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The Top 15 Most Confusing Movies Of All Time

There's no denying that movies have a certain formula. You can normally expect your film to begin with set-up, then get into the big action in the middle, and then climax and resolve at the end. But what happens when a movie defies that formula? And not only that, what happens when a movie throws as much weird sh*t on you as humanly possible. Welcome to the mind-f*ck zone, readers. Today, we're counting down not 5, not 10, but 15 of the most confusing, abstract, crazy, and strange films to ever grace the silver screen. Don't come into this list thinking all will be explained, because that will just merely result in brain diarrhea. Let's begin...

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#15: The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)

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I've been mentioning The Fountain a lot in these posts, lately. Huh...maybe I am a fanboy.

The Plot: Actually, it's three plots, in three different periods of time, in three different parts of the universe, with three different characters, all of which played by Hugh Jackman. Each character is searching for the key to immortality either through myths of the mystical Tree of Life, medical breakthroughs, or Cosmic Nebulae.

The Mind-Screw: It's always been hard for me to recommend this movie to friends because nobody fully understands what's going on in their first viewing. At first, the only confusion should be keeping track of all three of the different intertwined stories, but it isn't until the final act of the film where things truly get loopy. The three stories get intertwined...literally, and begin to converge with one another. Add that with a scene involving the growth of vegetation in strange, strange places, and you're gonna need repeat viewings to really get what the frak is going on.



#14: Vanilla Sky/Open Your Eyes (Cameron Crowe/Alejandro Amenabar, 2001/1997)

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Both the original Spanish film, and the American remake deserve to be on the list together. But I'm just going to refer to the American version because it's probably the one you're all most familiar with, and because it is, in my opinion, the superior film (I'm probably in the minority on that one, but I don't care).

The Plot: This one's a long one...

David's (Tom Cruise) perfect life is changed immediately as soon as he meets the mysterious Sofia (Penelope Cruz). Not just because he feels like he's fallen in love for the first time, but because his previous sex-buddy, Gianna (Cameron Diaz), becomes so jealous that she believes that if she can't have him, no one can. So she proceeds to drive her car, with David inside, off the Central Park bridge at high speed, resulting in a painful collision. Gianna dies, but David survives...at a price.

His face has become completely disfigured to the point of looking like a monster a la Phantom of the Opera, even being forced to wear a mask.

But all can be saved, right? Turns out, there's a special procedure that can save David's face, and revert it to its original state...at a price.

The Mind-Screw: Suddenly, David begins to experience strange hallucinations, people aren't who they say they are, places are switched, he sees reflections on the mirror that are not his, and there's this weird guy always staring at him at the restaurant. What the hell is going on? All is explained in the explanatory ending...or is it? Roger Ebert said it best when he stated that the plot "doubles back on itself like an Escher staircase. You get along splendidly one step at a time, but when you get to the top floor, you find yourself on the bottom landing."



#13: Pi (Darren Aronofsky, 1997)

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The Plot: So, Sean Gullette is this insane mathematician. Like, really insane. Obsessed even. With what? A ceratin number. Scratch that. A certain set of numbers. Numbers that hold a key. A key to the stock market. A key to Biblical revelations. A key to life, the universe, and everything beyond. Except it will be tough for him to complete this discovery, because the Kabbalah and the Government are willing to do everything in their power to get the juicy secrets in his head, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen style.

The Mind-Screw: Considering that not everybody is a math major, the movie is already confusing enough as it is. But when you factor in the insane plot, bizarre hallucinations, the conspiracies, and one of the craziest endings in movie history, you can pretty much just put a drill in your skull and it will probably be more productive in figuring things out, if you see what I mean.



#12: A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006)


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The Plot: It's the near future. Seven years, or so, from now, to be precise. The insanely addictive drug "Substance D" has literally caused America to single-handedly lose the war on drugs. The best way to counter the supplying of this drug is to use high-tech surveillance systems and undercover agents. One of those agents is Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves), who is undercover living with his two addicted house-mates played by Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr. Soon, though, Arctor begins to be addicted to Substance D himself, and...well...

