Everyone who watches a movie likes to walk away from it with a different feeling. Some like to be exhilarated, some like to be scared, and others like to have spent the last two hours laughing themselves to the point of exhaustion. Then there are those of us that like to leave the movie theatre slightly confused and questioning everything we’ve just seen. Those are the kind of movies we’re looking at today.
With plot twists and plenty of hidden meanings, these kinds of movies require plenty of concentration and even that isn’t enough sometimes. The only thing that we can do with certain movies is sit down and watch them all over again, and then watch them again and again and again until we start to understand what is going on. That’s not to say they’re bad movies, they’re just complicated in the best way, and that’s what we like. Some movies aren’t worth the extra time needed to understand the story, so don’t bother watching those ones over and over, but some absolutely demand it. With this list we look at 15 movies that you need to watch more than once.
Warning: This article contains serious spoilers.
15. The Matrix Trilogy
We start our list with a movie that completely changed everything. The Matrix rewrote what was possible on camera and how we enjoy movies. With its groundbreaking special effects, known as “bullet time,” plus its acrobatic stunts, great action pieces, and its “philosophical” heart, The Matrix became an instant phenomenon. The movie itself is littered with references and nods to so many popular science fiction and fantasy works, that for that reason alone, The Matrix should be viewed multiple times.
The rest of The Matrix Trilogy, however, is more of a head scratcher than the first movie. Delving far more into the philosophy of reality than the first movie did, the two sequels seem to confuse themselves a lot, let alone the audience. Watching all three movies together and at least twice should shed some more light onto these movies.
14. 12 Monkeys
Next we come to the mind of Monty Python member Terry Gilliam and his time travelling epic, 12 Monkeys. As with any movie that touches on the subject of time travel, it can be a complicated and tricky thing. 12 Monkeys, however, tries to take hold of time travel and paradoxes and simplifies it so that it can’t trip itself up with too many timelines.
Bruce Willis plays James Cole who is sent back in time from a future that has been decimated by a deadly virus and he has been sent back in order to stop the virus, or at least find a cure. All the while Cole is plagued by dreams of someone being shot at an airport. Of course, it turns out that this isn’t a dream but a memory of a young Cole witnessing his own death. 12 Monkeys is possibly one of Gilliam’s greatest movies, but it definitely requires a few viewings.
13. Fight Club
Yes we know, for everyone that’s seen Fight Club, we know that you’re not supposed to talk about Fight Club. However, as soon as you’ve seen Fight Club, it’s all you want to talk about. The now infamous ending finds the lead character, played by Edward Norton, as he faces off against his new friend and terrorist, Tyler Durden. After they bonded over starting a fight club, the two are pitted against each other as Durden is about to blow everything up. Of course, the twist is there is no Durden and both characters are Norton.
The giant twist ending eclipses the rest of the movie and all the little camera tricks and subliminal messages are lost. Not only that, but the movie plays out completely differently once you already know the truth. In particular the scenes between Norton and Brad Pitt are especially interesting and compelling once you know that Pitt’s character only exists in Norton’s mind.
12. Mulholland Drive
We now come to a movie that has confused pretty much everyone that’s ever watched it. David Lynch‘s Mulholland Drive may have been given the honour of being one of the most acclaimed films of this generation, but we challenge anyone to watch it in one go and tell us what is going on!
The movie has everything possible in order to confuse and disorientate the audience; characters with amnesia, waking dreams and nightmares, assassination attempts, and even some romance thrown in for good measure. The movie dips into dreams and the idea of what is reality so much, that it’s almost impossible to know what is going on at any one time. It’s also interesting to add that another Lynch movie is the equally confusing Inland Empire, which didn’t make this list because, although it’s just as complicated and confusing as Mulholland Drive, it’s nowhere near as good.
11. Vanilla Sky
There are some truly great movies out there that question reality and pose plenty of questions about what is real and what is a dream. One of the best ones, and a movie that is packed full of ideas and notions about this subject, is Vanilla Sky.
