13 Most Complex Movies of All Time

Isn’t it fun that every once in a while a movie comes along that completely f**ks up your brain? The films that are more like riddles or puzzles, the answers to which is very difficult to get at. Yes, you may come out irritated — or, completely mesmerized, in my case — but slowly, you have the temptation to watch the film again and again. Otherwise, you may choose to go to google or wikipedia. And yet, you might not be able to fully understand the film. But worry no more, because we have to put together explanations of all the confusing movies at one single place.

Here’s the list of top most complex movies ever that we fully explained. Yes, these movies are like brain teasers for adults (and some kids) with answers. You can watch some of these best complex movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

1. Interstellar

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‘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.

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2. Mulholland Drive

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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.

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3. Primer

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‘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.

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4. 2001: A Space Odyssey

‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is the Everest among those Kubrickian mountains. It stands tall in all its magnificence and it intimidates you. It is even condescending at times. There has never been a film that made me feel so small. In terms of the content, making and technical brilliance, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is undoubtedly way ahead of its time or even our time. Owing to the otherworldly quality in direction, nonverbal narrative style (minimal dialogues), stunning cinematography & visual effects and haunting music it is regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time. It has been discussed in great deal for decades.

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5. Upstream Color

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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.

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6. Donnie Darko

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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.

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7. Enemy

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‘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.

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8. Predestination

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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.

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9. The Tree of Life

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‘The Tree of Life’ is a cinematic poem of extraordinary scope and ambition. It doesn’t just ask its audience to observe, but also, reflect and feel. At its simplest, ‘The Tree of Life’ is a story of the journey of finding oneself. At its most complex, it is a meditation on human life and our place in the grand scheme of things. In the end, ‘The Tree of Life’ might change the way you look at life (It changed me). How many films have the power to do that?

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10. Stalker

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Call it allegorical, call it enigmatic or call it deeply contemplative; when you delve into the dark and sinister world created by Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’ (1979), you can’t help getting enamoured by it! The film is nothing short of a journey into the dark alleys of uncertainty; one that is marked by hope, despair, narcissism, nihilism and above all a quest for what is ultimately humane. Let us all face it. The world demands a constant vindication of one’s existence. Tarkovsky, through this film, makes a subtle attempt at proving the futility of these vindications.

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11. Birdman

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Even though, the plot of the film itself is not difficult to follow, it is the magical realism elements in the film — especially the ending — that twists your head. And therefore, it hardly surprises me that fans have come up with several theories on the twisted ending of the film. But having closely analyzed the film’s themes and motives, and after reading screenwriter’s interpretation of the ending, I have zeroed down on two theories that perfectly explain what happened at the end of ‘Birdman’. Which one out the two is actually the correct interpretation depends on what you, as a viewer, want to take away from the film.

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12. Nocturnal Animals

‘Nocturnal Animals’ is an engrossing psychological thriller. This film, that has another film embedded inside it, is one of those movies that brusquely ends and leaves you slightly unsatisfied but gets immensely better on a second viewing.  It is truly a stirring cinematic experience. Owing to the seemingly open-ended and abrupt ending, subtleties and the need for interpretations that the film requires this movie invites a lot of explanations.

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13. Arrival

Science fiction is one of the genres that I hesitantly approach because I tend to either over-analyze the science or look for a profound philosophical message at the end and I almost always end up dissatisfied. Moreover, when it comes to a sci-fi I am always aware of the fictional nature of the movie and thereby lack any sort of intimacy towards the characters or the movie itself. In that particular aspect, ‘Arrival’ is a brilliant exception. It is so incredibly intimate (for a sci-fi) that it manages to distract the audience from being pedantic about the minute details of the science jargon. In any case, it has a quite confusing and an interesting ending that poses a myriad of questions. Let’s dive in and see what happened.

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