11 Movies That Will Make You Go “Huh?”

213866 Shane Carruth Upstream Color sundance film festival 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

When you watch a lot of movies, every once in a while you’ll come across one that baffles you, and the range of reactions to this encounter are pretty fascinating. These types of movies aren’t simply the mindtrip types of movies like Inception or Memento that are labyrinthine in terms of their plot progression but are fairly clear by the end in what they’re about. Truly confusing movies, the type where you’re left wondering what the hell you just watched and what the point of it even being made could have been, can create responses anywhere from anger and resentment towards seemingly pretentious filmmakers to delight in the abstract, personal meaning a viewer can derive from something deliberately vague or opaque.

I watched Upstream Color recently. It’s the new film from director and indie hero Shane Carruth who is known for his 2004 microbudget science fiction film Primer. Upstream Color played at this past Sundance Film Festival and was met with almost universal praise from the critics who reviewed it. What was also universal was the confusion surrounding what had happened in the movie, what it was supposed to mean, what it was all about, and this was largely considered a positive. When I watched it, I felt like a moron, but I also kind of liked it the way other people did even if it made me like myself less. I envied and resented Shane Carruth. I went through a range of emotions that one tends to feel any time some heralded piece of art is put before them. It was annoying and exciting.

So I thought I’d consider other movies that have had a similar effect on audiences. Here are 11 confusing movies that are sure to stupefy and bewilder the best of us.

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1) Primer

Primer 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

If you only get a chance to see one time travel movie that was made for under $10,000 in your lifetime, I would strongly urge you to consider making it Primer. But it is also virtually guaranteed to make your head hurt. I just took a moment to read over the Wikipedia summary and my mind feels like mush now. Much like Carruth’s new film Upstream Color, Primer never goes out of its way to explain anything about what’s going on with its characters. It’s the type of lack of exposition people long for when they see a movie they consider overly explanatory like Inception, but then also complain about when it comes to a movie like Primer.

The premise of the movie itself is simple yet brilliant. A group of engineer friends accidentally stumble on a time travel invention while working in their garage. The implications of such a discovery are obvious and massive, and the way the film plays out these necessary consequences feels true. It also depicts scientists as scientists, in the way specialists would discuss matters with each other, as opposed to many movies where it feels as though these experts are explaining everything to the audience while they’re supposed to be talking to each other. This leads to more confusion of course, but the feeling of not knowing what the hell is going on becomes one of this movie’s endearing pleasures rather than an obstacle. The time we spend trying to wrap our minds around which character is where and when at any given moment mirrors the characters themselves who undoubtedly have a lot to process cerebrally while they’re busy traveling through space and time.

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2) Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas8 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

This list could easily include other Wachowski works like the entire Matrix trilogy, yes even Reloaded and Revolutions, or the beautiful hot mess that was Speed Racer. It could also include Tom Tykwer’s previous film Perfume, which both suffers from and subsequently plays with the fact that film is still a medium that cannot engage all of our senses, such as smell. So when these three filmmakers with PhDs in WTF Studies teamed up to adapt David Mitchell’s renowned and widely regarded as unfilmable novel, the finished product unsurprisingly served a sizeable helping of what the what.

The movie contains a puzzling plot like some of the aforementioned movies, in the sense that it can be difficult to string together what happens when and to whom, but also in the sense that it’s separated into pieces that we’re left to put together by the end. There are storylines taking place in the past couple of centuries, in the present, and in the distant future, the last of which is as unrecognizable a world as such a future world would logically be. The movie is polarizing even in the opinion of whether it is too obvious or too vexing, whether the connections between the stories is spelled out too plainly or not clearly enough to make it the least bit engaging. I found it to be intellectually puzzling and emotionally affecting. But especially in the scenes where Tom Hanks is speaking in dialect, I pretty much had a permanent single eyebrow raise going for the whole thing.

I’ve included the trailer for this one below for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. It’s a very visual movie and I think that you really need to see some footage from it to get a sense of what I’m talking about.

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3) Holy Motors

Holy Motors 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

I still don’t know what the hell to make of Holy Motors. You’ve got this weird little man who traipses through the streets over the course of a day and night, apparently doing his job which consists of acting out bizarre scenes with other people. Odder still is that one of the first scenes that he participates in, performing in a motion capture suit with a partner in a kind of dance that seems meant to be some kind of sex simulation, is unbelievably beautiful and compelling in a way that keeps you entranced throughout. This is then followed by him changing costumes into a crazy street person who eats plants and assaults people. Pretty charming.

None of it is meant to make too much sense, I don’t think, although plenty of critics have speculated about possible meanings contained within Holy Motors, such as the whole thing acting as a commentary on the state of cinema and the transition from film to digital technologies or something. I’m less than convinced of this. What I am convinced of is that this is a mystifying and wonderful movie, puzzling in what it’s supposed to express (if anything that specific) yet seemingly certain of what it has set out to achieve. It’s not jaw-dropping in the Spielberg sense, but perhaps in the way seeing an artist going absolutely ball-out, so to speak, can leave your jaw on the floor in amazement and incomprehension.

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4) Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

In pursuit of the inherently confounding qualities of dreams, plenty of filmmakers have attempted to bottle the dream state feeling as experienced while awake in the most affecting way possible. Few have accomplished this as successfully as David Lynch, and nowhere is his surrealistic style more compellingly at work than in 2001’s Mulholland Drive starring Naomi Watts. Lynch himself has said that there is a trail a viewer could follow to ‘figure out’ the movie, but as far as I’m concerned, it works much better on an enigmatic, dream-like level. Which is to say I have no idea what it’s about and don’t really care to.

It’s a movie that doesn’t contain a number of OMG moments that are exciting or confusing or whatever, but instead just has a general feel to it that’s somehow unsettling, as though the world depicted is not real, nor meant to be so. The cryptic nature of the whole thing lends itself to a tone of unease, which further reflects the state of mind of the Watts character. It also produces some haunting images that aren’t eerie in the way horror movie images typically are, but are the type you can’t get out of your mind and give you a feeling of discomfort when you think of them. For me, these consist of the guy sitting under the spotlight in the dark room, and the guy who spits his espresso into a napkin. Good god those freak me out.

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5) The Tree of Life

Tree of Life1 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

Terence Malick’s films are, to many, less a source of “…huh??” than of “ughhhhhh.” It basically comes down to whether you think poetry is pretentious, not pretentious, or pretentious but forgivably so. Because everything about his movies is pretty much based in poetry, or the poetic impulse. The narration by the various characters usually is a kind of stream of consciousness poetry meant to express something they’re going through, most often in the form of questions like “What is this love that loves us?” (an actual quote from To The Wonder, which I….liked?).

Tree of Life is like all his other movies, only moreso. It captures these images in nature and of people and infants that are just gorgeous and full of meaning and emotion and pairs them with words and music in a way that transported many of us to our childhoods, portraying and nailing all these confusing emotions and experiences that we didn’t understand. Then at the end all these characters we’ve seen hang out together on a beach that is maybe heaven but definitely something metaphysical or symbolic because Sean Penn and the kid who plays the young Sean Penn are there together and they hug. It’s great and I’m sure I cried like James Van Der Beek at least one of the times I watched it, but hell if I know what it’s all supposed to mean, other than everything.

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6) 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 A Space Odyssey 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

I have come to love the work of Stanley Kubrick precisely because every single one of his movies has led me in multiple instances to throw up my hands and scream “WHAT” audibly enough to disturb anyone who might be around me. Although much like a common response to Shane Carruth, who shares the reputation of being something of a genius, it’s easy to resent Kubrick for being too goddamn smart for his own good. Like, we get that you’re smart. You don’t have to be such a dick about it. Showoff.

Like Tree of Life, this is a movie that sort of wants to tell the story of humanity’s entire history. It’s chock full of captivating and memorable images, and a musical soundtrack that underscores its colossal scope. The mysteries of the movie and its possible meanings are akin to the mystery of life, and the universe, and of space, and humanity—deep questions that appear to show paths that lead to answers, but ultimately it’s impossible to determine. Even people who have sorted out meaning behind the monolith and the big star baby and everything become pretty difficult to understand when trying to relate a theory of everything regarding 2001. So 2001 is probably like life: if you claim to have it figured out, you’re probably full of BS.

