When man first made moving images possible and later developed it into an art form with which he began to express his feelings and emotions and also tell stories, it was the closest we came in trying to replicate life. No other art form till then could even imagine coming that close to us as movies made possible. However, we did not stop at that and went on experimenting with the form which helped movies develop a language of their own and become an art form at par with music, paintings, storytelling – arts that have been around for centuries.
What we then tried to do is to go beyond replicating life to give a picture of how things might turn out in the future. We even tried to question the reality we see around ourselves and present an alternate version of the truth. Filmmakers started exploring such concepts since the early days of movies, with Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ (1927). In the movie, Lang tried to present a dystopic picture of the society where mankind has been segregated into two parts – the rich and powerful who live in a beautiful utopia, but underneath their city, the downtrodden dwell in bleak and unpleasant conditions. Lang’s a genius, and the movie is a testament to the fact that he was well and truly ahead of his times.
Furthermore, Georges Melies’ 1902 movie ‘A Trip to The Moon’ also showcases how man began trying to re-imagine reality through movies. Thus, to quench your thirst regarding such films, we present a compilation of mind-bending movies. Here’s the list of really good mind-fuck movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now.
20. Extinction (2018)
Directed by Ben Young, this 2018 film stars Michael Pena and Lizzy Caplan in the leading roles. Pena plays a man called Peter who is subject to vivid and horrific dreams where he sees his loved ones are confronted by aliens who have invaded the earth. Worried, Peter visits a psychiatrist where he meets another man who is having similar dreams. The city is attacked that very day, and a string of events follow, which makes us question what we have been seeing for so long. Peter also reveals secrets about himself which were totally unexpected when the movie began. ‘Extinction’ has some solid performances and an amazing revelation in the end, but it has been criticized for its formulaic nature.
19. The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
After ‘Cloverfield’ (2008) and ’10, Cloverfield Lane’ (2016), ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ is the latest edition of the series, and this time the problem has shifted from invading aliens to a massive energy crisis on Earth. The scientists have decided that they can use a particle reactor to harness infinite amounts of energy, but there is also the risk of opening portals to another realm which makes us vulnerable to a potentially dangerous parallel universe. Though the movie has not received positive reviews, its connection to the Cloverfield universe makes it a must-watch for people who love mind-bending movies.
18. Buster’s Mal Heart (2017)
Academy Award winner Rami Malek played the protagonist in this 2016 movie which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Buster is a man who has been living in the mountains all on his own, but when the winter set in, he started breaking into homes to save himself from the cold. This makes him a target of the authorities. Buster, in the meanwhile, regularly connects to radio programs and tells them about an Inversion when the millennium turns. Buster also has visions where he sees himself atop a mountain and sometimes being lost at sea. As the story progresses, a deeper meaning of these visions comes to light and we understand exactly what Buster has been talking about.
17. OtherLife (2017)
This Australian science fiction film is another great mind-bending movie that we can watch on Netflix. Jessica De Gouw plays the role of Ren, a scientist who has developed a biological virtual life, which she names OtherLife. This device can create false memories that can last for years inside the mind of the subject while he/she has taken only a few seconds in real life. Her partner, Sam, wants it to be used by the government to bring a check into prison overpopulation. Problems arise when Sam gets greedy and Ren herself is imprisoned using OtherLife. But she figures out a way to break the simulation, only to get confused about which reality she is in. This movie has been directed by Ben C. Lucas and is based on the book Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge.
16. The Discovery (2017)
Is there an afterlife? Well, Thomas, the character played by Robert Redford in this 2017 movie, believes so and has also managed to scientifically prove this fact. Suicide tolls increase when people come to know they have a chance to lead a better life after they die. In the meanwhile, his son Will meets a girl named Isla on a ferry and they visit Will’s father’s laboratory to explain to him the dangers his discovery is causing. There, they find out yet another invention made by their father. Will keeps seeing visions of a boy on a beach about which he talks to Isla. His father’s machine helps him understand that he is caught in a loop from which he needs to get out. The movie sees some great performances from Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, and Jason Segel.
