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Top 10 Mindbending Science Fiction Movies

VO: Y WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
Written by Michael Wynands Science fiction movies have the potential to truly expand your mind, but sometimes the go a step further and completely blow your mind! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Science Fiction Films that Will Warp Your Brain! But what will take the top spot on our list? Will it be Primer, Interstellar, or 2001: A Space Odyssey? Watch to find out! Watch on WatchMojo: Big thanks to MattW128 for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted check out the suggest page here: https://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Mindbending%20Science%20Fiction%20Movies

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Try to wrap your head around these films. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down the Top 10 Mind-Bending Science Fiction Movies.

For this list, we’re looking at science fiction films that, using out of this world visuals, reality-warping settings or brain-busting plotlines, leave the viewer’s mind melted on the floor.

#10: “eXistenZ” (1999)

Released the same year as a higher-profile film featuring people plugged into fabricated realities (more on that shortly), David Cronenberg’s “Existenz” was sadly overlooked by many. For fans of high concept sci-fi however, it’s a must-watch. The plot explores a future in which people play hyper-realistic virtual reality games via a biotechnological umbilical cord connection. It’s a cool concept that throws the audience for loop after loop, as virtual realities nest within one another. To make matters even more mind-bending, these VR worlds influence the behavior of players within the game. Much like the central characters, you’ll soon lose track of the distinction between game and reality.

#9: “The Fountain” (2009)

There are few filmmakers who can make you question your sanity and reality quite like Darren Aronofsky, the director who has given us jarring films as “Mother!” and “Black Swan”. Before delivering those psychological horrors however, Aronofsky took us on a psychedelic spiritual sci-fi trip of a lifetime with his epic investigation of love, immortality, space and time: “The Fountain”. Blending three stories, set in the past, present and future, and each told in a non-linear fashion, the film blurs the lines between symbolism and reality beyond recognition, creating a cinematic experience that is undeniably hard to wrap your head around. For the bold and open-minded however, it’s not without its rewards.

#8: “Moon” (2009)

Though dense layering of realities and overlapping stories can certainly go a long way in producing a mind-bending film, they’re far from prerequisites. As Duncan Jones’ excellent “Moon” proves, a single actor, placed in a single location can be just as tough to process as a convoluted plot or reality-warping visuals. Starring Sam Rockwell, “Moon” offers a twist for the ages that comes with serious psychological ramifications that will force you to seriously reflect on the question of identity. Though some spoilers are inevitable, we’d prefer not to give this one away. If you haven’t seen “Moon”, you should really just check it out for yourself!

#7: “Dark City” (1998)

Starring Rufus Sewell, who you may recognize from “A Knight’s Tale,” and “The Man in the High Castle,” “Dark City” is a neo-noir sci-fi flick like few others. Though it largely flew under the radar of cinemagoers, it’s often cited as one of the most underappreciated and oft-overlooked films in the genre. Film critic Roger Ebert went so far as to call it a “great visionary achievement”. With its amnesiac main character, foreboding ever-changing city (where it's perpetually nighttime) and injectable memories, the film gives you a whole lot to process.

#6: “The Matrix” (1999)

Of all the mindbending, high concept sci-fi films released near the turn of the new millenium that deal with constructed realities, “The Matrix” is by far the film that had the greatest impact. The minds of cinema-goers were forced to consider some really big questions, taking the age old question “Am I dreaming?” to new technological heights. Of course, the fact that these psychological and philosophical concepts were paired with superb action and special effects ensured that they would be contemplated by a huge number of people. What if literally everything around you was a fabrication designed to control you? Would you take the red pill or the blue pill?

#5: “Donnie Darko” (2001)

With its youthful star and angsty characters providing plenty of appeal to younger audiences, “Donnie Darko” is a film that made a generation of teens realize that cinema could be a whole lot more than entertainment. But its dense plot, psychological concepts and overall intelligence offers something to all demographics, not just adolescents. From the character of Frank, the terrifying and influential bunny, to its handling of space-time, “Donnie Darko” functions as a highly atmospheric yet scientifically captivating piece of cinema. Its youthful fanbase has often caused it to be dismissed as an angsty teen flick, but it’s really so much more. As for the sequel though… don’t go anywhere near it.

#4: “12 Monkeys” (2009)

Many filmmakers have presented us with their take on a nightmarish dystopian future, but none do it with the unique style of Terry Gilliam. Inspired by a 1962 French short sci-fi film, “12 Monkeys” stars Bruce Willis as a time travelling convict, James Cole, who is sent back in time to identity the origins of the virus that has forced humanity underground. Of course, when going from one time to another, things can get confusing; and sure enough, Cole soon begins questioning his own sanity. The film dives deep into the cyclical ramifications of time travel. It may take you more than one viewing to really get it, but this brilliant sci-fi film is worth it.

#3: “Interstellar” (2014)

Whatever the subject, be it World War II, magicians, or the Caped Crusader, filmmaker Christopher Nolan does his homework to deliver a finished product crafted with care and attention to detail. Though “Inception”, his other reality-bending sci-fi movie, might be the superior film, when it comes to messing with your mind, “Interstellar” tops his filmography. The science is all there - Nolan worked with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne to ensure that his depiction of these high scientific concepts were accurate. Bending space, time and the human mind, “Interstellar” goes deep into the realm of science to deliver some truly spectacular visuals and complex depictions of time and reality as we know it.

#2: “Primer” (2004)

This film was filmed on a shoestring budget, and yet it manages to put the vast majority of big budget time travel films to shame. How? By focusing on what really matters… the nebulous, deeply perplexing rules of time travel. You can watch “Primer” a dozen times with a viewing guide, and you’ll still get a headache trying to follow the scientific complexity of it all. It’s a film firmly grounded in reality, and relies on science to simultaneously entertain, captivate, amaze and befuddle. From first-time filmmaker Shane Carruth, it’s a true feat of storytelling.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Looper” (2012)

“Ghost in the Shell” (1995)

“Under the Skin” (2014)

#1: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

It might be an oldie but it’s still a goodie - and one hell of a trip. As arguably the greatest and most influential sci-fi film of all time, “2001: A Space Odyssey” needs little introduction. But even against steep competition in the form of films that have come since with greater budgets and effects at their disposal, “A Space Odyssey” holds up as the most mind-bending film in the genre’s history. Deliberately ambiguous, the film asks huge, unanswerable questions; y’know, like the future of humanity and the role of alien life. And more. With its then-groundbreaking visuals, and deeply-perplexing ending, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a film so mind-bending that one could spend a lifetime contemplating it.


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