The Mind-Screw: ...soon, hallucinations begin to occur (You'll be hearing a lot about hallucinations in this list), the two hemispheres of his brain are conflicting each other, he can't distinguish himself from his fractured identities, and most confusing of all...Keanu Reeves can actually act. "Whoa" indeed.



#11: Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)

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The Plot: Jake Gylenhaal is Donnie Darko. Life sucks. He's battling severe depression, he wakes up in places he apparently sleep walks to, his friends are morons, hardly anybody understands him...oh yeah, and a Gigantic Demonic Bunny warns him that the world is about to end in approximately 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. Combine that with weird energy fields that are coming out of people's chests, a strange old lady named "Grandma Death", and some strange sh*t about time-travel, and you have a movie that mind-f*cks itself as it does you.

The Mind-Screw: See above.



#10: Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)

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The Plot: Leonard's (Guy Pearce) wife has been raped and killed, and it's up to him to exact revenge. Simple, right? Well, not if you're Leonard, who has been graced with the gift of short-term memory loss and his brain resets himself back to the night of the attack every 20 or so minutes. Due to this, people aren't who they say they are, strangers become friends, friends become enemies, and enemies just like to f*ck with him for the hell of it.

The Mind-Screw: If all of that wasn't enough, the film puts the viewer into the exact same mind-set as Leonard because of director Christopher Nolan's decision to play the film in reverse-chronology. You know just as much as Leonard does, and you're just as confused as he is. While everyone is going to know Nolan for his Batman films, it's his original stories like Memento and Inception that he will truly be remembered for.

#9: Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

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The Plot: Phillip Seymour Hoffman doesn't have much time to live. Being a playwright, he decides that the best way to go out is with a magnificent play that will be the most huge and audacious play in existence. He's going to rent out a city-sized theater (No, really, a city-sized theater), incorporate a life-size model of New York city (No, really, a life-size model of New York City), and cast millions of people as all of the citizens (No, really, millions).

The Mind-Screw: Charlie Kaufman is generally known for writing strange, but original screenplays, but for his directorial debut, his magnum opus is just as confusing as it is audacious. Soon, life and art begin to merge as Hoffman's play begins to take shape, up to the point that the entire city is consumed by his artistic desires. Some will find it to be abstract or (my "favorite" word) pretentious, but those who open their mind will find a poignant, and profound movie about the effect of art. And I mean that, in the most non-hipster way humanly possible. "You just don't get it, brah."



#8: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)


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The Plot: So, there's a monolith. It's doing weird sh*t to people. It's believed that the monolith allowed man to evolve when they were primates, as seen in the first act of the movie. Some astronauts are sent to space on an odyssey, if you will, to discover more. Their computer, HAL 9000, goes ballistic and kills off a few of the crew members in cryo (This isn't really a spoiler. Everybody knows this). "Can't let you do that Starfox Dave". Derpy derpy doo. ?????. Profit. Pretty straightforward, for the most part, right?

The Mind-Screw: Well, wrong. As soon as the final 10-20 minutes begin....I'm sorry. I just can't. If I were able to explain some of the crazy sh*t that happens in that final act, I would. What I will say is that on a thematic, metaphorical level, what Kubrick says in that ending is beautiful, haunting, and profound. But if we're gonna take the ending in on a "literal" level, and we were to hypothetically state that what happened in that final act actually happened....yeah, it doesn't make much sense. Looks pretty though. THE COLORS!!



#7: Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)

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Our first David Lynch film on the list. Be prepared, because it certainly isn't his last...

The Plot: Aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts) has just arrived to her new L.A. home to an unusual sight. An amnesiac woman (Laura Harring) doesn't know where she is, what her name is, how she got amnesia, and everything in between. Meanwhile, a movie director (Justin Theroux) is being ordered to find a specific actress for his film or he will be badly hurt by the mobsters who've hijacked it. Also, there's something mysterious in the back of the Winkie's diner. Would you like to know how all these characters and plot threads relate with one another?