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7) The Fountain

The Fountain 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

Darren Aronofsky has become something of a mainstream indie star director following the massive consecutive successes of The Wrestler and Black Swan, the latter of which contains plenty of surrealistic moments that had people scratching their heads when they weren’t busy pissing themselves in fear. But in 2006 he made a film that was another cinematic attempt to tie in all of human history to make some sort of grand statement about humanity and life and the universe (this seems to be a trend in the WTF genre).

The Fountain is perhaps one of the most gorgeous looking movies ever made, mixing rich visual effects with dazzling colors and this all wonderfully complements a love story centering itself on the realization that all love stories end, most often in death. It goes to great lengths to demonstrate the inescapability of this universal truth. For many people I’ve talked to, it’s a severely mindblowing and unintelligible film, leaving mostly the impression of bewilderment and dismissal. I find it to contain so much emotional punch and poetic truth, the kind that it’s such an immense challenge to put into words, that it’s one of those essential movies I wish more people would see and appreciate. Especially people who dug Black Swan for more than just the lezzing out.

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8) Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche New York 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

Most people who are into the work of Charlie Kaufman have at some point felt the desire to climb into his brain the way his characters climbed into John Malkovich’s brain in Being John Malkovich. The guy’s mind works in ways that are strange and amazing. Synecdoche, New York gave new meaning to the term “meta,” which I don’t think was even being used in pop culture circles back in the ancient history period that was 2008. It makes Community look like a jumbled high school play.

It’s also similar to another Kaufman script, 2002’s Adaptation, in the way it frames its story within a story. But again, this movie is like Adaptation on meth, diving deeper and deeper down the wormhole until both the audience and the characters lose track of what’s real and which person’s an actor and which one’s an actor playing an actor playing an actor playing a real person. There’s a lot of psychological motifs that run throughout the movie and Jungian references and all that intellectual stuff that can lead you to reading up far more about a movie than you’d ever wish to. But it’s also extremely funny in its implementation of these ideas and such an enjoyable watch that repeat viewings don’t seem like as daunting a prospect as it would for a graver, less humorous movie.

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9) Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

Some of the best movie experiences happen when movies are able to pull off starting out as one type of film and then turning into something completely different and unexpected and crazy. One of the most memorable examples of this in recent memory is The Cabin in the Woods, which turned the horror genre on its head to great effect. Richard Kelly’s debut feature Donnie Darko is similarly a seemingly ordinary teenage angst-filled coming of age story until a bizarre twist turns it into something else entirely.

The film works as both a teenage rebellion story and an apocalyptic, Take Shelter-like story of a person with information via premonition of sorts that the world is about to end. It would seem like a John Hughes movie if Molly Ringwald had ever been visited by a creepy looking rabbit who told her to burn things. It has its share of WTF elements involving space and time but this might be the sweetest movie on this list, in no small part due to the work of a young Jake Gyllenhaal and the character of Donnie as this troubled but endearing kid.

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10) Dogtooth

Dogtooth 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

The craziest movie I have ever seen might be this movie out of Greece from 2009, which is basically impossible to describe in words—one of the signs of a film executed at the highest level. The reason I cherish WTF moments in movies so much is that witnessing something completely insane with your eyes versus reading about it are two completely different experiences, and the more profoundly powerful one is quite obviously the former. Dogtooth, in my romanticized memory of it, is like one big long WTF moment that contains little WTF implications in each aspect. Let it suffice to say that this movie shows the potential dark side of people who shelter their children from the world. Some interpret this as allegory; I think it’s just generally messed up.

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11) Enter The Void

Enter the Void 11 Movies That Will Make You Go Huh?

If images are ideas, then Gaspar Noé’s 2009 film Enter the Void is a complete brain saturator. It’s a drug-infused movie that is as hallucinogenic an experience for the audience as for its characters. That is to say: it’s a trip. It makes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas feel like Sunday School by comparison.

And like most trips, you know, according to things I’ve read, it’s a movie you want to be over after the first hour or so, and yet it continues on far longer than you’d like it to, rehashing stuff over and over again, introducing new and even more loosely connected elements that only contribute further to a feeling of disorientation and impatience. I mean this in the most positive way. As an experience, Enter the Void is unparalleled in the wide-ranging sample of movies I’ve ever come across; as a visual stream of subjective consciousness, it has to be considered one of the most stunning, gripping, and impressive feats of filmmaking ever released.

There’s a narrative mixed in with the trippy weirdness of Enter the Void, one that provides us with characters to engage with and arcs to follow, but the philosophy and metaphysical inclinations are far better realized on the screen than they could ever been in a screenplay. Something about the actual concepts put forth by some of the movie’s dialogue and aesthetic impressions is absurd on the surface but has a special power on the unconscious psyche. I think some people call this “pure cinema.” I call it effed up and wonderful.

I tend to think that movies meant to pull at our emotional strings get a bit of a bum rap from critics and self-identified cinephiles. Likewise, movies that are heady and poetic and meant to make you think about what you’re viewing are under-appreciated by mainstream audiences. Deeply confusing movies are, to an extent, designed to alienate the audience, to give them the sense that they know nothing, and therefore must pay close attention if they want to leave the movie thinking they haven’t completely wasted their time. But having your mind blown by a movie is an emotional experience too, giving the viewer a kind of rush that comes with the feeling of epiphany or merely surprise. I would argue that the emotional and cerebral movie are more alike than it may seem at times. Even if bewilderment is the only response, confusing movies offer an experience that is unique to cinematic storytelling.

Do you have any favorite or least favorite movies that left your brain in shambles? Share any and all WTF experiences below.

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  • Zane Baker

    Wow this is so weird im watching upstream color right as we speak and found this, great article and couldn’t agree more. Great art any literature, film, painting, as long as it plays upon a foundation it can mean anything to anyone. Whether it be #14 by pollock, bfast of champions by vonnegut, or the fountain. There is an underlying structure even in the most abstract a framework that can elicit an idea or a theme which allows the participant to form there own linear logic to it. See funny games is an abstract film I don’t like because it breaks its foundation when he stops and rewinds. Now the fountain even though I disagree with aranofskys explanation personally, they actually both overlap, mine metaphorically his literally. But monolith=god, hal=man vs technology, apes=mans beginning, space travel=mans big leap dave=breaks time space barrier which takes him from life (white room ) through death to rebirth (and or heaven if thats your sort of thing). Butpunch drunk love should be on there. I’m Jack’s existential awareness.

    • MountainMan

      I agree, Vonnegut does these kind of plot devices in his sleep.

  • Levi Everaerts

    I’m not entirely sure why Dogtooth is in this list. This movie isn’t confusing at all in the way most others in this list are. There are no overlapping storylines and you’ve already mentioned the meaning behind it all. It might be weird just because of the events portrayed in the film (as in, we’re not exactly used to seeing a family with manipulative parents having gone mad to the point where their daughter self-mutilates just to get the hell out of there), but the plot itself is very straight-forward and not confusing at all. Disturbing? Yes. Messed up? Without a doubt. Confusing? Nope.

  • Solgazer

    The Fountain inspires awe every time I watch it. I never understood why people didn’t understand it. The narrative is relatively straightforward when you know that the sequences of the conquistador are not flashbacks – they are passages from the book she wrote for him during her illness.
    Every reviewer says it spans three time periods. It doesn’t. It spans one. Hugh Jackmans (severely extended) life.
    I have heard it is Darren Aronofskys favourite film.
    Bring on Noah!

    • Joe

      Thank you, I was about to explain the same thing about The Fountain.

      Also, Donnie Darko, while also certainly requiring more than one viewing, does have an intelligible and objective plot trajectory and meaning. It’s confusing, sure, but not nearly on the same level as Tree of Life or Mulholland Drive.

    • DirkBelig

      I liked The Fountain a lot but can understand why some people don’t “get it” – you have to hop on its wavelength and ride along. I liked how there were design motifs that echoed across the time periods, but I suppose it was too subtle for some to catch. Hugh Jackman should’ve been nominated for an Oscar here. The scene where he’s self-tattooing the wedding ring is devastating. I guess the Academy just thought of him as “that Wolverine guy” then.