15. IO (2019)
This movie only shows us what can be the near-future of the earth in a few decades. It serves as a warning sign more than anything else. It speaks of a dystopic future when the Earth has become so toxic that mankind has colonized Io, a moon of Jupiter. A girl, Sam, is among the few people still living on the Earth and she comes across another such human, Micah, who tries to convince her to leave for Io soon. Meanwhile, her boyfriend has taken part in an expedition to find another planet suited for living. The question that this movie brings up is vital- in this day and age of heavy industrialization, when will the Earth finally become unlivable? And what shall we do then?
14. iBoy (2017)
Released on Netflix, this cyberpunk thriller stars Maisie Williams of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame. She plays a character called Lucy, whose friend, Tom Harvey, gets hit by shrapnel from his phone and finds out that he can now visualize digital signals. Lucy gets brutally raped in her home, which makes Tom use his powers to bring the attackers to justice. This unique tale is of a superhero of a different kind. Tom can see digital signals, and thus has an upper hand over everyone because the world now runs on digital data. The movie, though a thriller, might be taken as a metaphor for the fact that whoever controls digital data is currently our master.
Read More: Best Suspense Movies on Netflix
13. Time Trap (2017)
A missing person search for an archaeology professor in remote Texas leads his students to a mysterious cave where time flows differently. ‘Time Trap’ is an indie sci-fi film that features all the regular tropes – time travel, aliens, hostile cavemen – spun together in a creatively clever, whip-smart plot that only trips over itself towards the end when it feels a bit forced. Mark Dennis and Ben Foster team up to direct and produce this film starring a reasonably talented ensemble cast. The script and cinematography is nothing extraordinary but not too shabby either. Overall, the film received mixed reviews from both critics and audiences.
12. Cloud Atlas (2012)
‘Cloud Atlas‘ is an epic spanning several generations and tells the interwoven and interconnected stories of six souls over the course of their many lives – from a slave trader’s memoirs penned in 1849, a music composer’s letters to his lover in the 1930s, a crime reporter’s story about corruption in a nuclear power plant in the 70s, a book publisher’s escape from an old-age home in 2012, a clone’s rebellion against the oppressive powers in 2144, and a cowardly tribesman’s conquest of his fears in the 2300s – everything is connected by some act of kindness or crime. The film seeks to drive home the message that our actions can impact and shape the lives of others, even if we’re separated by years in existence. An incredibly deep script and concept that falls slightly flat in execution, even though the movie boasts a stellar ensemble cast (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant).
11. The Endless (2017)
‘The Endless’ follows the progressively bizarre story of two brothers who find a cryptic old video that leads them back to the UFO death cult that they escaped from as kids, 10 years ago. Once there, the brothers re-evaluate their beliefs and discover some truth in the cult’s teachings. The brothers decide to learn the whole truth before they become embroiled with the cult permanently. The movie’s plot is baffling and disturbing and slow in parts, but it gets to the point eventually and scores high in the mind-boggling parameter.
Read More: Best Murder Mystery Movies on Netflix
10. In The Shadow Of The Moon (2019)
In 1988, a police officer is hunting a serial killer and manages to track her down, only to watch in horror as she gets trampled by a subway train. The case closes after the murderer is dead. Only she is not dead and resurfaces 9 years later and the killings start again. With the authorities unable to comprehend the logic-defying murders, only one cop is close to figuring out the reality, especially when she starts dropping hints. ‘In The Shadow Of The Moon’ is a crime thriller that will leave your head slightly spinning when you’re done watching it, and that’s not entirely a bad thing.
9. Horse Girl (2020)
Sarah is a sweet, socially awkward woman with a fondness for crafts and horses. The film ‘Horse Girl‘ centers around Sarah as she gets increasingly paranoid and suffers a total, crippling mental breakdown to the point where she cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not. The surreal psychological drama tries to take viewers inside Sarah’s mentally disturbed headspace so that audiences can feel as she slips further and further down the spiral. Some really great acting by Allison Brie who plays Sarah; there’s a strange fragility in her eyes that threatens to shatter as the film progresses.
