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15 Most Intelligent Movies Ever Made

Updated July 8, 2018
9 min read

What are some of the most intelligent movies ever made?  We keep getting asked that question. So, we decided to list them down. Isn’t it fun that every once in a while a movie comes along that completely f**ks up your brain? Yes, you may come out irritated–or, completely mesmerized, in my case–but slowly, you have the temptation to watch the film again just so that you can fully understand it. These top intelligent movies are the perfect examples of films that you may have got a gist of when you first watched but never fully understood it. So, you watched it again. And then, again and again till the time you fully “got it”. Basically, these movies test your intelligence. With that clarified, here is the list of top clever movies ever made. You might find some these smart films on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

15. Moon

‘Moon’ is a story of an astronaut spending his last few days on moon — before returning to earth — when something goes awry. It may have a simple premise but it is a movie with philosophical undertones that slowly and mysteriously builds to a great climax leaving you plenty to ponder upon.

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14. Predestination

Predestination’s a befitting reality to how time-travel movies are made, and how uncertain they are. It embodies a timeless traveller, revolving in time between 1945 to 1993 in search of the fizzle bomber. The movie plays Ethan Hawke as a “temporal agent” and Sarah Snook, his “predestination”.The opening scene, itself, is paradoxical start as it combines a time-loop of 3 generations. Overall, ‘Predestination’ might be the simplest movie on this list to understand but only if you pay very careful attention to each and every scene in the film. Read: Full Explanation

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13. Enemy

‘Enemy’ is perhaps one of the most unnerving movies made in recent times; a film that warrants a second and a third watch just to get a grip of the theme, and the ending would still leave the viewer guessing. On the first watch, one would marvel at the textural complexity of the movie and deftness of direction. Overall, it is a film that warrants detailed discussions, with its themes of identity, subconscious and totalitarianism. Read: Full Explanation.

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12. Synecdoche, New York

‘Synecdoche, New York’ is a difficult movie to watch, and even stomach. It is not something which needs to be understood; movies like this need to be observed, felt and reflected upon. Intensely cerebral, often-times shocking, ‘Synecdoche, New York’ would not appeal to everyone; it is a celebration of everything an artist aspires to be, and yet it is ultimately a tragedy, showing the flip-side of artistic ambition, where the real meets the unreal, plunging the artistic mind into the dark depths of uncertainty and depression.

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11. Eraserhead

Roughly categorized as a surrealist venture, David Lynch’s first critically acclaimed movie ‘Eraserhead’ narrates the story of a man who needs to take care of his severely deformed child. Essentially a body horror movie that has distinct psychological and philosophical elements, the movie was added to the National Film Registry in 2004 by the U.S. Library of Congress. Torn between disturbing visions of a woman and hallucinations representing sexual undertones, the protagonist is shown to dwell in a mechanized cityscape with dystopian settings.

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10. Inception (2010)

When you have countless forums, articles, blog-posts, think-pieces being written about a spinning (or falling) top, it is enough of evidence of the popularity and influence of ‘Inception’ in pop-culture. And I have no doubt in my mind that it will remain a fodder for discussion and arguments for years to come. But the greatest service that ‘Inception’ did to science-fiction movies is that it made them cool again.

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9. Solaris

‘Solaris’ is a haunting, meditative film that uses sci-fi to raise complex questions about humanity and existence. Made by one of the greatest directors to have ever lived, Andrei Tarkovsky, ‘Solaris’ challenges you to think beyond what’s visible on-screen. While it is surely going twist your mind, it will also touch your soul.