      I tried to get my girlfriend to watch Cloud Atlas, which I’d seen in the theaters and found to be an interesting mess. During the prologue before the title card when they’re just leaping around she started making “What is going on here?” noises and then during the first scene in the 19th Century at dinner, she just exclaimed, “Sorry, I can’t do this,” and that was the end of the show. This is a woman who loves David Lynch films, but hates movies with jumbled timelines. (She barely tolerates Pulp Fiction; hated Memento.)

      I don’t get the fandom for Donnie Darko other than emo kids need movies too. I’ve seen it two or three times and it doesn’t get better with repeated viewings. Southland Tales and The Box pretty much confirmed that that Richard Kelly doesn’t know what he’s doing, though SLT is good to watch from the viewpoint of no one at the studio bothering to look at the dailies, like with Chronicles of Riddick.

      • http://mindsquirrel.com/ Andrew Tatusko, Ph.D.

        Southland Tales was a total disappointment. It was confusing and I think it was confusing because I really didn’t care about anyone or anything that was happening. Bummer.

    • Silvio Alejandrõ

      I actually think it’s comprehensible that people don’t get it.
      Even Hugh Jackman in an interview said that he didn’t understand it.

    • Haily

      I think it has to do with how much science fiction, fantasy or literature you have read and how familiar you are with literary devices like this, as well as how good your hearing is (I remember there was some times when I couldn’t catch a certain dialogue and depending on what you missed, you may have missed the part where everything is explained). I got it but not immediately, and I feel like I missed some stuff.

  • Josh Ochoa

    I too liked To the Wonder and The Fountain! Also the director of Holy Motors of himself said some of it was about film and digital e.g. the cumbersome limousines represented film cameras.

  • Azzychan

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That movie left me so confused throughout that I couldn’t figure out what was going on.

    • Joe

      I’m going to assume you are very, very young/woefully inexperienced in watching movies/reading stories.

      • Shelley


  • Pete

    Stay with Ewan Mcgregor , Ryan Gosling and Naomi Watts left me mind blown :)

  • Jon ‘Jonny’ Preece

    memento, 12 monkeys, a scanner darkly, science of sleep, Pi, bunny and the bull

    • Douglas Kruse

      You didnt understand 12 monkeys?

      • Jon ‘Jonny’ Preece

        Not on first vieeing … No!!!

        • Douglas Kruse

          hm. My wife had the same problem. I had to go thru it and explain it to her.

          • Johnny Walker

            well thats cause your amazing and smart and know everything and are gods gift to the world. congrats on your amazingness

    • Katrina Li

      Memento is easy to understand if you watch it about twice. The events are shown in reverse and the movie works its way backwards.

    • Haily

      12 monkeys, a scanner darkly and memento are not at the level of 2001 for WTF-ness. Not even close. They are just a bit confusing.

    • Brandy Jean Evans

      think existential
      think metaphorical
      think symbolical
      (Is symbolical even a word? Guess it is now!)

  • jack

    In the void??

  • S. Calcranstinsonhilmontin III

    To me Pi was deliberately obtuse, I kind of felt that could have made the list. Melancholia left me with a “Huh” feeling, mostly because it was a rambling mess. I had high hopes for Melancholia, and in the end felt really let down. At least we got a good nude scene from Kirsten Dunst.

  • Ross Somerville

    I found myself, at many points during Cosmopolis, thinking “What is this shit?” Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful looking film and (to use a musical metaphor) the smooth, elongated legato of Eric’s seemingly banal journey being punctuated by the staccato of bouts of adultery, violence and coffee is, I think, masterfully done.
    However, I’m just left wondering why I just watched it happen. The almost annoying, stream of conciousness narrative, to me, doesn’t seem that smart or poetic or revolutionary; it simply adds to the duality of wanting to watch Cosmopolis again to try and understand it and not really wanting to see it ever again.

  • Lynchian

    Southland Tales

  • purplelipstick

    HAHA — ‘the WTF genre’.

  • Steve Stevenson

    “The Swimming Pool” might be considered.

  • James_33

    Unlike Kubrick’s movie, Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” makes perfect sense. The monolith is an extraterrestrial device that enhances intelligence in living things. The monolith on the moon and the one orbiting Jupiter are all part of the experiment to determine if the apes the aliens found on earth could be made sentient.

    Even the movie’s bizarre ending makes sense in the book. While the movie leaves it up to the viewer to try to figure out what’s going on, the novel’s Dave Bowman recognizes that the motel room is an alien simulation. The aliens eventually transform Bowman into the Star Child, which is supposed to be the next step in the evolution of humanity.

    Kubrick created an indecipherable film out of the easily understandable source material.

    • Pierce
    • Guesty Guesterson

      Except the film wasn’t based on the book. It was based on a vastly different short story by Clarke called The Sentinel written in the 40′s. In fact the 2001 book was released slightly after the film to help explain it.

      • Michael Bradley


      • mograph

        Yes. But Kubrick’s idea was that if we were really to encounter such extraterrestrials, we wouldn’t have a frame of reference with which to understand them. They’d be a total mystery, basically: that’s why he made the film the way he did.

        The best way to experience them is movie first, then book, so you can still recall the initial WTF you may have had upon seeing the film. I was eight; I saw it first run, in Cinerama. I didn’t get the ending, but knew it was a grown-up film. After reading the novel, I “got it,” but I can still recall how “off” I felt in the movie, and I wasn’t jaded enough yet to have an adult’s expectations of what a movie should show.

        Check out Peter Kramer’s BFI book on the film for some good analysis.

      • ktrimbach

        Actually, Kubrick and Clarke collaborated on the story with Clarke writing the novel while Kubrick was filming the movie. Which is why the book has them going to Saturn while the movie only goes out to Jupiter – Kubrick changed it midstream and didn’t get around to telling Clarke until it was too late to rewrite the book and still get it out in the same general timeframe.

        • Cameren Lee

          I think they changed planets because they had a problem making a credible Saturn, especially with the rings. The one guy working with Kubrick later got a grasp on it and made Silent Running, if I remember correctly.

          • Steve

            That was Doug Trumbull.

      • MountainMan

        Opps. My bad. I said it was based on the monolith, but your right. It was called the sentinel.

      • Serai 1

        Wrong. The film and the book were written simultaneously by Clarke and Kubrick. Thus the movie should have incorporated the explanations in the book, as Kubrick knew about them. He CHOSE to make his film obscure and unreadable.

    • snoopmish

      Thank you so much for giving an explanation of that film. I still hate it worth a passion though.

    • MountainMan

      The movie 2001 was based on a short story called “the monolith”, and was perfectly understandable. Very simple plot and the same for the movie for that mater. Where most people get confused is the end of the movie with all the weird visuals. Basically I think Stanley failed miserably at the near end of the movie and overall the movie is very long winded in that scenes ran overly long. The SFX still hold up even today even though the movie is over 40 years old. The movie however is very dry and slow moving plot-wise. Much of what made it to the screen could have been left on the cutting room floor and been filled in with a brief exposition. The primitive ape-men at the beginning of the movie being a prime example. I think Stanley was in love with his effects team, many of whom went onto found Industrial Light and Magic. The one time travel movie mentioned in the article was very well done and shows that you don’t need a lot of special effects or a large budget to tell a good science fiction story.

      • Serai 1

        The movie is “slow” because THAT’S HOW SPACE TRAVEL WOULD BE.

    • Rodolfo Martinez

      I actually figured this out while watching the movie, without having read the book. It’s only confusing the first time you watch it. But once you watch again and analyze the entire thing you realize that it is about Alien interference in our evolution.

    • Darryn

      And thus vastly improved upon it. Magic is only amazing because we’re not privy to the details, half the fun is in figuring it out. Great art will always ask you to interpret it, as in life it is up to each of us to find meaning.

    • Elizabeth Jean Sullivan

      the best idea would be to read the entire series…2001, 2010, 2061 and 3001: The Final Odyssey.
      Mr Clarke is one of my all time favorite writers.
      I would also love for whomever is in charge of adapting “Rendezvous With Rama” to get their butt in gear.

    • http://Handsome.com kG

      Kubrick ‘s movie was a visual and mental trip, the best example of what the art of motion pictures can do. It was a a vast improvement over the short story which it was based on. The book by Clarke was written after the movie was made to cash in on the popularity of 2001. The later 2022 was a close adaptation of Clarke’s work and it explained everything. It sucked! So get your facts straight next dip sh….t!

  • Heather Forster

    Eyes Wide Open should be on this list.

