It’s not always easy to understand the entire plot of a movie your first time through, especially with the person next to you squawking in your ear and the jackass behind you kicking your seat. Sometimes we’re smart enough to save highly anticipated movies for home viewing, but even then, there are a number of films you have to watch more than once to fully comprehend what the hell is going on. Here are ten movies very deserving of a second viewing, and you’ll be glad you watched them again. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)
Christopher Nolan’s sidestep during his “Dark Knight” trilogy was the usual mind-bending — sometimes this has literal meaning in the film — thriller that leaves us confused throughout and second guessing everything by the time it’s over. Starring the Oscar-less Leo, Tom Hardy without his Bane mask, Joseph Gordon-Levitt somewhat reminiscent of a young Matrix-y Neo in this expensive hallway stunt and the ever-amazing Marion Cotillard, Nolan takes us into a dream inside of a dream where we struggle to understand what’s real and what’s not. It’s almost as difficult to comprehend as that last sentence you just read. With Nolan, nothing is ever straightforward, but here’s a hint: the spinning top at the end.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Another film where the actors struggle to understand which parts are reality as much as the viewer, Cameron Crowe directs Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz in a twisted love triangle where dream states and murder victims are hard to pinpoint at the cross-section of reality and lucid dreams. Cruise’s character, a born-in magazine mogul, throws a birthday party for himself — that’s so Tom Cruise — where he meets the love of his life (Cruz), but his future with her is upset by his red-dressed, strappy-shoed stalker, Julie Gianni (Diaz) who drives them both off of a cliff. With his face in shambles, he quickly runs — the standard Tom Cruise run — from reality to a dream world. The trouble for the viewer the first time through is finding where reality ends and the dream begins. It gets better with every viewing, mostly because in the end, Kurt Russell just flat out loses it. Tech support!
The Usual Suspects (1995)
It would’ve given the ending away to call it “The Unlikely Suspect,” and if you have seen the film — spoiler alert! — you’d agree that the handicapped Verbal Kint is incapable of pulling off such a scheme as Keyser Soze. And it’s definitely not a Baldwin, as Stephen is just one of those terrible actors. It’s definitely one of those Kevin Spacey films you can’t watch too many times in a short period of time as the ending is too easy to recall — “K-Pax,” “Se7en” — but when you see how spontaneously well-orchestrated his deposition in the police department is, you’ll want to go back and see how he pulled it off all over again. One thing is for sure: I’ll never look at the physically disabled the same ever again.
Speaking of Kevin Spacey as the clever villain, “Se7en” is the gritty thriller starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as two cops following the seven deadly sins to the wife’s head in the box. While the ending is too vivid to forget, you have to watch the film again to follow Spacey’s character’s process. If you’ve ever been interested in serial killing as a part-time hobby, this is a great film to use for cliff notes on the dos and don’ts of meaningful murder. No one really wants to see Gwyneth Paltrow‘s severed head, but hearing Brad Pitt cry “what’s in the box?” a hundred times is kind of entertaining.
Another Nolan film that worked our brains to the point of mush was the backwards crime thriller “Memento,” starring a young, ripped Guy Pearce. In the movie, adapted from his brother Jonathan’s short story “Memento Mori,” Leonard Shelby (Pearce) has no form of short-term memory so he has to make notes to himself, working his way around his sickness to find who raped and murdered his wife. Like any Nolan movie, it requires multiple viewings to fully comprehend, except for “Interstellar,” which is more time consuming than a part-time job as a serial killer.
Fight Club (1999)
One of the greatest films in history — that’s fact, not opinion — is the coming-to-life ego of Ed Norton’s character, Tyler Durden. The David Fincher film, a book adaptation based off the Chuck Palahniuk novel, takes an ordinary man who goes very “Office Space” on his mundane, monotonous life, but eventually it leads him down a path of public destruction, which he cannot comprehend nor stop, at least not until you both realize Tyler Durden ( Brad Pitt) is an illusion. Upon returning to the film a second time with that information, the whole movie makes a lot more sense, especially considering Ed Norton never had a name throughout the film. How could you have not gotten this the first time? That’s simple. No one wants to believe Brad Pitt is just an illusion. Also, no one is allowed to talk about it.
Donnie Darko (2001)
One of the greatest directorial debuts belongs to Richard Kelly as he takes us on a wild, time-altering ride through the eyes of Jake Gyllenhaal, a teen who has a near-death experience and can change destiny. Between the appearances of the gigantic bunny and endlessly reinterpreted meanings of the film, what appears to be a somewhat simplistic film is a bit of a never-ending universal mind fuck. The good news: You walk away with something new each time, if you so choose.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
It should come as no surprise that something born of David Lynch’s mind is difficult to comprehend, but the 2001 mystery-thriller is lined with a strangely structured story, not to mention hot babes making out and a faux Los Angeles where parking seems to be no problem at all. Naomi Watts is a typical new-to-town girl in search of fame and Laura Elena Harring has just survived a car accident and slowly has to piece her life together with the help of Watts’ character. It’s like “The Bourne Identity,” only way hotter and more indulging. Considering it’s from the transcendentally meditative mind of Lynch, you’ll likely need more than two viewings to get it.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Whenever something in a film doesn’t add up, just assume the main character is dead. That seems to work in “The Sixth Sense,” where most people’s jaws hit the floor when little Haley Joel Osment exclaimed the infamous “I see dead people,” disclosing that Bruce Willis’ character was actually dead the whole goddamn time. Upon watching the M. Night Shyamalan classic — it’s classic because now he just makes crap — again, you’ll realize that although the dark clouded ending came out of the clear, blue sky, the fact that he’s dead makes total sense the second time through. Talking about cleverly making money on the backend in movie rentals. Everyone rents it twice.
Okay, we’ll give M. Night Shyamalan two classics and say that the bigger themes playing in 2000’s “Unbreakable,” the godlike complexes between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, were pretty powerful. When Willis’ character is the sole survivor of a terrible train wreck, Jackson’s character offers an explanation before you slowly realize the two characters have much bigger identities than either realized. In the end, Willis was just as confused as we were. Of course, now Shyamalan wants to make “Unbreakable 2” and ruin anything decent he’s ever created.