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Top 10 British Movies That Mess With Your Head

VO: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: Andrea Buccino
Want something to make your brain hurt? Look no further than here. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 British Movies That Mess with Your Head. For this list, we’ll be looking at British films that take you on a psychological journey and leave you with more questions than answers. Be it through trippy visuals, ambiguous plotlines, existential dread, disturbing imagery or blurred lines of in-film reality, these movies are sure to leave you reeling. Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 British Movies That Mess with Your Head


Want something to make your brain hurt? Look no further than here. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 British Movies That Mess with Your Head.

For this list, we’ll be looking at British films that take you on a psychological journey and leave you with more questions than answers. Be it through trippy visuals, ambiguous plotlines, existential dread, disturbing imagery or blurred lines of in-film reality, these movies are sure to leave you reeling.

#10: “Hellraiser” (1987)

Adapted from cult horror writer Clive Barker’s novella “The Hellbound Heart” and directed by the author himself, “Hellraiser” has become a classic of British and international horror. The disturbing story of a man’s search for ultimate pleasure – a pleasure which soon enough translates, of course, into unbearable pain – spawned a number of sequels that never reached the terrifying heights of the original. Its sexually explicit nature, coupled with explosions of violence and gore, make it in an intense watch even decades after first release.

#9: “The Lobster” (2015)

A strange take on the dystopian film, director Yorgos Lanthimos' first English language effort is as puzzling and challenging as it is depressing. From the concept underpinning it to the intentionally monotone and restrained performances of the brilliant cast, “The Lobster” is one of the most interesting and twisted films of recent years. In a near-future world, single people are taken to a hotel and told to find a mate: if they fail to do so in 45 days, they’ll be transformed into animals. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Just watch it, already!

#8: “Black Narcissus” (1947)

This psychological, sexual drama from legendary duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is widely held as a pioneering piece. Set in a convent of nuns in the Himalayas, this story of passion and jealousy has more than its fair share of mind-bending imagery and themes. One of the earliest erotic films in the British canon, “Black Narcissus” merges the charged narrative with ground-breaking Technicolor cinematography. Altogether, narratively and technically, it achieved an atmospheric blend that was rare in the 1940s, analysing the various and complicated vulnerabilities that make us human.

#7: “Spider” (2002)

Based on the novel by Patrick McGrath, who also wrote the screenplay, this film about a mentally disturbed man (expertly played by Ralph Fiennes), trying to recall a fragmented memory of his past, is one of David Cronenberg's more haunting and complex stories. Its approach to memory plus its protagonist’s unreliability make it a film that'll keep the mind working days after the credits roll. And that’s before we’ve even breached the twist ending. “Spider” is a bleak tale, mirrored by an equally bleak and oppressive cinematography, and it’s a film that certainly stays with you.

#6: “The Innocents” (1961)

Based on the novella "The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, and with a screenplay written by none other than Truman Capote, this psychological horror works as a suggestive story of either the supernatural, or of a woman’s slow descent into madness - or both. “The Innocents” employs subtlety as one of its main strengths, allowing the audience’s imagination to give life to horrors much greater than those even that are reproduced on the screen. As one of Britain’s most cinematic ghost stories, it set the stage for much of the horror that followed.

#5: “Brazil” (1985)

Terry Gilliam's dystopian satire is a film that, from its hilarious lampoon of bureaucracy and consumerism, soon turns into an almost psychedelic rollercoaster. It’s a movie where dream and reality are never what they seem, and distinguishing between the two seems almost impossible. With a fantastic mise en scène that borrows elements from the mythical to the Orwellian and a number of brilliant set pieces, “Brazil” sets the scene of a “retro-futuristic” world. It is neither the past nor the future, and the ambiguity helps achieve the film’s overall sense of alienation and its outright weirdness.

#4: “Under the Skin” (2013)

From its unapologetically cryptic opening to its masterful use of imagery and sound, “Under the Skin” is an eerie, disturbing sci-fi thriller that has no qualms about challenging its audience. Complex themes and deliberate pacing help to make it one of the most successful mind-benders in the genre – and one of the best British efforts in recent years. In fact, this film is wholly disinterested in answering questions: it’s not about where the aliens come from or what they want, but how their presence on Earth changes them. It’ll keep you thinking for days.

#3: “Repulsion” (1965)

This ground-breaking psychological horror by Roman Polanski changed not only British cinema forever, but basic ideas within the genre itself. As Polanski’s first English language film, “Repulsion” is a disturbing story of repressed sexuality and creeping madness. And while the director swiftly followed it with the equally mystifying “Cul-de-sac”, this film still messes with the mind just that little bit more. It forces its viewers to share in a distorted view of reality, blurring the boundaries between real-life and nightmares to frightening effect.

#2: “Don’t Look Now” (1973)

Nicolas Roeg's supernatural thriller is widely praised as one of cinema’s most potent explorations of grief, and as one of the ultimate mind-benders of British cinema. Its complex structure and innovative editing, which uses wide-ranging techniques from flashbacks and flashforwards to associative montage, often changes the viewer's perception of what they're seeing. It’s definitely not a film that will make itself clear after a single viewing. But, while it demands a second, third or possibly fourth sitting, it rewards with a thrilling ride that will probably blow your mind multiple times.

#1: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

As far as messing with people's heads goes, few directors compare to Stanley Kubrick – and nothing compares to this. From its opening exploration of prehistoric man’s discovery of murder through the aid of an alien monolith, to its magnificent “Star Child” finale, “2001” is the ultimate trip. With special effects decades ahead of their time, the film accomplishes a multitude of intense, psychedelic sequences that are never an end in themselves, but pieces of a convoluted puzzle waiting to be solved – or at least understood. Again, it takes some re-watching. But, again, it’s definitely worth it!
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