    • Mai

      Eyes wide shut? But yea, same here..

  • Shelley

    Great list.

    Hint to tapping into the emotional trigger point of many of these movies: watch them while drinking a bottle (or two) of wine, by yourself. It gets you tuned right in to the tortured-artist/poet-spirit they are all aiming for. The incredible depth and beauty of The Fountain will shock you and break your heart at the same time.

  • dw

    The Science of Sleep.
    Also Arizona Dream (I always bring that movie up when someone goes on about “omgiluhvjohnnydeppi’veseeneverySINGLEmoviehesevertouched.)

    • Lacey

      I’m SO glad someone brought up Arizona Dream. Because I AM one of those Johnny Depp fans you’re talking about ;) Unlike them, though, I have seen all of his lesser known movies, haha. It’s definitely the weirdest, most WTF of them all.

      I just saw Science of Sleep a couple of years ago and it’s definitely on my top 10 list of WTF movies.

      • mod66

        Speaking of Johnny Depp, the movie Dead Man is quite confusing in a very entertaining way (to me).

  • SilentXero


  • Bryce

    Lost Highway and Brazil

  • Jean Jessup

    I have a review that explains why there are dinosaurs in the Tree of Life. When I thought about that scene where one dinosaur dominates the other – It tied the whole film together for me. But that was just my take. Here’s my article: http://www.moviereviewsfromaspiritualperspective.com/mainstream-movie-reviews/tree-of-life-why-dinosaurs-

    By the way, I really like your website.

  • Cameren Lee

    Tree of Life isn’t the first of its kind. Go watch The Mirror (1975) by Andrei Tarkovsky.

    • Rasputin

      Tarkovsky was the greatest director of all time. This list is really bad. There are a few good movies (Mulholland Drive, 2001, Tree of Life), but c’mon, Donnie Darko? Horrible.

      • Cameren Lee

        The one thing in Donnie Darko that I give props to is the usage of “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. Although I’ve really fallen out of favor with, say, Mulholland Dr., Donnie Darko still sticks out like a sore thumb in my mind because of how ridiculously convoluted it gets.

  • Mase

    Naked Lunch and Eraserhead

    • Zack Daley

      ‘Videodrome’ and ‘Gozu’. Both are totally understandable, but at certain points become so far out of the mainstream sensibility

      • Cameren Lee

        The mainstream sensibility would never expect James Woods becoming the world’s first bioorganic VCR.

        • carolsdavis

          my classmate’s aunt makes $68 every hour on the
          computer . She has been fired for 7 months but last month her paycheck was
          $15495 just working on the computer for a few hours. visit the site C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

        • margaretjmanus

          just before I looked at the receipt ov $8130 , I
          didn’t believe that my sister woz like actualy bringing in money part-time from
          there pretty old laptop. . there aunts neighbour has been doing this 4 only
          about 22 months and at present repayed the mortgage on their appartment and
          bought themselves a Chrysler . see here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

    • Alexander Fleming

      Yes. Exactly.

    • people_are_scary

      Eraserhead was the one that immediately came to my mind.

    • Combo Meal

      +1 for Eraserhead. I still don’t get it. However, it was poignant in one way — it made me see that taste is truly circular. Something so awful can fall so far as to swing back upwards to become brilliant.

      • Jox

        Eraserhead is anything but brilliant. Sick describes it best.

  • Christine Loughead

    holy motors is taken from the japanese movie tokyo! perhaps that gives it some better context .

  • Bryan1018

    How about Suicide Club?

  • Douglas Kruse

    Actually, you dont have to “figure out” 2001. Read the book.

    • Senna4ever

      Except the article is about MOVIES not books.

      • Douglas Kruse

        Yeah, I understand.
        However, I am saying that now that I read the book, I totally understand the last several minutes to 2001.

        • ThamiMzolo

          But that’s cheating a bit. Besides the book was written after the movie, so you could argue that the book is the author’s interpretation of what Kubrick was saying in the movie…

  • Sas

    I thought Melancholia might fit the list too.

    • Tim

      Melancholia was perfectly understandable, but incredibly boring. Other than seeing Kirsten Dunst’s breast a couple times, the story was just meh.

  • Andrew Sidhom

    Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
    Three Times (Sections 2 & 3)
    The Soft Skin
    The Sweet Hereafter
    The Edukators (just the ending)
    Werckmeister Harmonies
    Certified Copy
    The Place Beyond the Pines (great individual scenes/situations, but plot arc is completely aimless)
    Wings of Desire (same as above)
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    No Country for Old Men
    A Serious Man (just the ending)
    Inception (still a great movie but overworked & complicated in a gratuitous way)
    The Prestige (another solid Nolan film but could have been simplified)

    • Katrina Li

      Agree with Eternal Sunshine. I really need to watch that again; I totally did not understand it.

      • Jen Carter

        Yes, watch it again. Hopefully it will really sink in and you’ll get that magic moment!

      • ThamiMzolo

        Still can’t believe Jim Carrey is in that movie. I thought the message was beautiful and somehow terribly real. At the end you’re feeling triumphant for them but also incredibly sad for them…

        • Lacey

          I bought the movie for two reasons; One, because I had heard so many wonderful things about it. And, two, because I couldn’t believe Jim Carrey could do serious roles. I was VERY surprised and so happy I got to see it and own the film. It’s beautiful, confusing on the first go around, and so terribly sad all at once. I love it.

        • Heathen Samm

          Jim Carey does drama better than he overacts in comedy. Many comedians do well with drama. Look at Robin Williams in 5 Hour Photo & Insomnia, Kevin Pollack in The Usual Suspects, Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple, and Bill Murray in Lost in Translation.

          • Kevin Stewart

            Mind if I take that and run with it as a tribute to Robin Williams who passed after your wrote this ?

          • Heathen Samm

            absolutely. He will be missed.

        • satishwarne708

          Remember “The Truman Show”?

      • Brandy Jean Evans

        Do you want to remember or not? And if you chose “Not”…is it really a choice?

      • Heathen Samm

        loved it. If the love/memory-wiping service were for real, it would be a Fortune 500 company, despite the fact that even though you remove the memories, the neural pathways have been changed by their prior existence.

    • Haily

      There’s 2 flavours in the original list I found, the real WTF stuff like 2001, where the meaning of some things is just not in the movie and you have to figure it out, and “complicated plot” movies like Primer where there’s no poetry or mystery, it’s just hard to follow. Prestige and Inception fit into the later but I wouldn’t say they are really that hard to follow that they’re difficult to understand (certainly far from the level of Primer), so I would’t add them to this list at all.

      The other movies I haven’t watched (or heard of) but I plan to. Thanks for compiling this list!

    • Donny Williams

      I loved the prestige because it made you think, plus, it was nice to see a couple action superstars show off that they are also world class actors.

      • Daiz

        The Prestige is my favourite film!

    • gubler-ross

      this is someone who has seen many good films to know…
      you forgot the end of violence by wim wenders (wings of desire dir.)

    • Alicia

      Can you explain why you think “The Edukators (*)” is a confusing movie?

      (*Tangentially, why is it called “The Edukators” (with the German spelling) for the US edition? That’s not the original title (“Die Fette Jahre Sind Vorbei”), nor is it a translation of the original title.)

    • Brandy Jean Evans

      Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my faves!

    • Serai 1

      What is it about The Sweet Hereafter that you find confusing?

    • FeVi

      At some point I started watching Uncle Boonmee… at double speed, still the most boring (and imcomprehensible) movie I have ever watched

  • Anon

    Gummo is on a different level than everything in this list.

    • Felipe Mello

      Trash Humpers too. Korine is fucking awesome.

  • Sophia99

    Every time I watched Jacob’s Ladder I saw something different but then other times I was totally confused. Still I loved the movie. Some parts of the dialogue really made me think and thought provoking.

  • TexanPatriot2

    Zoolander. Especially since the 2 times I watched it I was a captive audience.

  • Bob

    Fucking asshole,why posting very short in every page?

