
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
It feels like we talk about this movie on a weekly basis. It’s such an incredible piece of moviemaking that happens to fit into so many different categories, from trippy movies to movies like Interstellar. And as far as movies that make you think go, 2001: A Space Odyssey is right up there.
Iconic filmmaker Stanley Kubrick brings Arthur C. Clarke’s famous novel of the same name to life in this high-art look at life, death, and human existence as we know it. The special effects are also worth mentioning, especially the giant baby fetus in the final act.Watch on Tubi
8. The Fountain (2006)
Darren Aronofsky’s ambitious tale of love and mortality played out across three different time periods didn’t exactly get the critical praise many expected. While it struggled at the box office, The Fountain is a worthy addition to Aronofsky’s filmography with high concepts and ideas that don’t always fully work but will play on your mind.
Aussie Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star as lovers across three different time periods. In one, Jackman is a Conquistador searching for the Tree of Life, the next is set in modern times with Jackman a doctor trying to cure his wife’s (Weisz) terminal cancer, and the third story finds Jackman as some sort of spaceman floating through the cosmos.
As we mentioned, there are a lot of big ideas in this one, and not everything clicks, but overall it’s an interesting look at life and coming to terms with death. Jackman is incredible too.Watch on Apple TV
9. Waking Life (2001)
Richard Linklater has always challenged with his movies, and Waking Life is no different. This experimental drama explores a whole host of philosophical issues, including dreams, consciousness, free will, existentialism, and the meaning of life. Heavy stuff, we know, but the way Linklater presents it as an easy-to-digest story about a man wandering through dream-like worlds who meets people that test his ideas makes it an enjoyable watch.
That’s not to say you won’t have questions at the end, as you’ll likely be wondering what the point of life is as the credits roll. While these ideas of life and existence swim around your head, the visual effects of the movie (the footage shot is overlayed with drawings giving it an animated quality) will also keep your mind triggered.Watch on HBOMax
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10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Would you have your memories erased to forget about an ex? That’s the question asked in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When Jim Carrey finds out former girlfriend Kate Winslet had memories of their relationship erased, he decides to do the same thing. As his memories are erased, Carrey relives his relationship in reverse until he has no knowledge of Winslet being in his life. But when circumstances draw the two together, they must decide whether to try again or go their separate ways.
Visually impressive thanks to Gondry’s eye-catching cinematography, Carrey and Winslet are fantastic while the ending will have you discussing with your partner and friends what you would do if you had the opportunity to erase memories from your past.Watch on iQIYI
11. Being John Malkovich (1999)
Being John Malkovich conjures up all sorts of weird and wonderful thoughts for anyone who has seen this ridiculously unhinged flick. The brainchild of writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich is about John Cusak’s Craig Schwartz finding a doorway into John Malkovich’s head, enabling him to control the actor for a short period of time before being dumped by the side of a highway.
The idea for the film is wacky enough, but the twists and turns it takes will knock you about until the satisfying ending. Cusak and Malkovich are great and ably supported by Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener who have pivotal roles in the plot. You will never watch another movie like this one and it’s safe to say you won’t see Malkovich in the same light again either.Watch on Prime
12. Under the Skin (2013)
Scarlett Johansson is an alien who kills men around Scotland and seemingly absorbs their thoughts in this contemplative sci-fi flick from Jonathan Glazer. Besides Johansson, the majority of the cast aren’t actors with much of the footage shot using hidden cameras, giving Under the Skin a very indie feel.
Not a lot really happens during the film, but the special effects are very impressive for such a small budget. Johansson is as alluring as ever as the alien and the minimalistic soundtrack is also worth mentioning. As far as themes, there are many different takes on the movie, with some seeing it as a meditation on race and immigration, and others as an exploration of empathy and the human experience. Whatever you take from this film, it will certainly get you thinking.Watch on Prime
13. Enter the Void (2009)
This one is a real mind trip with showstopping visuals. Set in the fluorescent-drenched streets of Tokyo, it follows the spirit of an American drug dealer who is shot and killed. The film follows his spirit as he views events unfolding after his death. Inspired by psychedelic drug experiences, Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void is a visual feast with many twists and turns that will have you pondering if there really is life after death.Watch on Prime
14. The Truman Show (1998)
Long before reality TV was a thing, The Truman Show paved the way for the genre while also looking at the impact it has on people. Jim Carrey is Truman Burbank, a child raised in a fictional world that is televised to millions around the globe. But when Truman starts to notice his world isn’t what it seems, he beings to question his reality and what’s real in his life.
Nobody could have predicted The Truman Show would be a template for reality TV shows like Big Brother and Love Island. The movie highlights the role the media has in our lives today (both positive and negative) and will have you questioning what reality really means. Besides the hard-hitting and ethical questions this movie throws up, it’s a brilliant satirical drama with Carrey proving he’s more than just a comic actor.Watch on Prime
15. Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Imagine someone narrating your life every day. Not only are they talking about what you are experiencing as you go through it, but they’re also hinting that your inevitable demise is happening very soon. That’s the premise of Marc Foster’s tremendous drama comedy Stranger Than Fiction. Will Ferrell puts in a fantastic straight performance as the man who hears his life being narrated and tries to stop his death from happening.
It’s great seeing Ferrell in a dramatic role, with the great script from Zach Helm certainly helping his cause. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Emma Thompson are all fantastic in supporting roles. The movie will have you questioning your own life and where it’s headed and whether everything is left up to fate or whether we really have a say on how our lives progress.Watch on Pluto TV
16. The Matrix (1999)
Forget the horrid sequels and recent reboot, the only movie of The Matrix franchise worth watching is the original. Keanu Reeves is living his everyday life when he is thrust into the Matrix and discovers the world we live in isn’t exactly what we think it is. Dealing with themes like religion, philosophy, transgender issues, and the world being a simulation, The Matrix is an action-packed science fiction flick with deep meanings.
As well as asking the big questions about life as we know it, the movie features some impressive action set pieces, the introduction of bullet-time, and standout performances from Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving. A sci-fi classic that is best watched as a stand-alone movie without the sequels.Watch on HBOMax
17. We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
Tilda Swinton puts in another mesmerizing performance as a mother who has trouble connecting with her son. When he does something inherently evil, she must come to terms with who her son is and how her behavior towards him impacted the path he took. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a psychological drama that won several awards and received critical acclaim.
Swinton and John C. Reilly as her husband and Ezra Miller as their son are fantastic, with the movie asking whether Swinton hates her son because he is evil, or he is evil because his mom can’t stand him. If you enjoy this one the book is just as good.Watch on Tubi
18. Gone Girl (2014)
Gone Girl won’t necessarily have you thinking deeply about the movie itself (although it’s pretty crazy), but more about your relationships with the opposite sex and how you treat them, and the possibilities that could occur when one is a little more obsessed than the other.
The plot revolves around Ben Affleck who is accused of his wife’s murder after she goes missing. To say any more would spoil the story, suffice it to say that things aren’t what they seem as a lot of history between the two is brought to the surface. Gone Girl is a top-notch psychological thriller that ticks all the right boxes.Watch on Prime
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