When man first made moving images possible and later developed it into an art form with which he began to express his feelings and emotions and also tell stories, it was the closest we came in trying to replicate life. No other art form till then could even imagine coming that close to us as movies made possible. However, we did not stop at that and went on experimenting with the form which helped movies develop a language of their own and become an art form at par with music, paintings, storytelling – arts that have been around for centuries.
What we then tried to do is to go beyond replicating life to give a picture of how things might turn out in the future. We even tried to question the reality we see around ourselves and present an alternate version of the truth. Filmmakers started exploring such concepts since the early days of movies, with Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ (1927). In the movie, Lang tried to present a dystopic picture of the society where mankind has been segregated into two parts – the rich and powerful who live in a beautiful utopia, but underneath their city, the downtrodden dwell in bleak and unpleasant conditions. Lang’s a genius, and the movie is a testament to the fact that he was well and truly ahead of his times.
Furthermore, Georges Melies’ 1902 movie ‘A Trip to The Moon’ also showcases how man began trying to re-imagine reality through movies. Thus, to quench your thirst regarding such films, we present a compilation of mind-bending movies. Here’s the list of really good mind-fuck movies on Netflix that are available to stream right now.
20. Extinction (2018)
Directed by Ben Young, this 2018 film stars Michael Pena and Lizzy Caplan in the leading roles. Pena plays a man called Peter who is subject to vivid and horrific dreams where he sees his loved ones are confronted by aliens who have invaded the earth. Worried, Peter visits a psychiatrist where he meets another man who is having similar dreams. The city is attacked that very day, and a string of events follow, which makes us question what we have been seeing for so long. Peter also reveals secrets about himself which were totally unexpected when the movie began. ‘Extinction’ has some solid performances and an amazing revelation in the end, but it has been criticized for its formulaic nature.
19. The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
After ‘Cloverfield’ (2008) and ’10, Cloverfield Lane’ (2016), ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ is the latest edition of the series, and this time the problem has shifted from invading aliens to a massive energy crisis on Earth. The scientists have decided that they can use a particle reactor to harness infinite amounts of energy, but there is also the risk of opening portals to another realm which makes us vulnerable to a potentially dangerous parallel universe. Though the movie has not received positive reviews, its connection to the Cloverfield universe makes it a must-watch for people who love mind-bending movies.
18. Buster’s Mal Heart (2017)
Academy Award winner Rami Malek played the protagonist in this 2016 movie which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Buster is a man who has been living in the mountains all on his own, but when the winter set in, he started breaking into homes to save himself from the cold. This makes him a target of the authorities. Buster, in the meanwhile, regularly connects to radio programs and tells them about an Inversion when the millennium turns. Buster also has visions where he sees himself atop a mountain and sometimes being lost at sea. As the story progresses, a deeper meaning of these visions comes to light and we understand exactly what Buster has been talking about.
17. Mirage (2018)
‘Mirage’ opens in 1989 during a 72-hour-long electrical storm, when a boy, Nivo, witnesses his neighbor’s murder at the hands of her husband. Terrified, he runs onto the street, where a car hits and kills him on the spot. Twenty-five years later, Vera Roy and David Ortiz move into the same house and find an old TV set along with cassettes and video recorders. While going through a few cassettes, Vera comes across the video taken by Nico and begins watching it as a similar electrical storm begins lashing down on the city. After learning of the way Nico died, Vera discovers that she can interact with the boy through the tape and thus manages to save his life. However, this results in a space-time continuum glitch that completely alters her reality. With her husband now married to a different woman and her child never born, Vera desperately hunts for ways to set things right as the movie builds up to a mind-bending climax.
16. The Discovery (2017)
Is there an afterlife? Well, Thomas, the character played by Robert Redford in this 2017 movie, believes so and has also managed to scientifically prove this fact. Suicide tolls increase when people come to know they have a chance to lead a better life after they die. In the meanwhile, his son Will meets a girl named Isla on a ferry and they visit Will’s father’s laboratory to explain to him the dangers his discovery is causing. There, they find out yet another invention made by their father. Will keeps seeing visions of a boy on a beach about which he talks to Isla. His father’s machine helps him understand that he is caught in a loop from which he needs to get out. The movie sees some great performances from Rooney Mara, Robert Redford, and Jason Segel.
15. IO (2019)
This movie only shows us what can be the near-future of the earth in a few decades. It serves as a warning sign more than anything else. It speaks of a dystopic future when the Earth has become so toxic that mankind has colonized Io, a moon of Jupiter. A girl, Sam, is among the few people still living on the Earth and she comes across another such human, Micah, who tries to convince her to leave for Io soon. Meanwhile, her boyfriend has taken part in an expedition to find another planet suited for living. The question that this movie brings up is vital- in this day and age of heavy industrialization, when will the Earth finally become unlivable? And what shall we do then?