The Mind-Screw: Well so the f*ck would I, because this movie answers questions like a blind man crosses the street. Stumbling around, almost about to make sense of things, only to be hit by something and never be heard from again. Who or what is the mysterious figure in the back of the diner? Why did a hitman just kill three people senselessly for a phone-book? Why are Naomi Watts and Laura Harring totally going to town on each other, and why are my pants sticky in the process? How is it that you can still hear the club singer singing when she is clearly passed out on the stage? And why the f*ck is Billy Ray Cyrus in this movie, and half-naked? Well, don't worry folks, because little of these questions are answered, in what is quite possibly, one of the most insane and non-sensical final "twists" in film history. Silencio.



#6: Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1976)

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The Plot: Alright, we've got this guy who lives in this weird, post-apocalyptic looking industrial place, except it isn't post-apocalyptic at all, it just looks very bleak. There's a lady he's about to marry, but it turns out that the baby she was pregnant with has had a pre-mature birth, and has come out looking like a deformed mutant thing. There's man-made chicken that oozes with sludge, or blood, or something, there's a weird maggot-like creature in his room, or something, there's this guy called "The Man on the Planet" who's pulling these cogs and gears, or something, and there's this woman with weird cheeks who's living inside his radiator and--AUGH!!

The Mind-Screw: While it's obviously a metaphor on the fear of parenting, all of the other weird sh*t such as the Man on the Planet, the Lady in the Radiator, the maggot, the man-made chicken, the weird setting, and the "eraserhead" scene, shall forever remain an enigma, considering that David Lynch refuses to answer anyone's questions about what it all means. But you need not worry, because your questions will probably be answered in heaven. Because in Heaven, everything is fine. Everything.

#5: Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)

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The Plot: A young nurse named Alma (Bibi Andersson) is hired to take care of a now mute actress named Elisabet (Liv Ullman). Staying in the hospital administrator's cottage together, something weird begins to happen. The two become close. Really close. Almost Mulholland Dr. kind of close. But perhaps too close.

The Mind-Screw: To speak of it would be a spoiler, but keeping with the theme of Vanilla Sky, Mulholland Dr., and A Scanner Darkly, identity plays a big part of the mystery. It's one of the most tantalizing mysteries in cinema history, as many people are drawn into this film for 45 years, trying to unravel its twisting threads.

#4: Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2006)


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The Plot: This one is gonna be hard. But hey, I like a good challenge...

So, it's the near future. 2008 to be exact (Okay, it isn't the future anymore, but close enough). After nukes land at two cities in Texas (El Paso and Abilene), World War III has officially begun, and the entire population is in full-on panic. A movement of neo-Marxists are calling bullsh*t on America's policies, and in retaliation, the U.S. censors the internet, and fingerprints must be used on all digital machines such as ATMs and credit cards. All headed by the mysterious company USIdent.

Also, to keep the fuel levels of America steady, German company Treer announces a system that creates limitless energy using generators that manipulate the constant movement of ocean currents, and distributes energy to all machines. However, this new energy (named "Fluid Karma") is actually doing more harm than good, as the manipulation of ocean currents has caused the earth's rotation to slow a couple of decimals down, causing rifts in the space-time continuum.

Meanwhile, actor and movie star Boxer Santaros (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) has picked up a bad case of amnesia after his car caught on fire, and his companion on the trip had died. When he returns home from the traumatic event, he writes a screenplay about the end of the world, in which he plays as a cop who is the last chance at humanity's survival. He hires policeman Roland Taverner (Sean William Scott) to speculate and take notes for his film.

But, what he doesn't know is that Roland is actually part of the neo-marxist group, and not a real cop. No, his twin brother Ronald (Also Sean William Scott) is the real cop, who has been drugged and kidnapped by his own brother. Roland is doing this in order to get close to Boxer Santaros, who has political ties due to his incident, and his screenplay, which is somehow mirroring the events going on in real life.

