When humans first made images come to life and developed them into an art form to express their emotions and tell stories, it was the closest we came to replicating life. No other art form had ever been able to capture our attention like movies could. But we didn’t stop there – we continued to experiment and develop a language unique to films, making it an art form just like music, painting, and storytelling, which have existed for centuries.
We pushed beyond the boundaries of depicting life as it is and started imagining how things could unfold in the future. We even challenged the reality we see around us and presented alternative versions of truth. Filmmakers began exploring these concepts from the early days of cinema, with Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (1927) being a prime example. Lang’s film portrayed a dystopian society where humanity was divided into two parts – the rich and powerful living in a beautiful utopia, while the oppressed lived in dark and unpleasant conditions beneath the city. Lang was a visionary, and the film proved he was ahead of his time.
Georges Melies’ 1902 film “A Trip to the Moon” also demonstrated how filmmakers began reimagining reality through cinema. To quench your thirst for such mind-bending films, we’ve compiled a list of mind-blowing movies. Here are the top-rated mind-bending movies on Netflix available for streaming right now:
20. Extinction (2018)
Directed by Ben Young, this 2018 film stars Michael Pena and Lizzy Caplan in the lead roles. Pena plays a man named Peter, who experiences vivid and horrifying dreams of his loved ones facing an alien invasion on Earth. Concerned, Peter seeks help from a psychiatrist and meets another man who has similar dreams. On the same day, the city is attacked, and a series of events unfold, leading us to question what we have seen all along. Peter also reveals unexpected secrets about himself. “Extinction” features strong performances and a surprising twist, although it has been criticized for its stereotypical nature.
19. The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
After “Cloverfield” (2008) and “10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016), “The Cloverfield Paradox” is the latest installment in the series. This time, the story shifts from an alien invasion to a massive energy crisis on Earth. Scientists attempt to harness infinite energy using a particle accelerator, but there’s also the risk of opening portals to another realm, making us vulnerable to a potentially dangerous parallel universe. Although the film received mixed reviews, its connection to the Cloverfield universe makes it a must-watch for fans of mind-bending movies.
18. Buster’s Mal Heart (2017)
Rami Malek, an Academy Award winner, plays the protagonist in this 2016 film that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Buster is a man who lives alone in the mountains but starts trespassing into houses to seek shelter from the cold. This makes him a target for the authorities. Meanwhile, Buster regularly tunes into radio shows and talks about a Millennium Inversion. He also has visions of himself on top of a mountain or lost at sea. As the story unfolds, the true meaning behind these visions is revealed, and we understand exactly what Buster has been talking about.
17. OtherLife (2017)
This Australian science fiction film is another mind-bending gem available on Netflix. Jessica De Gouw portrays Ren, a scientist who has developed a biological virtual reality called OtherLife. This device can create false memories that can last for years in the subject’s mind, even though only seconds have passed in reality. Ren’s partner, Sam, wants to use it for governmental purposes, such as curbing prison overcrowding. Problems arise when Sam becomes greedy, and Ren herself gets trapped in an OtherLife simulation. She eventually finds a way to break free and becomes lost in the reality she finds herself in. Directed by Ben C. Lucas, “OtherLife” is based on the novel “Solitaire” by Kelley Eskridge.
16. The Discovery (2017)
Is there life after death? Well, Thomas, played by Robert Redford in this 2017 film, believes so and has even managed to scientifically prove it. The number of suicides increases when people know they have a chance at a better life after death. Meanwhile, his son Will meets a girl named Isla on a ferry, and they visit Will’s father’s laboratory to explain the dangers his discovery poses. There, they uncover another invention by their father. Will continues to have visions of a boy on a beach, which he talks about with Isla. His father’s machine helps him realize he is stuck in a loop and must find a way out. “The Discovery” features great performances by Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, and Jason Segel.