14. iBoy (2017)
Released on Netflix, this cyberpunk thriller stars Maisie Williams of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame. She plays a character called Lucy, whose friend, Tom Harvey, gets hit by shrapnel from his phone and finds out that he can now visualize digital signals. Lucy gets brutally raped in her home, which makes Tom use his powers to bring the attackers to justice. This unique tale is of a superhero of a different kind. Tom can see digital signals, and thus has an upper hand over everyone because the world now runs on digital data. The movie, though a thriller, might be taken as a metaphor for the fact that whoever controls digital data is currently our master.
Read More: Best Suspense Movies on Netflix
13. Time Trap (2017)
A missing person search for an archaeology professor in remote Texas leads his students to a mysterious cave where time flows differently. ‘Time Trap’ is an indie sci-fi film that features all the regular tropes – time travel, aliens, hostile cavemen – spun together in a creatively clever, whip-smart plot that only trips over itself towards the end when it feels a bit forced. Mark Dennis and Ben Foster team up to direct and produce this film starring a reasonably talented ensemble cast. The script and cinematography is nothing extraordinary but not too shabby either. Overall, the film received mixed reviews from both critics and audiences.
12. Cloud Atlas (2012)
‘Cloud Atlas‘ is an epic spanning several generations and tells the interwoven and interconnected stories of six souls over the course of their many lives – from a slave trader’s memoirs penned in 1849, a music composer’s letters to his lover in the 1930s, a crime reporter’s story about corruption in a nuclear power plant in the 70s, a book publisher’s escape from an old-age home in 2012, a clone’s rebellion against the oppressive powers in 2144, and a cowardly tribesman’s conquest of his fears in the 2300s – everything is connected by some act of kindness or crime. The film seeks to drive home the message that our actions can impact and shape the lives of others, even if we’re separated by years in existence. An incredibly deep script and concept that falls slightly flat in execution, even though the movie boasts a stellar ensemble cast (Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant).
11. The Guilty (2021)
‘The Guilty’ revolves around LAPD officer Joe Baylor, who is under investigation for shooting a teenager during duty. Working the night shift at a 911 call center, he eagerly awaits the end of his shift and his next hearing, where he plans to plead not guilty. While accepting various 911 calls, Joe gets connected to a scared woman, Emily, who claims that her ex-husband, Henry, has abducted her. Initially, he tries highway patrol to locate the vehicle but is unsuccessful. Then, managing to extract her home address, Joe sends officers to the house, where they find her daughter, as well as the mutilated body of her younger child. Moreover, after breaking into her ex-husband’s home, authorities find that the woman is a patient at a mental health facility. As roles suddenly get reversed, and the truth begins coming to light, the movie delivers one mind-bending twist after the other, making this a must-watch.
10. In The Shadow Of The Moon (2019)
In 1988, a police officer is hunting a serial killer and manages to track her down, only to watch in horror as she gets trampled by a subway train. The case closes after the murderer is dead. Only she is not dead and resurfaces 9 years later and the killings start again. With the authorities unable to comprehend the logic-defying murders, only one cop is close to figuring out the reality, especially when she starts dropping hints. ‘In The Shadow Of The Moon’ is a crime thriller that will leave your head slightly spinning when you’re done watching it, and that’s not entirely a bad thing.
9. Horse Girl (2020)
Sarah is a sweet, socially awkward woman with a fondness for crafts and horses. The film ‘Horse Girl‘ centers around Sarah as she gets increasingly paranoid and suffers a total, crippling mental breakdown to the point where she cannot distinguish between what is real and what is not. The surreal psychological drama tries to take viewers inside Sarah’s mentally disturbed headspace so that audiences can feel as she slips further and further down the spiral. Some really great acting by Allison Brie who plays Sarah; there’s a strange fragility in her eyes that threatens to shatter as the film progresses.
8. Anon (2018)
In a future where even people’s private memories aren’t really private since all memories are recorded, crime is almost non-existent. The existence of an intriguing young woman with no name, no identity, no digital history at all is bad news for the cops, as she heralds the resurgence of crime that they had so carefully kept in check. ‘Anon’ might be more a cautionary glimpse into the future than just a figment of someone’s imagination, as our generation recklessly documents every tiny detail of our lives on the digital plane. Could we be rolling towards a time when our memories are recorded and can be viewed by others? Who can say?
7. Lucid Dream (2017)
A father desperately searching for his missing son has exhausted almost every avenue in the three years since the child got abducted. He finally comes across the method of lucid dreaming that will enable him to see the exact moment when his son got kidnapped and track him from there, all while sleeping. ‘Lucid Dream’ is an intense South Korean sci-fi mystery-thriller that is not completely without faults. It mostly maintains the fast-paced fervor but stumbles a bit here and there when it gets way too emotional for the genre.