Flicking back and forth between the main character’s timeline, Vanilla Sky starts out by telling the story of a rich, cocky business man who has a fatal car crash when his ex girlfriend drives off a bridge. But what follows is a series of dreams and nightmares that show that he is disfigured, then he’s not. He meets the girl of his dreams, then he kills her, then she’s alive and then he’s back with his ex girlfriend, who he may have killed. The movie is a great example of how we choose to look at ourselves and reality but it definitely needs to be watched more than once if it’s going to be fully understood and enjoyed.
Next we come to director Christopher Nolan’s first major movie, and what a movie it was. Not content with being a blockbuster slave, Nolan decided to tell a story that would really stand out from the competition. On the surface of it, Memento is a typical revenge story. A man, Leonard Shelby, wants to find the man that killed his wife, and kill him. The only problem is that since the incident, Shelby is unable to make any new memories. In other words, every time he falls asleep or loses his concentration, he forgets what’s immediately happened to him.
Because of this, Nolan decided to film and tell the story in reverse, so the movie starts at the end and then each scene should be the one before it, in a normal movie, but not in this one. It may sound complicated but the result is a fast paced, gripping movie but it definitely needs multiple viewings.
9. The Usual Suspects
It’s fair to say that The Usual Suspects has become one of the most beloved classics in modern cinema. Telling the tale of a group of criminals that come together to pull off one big job, The Usual Suspect tells what happens to them through the eyes of a dimwitted petty crook named Roger “Verbal” Kint.
The entire movie is Kint’s version of how the criminals met and how the “job” they were doing all went wrong, and of course, how they all work for the mysterious crime boss Keyser Soze. As the policemen who are interrogating Kint start to feel like they may never get hold of Keyser Soze, Kint leaves the police station and gets on with his life. But there is a twist, Kint was Keyser Soze and everything he just told the police was made up from the leaflets and information in the detective’s office. The twist in this movie has become infamous and multiple viewings of this movie just goes to strengthen how good the story is and how well it fits altogether.
We now come to another Christopher Nolan movie, and just like our previous entry Memento, Inception isn’t just a straightforward story. As with other movies, and some on our list, we delve into the mind, and more specifically, dreams. Inception is layered with dreams within dreams within dreams and therefore can be difficult to know or understand what is going on or what is real, which we know is kind of the point.
The movie is about a group of people that delve into other people’s dreams in order to get information out of them. But when the group is hired to plant an idea in someone’s mind rather than extracting anything, it becomes very complicated. The key point of this movie is that the characters involved might never know what is real and what is a dream and the ending of the movie keeps this ideal going. Inception may well take a few viewings to fully appreciate, but it is worth it.
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey
We now come to what many fans feel is the greatest science fiction movie ever made. 2001: A Space Odyssey comes from the legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and it has everything. On the surface of it, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a movie about exploration and also the evolution of mankind. Two very big subjects to tackle, but the movie goes so much deeper.
If you look past the length of the movie, which is crazily long, and the ambiguous ending that still has many people confused, 2001: A Space Odyssey needs to be watched multiple times to enjoy it on every level. Not just because the movie itself has become iconic and a classic, but because of the depth, ambition, and scope of what is trying to be put across in this movie is like nothing anyone had seen before. It would take an entire article itself to fully explore this movie and even then, it would still leave us scratching our heads!
6. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Next we come to quite possibly, the best movie Jim Carrey has ever done. When he’s not busy making funny faces or talking in ridiculous voices, it becomes clear that Carrey is actually a very talented actor and this is shown to be the case with his role in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind looks at relationships, or more specifically, when relationships go wrong. Carrey’s character is so desperate to rid his mind of the memories of his former lover that he actually gets them removed. However, as the memories start to fade, he realizes that he has changed his mind and does everything he can to stop his memories being erased. Because this movie is all about memories, it can be difficult to know exactly what’s going on and what’s real, especially as there is a “real time” subplot going alongside Carrey’s story. This movie demands a second viewing and the audience is rewarded for this by watching possibly one of the best movies to come out in the last few years.