15. IO (2019)
This film shows us a glimpse of what the near future could be like on Earth in a few decades. It serves as a warning more than anything else. “IO” depicts a dystopian future where Earth has become so toxic that humanity has colonized Io, one of Jupiter’s moons. Sam, one of the few remaining people living on Earth, meets another human like her, Micah, who tries to convince her to leave for Io soon. Meanwhile, her boyfriend has embarked on an expedition to find another habitable planet. The film raises vital questions: With heavy industrialization, when will Earth become uninhabitable? And what will we do then?
14. iBoy (2017)
Released on Netflix, this cyberpunk thriller stars Maisie Williams from the famous series “Game of Thrones.” She portrays Lucy, whose friend Tom Harvey is hit by shards of a smartphone during a brutal break-in. Tom discovers he can now see digital signals and decides to use his newfound powers to bring the attackers to justice. “iBoy” is a unique tale of a different kind of superhero. Tom can see digital signals, giving him an edge over everyone else in a world that now operates on digital data. The thriller can be seen as a metaphor for the fact that whoever controls digital data currently rules over us.
13. Time Trap (2017)
The search for a missing archaeology professor in remote Texas leads his students to a mysterious cave where time flows differently. “Time Trap” is an independent science fiction film that combines all the usual tropes – time travel, aliens, hostile cavemen – into a creative and intelligent storyline that only occasionally feels forced. Mark Dennis and Ben Foster collaborate to direct and produce this film, featuring a talented cast. While the script and cinematography are not extraordinary, they are far from lacking. Overall, the film received mixed reviews from both critics and audiences.
12. Cloud Atlas (2012)
“Cloud Atlas” is an epic that spans multiple generations, intertwining the stories of six souls throughout their many lives – from a slave trader’s memoir in 1849 to a composer’s letters to his lover in the 1930s, a crime journalist’s story about corruption at a nuclear power plant in the 1970s, an editor’s escape from a nursing home in 2012, a clone’s rebellion against oppressive powers in 2144, to a cowardly tribesman conquering his fears in the 2300s. All these stories are connected by acts of kindness or crime. The film conveys the message that our actions can have an impact and shape the lives of others, even if we are separated by years of existence. Despite boasting an exceptional cast (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant), the execution of this incredibly profound concept falls a bit flat.
11. The Endless (2017)
“The Endless” gradually unfolds the bizarre story of two brothers who stumble upon an old, cryptic video that takes them back to the UFO death cult they escaped from ten years ago. Once there, the brothers reevaluate their beliefs and discover some truth in the cult’s teachings. They decide to learn the whole truth before fully committing to the sect. The film’s plot is bewildering, unsettling, and slow-paced at times, but it ultimately hits the mark and scores high on the mind-bending parameter.
10. In The Shadow Of The Moon (2019)
In 1988, a cop tracks down a serial killer and witnesses her being run over by a subway train in horror. The case is closed following the killer’s death. However, she resurfaces nine years later, and the murders resume. With authorities unable to comprehend the logic behind the killings, only one detective is close to uncovering the reality, especially as she starts making cryptic allusions. “In The Shadow Of The Moon” is a gripping police thriller that will leave your head spinning long after you finish watching it, and that’s not entirely a bad thing.
9. Horse Girl (2020)
Sarah is a sweet, socially awkward woman with a passion for crafts and horses. “Horse Girl” centers around Sarah as her paranoia intensifies, leading to a complete and paralyzing mental breakdown, to the point where she can no longer distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. This surreal psychological drama aims to immerse viewers in Sarah’s disturbed mental space, allowing them to experience her descent into the abyss. Allison Brie, who plays Sarah, delivers a truly remarkable performance. There’s a strange fragility in her eyes, threatening to shatter as the film progresses.
8. Anon (2018)
In a future where even people’s private memories aren’t truly private since all memories are recorded, crime is almost non-existent. The existence of an intriguing woman with no name, no identity, and no digital history at all spells trouble for the cops as it signals the resurgence of controlled crime. “Anon” may serve as a cautious glimpse into the future rather than a mere figment of someone’s imagination since our generation carelessly documents every detail of our lives digitally. Are we heading towards a time when memories are recorded and accessible to others? Only time will tell.
