Top 10 movies that mess with your mind

11. Troll 2

To give weight to the theme we’ve called our list ‘top 10 films’ then listed 11. Sneaky…

Mind-melting fact: There are no trolls in Troll 2. Only goblins. We should probably stop there. But we won’t, because that would be too easy. Now let’s ride this bull. A bull’s not a troll either. This film doesn’t deserve relevant metaphors.

Okay… so there’s this family. The main reason they move to the near-deserted town of Nilbog (read it backwards and marvel) is because they’re tired of the food in their town. That’s awesome, it’s almost like generic supermarkets and multinationalism haven’t been invented. The town is full of goblins who try to make them eat green shit, and at the end there’s a disco showdown. Christopher Nolan, David Lynch… you can’t touch this. Everything you do retains inherent meaning and, unlike Troll 2 director Claudio Fragasso, you just can’t shake it off. Fall back.

Other Claudio Fragasso films that twist your candycane: None. After 2003 Fragasso never worked in the biz again…

10. Twelve Monkeys

In a future world ravaged by a man-made virus, convict Bruce Willis goes back in time to locate the cause and avert the course of history. Full of time travel puzzlers which loop joyously like a space-time spaghetti junction, Twelve Monkeys is an archetypally mind-messing Terry Gilliam film. We chose it over the others because it’s got lions and tigers in it.

Other Terry Gilliam films that bizzle your shizzle: Brazil, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Other time travel movies that recalibrate your medulla oblongata: Primer.

9. Oldboy

Oh Dae-Su is grabbed for no apparent reason off the street and imprisoned in a small flat. After 15 years, Oh Dae-Su is released to discover he must find his unknown kidnapper in five days. And that’s just the first ten minutes. A twisty-turny brain bumming follows, shot through with humorously odd sex and live seafood mastication. Oldboy is well-crafted and makes total sense once you’re in possession of all the facts, but it’s proper wormfood for your soily little brain.

Other Chan-wook Park movies that play with reality like it’s a yo yo with three strings: I’m a Cyborg. It’s about a psychiatric patient who thinks she’s a combat cyborg. Actually, we lied. It’s many things – witty, playful, romantic, tragic – but not mind-melting.

8. Jacob’s Ladder

“The most frightening thing about Jacob Singer’s nightmare is that he isn’t dreaming”. Traumatized by his stint in the Vietnam war, Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) finds life isn’t any easier back home. Horned creatures attack him in the subway… and he gets a visit from his dead son. The best quality mind-melting movies ask two questions: Is reality what you think it is? And who are you to be thinking about it, anyway? Jacob’s Ladder asks – and expects you to form your own conclusions to – those two rather enticing questions.

7. EXistenZ

Of course we were going to include a David Cronenberg movie; it was merely a question of which one to pick. EXistenZ is a worthy precursor to The Matrix and has the added benefit of not having two sequels you have to pay the guy in Inception to flush from your mind so they never existed. The plot is thus: While on the run from assassins, a virtual reality game designer must play her latest mind-boggling creation to find out if her game has been damaged. Something is certainly damaged. The game? Reality? The game designer? It’s just a big surreal gumbo with odd body parts thrown in to season.

Other David Cronenberg movies that mess with your mind something rotten: Videodrome, Shivers, Dead Ringers.

6. Fight Club

A sign of a great brain-noodling movie is you watch it… then rewatch it. Immediately. Before you’ve even had your tea. An unnamed office employee played by Edward Norton hates his dull flatpack lifestyle and gets friendly with rebellious Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Together, they build a global organisation dedicated to helping other flatpack men channel their aggression. The second watch of the movie reveals a complete lack of plotholes and further adulation of Helena Bonham-Carter, if such a thing were possible. If only more Mujahideen watched Fight Club. Maybe they’d find a more healthy approach to who or what the enemy in Jihad really is.

5. Mulholland Drive

Out of a shortlist of milliards, Mulholland Drive is the most mental David Lynch movie ever. It’s like the Wookie Defence – it makes no sense. An amnesiac survivor of a car accident scours Los Angeles for clues to who she is and what happened, along with her sidekick, a wannabe Hollywood star. A classic ‘open work’, Mulholland Drive references other movies (Lynch or otherwise), encourages repeat viewings and can be read in a plethora of ways. It’s a passport to someone else’s brain with no map.

Other David Lynch movies (there’s no point quantifying the degree to which they’ll mess with your mind, they all do): Blue Velvet, Eraserhead, Dune.

4. Inception

Hooray! You can invade the human mind through dreams and dick about in there for what feels like decades. Boo! You need to be trained to do it. If only dream-dickering was as easy as getting five stars on your McDonalds name badge. The joy of Inception lies not so much in the big reveal as in the hanging-on-tight-to-the-plot-for-sheer-life as you – along with our hero – are drawn ever deeper into a rabbithole world of dreams within dreams. And you get to choose your own ending. Genius.

Other Christopher Nolan movies so twisty and turny it broke our mirrorball hearts not to include them: Memento. See that Guy Pearce? Don’t believe his lies!

3. Pi

Meta-thriller Pi is the black-and-white film with which Darren Aronofsky made his name. Maximillian Cohen is a reclusive mathematician who believes he has stumbled upon a singular unified theory for the universe. Can it really predict patterns as disparate as the movements of the stock market and the milky swirl in a coffee cup? Could this equation prove or preclude the existence of God? And why is Cohen being chased by Jewish Kabbalists and Wall Street bankers? And… most telling of all… why are his headaches getting worse? With an atmospheric score by Clint Mansell (Moon), Pi will send any Aronofsky fan, atheist, Christian, mathematician or Kerry Katona fan into paroxysms of delight. The last one, not so much.

Other Darren Aronofsky movies that hurt your mind so much you want to keep pressing it like a bruise: The Fountain, Black Swan.

2. The Matrix

There was only one Matrix and it was more inspiring than anything filmed entirely in black and green has a right to be. Don’t pretend you didn’t lightly wee your pants to discover we were living a virtual reality and could do anything at all while looking bloody brilliant. If you lie, the wee police will catch you. They also know you were trembling with excitement for four entire years until the Abomination of a sequel, the point at which you realised that when dreams die, your favourite piece of you dies with them.

1. Bladerunner

Harrison Ford plays a futuristic detective who hunts down replicants (AI constructs much like human beings). What is self-awareness? Can it be judged by anyone but yourself? Is this probably the coolest dystopia ever? Until the Director’s Cut came out, Bladerunner was one of the most mind-messing movies ever. Now your energy is siphoned into pondering whether you prefer the Director’s Cut or the original. The Director’s Cut makes the plot too cut and dried, but others would argue that it benefits from the removal of the voiceover. Either way, you’ve got a damn fine movie, with plenty to muse over and a Vangelis score to die for.

Other Philip K Dick movie adaptions to make your hypothalamus swoon: A Scanner Darkly.

Now read: Top 10 WTF Films

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