8. Anon (2018)
In a future where even people’s private memories aren’t really private since all memories are recorded, crime is almost non-existent. The existence of an intriguing young woman with no name, no identity, no digital history at all is bad news for the cops, as she heralds the resurgence of crime that they had so carefully kept in check. ‘Anon’ might be more a cautionary glimpse into the future than just a figment of someone’s imagination, as our generation recklessly documents every tiny detail of our lives on the digital plane. Could we be rolling towards a time when our memories are recorded and can be viewed by others? Who can say?
7. Lucid Dream (2017)
A father desperately searching for his missing son has exhausted almost every avenue in the three years since the child got abducted. He finally comes across the method of lucid dreaming that will enable him to see the exact moment when his son got kidnapped and track him from there, all while sleeping. ‘Lucid Dream’ is an intense South Korean sci-fi mystery-thriller that is not completely without faults. It mostly maintains the fast-paced fervor but stumbles a bit here and there when it gets way too emotional for the genre.
6. Her (2013)
Spike Jonze brought us so close to the reality that is already possible in some parts of the world. ‘Her’ is a love story; one between a man and the virtual assistant on his computer. The lead character of Theodore Twombly is played by Joaquin Phoenix, and the voice of the virtual assistant, Samantha, is provided by Scarlett Johansson. We see a love story between man and machine, and it works seemingly well until he comes to terms with the fact that it is nothing but artificial intelligence, collecting data from his activities and forming a relationship with him in the process. The movie speaks about the emptiness in human life where technology has taken over, and thus we crave human contact in whichever way possible.
5. The One I Love (2014)
‘The One I Love’ is a thought-provoking, intimate, and surreal thriller that delves into the psyche of two married individuals whose relationship has soured over the years. At the behest of their marriage counselor, Ethan and Sophie go for a weekend getaway at a mysterious retreat recommended by the therapist. There, they have a weird, twisted, eerie experience that forces them to confront their own emotions and feelings about intimacy and individuality. The film features some superb acting by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss in the leading roles.
4. Freaks (2018)
Having spent all her years on the planet locked inside a house and controlled by her paranoid father, 7-year-old Chloe harbors a deep fascination and an equally paralyzing fear of the outside world. Once she manages to escape her eccentric dad, though, a mysterious and possibly dangerous stranger offers to show her the world. ‘Freaks’ is basically ‘Room’ meets ‘X-Men’ as Chloe has mutant-like superpowers that she uses to navigate her way around an unfamiliar and scary situation. It’s a horror-thriller that will keep you biting your nails throughout.
3. Happy As Lazzaro (2018)
‘Happy As Lazzaro’ is an Italian mind-bending drama film that follows the incredulous, unbelievable, inexplicable story of Lazzaro, a good-natured and simple-minded young peasant who helps his nobleman friend Tancredi fake his own kidnapping to dupe his mother. The two boys bond as they run through the wilderness, even wondering if they could be half-brothers. When the police arrive and evacuate the illegally run tobacco estate, the boys are separated and Lazarro falls off the high end of a cliff. Miraculously, he does not die and wakes up many years later, not having aged at all. The movie’s plot gets pleasantly odder as Lazarro sets out to find his old friend Tancredi. ‘Happy As Lazzaro’ starkly points out the class difference between the rich and the poor and how one exploits the other.
2. Being John Malkovich (1999)
There’s strange, there’s odd, and then there’s just plain absurd. ‘Being John Malkovich‘ is hilariously and giddily absurd and it makes a show of reveling in its absurdity. The film, starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, and John Malkovich, is a quirky comedy that revolves around puppeteer Craig Schwartz who stumbles across a hidden portal at work that opens directly into the brain of actor John Malkovich. Craig comes up with a business scheme to sell time-bound excursions inside the actor’s mind, while also starting a creepy relationship with Malkovich’s wife. ‘Being John Malkovich’, commonly hailed as a cult-classic, is one of the weirdest and most original films that I have ever come across. Watch it, you will not be sorry.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Yes, we realize that the top two movies on our list have the same screenwriter, but Charlie Kaufman is just that good at penning amazingly mind-bending scripts. ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind‘ is a really special love story that goes in reverse after the protagonists have gone through a painful breakup. After their split, Clementine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (Jim Carrey) both go through a procedure to remove the memories of each other from their respective minds, in hopes that they can move on. This film is funny, sweet, painfully tender, absolutely beautiful, and unapologetically romantic.