12 Movies That Mess With Our Minds

It seems like the box office is dominated by big-budget franchises. Whether it’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe or, more recently, the Dune films, the biggest movies are the ones with the biggest stars. Not every film in this vein is able to leave a lasting impact, though. More often than not, it’s the smaller, lesser-known films have a tendency to leave a more lasting impact on us as viewers.

These twelve movies, in particular, will undoubtedly mess with your mind long after the credits roll.

1. The Empty Man (2020)

The Empty Man
Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Based on the comics by Cullen Bunn and artist Vanesa R. Del Rey, The Empty Man follows a private detective as he investigates a group of missing teens and slowly uncovers a mystery with much larger implications than he first imagined. It’s an amazing movie for just how well it develops from a pretty standard crime movie into something that may mess with your understanding of reality.

2. Images (1972)

Images (1972)
Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Movies and TV are the perfect media to explore psychological horror because they can place us in characters’ heads in so many ways; we can see what they see, hear what they hear, and depending on the movie, think what they think. Images places viewers firmly in the point of view of its protagonist as she begins to mix up conversation partners and become unsure of just who she’s talking to at any given time until things come to a thrilling climax.

3. Naked Lunch (1991)

Naked Lunch
Image Credit: Janus Films.

Loosely based on the novel of the same name by William S. Burroughs but also drawing from his life, David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch is a wild ride into a strange city called Interzone where all manner of strange things exist. Doppelgangers of the protagonist’s dead wife, typewriters that are talking beetles, and more populate the film that never makes it clear whether what we’re seeing is a drug-fueled trip or reality.

4. Barton Fink (1991)

Barton Fink
Image Credit: Circle Films.

The Coen brothers have made a lot of great movies, but none of them are quite as odd as Barton Fink. The film follows a struggling playwright who comes to Hollywood to try his hand at writing screenplays for the studios in the early 1940s and encounters various eccentric characters. Without spoiling anything, the film dives off the deep end towards the end in a sequence that’s one of the most visually striking and delightfully quotable the Coens have ever made.

5. Aniara (2018)

Aniara (2018)
Image Credit: AB Svensk Filmindustri.

Based on a novel-length epic poem by Harry Martinson, Aniara follows the inhabitants of a massive spaceship set to shuttle them to Mars as it veers off course and forces its residents to live out their lives drifting through space. It’s an often bleak film, but one that offers so many interesting ideas about humanity and how we find hope that it’s not exactly a downer as much as a head-scratcher.

6. Coherence (2013)

Coherence Emily Baldoni
Image Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories.

A dinner party soon becomes an exercise in trying to figure out how well a group of people know their friends when they discover that they have somehow opened a portal to an alternate dimension where different versions of themselves exist. Coherence is a small-scale, low-budget sci-fi movie that shows you don’t need much money, big-name actors, or multiple locations to make a great movie that digs into viewers’ minds.

7. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Image Credit: Shochiku.

Based on the novel of the same name by Joan Lindsay, Picnic at Hanging Rock tells the story of a group of girls who go missing after a field trip to the eponymous Hanging Rock. But far from a thriller about discovering what’s happened to the girls, the movie meanders and spends time with several of the characters that the disappearance has affected in small and large ways.

8. Kill List (2011)

Image Credit: Warp X.

Kill List begins as a pretty standard, albeit incredibly stylized, crime story about a pair of hitmen. But as the film continues, their jobs become stranger and stranger, leading up to a finale that’s far from standard. It’s a remarkable movie that functions as a great crime movie, a great horror movie, and a great mindbender.

9. The Five Devils (2023)

The Five Devils
Image Credit: Mubi.

Released just a few months ago, The Five Devils is currently my favorite film of the year, and I don’t see that changing. The movie follows a girl whose paternal aunt returns to the small town where she lives to stay with her parents, but it seems that there’s more to her aunt and mother’s relationship. When the girl learns she can travel through time using a mysterious substance she discovers, the mystery begins to unfold but also becomes more complicated.

10. Men (2022)

Men (2022)
Image Credit: A24.

Men is the only movie I don’t like on this list, but I felt the need to include it because some movie fans in the discussion are so passionate about it. The film, which follows a woman taking a vacation after the death of her husband and encountering all manner of threatening men, comes from writer/director Alex Garland whose other films I enjoy. Still, one fan thinks Men is a “genius film [and] his best work.”

11. Taste of Fear, aka Scream of Fear (1961)

Taste of Fear Scream of Fear
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

I was delighted to see one of my favorite underseen Hammer Film Productions mentioned in the conversation. Taste of Fear, sometimes called Scream of Fear, follows a young woman who moves back to her father’s house only to discover that he is away and her stepmother has control of the home.

She’s suspicious but becomes certain that something is wrong when she sees her father’s corpse, or did she? It’s a thriller that once again places us in the protagonist’s point of view so that we can question what she sees alongside her.

12. Under the Silver Lake (2018)

Under the Silver Lake Riley Keough
Image Credit: A24.

The original poster mentions Under the Silver Lake as a type of movie they want recommendations for. And because it’s one of my favorite movies of recent years, I wanted to take the chance to recommend it to any readers.

The film follows an unemployed young man in Los Angeles who becomes obsessed with finding his neighbor who went missing. But as he investigates, the mystery only grows bigger and stranger. It’s a movie that treats its concept more as a comedy than a thriller, and it’s all the better for it.

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Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


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