  • Donald Edelman

    I agree with James_33, for the most part. 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the best works of science fiction I have ever read. It is completely clear in it’s message. The movie is still, in my opinion, a work of art, regardless of it’s vagueness in explaining things. I saw the movie prior to reading the book and still had a basic understanding of what it represented, overall. After reading the book, however, and rewatching the movie, there were things that weren’t obvious when I viewed the movie the first time that jumped out at me…one of those “Oh yea!” moments. An example would be when the monolith on the moon is found and the scientists are having their picture taken, standing in front of it. It suddenly lets out a high pitched tone. Initially I didn’t catch why the monolith chose that particular point in time to send out it’s signal. After reading the book and watching the film again, I could see that Kubrick did provide the reason, if I had been more observant. When the scientists arrive at the dig where the monolith was found, that part of the moon is still in lunar darkness, but the boundary where the lunar day is can be seen to be coming closer to the sight. When the monolith lets out it’s tone, the sun is seen shining down upon it. It is the first time the solar activated monolith has seen light in thousands of years. A lot of how Kubrick expressed things in the movie, either require careful observation or an understanding of his artsy way of expressing an event. Near the end, when David Bowman is walking around seeing himself, only each time at an older stage of his life, it’s just Kubrick’s artsy way of indicating that he lived out the rest of his life there. Even I caught that meaning the first time I saw it. To anyone that really couldn’t understand the movie entirely but still liked it for whatever reason, I would highly recommend that you read the book and then watch it again. Hopefully you will come out realizing that both work, the book by Clark and the movie by Kubrick, are works of art, on the highest level.

    • 1h2d3a

      Well written, good observations. I too saw 2001 as a 12 year old, before reading the book, and I too remember those Eureka moments reading the book and understanding something I had missed.
      I’m now in my 50′s and I watch 2001 at least once every 6 months or so. And I still pick up things I hadn’t noticed before. Its a masterpiece that will live for a long long time.

  • Donald B Miller

    Ingmar Bergman’s film “The Hour of The Wolf”. Did he really bash that little boy’s head in with a rock? Was he dead or taken into that very strange castle to live with those very strange people?


  • timturk

    “Blue Velvet”, the biggest mess with your mind movie of all time.

  • VinceGortho

    Mulholland Drive is an easy one. Unfortunately there are too many people who have wild imaginations. Not every detail is discernible but the story is a woman who won a gitter bug contest and left her small town to pursue Hollywood.
    The first half of the movie is her reflection as she descend in to death, having blown her brains out. Her reflections paint her as an innocent character who was loved and on the fast track for sought after actress.
    The second half after the blue box is opened is reality. She wasn’t sought after. Her friend was on the fast track with her director boyfriend. SHe became jealous, hired a hitman, lost her nerve and blew her brains out.

    • Alric the Red

      That’s an interesting interpretation and that’s the best one so far. I’m not sure about it, but I like it.

      Myself, I took the movie as a series of atmospheres that hinted that some sort of structure was holding it together. A plot was always suggested but never realized. I kid you not, when I first bought this DVD, I watched it about ten times within the first two weeks. I didn’t give a damn what it was about, it was simply mesmerizing.

      • ThamiMzolo

        It is a mesmerising movie. I actually agree with Vince above with his interpretation. The only thing I would add is that the first part is a hyper-elevated dream of herself as how she wishes she had lived her life. I think she knows the truth of how people saw her, she is ‘living’ a fantasy she wishes was true. And I think that’s what the box represents, the hidden truth.

  • billydal

    How about adding anything by Alejandro Jodorowsky. El Topo comes to mind.

    • Nicolas Caiveau

      The Holly Mountain is much more WTF than all the movies listed here combined ! :o

      • vollstix

        Yeah, “Holly” Mountain is a crazed and great film.

  • Alric the Red

    My son explained to me how to look at The Fountain, and upon taking that second look, he’s right. If you notice, there are no credits at the beginning. Instead, it opens on the cloth-bound cover of a book titled The Fountain. This book is the one written by his dying wife. She is telling the story about the search for this fountain. For her, this is a metaphor for their relationship, his hunting for this cure for her. She left it for him to finish. The stuff about with the tree in the globe is what he added to it, which states that death really is just a transition to a different aspect of existence.

  • Emil Blicher

    The Elements of Crime should really be here, too.

  • JohnZee

    Cloud Atlas has an overall central underlying theme about cannibalism and its necessity for the survival of the human race. An act which even though it is morally repulsive to most more than likely will be necessary for the survival of the human race at some time, if it hasn’t unknowingly to most of us already reached that point. And how in the end the pure pragmatism of taking such seemingly heinous action could only be taken voluntarily on an individual basis when governments, major corporations, and even religions eventually prove vulnerable to the unrelenting power of entropy.

    Only the 1973 San Francisco series of scenes and the Prologue/Epilogue seem to be without visible mention of the subject, although it would be easy to argue that the Prologue/Epilogue concerns itself with a time where the survivors [all who engaged in cannibalism of one sort or another. Hanks probably at some time and Hallie Berry character at her root is 'cannibalizing' the ancient technology in the hopes of sending out a distress signal] have made their way to a new territory [another planet] which may have sufficient resources that such action isn’t required. But even then it could be said that Hank’s character ate of the bread and drank of the wine of entirety of the human race by his memorization of the complete thread of the story.

    South Pacific Ocean, 1849

    The sharing of all too precious food [Breaking of bread] on a boat where food supplies are severely limited.

    Cambridge, England and Edinburgh, Scotland, 1936

    The old having absolutely no sense of immorality about assimilating the life’s work of the young, while the young so devoured offers himself up voluntarily as the sacrificial lamb.

    United Kingdom, 2012

    The name of the book Tom Hank’s thuggish writer wrote is appropriately titled “Knuckle Sandwich”.

    Neo Seoul, (Korea), 2144

    Sonmi~451 is shown that fabricants are not freed at the end of their contract as she believed, but are killed and “recycled” into food for other clones. . One day, Zachry, Adam (Zachry’s brother-in-law)[20][21][22] and Zachry’s nephew are attacked by the cannibalistic Kona tribe.

    The Big Island, 2321

    Zachry lives in a primitive society called “The Valley” after most of humanity has died during “The Fall,” a largely-unexplained apocalyptic event. The Valley tribesmen speak a degenerated form of English, and worship a goddess called Sonmi (Sonmi~451)

    One day, Zachry, Adam (Zachry’s brother-in-law) and Zachry’s nephew are attacked by the cannibalistic Kona tribe.

  • Nameless Monster

    Those are some of my favorite MindF movies! The Fountain was okay, great ending, maybe it made so much sense to me cause that was how i wanted to die. Included the floating bubble in space, liked they read my mind. wonder what that means.

  • Armiz

    Fando & Lis from Alejandro Jodorowsky.

  • Tiger Blam

    Here’s the meaning of 2001:

    • 1h2d3a

      Very interesting. Thanks for the link, I loved watching it.

    • Serai 1

      It’s all in the book. Just read that and you won’t have to “figure out” anything. Kubrick attracts these silly overthinking obsessions, but 2001 is the one of this films that actually DOES have the meaning available to everyone – but apparently all these fanboys are too lazy to PICK UP THE DAMN BOOK.

  • Silvio Alejandrõ

    Inland Empire!!!!
    Biggest WTF in my life.

  • Jen Carter

    Mr. Nobody. I still can’t quite put it into words.

  • Slunky

    Haven’t seen anyone list this one yet, and although it isn’t completely incomprehensible, it is a very different trip. Bliss is an Australian production about a man who has a heart attack and is not sure if he has died and gone to hell, although things don’t seem to be all that different in his life, but are very twisted indeed

  • Ted

    The Kill List.

  • jmrenzenbrink

    Donnie Darko is actually a revisionism of The Last Temptation of Christ, which is a mind blowing film to begin with. If you watch this film and then rewatch Donnie Darko it will make a lot more sense. Hint: Donnie is Jesus.

  • Noyb Noyberson

    Repo Man…starts off pretty normal, then descends into madness and ends with a glowing car flying off into the sky. Classic WTF from the 80′s.
    Rubber could have been a contender, with the psychokinetic tire that kills, but at the beginning, we are told the movie is meaningless by a man who gets out of a car trunk, so it all breaks down.
    For my money, tho, the REAL WTF is in TV, in a show called “The Heart, She Hollar”. It’s so bizarre, surreal, and disturbing that you just can’t believe what you’re seeing and hearing; the level of disbelief it engenders is sort of hilarious in its own way. A small, SMALL example: after a woman’s husband tells her she can’t be pregnant, that it is all in her mind, she takes him literally and her head swells up to tremendous size with mind-induced pseudo-pregnancy. SPOILER ALERT – she gives ‘birth’ to an iron.