5. Shutter Island
Next we come to a team up of movie superstars Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. Shutter Island deals with sanity, insanity, and what people do to themselves when they can’t face reality, or can’t face what they’ve done. Set in the 1950s, DiCaprio plays a US Marshall who has been sent to a mental institute, Shutter Island, in order to find a woman that has escaped. Once he is there, DiCaprio’s character is sucked into conspiracy theories about communists and how they are experimenting on people with brain surgery.
Interwoven in the conspiracy theory, DiCaprio is haunted by dreams and hallucinations as he is slowly driven mad on the island. However, none of it is real and DiCaprio is in fact a patient and has been for years. He was allowed to play out his mental “fantasy” in the hope that it would help him face the reality of killing his wife, after she had killed their children. The movie is littered with subtle clues that can be picked up on a second viewing and enjoyed.
4. The Sixth Sense
Back before M. Night Shyamalan became a bit of a joke for his overuse of plot twists and shocking endings, he gave us the masterful and industry changing The Sixth Sense. The twist in this movie has become so infamous that even now, people still talk about it as being one of the most surprising endings in any movie.
Bruce Willis plays a psychologist who goes to help a boy that has real problems, he can see dead people. The movie goes on at a steady and tense pace until the very end of the movie in which it’s revealed that Willis has been dead the entire time and only the boy can see him. The movie was a great success with fans and critics and has quite rightly earned its place in movie history. However, once you know the twist ending, watch it again and you can see how obvious it all is. After all, Willis gets shot in the very first scene! How did we not see this twist coming? For that reason alone, The Sixth Sense must be viewed at least twice.
3. The Shining
We come now to another movie from the genius filmmaker that was Stanley Kubrick, and it is quite possibly the best thing he has ever put on camera. His version of The Shining is in fact so good, layered, and compelling that most people today actually forget that it’s a book by Stephen King.
It’s fair to say that The Shining is a movie masterpiece and each time that you view it, something new catches your eye that you just didn’t see before. The amount of hidden artifacts, missing rooms, camera trickery, ghosts, and background information in The Shining is vast and could keep the audience entertained for many, many viewings. Even with all of that, the ending itself has been much debated over the years. When Jack Nicholson‘s character dies, the camera pans to a photo of Jack in the hotel but the date reads 1921. The ending is never explained, nor who exactly Jack is or was, which just makes this movie even more enjoyable.
There have already been time travel movies mentioned on this list, and just like with any time travel movie, it can be complicated, confusing, and downright strange. But Primer goes even further than that and it is quite possibly the most confusing time travel movie that has ever been made.
We all understand that it’s important for movies to not speak down to their audiences and to give us all a little credit for our intelligence, but Primer assumes we are all on another plane of understanding and knowledge. The movie moves fast with quick dialogue that never really gives us a moment to take a breath and understand what is happening. The only thing we know for sure is that, according to this movie, time travel is bad and no one should ever do it. Apart from that, we just give a shoulder shrug and Google it.
1. Donnie Darko
The number one entry on our list of movies that you need to watch multiple times to understand them, is possibly one of the most confusing and debated movies in recent times and that’s Donnie Darko. Ever since Donnie Darko first burst onto our screens, everyone has been debating about the plot, story, and meaning behind it all and everyone seems to have a different opinion.
This eerie, science fiction epic has layers upon layers upon layers and even to scratch the surface of the first layer, you need to watch it twice, and that’s just to understand the basic plot. We could describe everything that happens in the movie and give you our opinions and thoughts about it, but the best way to fully explore Donnie Darko is to watch it and experience it for yourselves — although you may have to spend a week watching and rewatching it until it drives you mad!
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