While many people out there might refer to a term a bit more liberal than “mind-twisting,” everyone knows what a mind-twisting movie is when they see one. For example, take the recent Inception, a fantastic movie directed by Christopher Nolan; it’s the very definition of a mind-twister or, in other words, those flicks that shatter your perceptions, tie your brain in a knot, force you to reanalyze the movie and make you ask, with a dumbfounded expression, “What just happened?”
So without further adieu and excluding the previously mentioned Inception (but only because it’s so recent – otherwise it would absolutely have a place on this list), what modern cinematic experiences of, say, the last 20 years, fit this category? Well, glad you asked…
5. Fight Club – This one would be higher on the list, if the ending weren’t so well known and publicized by now. It’s a shame, really; like Darth Vader’s famous revelation to Luke Skywalker at the conclusion of The Empire Strikes Back, the twist ending of Fight Club is, by now, so well known that most viewers will go into the movie not just expecting it, but waiting for it. Regardless of that, Fight Club makes this work by making the twist so compatible with the rest of the movie that it’s still worth watching over and over again.
4. A Beautiful Mind – Okay, so if you know the true story, this isn’t a surprise, and this one doesn’t quite fit in the same dark genre as the rest of the movies on this list. For those of us who didn’t read up on John Forbes Nash beforehand, though, it’s one hell of a shock when the entire thing turns on its head, becoming a movie that many never expected.
3. The Prestige – One of the most fantastically plotted movies of its type, the storyline of The Prestige brilliantly follows the exact same formula as a standard magic trick. Explaining more would be giving it away, but needless to say, it has to be seen to be believed. In addition to the steady plotting and direction, great acting abounds, from Hugh Jackman to another actor by the name of…
2. The Machinist – …Christian Bale, making his second appearance on this list. While the majority of the publicity for The Machinist centered on its leading actor’s incredibly dramatic weight loss (as Christian Bale dropped down from his usual bulky frame to a mere 120 lbs just for the role), what makes the movie exceptional is it’s dark atmosphere and, of course, it’s mind-bending plot. The Machinist almost snagged the number 1 place on this list, but in the end, there was one movie that twisted the viewer’s mind even further.
1. Memento – Of course, in the end, the winner has to be Memento. Memento, at the beginning, seems like it might be too complex to follow, as the movie’s scenes take place in reverse order (every scene occurs before the one that preceded it, instead of after) as a way of symbolizing the main character’s specific type of amnesia, as he is unable to create new memories and must constantly remind himself where he is and what he’s doing . From there, the movie suddenly seems like it might too simple – what’s the point if we already know where this is all going? – Until suddenly, it starts pulling out all the stops and leaving the viewers bewildered and finally, in shock at what they’d thought they’d figured out. Truly, the ultimate mind-twister.