    • Fortunate One

      The Heart She Hollar is made by the guys of PFFR that made Xavier: Renegade Angel for Adult Swim, but is just black comedy surrealism that’s weird but not hard to follow and not like the subtle movies discussed that are strange or more cerebral in figuring out the gist. But if you do like Heart go back and watch Xavier.

  • Lumikkja

    I love Primer. I’ve watched it three times and i still don’t completely understand it. And I love it. Shane Carruth is amazing!

  • Brett

    One could make a case to put American Psycho in here. Same goes for Inception.

    • brutalb83

      They mentioned Inception but dismissed it as being too expository…an assessment that I would have to agree with…

  • waitonit7

    Where is Ted?

  • Dogtoothsucks

    Dogtooth was terrible. It had no redeeming qualities as far as I’m concerned. It was pretentious and unknowable simply for the sake of being unknowable (like a lot of Terence Malick’s films imo). I’ve seen most of the others on this list. The Fountain always comes out on top as one of my favorite movies because it’s gorgeous and tells a great love story.

  • Felipe Mello

    Any movie from Harmony Korine.

  • Donny Williams

    I didn’t expect to see any movies that I like on here, but there are 3 or 4. I liked Primer a lot. I always like the lack of explanation thing, just because I prefer my own imagination. Also, I thought cloud atlas was pretty easy to understand, I just thought it was boring. Maybe people have trouble understanding it because they missed a half hour here and there while dozing off.

  • Danno81

    Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
    But don’t watch it
    And Screw you William Shatner for directing it (although I think you’re generally great)

    • Serai 1

      Look up the fanedit of STV called “In Thy Image”. The guy cut the film down into a very good one-hour episode of the original series, leaving a lot of stupid, extraneous stuff behind (like that nonsense about Sybok being Spock’s brother). It actually came out really enjoyable.

    • dawnmomofreed

      i liked it .. peace trekkie

  • Joe Wooten

    Ever had the torture of sitting through “Ishtar” and trying to figure out what the hell the film was about? Or more importantly, why it was ever made?

  • Laura

    I found eXistenz and metropolis quite head mashing :/

  • Katherine

    two people in the bathroom,what the film?

  • tomatopudding

    Mortal Thought and Bright Lights, Big City.

  • WoolleyBooger

    What about Lost Highway

  • Jenn Brown

    Visitor Q has GOT to be on this list! Check it out sometime!! It’s a definite WTF kind of film! But I still love it haha.

    • KingCranky

      It is a very wild ride of a movie, super extreme.

      Don’t know if this is true, but I read Visitor Q was originally supposed to be broadcast on Japanese TV.

  • ktrimbach

    Brazil, maybe The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus even more so, but all Terry Gillam’s movies (12 Monkeys, Fisher King, Time Bandits) tend to fall into the Inception category where they’re understandable in the end. Groove Tube was pretty incomprehensible. I haven’t seen it since college but I never did understand Seventh Seal. Maybe I would now.

  • Kit Ahern

    Youth Without Youth. O.o

  • Lord Spango

    If no one else has mentioned it, Cemetery Man with Rupert Everett and Anna Falchi has one of the all-time great WTF endings you’ve ever seen. I LOVED this movie from the get go, but the first time I saw the ending, I was really pissed off by it. I was like, “This is how you end your story? What the hell is wrong with you? Upon repeated viewings, I have worked out my own theory on what is going on, what the overall arc of the story is. I’ll tell you if you want to know my opinion, but my ultimate point is that you should see this movie, especially if you’re a horror fan in addition to liking WTF movies.

  • Rather Lovely Thing

    I didn’t understand pretty much of what was going on in “The Tree of Life” either but I really loved it, it was an experience, far beyond than just a movie.

    • Serai 1

      I think it’s a mistake to try and “understand” Malick’s films. Better to sit quietly, breathe, and just let the flow run through you. Then you absorb the meaning instead of analyzing it.

  • elarem

    The Reflecting Skin. Eraserhead.

  • Ihaveeyesiguess

    The photo you have up for “Holy Motors” is from ‘Tokyo!”, not “Holy Motors”.

  • Chris Charman

    I have watched The Fountain 2 or 3 times and at the end of each time I have not been able to decide whether it is a work of genius or load of old toilet.

  • Andrea Wittenhagen

    Lost Highway should have made the list. I still can’t figure that movie out.

  • holi

    I loved cloud atlas. Smh People hate to think, to see a positive and brilliant movie like this was a once in a lifetime experience. Not crap like Madea

    • Serai 1

      It is amazing how lazy some (most) moviegoers are – they want everything explained down the last detail. What a boring way to view movies (and the world).

      • MountainMan

        could you explain that with a little more detail? ;)

    • Heathen Samm

      you’re so right! The first time I saw it I was using the social media entertainment-sharing site ‘GetGlue’ (now acquired and ruined by tvtag). I went in, said I was watching, and loved the movie. 9/10 people were confused, 3/9 were willing to give it time and a re-watch. But you wouldn’t believe how many people were enthusiastic watchers of Hallmark & Lifetime channel movies. Draw your conclusions…

  • Nickname

    Just saying if you are interested in any of the films mentioned or enjoy any of them I’d highly recommend a film called Vanishing Waves. It fits in this list perfectly.

  • ickles

    This was basically just a list of some of my favorite movies.

  • drea80

    What made me say huh? was the titles of these movies… I have not even heard of most of them.

    • dawnmomofreed

      omg travesty! go rent.stream, the big labowski, nOW and then the cell trippy but good!! I lovd Being John Malkovich too.. go forth and proser

  • Mike

    Here are some films that have not yet been mentioned in the article or comments, not including avant-garde and experimental projects like Un Chien Andalou and Mothlight. I caution you, though, only see these films if you wish to afflict your souls.

    Aguirre, The Wrath Of God
    Barton Fink
    Being John Malkovich
    The Big Sleep
    The Big Lebowski
    The Cell
    The Chumscrubber
    Dancer In The Dark
    The Fall Of The House Of Usher
    The Fantastic Planet
    Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
    The Last Wave
    Punch-Drunk Love
    The Swamp
    A Taste Of Cherry
    Vanilla Sky
    Visitor Q

    • Serai 1

      Most of those films are perfectly understandable. Why would they be included?

      • Brandy Jean Evans

        My thoughts exactly.

  • Bruce

    Try, Strange Circus. I promise you, it’ll sure blow up your mind at the end. And don’t forget, David Lynch’s Inland Empire. That’s screwed up as well!

  • Handsomefox

    Donnie Darko isn’t that confusing once you pay attention to the pages of the books that are being displayed.
    There is actually a few websites that explain it, and it becomes one of those moments when you hit yourself in the forehead feeling really stupid and think “how did I miss this shit?”
    It took me 2 or 3 viewings to really sort it out, but sometimes I’m not sure whether I preffered it when I didn’t understand the story, when it was still a quirky and strangely cute teenage love story with an empending apocolypse that only a creppy 6 ft rabbit and a schizophranic teenager are aware of.
    I guess it’s like an orchestra, when you have an appreciation of the individual instruments, the whole ordeal starts to make more sense as the instruments play there sepearte pieces, but then, it’s harder to listen to it as a whole again.

  • Mark Cassidy

    As soon as i saw this headline i knew dogtooth would be in it, literally so insane. it almost makes you laugh at how crazy it is even though what your watching is so incredibly dark

  • Serai 1

    2001 is easy to figure out – JUST READ THE BOOK. It’s all explained right there.

    Also, how in the wide wide world of sports is it POSSIBLE that “Eraserhead” is not on this list? FFS, it’s the GRANDADDY of WTF movies. Whoever chose Mullholland Drive instead is an idiot.

  • Sam Mills

    I’m surprised “Persona” is not on this list. It was made in 1966 and people still have wildly different interpretations of what it means.

  • Robert Rudolph

    Once, in San Francisco, I watched an entire audience not getting “The Spirit of the Beehive.” Too bad, because it’s a great story of childhood imagination.

