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 life as movies made possible. However, man 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. Man 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.
17. Transcendence (2014)
Johnny Depp, Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman star in this science fiction thriller where Depp plays the role of a scientist who wants to build a sentient computer, an artificial intelligence which will be able to think and make decisions on its own. Depp’s character, Dr. Will Caster’s belief is that such a computer will be able to create what he calls a ‘technological singularity’, and bring about immense technological advancements unprecedented in human thought. Directed by Wally Pfister who is famous for his cinematographic work with Christopher Nolan, this movie is a must-check-out for its intense performances.
16. 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 make 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.
15. 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.
14. 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 which 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.
13. Before I Go to Sleep (2014)
Nicole Kidman plays the role of a 40-year-old woman, Christine, suffering from amnesia in this 2014 psychological thriller. The movie begins as she wakes up, unable to recognize the man who claims to be her husband. The husband, whose name is Ben, tells her she started suffering from amnesia after being involved in an accident. A series of events follow, which leads her to question what her husband is saying. Christine reconnects with a friend of hers, Claire, who reveals to her vital truths about her life. Meanwhile, she remembers a name, Mike, which keeps haunting her constantly. Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Anne Marie-Duff play important roles in the movie.
12. 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. Suicides 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.
11. 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 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 make 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.
10. Predestination (2014)
Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, and Noah Taylor star in this movie dealing with time travel. Ethan Hawke plays this official who has traveled back in time to stop an explosion. Here he comes across a bartender whose fascinating life story sets the premise of the movie. What follows is nothing short of a rollercoaster ride across time. Predestination has a truly mind-bending plot which will need some time to figure out. Repeated viewings are definitely recommended. Critics have praised the intricate plot and Snook’s performance in the movie.
9. 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?
8. 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.
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7. Annihilation (2018)
This 2018 science fiction movie boasts of strong performances from Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Oscar Isaac. Annihilation tells the story of Lena and Kane, a couple who have come face-to-face with an oddity. It is an iridescent zone which has started spreading in a national park. Kane was a part of the team which had been sent to explore the zone but came out as the sole survivor. Lena heads into the zone, called the Shimmer, to find out what happens there. Inside, they enter a zone far beyond the reality of the Earth. They see alligators hybridized with sharks, plants the shape of humans, and others. Communications also get warped. Will Lena be able to find the solution to her husband’s trauma amidst all this?
6. Split (2016)
M. Night Shyamalan is famous for the twists in his movies, and Split does not disappoint in this regard. It is a heart-pumping thriller which has been able to reach its height thanks to a masterful performance by James McAvoy. His character is called Kevin and he suffers from a mental illness called dissociative identity disorder. Kevin has 23 different identities inside him which manifest themselves one at a time. Anya Taylor-Joy also gives a stunning performance in the role of Casey Cooke, the girl Kevin is chasing. Though it is a standalone movie, it is actually the sequel to Shyamalan’s 2000 movie ‘Unbreakable’. In 2019, the third and final part, called ‘Glass’ was released.
5. 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 term 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 for human contact in whichever way possible.
4. Deja Vu (2006)
‘Deja Vu’ is a unique movie for its time and explores the concept of time travel. Val Kilmer, Denzel Washington, and Adam Goldberg play major roles in the movie. Washington plays the role of Doug, an ATF agent who comes across a scientist who has coded a program called ‘Snow White’, which helps him and other officials look into the past to figure out the culprit behind a bomb blast. Later, it is discovered that the program can also be used to put things into the past as well. Doug attempts to do so. But whether he will survive depends on a lot of things. And can a person die in a time when he was actually alive?
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3. Vanilla Sky (2001)
This 2001 flick sees Tom Cruise play the role of David Aames, a rich heir who is living comfortably off the wealth his father has left behind for him. However, things get ugly real quick when his girlfriend catches him cheating on her and as a punishment, rams the car they were in. Julie dies from the crash and David lives with heavy injuries. His battered face is now covered with a mask. A psychologist, Dr. McCabe, comes to find out after repeatedly interviewing David of a company called ‘Life Extension’ where David was undergoing lucid dreaming. Things started turning towards the worst when David’s dreaming and his reality get confused inside his own head.
2. A Clockwork Orange (1973)
Though this movie is not science fiction as most mind-bending movies are, it is necessary to include it in this list as it warps our beliefs in a way few movies have managed to. The story is set in a near-future London, and is about Alex DeLarge, the leader of a gang of four extremely violent teenagers. They have no sense of ethics or morality. They invade homes, rape women, and beat up old homeless men. Later, when Alex is caught for his crimes, we see him being subject to a behavioral remodeling that causes him pain whenever he thinks of harming someone. The movie gives rise to very pertinent questions of free will and whether the future we are heading into will treat us as subjects and nothing else.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
One of the most important movies ever made, Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ took science fiction to a whole new level and made it philosophical. It is here where we first saw artificial intelligence taking over human life, how certain basic animal instincts remain the same despite the amount of progress we make. There is also a recurring monolith which appears during crucial moments of the film. We have here refrained from talking about the plot because this movie is a visual and metaphysical experience that all film lovers should undergo at least once in their lifetime.
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