Script writing is a tough job, guys. Ask anyone who ever sat through a night, trying to figure out one single scene. A movie rides on the strength of the storyline, only then do the rest of the factors come into play. Some movies are easy to comprehend. No rocket science, no mind-taxing business.
But some movies are clearly devised with the intent to challenge the viewer. The idea is to push the limits of one’s imagination and open up the mind to the unthinkable. The layers of complexity might seem impossible to peel off, but the mystery can be cracked, only if you watch carefully. Unless the end is obscure and open to interpretation, of course.
Which is why we came up with an assortment of great movies that’ll need your time and attention. They’re all immensely engaging stories with their own unique techniques to confuse, surprise and shock you.
Don’t worry, the wait will be totally worth it.
1. Birdman (2014)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
A masterpiece by a genius storyteller, this dazzling screenplay unfolds in unbelievably long one-take shots that emphasis the top-notch talent of the lead actor, Michael Keaton. He plays the role of a once-famous movie star who desperately tries to resurrect his fallen status through an inspired Broadway project.
2. The Illusionist (2006)
Director: Neil Burger
This is a thrilling story about how a man who sets out into the world to find the love of his life, who was taken away from him. He makes his mark as a magician and becomes a master of disguise, all to rescue his lady from the clutches of royalty. You wouldn’t mind watching this mysterious romance several times.
3. Enemy (2013)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Jake Gyllenhaal is back to being a cinema God. This time, he strikes raises the game with a scintillating double role. The movie follows Adam, a college professor who spots his doppelgänger in a movie and finds a way to live his life. This risky secret soon gives way to complexities and danger.
4. Holy Motors (2012)
Director: Leos Carax
This is the mad, mesmerising tale of a strange man, Monsieur Oscar, who is driven around the city by Céline, his beautiful driver. As they move around Paris, the man shifts from one identity to another as if in a movie shoot. Except, there are no cameras rolling. He’s a beggar, an assassin, a family man… then someone else. So, what’s happening? This movie will leave you shaking and intrigued.
5. The Master (2012)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
‘The Cause’ is what drives the leading ensemble of this tricky, marvellous film about an infamous religious movement. The main man, a mentally unstable navy veteran joins a group that advocates its ideologies about faith, forming cults all over. The performances are immensely intense, set in a dark, dangerous mood of immorality and brainwash. If you understand what happens, you’ll find yourself angry and upset over these events based on facts.
6. Memento (2000)
Director: Christopher Nolan
We all know this story. It was adapted to create the super successful movie, ‘Ghajini’ in Bollywood. It’s about a man with short-term memory loss on the hunt for his wife’s killer. The insane tactics he resorts to show the determination and resourcefulness of a man who wants revenge.
7. Cloud Atlas (2012)
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
This movie comes packed with a stellar cast and multiple plots set across six different eras. The key message is to demonstrate how a man’s actions can impact the past, present and future. The concepts of freedom and oppression are also explored in this multi-layered masterpiece that won the accolades of critics all over.
8. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Director: Terry Gilliam
This sci-fi success is a heavy film about time travel and totally mind-fucking, to say the least. Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a convict who is presented the opportunity to free himself by going back in the past and eradicating the root cause of a plague that wiped out most of Earth’s population. Will he be able to find out what happened and save the world? This absurd fantasy will leave your head spinning.
9. The Tree Of Life (2011)
Director: Terrence Malick
Hailed as a cinematic gem by some of the most renowned film critics of the world, Malick’s wonder child is all about essence of life and love, from the beginning of time to the modern world. This is a meditative movie, meant to run in your imagination way after the credits start rolling. Follow it carefully because the meanings run too deep. And get set to question your very existence after you’re done.
10. Under The Skin (2013)
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Scarlett Johansson is a woman from another world in this creepy, fantasy film about an alien who lures men into her alien abode. She preys on her victims after picking them up from random places, usually by offering them rides in her truck. It is almost unnerving to watch after a while. You’ll feel many emotions going through this one, that’s for sure.
11. Inception (2010)
Director: Christopher Nolan
This movie calls for repeated viewings but they’re so worth it. Nolan hit the nail with his brain-rummaging, monumental work and was rewarded well for it. Try not to lose yourself in the endless layers of the plot’s kaleidoscopic dimensions. There’s no line between reality and imagination here, it’s for you to figure out.
12. Shutter Island (2010)
Director: Martin Scorsese
I mean, how can a Scorsese and Leo match fail, right? They did it again with this twisted experience of World War 2 veteran and current marshal, Teddy Daniels, when he makes his way to a mental facility for the criminally crazy with his new partner. As he begins his investigation of a patient’s disappearance, Teddy starts losing his own sanity. He discovers too much and must find a way to complete his daunting mission. It’s a pretty disturbing movie. Keep some chocolate nearby.
13. Caché (2005)
Director: Michael Haneke
What a petrifying, mind-blowing film about a quiet French family. Their peace is destroyed after they discover surveillance videos of the exteriors of their house on the porch. They have no clue about the sender. With time, the tension keeps rising with shattering incidents in between. This is a deeply psychological and bold study of the European society. The direction and acting are absolutely flawless. Don’t miss it.
14. The Fountain (2006)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
This is an amalgamation of three incredible stories that cover which most essential parts of human existence: morality, love and the fragility of the human body and spirit. Hugh Jackman dons personas from different centuries to save the woman he loves over a thousand years. The wondrous place between life and death is explored with enlightening passion. This is one time-tripping tale.
15. Inland Empire (2006)
Director: David Lynch
When an actress prepares for the biggest role of her career, her life starts reflecting her onscreen character, creating a terrible space of nightmarish surrealism. Is her reality now fiction or is it the other way round? Then, a series of weird, endless events starts rolling out. Her struggle to break free from this trap is excellently embodied by the talented Laura Dern.
16. Oldboy (2003)
Director: Park Chan-wook
This South Korean thriller reaches greatness with an incredible story and awe-inspiring performance. Dae-su has been imprisoned in a hotel room for 15 years with a television, drugged often. He doesn’t know why or how this happened. One day, he is released and asked to find his jailor. How he falls in love with a woman before getting to the heart of the matter will shock you beyond words.
17. Naked Lunch (1991)
Director: David Cronenberg
I don’t even know how to explain this. I can tell you there are bugs and alien creatures involved. Discover more by witnessing this very niche product of imagination.
18. Only God Forgives (2013)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
This is an arthouse film. Don’t expect anything less than the most active part of your imagination allows. Painting us a mysterious picture in the most vivid shades of neon, this tripped-out, crime-loaded creation won’t appeal to everyone. It is reserved for the more curious and experimental breed of audience.
19. Coherence (2013)
Director: James Ward Byrkit
It is a strange night of astronomical appearances. Eight friends gather to meet for a dinner as a comet passes overhead. A mysterious element triggers a series of abnormal events that challenge reality. As time progresses, an eerie blend of mounting tension and thickening complexities change the course ahead for everyone in presence.
20. The Ghost Writer
Director: Roman Polanski
The Ghost is a ghostwriter who has had a successful career. When a golden opportunity to write the memoir of the former British Prime Minister presents itself, he finds himself slowly treading a dangerous path. But when the man who was working on the project before him dies suddenly, The Ghost begins to wonder if had anything to do with old, buried secrets that might have been uncovered in the past. This black comedy will leave you spellbound.
Now, go ahead. Work that brain! You’ll be needing it, for the movies on this list at least.