7. Lucid Dream (2017)
A father desperate to find his missing son has exhausted almost all possibilities since the child’s abduction three years ago. He finally discovers lucid dreaming, a method that allows him to see the exact moment his son was taken and track from there while he sleeps. “Lucid Dream” is an intense and mysterious South Korean science fiction thriller that doesn’t come without flaws. It mostly maintains the fast-paced fervor but falters here and there when it becomes overly emotional for the genre.
6. Her (2013)
Spike Jonze brings us closer to a reality that already exists in certain parts of the world. “Her” is a uniquely special love story between a man and the virtual assistant on his computer. Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, develops a romantic relationship with Samantha, an Artificial Intelligence assistant voiced by Scarlett Johansson. We witness a love story between man and machine that seemingly works until he realizes it’s just artificial intelligence collecting data and forming a relationship based on that. The film speaks to the void in human life where technology has taken over, and we crave human connection in any way possible.
5. The One I Love (2014)
“The One I Love” is an intimate and surrealistic thriller that forces introspection and delves into the psyche of a married couple whose relationship has deteriorated over the years. At the suggestion of their marriage counselor, Ethan and Sophie embark on a weekend getaway to a mysterious retreat recommended by the therapist. There, they experience a strange, twisted, and sinister encounter that compels them to confront their own emotions and feelings about intimacy and individuality. The film features outstanding performances by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss in the lead roles.
4. Freaks (2018)
Having spent her entire life locked inside a house controlled by her paranoid father, 7-year-old Chloe harbors a deep fascination and equally paralyzing fear of the outside world. But when she manages to escape her eccentric father, a mysterious and potentially dangerous stranger offers to show her the world. “Freaks” is a meeting of “Room” and “X-Men” as Chloe possesses mutant-like superpowers that help her navigate an unfamiliar and frightening situation. It’s an edge-of-your-seat horror thriller throughout.
3. Happy As Lazzaro (2018)
“Happy As Lazzaro” is an Italian drama that tells the utterly unbelievable, incredible, and inexplicable story of Lazzaro, a simple-minded and good-natured young peasant who assists his friend Tancredi in staging his own kidnapping to deceive his mother. The two boys form a bond as they run freely, even wondering if they could be half-brothers. When the police raid and shut down the illegally-run tobacco plantation, the boys are separated, and Lazzaro falls off a cliff. Miraculously, he survives and wakes up several years later, not having aged at all. The film’s plot becomes delightfully stranger as Lazzaro embarks on a quest to find his old friend Tancredi. “Happy As Lazzaro” highlights the class divide between the rich and the poor, and how one exploits the other.
2. Being John Malkovich (1999)
There’s strange, there’s bizarre, and then there’s absurd. “Being John Malkovich” falls into the absurd category. This eccentric and mind-boggling comedy, starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, and John Malkovich himself, revolves around puppeteer Craig Schwartz stumbling upon a hidden portal at work that leads directly into actor John Malkovich’s mind. Craig develops a business plan to sell limited-time trips into Malkovich’s mind, all while embarking on a creepy relationship with Malkovich’s wife. “Being John Malkovich” is generally considered a cult classic and is one of the most peculiar and original films ever made. Watch it, and you won’t regret it.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Yes, we’re aware that the top two films on our list were both written by the same screenwriter, but Charlie Kaufman is equally skilled at crafting mind-blowing screenplays. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is a truly special love story told in reverse after the protagonists experience a painful breakup. Clémentine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (Jim Carrey) undergo a procedure to erase memories of each other from their respective minds in the hopes of moving on. This film is funny, sweet, achingly tender, absolutely beautiful, and unabashedly romantic.
Now that you have a list of mind-bending movies, grab your popcorn, sit back, and prepare to have your perception of reality challenged. Enjoy!