And then there's a guy named Pilot Abilene (Justin Timberlake) who is monitoring all of the events with his mounted sniper gun, whilst narrating to the audience. He apparently knows something.

And there's also that ex-porn star/reality TV star Krysta Kapowski a.k.a. Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who is trying to take her reality show to new heights by trying to help uncover the conspiracy.

And then there's also a weird group of people involving that old midget lady from Poltergeist and Sixteen Candles with the weird voice, a strange Asian chick, and others who apparently work for the Treer company who know Boxer Santaros's secret before his big amnesia breakdown.

Then there's also this very awful performance by The Rock, and some surprisingly good serious performances from Sean William Scott and Justin Timberlake, of all people.

And then there's this song & dance sequence involving a completely stoned Justin Timberlake and a bunch of nurses in an arcade and--NYYEEEGHHH!!

The Mind-Screw: While I admire Richard Kelly's film for being extremely ambitious, engaging, and original, this movie is an utter mess. Nothing makes sense. Nothing. Even if it all does make sense, there's too much stuff going on for any of it to make sense. I'm one of the few people who actually likes this movie, even though I got quite a headache after my first viewing, but the scorn it has received is justified.

Apparently, there's a cult-following of fans who say that the film automatically makes sense if you've read this prequel graphic novel trilogy thing, but that's no excuse. The film should stand on it's own. It's one of those films that doesn't make sense not because it's supposed to make no sense like a David Lynch film (Oh, we're getting to more of him, don't you worry), it doesn't make sense because the film is so far up its own ass.

#3: Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004)

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The Plot: Two aspiring engineers (Shane Carruth, who also wrote, produced, and directed the movie, and David Sullivan) have accidentally created what could possibly be the greatest invention in history: A time machine. But how does it work? What happens if they use it? The two begin to experiment with the technology as much as possible whilst using it for their own personal gains...and then...

The Mind-Screw: Whoa there, partner! You really think I'm gonna spoil what goes on in this movie? Well guess what...I can't. I may be one of the few people who found this movie to be overrated, but even I do not wish to spoil a clever movie. Besides, not even I could understand what was going on. I'm pretty sure I could understand what was going on if I saw it multiple times through, but that would mean subjecting myself to the horrendously boring acting. There's no denying that this movie is smart as balls, though. It was written by an actual engineer who knows what could really happen if something like this had actually happened to these people, but I personally found it ultimately too boring to be engaged. So come into it with measured expectations. You'll be in for a real thinking man's sci-fi movie, with lots of big questions and clever twists heightened by the realism of the writing. Just don't come into it expecting much from the acting and production value.



#2: Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)

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The Plot: Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), a renowned saxophonist, has just had strange happening occur to him, that are deeply disturbing his existence, and his wife (Patricia Arquette). Someone was filming the inside of their house, and left the tape in their mail, Cache style. The tapes get worse and worse, as they soon begin to see footage of themselves falling asleep together.

The police say that they have things under control. And to be honest, who even believes the police in movies anymore?

Anyways, one night at a party, a very strange man (pictured above) walks up to him saying he's at Fred's house right as they're talking. Doesn't make much sense, especially considering that they're talking face-to-face. He tells Fred to call his home phone, and that he will answer him. He does, and guess who's there. Thinking it's some kind of joke, Fred and his wife leave the party.

The next day, Fred wakes up alone, and finds another tape in the mail. At first, it seems similar to the previous tapes, until right at the end, it reveals Fred whimpering next to his own wife's bloodied corpse. Fred has now been accused by the police of murdering his own wife, and he's thrown into prison.

And then...

The Mind-Screw: Nobody really knows. I don't even know. It has something to do with either body-switching, time-travel, parallel dimensions, or perhaps even all of the above...or none of the above. A lot of people bring up Mulholland Dr. and Eraserhead when they talk about Lynch's best and strangest work, but I found Lost Highway to be even more confusing than both of them. At least in Mulholland Dr. the first two acts made sense before devolving into insanity in the third act. And at least in Eraserhead, there was still an identifiable thematic element attached to the abstract strangeness.