  • William Tell-Done-Told Overtur

    Robert Altman’s 3 WOMEN, Lynch’s ERASERHEAD, Jodorowsky’s THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, Duras’ THE TRUCK, THE PIG FUCKER, the HE-MAN & THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE movie from 1987 (that was filmed entirely on location in Whittier, CA!), SWEET MOVIE, Pasolini’s TEOREMA, MARTYRS, Alan Rudolph’s REMEMBER MY NAME & ESPECIALLY MADDENING (not to say specifically that the aformentioned titles drove me to near-suicide, to the contrary actually!) but DavidFUCKINGLynch’s goddamned movie called INLAND EMPIRE literally made me want to attempt to start digging my own brain, heart, eyeballs and SOUL out of my physical being with a pitchfork! EMPIRE was (&still IS I am quite certain) not merely a WTF movie-going experience, more precisely it remains the single worst, most repetitiously inane and dumbfounding nitpicking attention to the minutest detail, exascerbatingly overlong, overwrought clusterfuck of seemingly needlessly repetitive machinations attached to the single weakest, lacklustre narrative, completely devoid of any real empathetic meaning or purpose I have ever personally witnessed (for three fucking hours!) in the history of my theatre attending experiences! P.S. Did I mention the word `repetitious’ ?

    • Fortunate One

      Are you referring to Vase De Noces or Wedding Trough (English title “The Pig Fucking Movie”) ? Or some other movie I have not seen. While Wedding Tough is quite weird in a post-apocalyptic way I didn’t really think wft as much as I wish I had not watched this movie.

  • Thomas J. Jester

    Glad you mentioned Enter The Void. Persona and Hour Of The Wolf deserve some shoutouts.

  • Beatrice

    “Primer” is my favourite out of this list. Also “Inception”, that you mentioned somewhere, and one of the newest movies: “After the Dark” also known as “The Philosophers”. “Primer” beats everything though.
    Checking out “Cloud Atlas” and “Holy Motors”, thank you!

  • JordanRae88

    Sleeping Beauty (2011) I dare anyone to disagree :)

    • lucascott

      I’ll see that and raise you Sucker Punch

  • Yazmin Buyatti

    Here’s reeeally missing “Being John Malkovich”. The most Huh? movie I’ve ever seen in my life.

  • Ryan Metzger

    Dogtooth, really to me was more of an exploration of language and concepts associated with words apart from society, so in a way if we look at words we use critically in a different context, in say this microcosm, it would lead to to many different social ‘norms’ that to another would be completely taboo. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it since I saw it in theaters back in 2009-10. I just remember especially being surprised by the logic of the houses diction that led to incest being ‘natural.’

  • Joshua Thirteen

    2001 – The problem with the movie is that originally there was to be some narration, notably in the opening sequence with the human ancestors and the monolith, and at the end with the “star child”, maybe some other places. They decided not to do it, but the script without the narration is nearly incomprehensible. I think they should have included it or found a way to film the scenes so they could be understood. It’s cheating, but you can understand 2001 if you read the parts of the book that these scenes occur in, as that supplies the essential narration

  • Joshua Thirteen

    the biggest trouble with dogtooth is that it’s in greek, so you know “it’s all greek to me” I watched some of it in greek, why I don’t know. I suppose one can get it with subtitles of course.

  • Joe Cogan

    “So 2001 is probably like life: if you claim to have it figured out, you’re probably full of BS.”

    Or maybe you’ve seen 2010, which clears up pretty much all the mysteries.

  • Jack Madison

    I really enjoyed “Cloud Atlas” except for when Halle & Tom are talking in dialect… their “language” was too cryptic to be usable in the film. Fail..there. Otherwise an interesting movie that is talking about overcoming fear and insecurity to become a better person.

  • Kathleen

    I sure do: Jacobs Ladder

    • dawnmomofreed

      i got that , thought it was great!!

    • Jim

      One of my all-time top 3 favourite films!

  • pj redden

    The Razors Edge

  • Calob

    A movie called ‘Triangle’ is absolutely mind blowing.

  • Tom

    Happiness…..by far the most disturbing and astounding movie ever made….

    • Brandy Jean Evans

      “Why not me, Dad?”


  • cjohnston

    OK ~ I AM a little late to the “party”.
    - I’m also kinda wishing I hadn’ta perused this list either..
    My WTF experience pertains to WHY(!????) Cloud Atlas is ON this list
    I DON”T like to (NOR is it my intent or wish) to “smear”, berate, threaten, curse, and/or otherwise threaten mental and/or bodily harm to those (such as yourself.) who review films in all of its multifarious shapes and sizes for a living; ~ …BUT, do we not like a little intellectual stimuli now and then mixed in with our (all too common/hackneyed/overused) “tropes” of violence, sex, and drugs????
    - .ALL of which (to be perfectly fair) ARE (also) in Cloud Atlas.

    *While I am positive (sincere lol) that this is (to be perfectly fair), another persons opinion *namely my own lol – I had a VERY hard time reading the book.
    I found it, to be perfectly frank and honest, WAYY more vulgar, superficial, offensive, shallow, and repulsive than its cinematic adaptation…

    …My sincere apologies for my complete and utter personal assault upon your opinion of this film.!
    It just makes my brain sad (and i say this with ALL the sincerity that is possible upon this planet earth) when one – ANYone; doesn’t recognize and/or appreciate the MASSIVE philosophical, moral, intellectual intelligence on display (with CA in this case); mainly because such an opportunity only arises all to sadly on a ridiculously sporadic intermittent basis..

  • mulchman

    Primer is a very stupid time travel movie that most high school students could’ve made. Why is it popular?

  • chiff

    Revolver and Pi.

  • dawnmomofreed

    white olanrder

    • Brandy Jean Evans

      Maybe “White Oleander” ?
      And the movie was Ridiculous….as are many movies taken from books.

  • my2shillings

    Twin Peaks

    • Brandy Jean Evans

      If you didn’t watch the show….

  • Jack’s Smirking Revenge

    Inland Empire, Wrong, The Shining, Brazil, John Dies At the End, After Hours

  • Kristy Dugger

    The Man Who Fell To Earth with David Bowie

  • summer

    Donnie Darko, that movie was a trip

  • paulj

    Only seen Darko and 2001..
    Lists can be good like that by making suggestions what to go see next.
    2001 is pretentious twaddle – hmm starting to get the feeling that I don’t actually like Kubrick films.
    Darko I loved but yeah it’s not real clear.. Sometimes you just don’t get an explanation for everything.
    Jacobs Ladder maybe? It has many blind alleys it leads you up. When I showed it to a friend it confused the heck out of him. Course maybe it just needs keener minds than ours to not be confusing but it does take a while to reveal itself and the fact that it does explain it all doesn’t make the “huh?”s any less does it?
    Prometheus made me go “huh?” even more so when I realised I’d spent money to watch it. Perhaps avoid all Kubrick in future?
    Think I’ll have a go at Fountain..

  • Biizzarro

    The Fountain is SO easy:

    3 stories about the loved one dying.

    1 – The true: She has cancer. He tries to save her
    2 – Spain: Losing war. He tries to save her
    3 – Spiritual/metaforic: The tree is dying. He tries to save her.

    And the 3 is the same thing. Its all about her.

    So simple. The catch is: He thinks he will find “freedom” saving her. But, he finds “freedom” (of mind, body and soul) when she dies.

  • tohu777

    A list of films I loved–except for Enter the Void, which is technically interesting (with some really beautiful efx – the drug trip), but which isn’t as fantastic as every other feature Noe has made…

    I’m also surprised that there was no room on this list for any film by Carlos Reygadas, especially Battle In Heaven and Post Tenebras Lux. I love his work, myself, but Battle in Heaven particularly annoyed a lot of people (for whatever reason)…

  • Trebuchet

    A Field in England

  • moose

    “There will be blood” should also be on the list.

  • Karl Kuhlmann

    I understood 2001. First, you need to have read “The Sentinel”, which is the core of the whole movie.

    • madame

      Okay, what is the meaning of it? I LOVE Kubrick and I get that the film is most likely examining the growth of man, infinity of space and our relation to the universe at large, but what the hell was his point? What is full of stars? Okay, let the ridiculing begin…………

  • Anchovy Garbanzo

    If you can get through the first five to ten minutes of Begotten, you can handle the rest.