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8. Interstellar

‘Interstellar’ is not perfect, and neither is it trying to be. It uses the science of interstellar travel, relativity, blackholes, wormholes and fifth dimension as a tool to tell an emotional father-daughter story.  So, expecting ‘Interstellar’ to be 100% scientifically accurate is not only foolhardy, but also, not the right way to watch the film. In fact, many of the theories that ‘Interstellar’ uses, haven’t yet been proved; so it’s virtually impossible to portray them on-screen. Having said that, it doesn’t mean whatever ‘Interstellar’ deals in is all bullshit. In fact, far from it. After all, there’s method behind all the madness that you see in Interstellar. You just need a little patience and multiple viewings to completely get the film. Read: Full Explanation

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7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I know many might find its place here on this list surprising, but ‘Eternal Sunshine ..‘ is as much a science-fiction film as it is a heart-breaking romantic drama. The concept — of memory-erasing — that the film is based on is so mind-boggling that most of the first-time viewers find themselves in a maze of complex theories. A difficult to follow plot also doesn’t help the matters. The true beauty of the film is only revealed to those who have fully understood it.

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6. Upstream Color

Upstream Color draws its cinematic flavor from the likes of Terrence Malick and David Lynch. The quality of film-making resonates with Malick’s style of unconventionality, but resembles more with David Lynch’s surrealism infused with reality. The movie requires skills as receptive as a synapse-spark to understand the plot in its essence. The best aspect of the film is that once you have understood every aspect of it, you’ll realize that it is more of a romantic tale than a science fiction. Read: Full Explanation

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5. Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko is a cinematic wonder. It has a grandiose vision with a sprawling imagination of an affluent adolescent. Down to it’s insidiously naughty elements, “Donnie Darko” is about a young rebel “Donnie” who pays odes to the likes of “The Catcher in the Rye” and successfully brings glib humor through intimidating characters and subjects. Films like ‘Donnie Darko’ are very rare. And even though it is dense with ideas and nearly impossible to understand in one-viewing, very few films enjoy such cult following. The fact that we are discussing it even after fifteen years of its release proves its importance and influence in cinema’s landscape. Read: Full Explanation

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4. The Matrix

Way more than just a movie, ‘The Matrix’ has been nothing short of a phenomenon. It changed the way people looked at the world around them and even turned them cynical. Directed by the Wachowskis, the American-Australian movie could very well be described as a living nightmare. A film that virtually introduced the rather terrifying concept of simulated reality, it asked a number of vital philosophical questions about humanity and its actual purpose. Till today, not every question that the film asks has been answered.

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3. Mulholland Drive

A first watch of Mulholland Dr. results into the following: A head scratch, confusion, brainstorming, realization, acceptance. Only after you accept that what you have watched is nothing short of a miracle, you go for second, third, fourth… watch, to appreciate the nuances, to laud at the filmmaking, the editing, the performances and to glean some sense out of the cerebral and haunting piece of cinema. A film that is discussed even today, around 15 years after its release and yet, not every question about the film has been answered. ‘Mulholland Dr.’, quite simply, offers the greatest cinematic mystery of all time. Read: Full Explanation

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2. 2001: Space Odyssey

Undoubtedly the most complete piece of work from the stables of the maverick filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ could aptly be described as a tryst with mayhem. With themes ranging from existentialism to evolution, the movie has acquired a cult status over the years. Loosely inspired by a short story named ‘The Sentinel’ penned by Arthur C. Clarke; who co-scripted the screenplay along with Kubrick; the movie chronicles the journey of a crew of scientists to Jupiter along with the sentient computer HAL 9000. The film has inspired numerous interpretations over the years and only seems to go up in terms of popularity.

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1. Primer

‘Primer’ is not just a film; it is an elaborate science puzzle. It is a film that makes ‘Inception’ look like a pizza commercial. To fully understand each and every aspect of ‘Primer’ requires multiple viewings — those who claim that they “got” the film in first viewing itself are either lying or are just being a smart-ass. When you finally “get” the film, don’t be surprised if you feel ecstatic and victorious, not very different from how you feel when you are able to solve a difficult puzzle. ‘Primer’, today, has a strong cult-following. And it may have its extremely complex plot to thank for it. In my all movie-viewing experience, I am yet to see a film that required so many viewings to understand it. Read: Full Explanation

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