But Lost Highway is insanely frustrating, mostly because you are so close to making sense of its multi-layered, converging plots, but then, new details emerge, one by one, that just make it even more confounding. This happens even when you're merely thinking it up in your head after first viewing. You think about one scene and think "Yeah, that leads to this, and this leads to that", but then you remember another scene and go "Wait a minute...no that can't work! THAT CAN'T WORK!". It's insanely frustrating in it's tendency to confuddle the mind.



But hey, at least it can't get any worse...right? Right...?

#1: Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)

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Wrong. And shut up.

The Plot: There is no plot. There is no structure. It is all just...meaningless. No, I don't mean that as an insult. You see, whenever David Lynch makes a film that makes no sense, he turns it into an art, or poetry, if you will. It's not that nothing makes sense, it's that nothing matters. And you are soon caught in it's hypnotic, strange, zen-like trance which pulls you in, only to thrust you towards the wall and assault you once Lynch feels the urge to horrify you.

This is the closest thing there is to a plot in Inland Empire: An actress by the name of Nikki (Laura Dern) is signed in to do a movie for an acclaimed director (Jeremy Irons) that is apparently a remake of a foreign film (And don't we all just love those).

But there's a catch. The original film doesn't even truly exist. Only partially, because it was never finished, due to being...er..."cursed" is the best word, but not in a cliche'd Ju-On sense. There's something more sinister to it. Apparently, the two leads of the film were murdered in what one of the characters describes as "a brutal f*cking murder". Classy.

However, it gets worse. As Nikki begins to have an affair with her co-star (Justin Theroux), something weird happens. They both begin to call each other by the names of the two characters, "Sue" and "Billy". At first, it's done to immerse themselves into character, in preparation for the role. Then, it's done in a cute way while they're having sex. Then, they begin to call each other by their character names subconsciously, without even realizing what they've just said until they've already spit it out. Much like Synecdoche, New York, art and reality converge into one another, except unlike the beautiful and poignant Kaufman film, it is done horrifyingly.

The Mind-Screw: The film takes a dramatic, out-of-nowhere turn as soon as Nikki passes through a door with the strange words "Axxon N" marked on it. And then, what transpires throughout the rest of this three hour film (Yes, three hours of Lynch mind-raping you) is what is best described as a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes, both old and new. Some of them just further twist the plot, others are abstract and are merely done to make a statement, or just to flat-out horrify you (The "running" scene is probably one of the greatest pop-up scares this side of...well...the diner in Mulholland Dr.).

And some are almost quite literally unrelated. Among such oddities are a group of whores, a woman who finds a screw-driver magically appearing lodged into her stomach, these weird "therapy" sessions that Nikki has with an unseen man in a dark room, an Asian woman talking about her cousin who dyed her hair, an end credits dance sequence, and...talking bunnies. I sh*t you not. Talking anthropomorphic bunnies. I wish I could make this sh*t up.

The result is quite possibly David Lynch's most "Lynchian" film. It is his most bizarre, uncompromising, unhinged, un-tampered with, unadulterated masterpiece of the nonsensical, of the bizarre, of cinema, of art, and a perfect summation of David Lynch's career. If you want to get caught up with your Lynch, believe me, this is not the movie to start with. He's the kind of director whose style grows on you. It took me a while to appreciate it, but once you do, everything falls into place. It's like being part of a super secret club, except to be admitted, you have to watch just about a majority of Lynch's other films.

Regardless, Inland Empire is unendingly surreal, uncompromisingly bizarre, unrelentingly scary and atmospheric, purely nonsensical, abstract, dense...and it is poetry. Pure poetry.



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That's all for now.

If you have any other confusing experiences with film you would like to share, that believe belong to be "honorable mentions", or films that are already in the list that you agree, or disagree with, by all means, leave a comment, or you're a fgt.

See ya next time, now if you'll excuse me, I've got another top 10 list to prepare...hopefully with less mind-rape. Bye!

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