6. The Call (2020)
‘The Call’ revolves around city-dweller Kim Seo-Yeon, who loses her cellphone while traveling to the village to meet her mother in 2019. However, once at their dilapidated village house, Kim finds a cordless phone that connects her to a woman in 1999. The woman, Oh Young-sook, lives in the same house but claims that her mother is torturing her. Realizing an opportunity to save her father, who died in a fire back in 1999, Kim uses Oh to try and warn him of the impending danger. The plan works, and Kim finds both her parents alive and the house in better order. Still connected through the call, Kim finds out how Oh dies and subsequently warns her, resulting in Oh killing her mother and becoming a serial killer. Interestingly, no matter how the girls try and make things right in the past, it somehow affects the future negatively. However, what makes the film so incredible is how it makes the audience rack their brains about the pair’s next move before delivering a twist that is sure to blow one’s mind.
5. Run (2020)
‘Run’ opens in a hospital where we witness Diane Sherman give birth to her daughter, who seems to be battling a lot of diseases. Fast-forward seventeen years, Diane’s daughter still faces issues from her premature birth and has to wheel herself around in a wheelchair. While exploring the house, the daughter, Chloe, comes across a bottle full of green pills with the label scratched off. Asking to be taken to the movies, Chloe slips away and runs to the pharmacist, where she discovers that the drugs were meant for dogs and, if consumed by a human, can numb their legs. However, Chloe’s mother soon arrives, and we witness how she keeps Chloe drugged and locked 24×7. Chloe, too, realizes she is a prisoner and tries her best to escape the strange prison. The movie does a beautiful job of building suspense and tension, all the while making viewers question the very reality they are witnessing.
4. Freaks (2018)
Having spent all her years on the planet locked inside a house and controlled by her paranoid father, 7-year-old Chloe harbors a deep fascination and an equally paralyzing fear of the outside world. Once she manages to escape her eccentric dad, though, a mysterious and possibly dangerous stranger offers to show her the world. ‘Freaks’ is basically ‘Room’ meets ‘X-Men’ as Chloe has mutant-like superpowers that she uses to navigate her way around an unfamiliar and scary situation. It’s a horror-thriller that will keep you biting your nails throughout.
3. Happy As Lazzaro (2018)
‘Happy As Lazzaro’ is an Italian mind-bending drama film that follows the incredulous, unbelievable, inexplicable story of Lazzaro, a good-natured and simple-minded young peasant who helps his nobleman friend Tancredi fake his own kidnapping to dupe his mother. The two boys bond as they run through the wilderness, even wondering if they could be half-brothers. When the police arrive and evacuate the illegally run tobacco estate, the boys are separated and Lazarro falls off the high end of a cliff. Miraculously, he does not die and wakes up many years later, not having aged at all. The movie’s plot gets pleasantly odder as Lazarro sets out to find his old friend Tancredi. ‘Happy As Lazzaro’ starkly points out the class difference between the rich and the poor and how one exploits the other.
2. Fractured (2019)
‘Fractured’ follows couple Ray and Joanne, as well as their daughter, Perri, while returning from thanksgiving dinner. Ray and Joanne’s marriage seems to be in trouble, and the couple keeps arguing before deciding to stop at a nearby store to buy batteries. At the store, a stray dog scares Perri, and she falls into a construction pit nearby. Although her injuries don’t appear to be serious, Joanne insists that they should get her checked at a hospital. Once in the hospital, Perri and Joanne go off to do a scan while Ray waits. Hours pass, and with no news of his family, Ray walks up to the front desk, demanding an answer. However, the hospital claims to have never served such people, and sure enough, all traces of his family are missing from the records. Desperate with fear, Ray involves the police and even suspects an organ trafficking ring but to no avail. Working wonders on the audiences’ minds, the movie builds up tension before delivering a twist that will make one think long after the credits finish rolling.
1. Oxygen (2021)
‘Oxygen’ revolves around Elizabeth Hansen, who awakens in an airtight cryogenic unit, where oxygen levels are falling rapidly. Desperate to survive, she learns her name from the AI before contacting her husband, Léo Ferguson. Upon calling Leo, a woman picks answers the phone. However, once Elizabeth mentions she is Leo’s wife, the confused woman hangs up the phone. Anxious with worry, Elizabeth tries the number again, and this time, the woman informs her that earth has been overridden by a deadly virus that even killed her husband. Moreover, Elizabeth also manages to get the pod’s master code, but it doesn’t grant her freedom from a gravity-less hollow space. As Elizabeth’s fate is slowly revealed, the movie does a wonderful job of building suspense through confusion and, interestingly, with each twist, makes viewers question if everything is really as it seems.