Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Getty)
It’s nice when you can go see a movie, shut your brain off for two hours and just forget about everything. However, some films are more complex and don’t allow you to do that, and then there are a particular number of movies that aim to completely twist your brain up in a knot. The films below do exactly that. But not to worry, because while we will remind you of these films, we are also going to suggest some simple, easier-to-understand alternatives.
Movies That Still Confuse Us (And Their Simpler Alternatives)
Just what in the hell is this movie? Matthew McConaughey and his laid-back attitude goes from wormholes to different dimensions to black holes, and when it is all said and done we are left absolutely lost and unaware as to what has just occurred. You pretty much need an astrophysics degree to understand this one.
Alternative: Armageddon – A bunch of drillers are trained to be astronauts and they’re taken into space where they have to drill a hole in an asteroid to blow it up. Thanks for simplicity, Michael Bay.
Wait, what layer are we in? A dream, within a dream, within a dream? And was Leo dreaming at the end? Someone tell me! Damn you, Christopher Nolan, you give us all headaches with your puzzles.
Alternative: Nightmare On Elm Street – Crazed guy kills teenagers in their dreams. So much for wet dreams.
Donnie Darko (2001)
A film featuring a giant talking bunny shouldn’t make your head hurt, but thanks to director Richard Kelly, that’s exactly what occurs here. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character learns the world will end so he tries to change it, and of course time travel becomes involved which affects his life, all while he’s losing his mind.
Alternative: “Hop” – The Easter bunny’s teenage son wants to become a drummer instead of taking over the family business. Yes, this is a real movie.
The Big Short (2015)
Not even an appearance from Margot Robbie in a bathtub could help me understand anything that was going on in this film. A bunch of dudes predict the housing collapse and then use it to their advantage to do stuff. They also take on the banks. I honestly have no idea, but I’m pretty sure Bernie Sanders would have loved to have made a cameo.
Alternative: Smart House – Kid wins a fully automated house. House takes control of family. Lessons are learned. The end.
So before Christopher Nolan was messing up our dreams, he was completely breaking our brains by making this film. Memento is filled with so many different pieces you’re going to try and force it all together so that it fits like that remaining piece on your grandma’s puzzle. Problem is, none of it makes sense.
Alternative: Finding Dory – Dory has short-term memory but she wants to find her parents.
If you thought Beginners Algebra was the most difficult thing you’ve ever come across you may not want to see this movie. Pi deals with a lot of math, puzzles, numbers, patterns, combinations and oh, the whole damn universe.
Alternative: Good Will Hunting – Matt Damon’s character is a genius but an asshole, and after he solves a super-difficult math problem he’s sent to a therapist.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
If you somehow got through this movie without collapsing, we commend you. Sure, this Stanley Kubrick film is a classic, but the pacing moves like a slug, scenes are long and to this day the ending still baffles us. So David Bowman turns into a baby? Wait, what?
Alternative: WALL-E – Robot on wheels spends his day hanging by himself on earth until he meets a gal, and together they go on a space journey.
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Charlie Kaufman doesn’t enjoy doing simple films, so watching Synecdoche New York is nothing more than a trip into a corn maze — a maze you’re never going to get out of. The late-great Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a theatre director who is working on a mock-up city. And as it progresses, so does his mind, as he falls into a world that neither you nor I can comprehend. Seriously, what the hell is going on in this film?
Alternative: Evan Almighty – Not a city, but a dad is instructed to build an ark, so he does. And he grows a beard.
Speaking of Kaufman’s ability to confuse us all, Adaptation is one of those rare Nicolas Cage movies that don’t suck. Even though we have no clue what’s going on. Cage’s character is a screenwriter who is trying (and struggling) to adapt a novel, and the screenplay ends up being about him trying to adapt that specific novel. The hell?
Alternative: The NeverEnding Story – Kid starts reading a book and enters a fantasy world.
If you’re never heard of Primer you’re one of the lucky ones. Shane Carruth, the man behind this film, is a former engineer with a degree in mathematics. And that should tell you how complex this film is. Primer deals with time travel, doubles, different timelines, headaches and more headaches. At the end your ears might be bleeding from trying to follow everything.
Alternative: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Two friends time travel. Hilarity ensues.
Lost Highway (1997)
It all starts with a videotape that Bill Pullman’s character finds outside his door. And from there things get so bizarre and unsettling, that before you know it Pullman has turned into an entirely different character. Exactly. But hey, if you’re looking for another mindfuck from David Lynch, give “Mulholland Drive” a shot, too.
Alternative: Big – Kid turns into another entirely different character: Tom Hanks.