Cinema is easily the most entertaining art form. But it is also an art form that allows its makers to experiment. In that sense, it is like painting. One can argue that while painters are encouraged to be different and weird, filmmakers aren’t as much. And yet, there are filmmakers who dare to be different, who dare to be weird. Even though “weird” doesn’t necessarily mean “good” — unless you are David Lynch or Michael Hanake — but this article is devoted to films that are both weird and good. Read below the list of top weird movies of the 21st century and why are these movies weird in the first place. Caution: SPOILERS AHEAD!
10. Irreversible (2002)
Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass. Her boyfriend and ex-lover take matters into their own hands by hiring two criminals to help them find the rapist so that they can exact revenge. I know it is a very disturbing film, but at the same time I think it has a clear message in it. A simultaneously beautiful and terrible examination of the destructive nature of cause and effect it is a film that shows how cruel time can be.
What’s weird about it?: No, it is not the reverse timeline .. if that’s what you are thinking. It is on this list because of two scenes: an extremely graphic murder scene and an even more graphic rape scene.
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9. Donnie Darko (2001)
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.
What’s weird about it?: Its complex time travel routine and its very weird, very “out of the world” characters.
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8. Dogtooth (2009)
‘Dogtooth’ challenges the conventional wisdom of filmmaking by making all its characters unlikeable — detestable, even. But there also lies the reason why ‘Dogtooth’ works so well; because it isn’t afraid to go to uncomfortable places to reveal the dark aspect of human psychology. As disturbing and startling ‘Dogtooth’ is, it also funny in a sad kind of way. Ultimately, it is as raw as modern filmmaking can get.
What’s weird about it?: Can I say: everything? Not a single character in the film is not a weirdo. It has themes of sadism and incest.
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7. Synecdoche, New York (2007)
‘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.
What’s weird about it?: Charlie Kaufman’s writing. It is weird, but it is also wonderful.
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6. Oldboy (2003)
‘Oldboy’ deviates from the usual path of the revenge thrillers. Yes, it is violent, but director Park Chan-wook challenges typical uses of explicit violence by using it symbolically in support of his unforgiving narratives. His is a visceral brand of storytelling, told with rich visuals, impassioned functionality, and poetic purpose. He exhausts us emotionally, exposing us to a painful dramatic beating and in turn, ensuring that his film is not just watched but also lived through.
What’s weird about it?: Father-daughter incestuous relationship. A crazy villain who has crazy methods of taking revenge.
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5. The Piano Teacher (2001)
A deeply disturbing examination — what else can you expect out of Michael Haneke — of desire and desperation in love, ‘The Piano Teacher’ may leave you shaken by the time it ends. Not an easy watch by any means, the film will be richly rewarding to only those who patiently and thoughtfully strive to absorb its subtle nuances — after having gotten through the initial shock. In the end, and if you look closely, Haneke’s message with this film is: Love has many shades, and not all of them are beautiful.
What’s weird about it?: The film deals with sadomasochism.
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4. Primer (2004)
‘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.
What’s weird about it?: The fact that someone can take the risk of making a film so dense and complicated is in itself weird (and bold).
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3. Dogville (2003)
‘Dogville’ is a very unusual film; but it is also one of the most powerful films you’ll ever see, especially, if you get the message that Lars Von Trier is trying to drive home. By choosing a very minimalistic style of presentation — that looks more like a theatre than a film — Trier squarely focuses on the characters and their intent. There are few films that have shaken me to the core as this one.
What’s weird about it?: The way in which the film has been conceived and shot — which, by the way, is brilliant. It is more like a play that you are seeing on-screen.
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2. Upstream Color (2013)
Thematically rich and layered, ‘Upstream Color’ is a twisted examination of love and relationships – how do we function in it, what our love does to one another, and eventually how that’s connected to the nature and bigger schemes of things. Lyrical, mystifying and at the same time, deeply philosophical, ‘Upstream Color’ is as much a technical wizardry as it is a meditative and contemplative piece of art. If ever the art of cinema required a reason or a proof to corroborate that its purpose of existence is much more than mere entertainment, then you don’t have to look any further than this film.
What’s weird about it?: The two lead characters begin getting attracted to each other because of .. hold your breath .. pigs. Need I say more?
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1. Mulholland Drive (2001)
A film that is discussed even today, around 15 years after its release, ‘Mulholland Drive’, quite simply, offers the greatest cinematic mystery of all time. David Lynch’s best work till date, ‘Mulholland Dr.’ lingers, fascinates and feels like a hypnotic narration of an extended mood opera. It is one of those films which hugely benefits from multiple viewings, when the underlying themes of identity, delusion and the nature of fame become all the more apparent. Featuring one of the all-time great female performances, by Naomi Watts, ‘Mulholland Dr.’ is truly an unforgettable experience.
What’s weird about it?: Everything about ‘Mulholland Drive is weird … and beautiful. Lynch is the flag bearer of weird movies. Somehow he has found a way to make us fall in love with his weirdness.
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