  • Ezekhiel2517

    “Enter the void” is an amazing movie. To better enjoy it you have 2 options: smoke a big bowl before (and during) the movie or just fast forward the fractal psychodelich cgi scenes. This movie goes mainly about the wandering soul of a recently dead boy, and presents us with truly beautiful, and sometimes frightening ideas. Deep, phylosophical and slow paced, not for everyone

  • Brandy Jean Evans

    The dad, the little boy, and the friend…
    Also, Phillip Seymour Hoffman was brilliant as usual.

  • Andrew

    I almost watched all in the list, except Dogtooth and Holy Motor. I personally don’t think Tree of life, 2001, nor The fountain confusing.

  • Lucy Moreau

    I like that I was confounded by the ending of ‘Caché’. It’s a multi-layered, draw-your-own-conclusion kind of film, fraught with tension and intrigue and it left me with the desire to watch it again to discover the hidden meanings the second or third time around. I highly recommend the film.

  • Oz

    southland tales should be number 1

  • Amber

    Although Mulholland Drive is already on the list, I’m surprised Lost Highway didn’t make the cut, too.

  • OKina Alford

    I came all the way here just to see if Mulholland Drive was on this list! And of course it was. Thats one of my all time favorite movies and I get it, but most don’t. Same for Cloud Atlas.

  • ragsandrufus .

    Trainspotters , Requiem for a dream

  • Old Prospector

    Thanks for explaining literally NONE of these films you find confusing. It’s like you’re just projecting your neuroses on everyone else.

    • madame

      The author of this article has a right to give his opinion. It is something called free speech. People need to lighten the fuck up

  • Tacfarinas

    The Holy Mountain
    Andalusian Dog

    Picasso’s Adventures
    Saló or the 120 Days of Sodom

    Aguirre the Wraith of God

  • Pileofbutts

    I havent seen anyone write the immaculate conception of little dizzle here. Im still peeved and full of wtfs on that whole movie. Especially as reviews were saying it was so fantastic. Weird fast forward like sex scene on the bosses desk might sum part of it up. But the blue fish barf from cookies just…why. Why was this made. And why did comcast only show the title as ‘immaculate conception’ and describe it as a thriller horror about people having monster babies form. It was, and will never be a horror movie. Unless horror just means confusing the fuck out of you.

  • Agustín Lorenzo

    Southland Tales… from the writer/director of Donnie Darko.

  • Dar

    Inland Empire….. lots of actors on the “A” list. Worst movie I’ve ever seen….Some artsy Hollywood types raved about it, because of the director, but I don’t believe they knew what they were watching either….

  • Fortunate One

    Like Mase said “Naked Lunch” definitely gave me some wtf moments but I was more frustrated at the end of the movie that was not as great as the critics claimed.

  • Film Bob

    How about Peter Sellers walking on water in the last image in “Being There?” Does that make him Jesus come to save us, and not just someone who only knows what he sees on TV (as all of the reviewers said). Everyone who hears him speak throughout the movie got it, and several time at the beginning of the film we were completely turned around, e.g., when he left the fancy house and entered the hell of downtown Washington DC.

  • Moo

    Anybody mention Gummo? Weirdest movie i’ve ever watched.

  • Elvis Figueredo

    Enemy… Dennis Villeneuve!

  • PhilNeffPhoto

    “Magnolia” and “Being John Malkovitch”

  • NomNom2010

    I honestly thought Bruno was going to be one of them.

  • ericmvan

    Great list. After introducing the topic with my 5th favorite movie of all time (Upstream Color, IMHO the single most challenging narrative ever put on film, in terms of percentage of real meaning that’s graspable on a first viewing, and there is in fact a ton), you include my #2 (Donnie Darko), #10 (2001), #31 (Cloud Atlas), and #39 (Primer), plus The Tree of Life (9.5 / 10), Mulholland Dr. (9.4), Holy Motors (9.3), Synechdoche, NY (9.1), and The Fountain (8.8 but I totally need to see it again). (Haven’t seen Enter the Void.)

    I would argue that Dogtooth (8.4) doesn’t qualify because you’re not *left at the end* with any WTF, although until the explanation emerges I admit it has it off-the-charts. 2001 is the opposite: it’s perfectly straightforward until taking a left turn to WTF-town. And Cloud Atlas ranges from perfectly straightforward through WTF to meaningless depending on your neurochemical personality.

    I would add Repo Man, Pi and Tarkovsky’s Solaris (all 9.5 for me), and if any director deserves two slots, it’s Lynch, so let’s add Eraserhead (my #8 of all time). And my dark horse candidate (need to see them again) is Night Watch / Day Watch taken as one film.

    • emjay

      “After introducing the topic with my 5th favorite movie of all time (Upstream Color, IMHO the single most challenging narrative ever put on film, in terms of percentage of real meaning that’s graspable on a first viewing, and there is in fact a ton), you include my #2 (Donnie Darko), #10 (2001), #31 (Cloud Atlas), and #39 (Primer), plus The Tree of Life (9.5 / 10), Mulholland Dr. (9.4), Holy Motors (9.3), Synechdoche, NY (9.1), and The Fountain (8.8 but I totally need to see it again). (Haven’t seen Enter the Void.)”


  • David Lynch

    mulholland drive made perfect sense.

  • Kevbot

    Hogfather, Greasor’s Palace, Ink,

  • BlogZilla

    I didn’t understand “Tron”

  • http://mindsquirrel.com/ Andrew Tatusko, Ph.D.

    Lynch’s magnum opus of WTF has to be Inland Empire. I get his other work on some kind of subconscious level. Eraserhead has enough dark humor and irony that it somehow makes the lucid dream consistent. Inland Empire totally messed with me. It’s like Lynch is obsessed with obsession.

    Providence with Ellen Burstyn is a nice example of non-linear narrative. How about Godard’s Alphaville or Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys? I loved them and was right there, but others were lost. One other is Bug from William Friedkin (yes, the Exorcist director). Then there is Lars von Trier’s Antichrist. You just want to look away.


    The Fountain is all stream-of-consciousness. The stuff happening in the space bubble is the present and his broken mind is remembering his life up until that point. He has poured over his dead wife’s story so much that it has become real to him and it mixes with his memories. He was never a Spanish conquistador, he merely injects himself and his wife into the story when he pictures it.

  • Aron

    mr nobody

  • Chris Blackington

    Holy Motors – absolute crap. An example of critics with no balls afraid to tell the emperor he has no clothes. Reveals the pathetic state of art criticism in a strait jacketed politically correct world.

    • Farnham Bailey XTmD

      Dear Sir,
      I have noticed in my perusals of the internet spaces that those who bandy the term “politically correct” about, are often similar in attitude to children who have had their candy snatched away. As no one cares to define the term for me I believe from my contextual readings it means something akin to “I am a whiny baby”.
      I believe, and please correct me if I am mistaken, that the term you intended to use is “straight-jacket”
      Yours Truly FB Esquire

  • Choochoo

    The Skin I Live In. Like, holy WTF! Never been so shocked by a movie before!

  • Jamie Teller

    It might be no coincidence that I love most of these films dearly; 2001 is my pick for the greatest film of all time. I somehow have not gotten around to seeing Mulholland Drive or The Fountain yet (I’ll try to hit both this week), but I’m sure I’ll love them, too.

    Only quibbles with this list: Primer is overshadowed, for me, by Upstream Color (the cover image for this article was actually the poster for UC, which was strange), which is not only even more obscure, but also much more beautiful; and…Donnie Darko? I guess. I dunno, I’d put something else on here. It just seems like kind of an easy choice.

  • ymb

    The Room

  • Terry Reed

    Gotta find “Cloud Atlas” and about four or five of the other movies in this review! Thanks to the author, I know of movies I had never heard of but now, WANT to see badly! Thanks!

  • Terry Reed

    “LOST HIGHWAYS” by David Lynch — WTF?! I’ve heard so many stories about what the movie is supposed to be about, I can pick from a multiple choice kist! The actors were terrific, even if I hadn’t an idea of what they were doing 9/10ths of the time, or WHY …. maybe if more ‘why’s’ had been answered, it wouldn’t feel so disembodies yet still appealling! WEIRD. On the third watch, I still didn’t know jack about the entire movie, but I was “getting” to at least know, in a way, what some parts may have meant (notice all that flopping around there? LOL I’m still going topsy? Turvy? Both? Neither? W T F?!

    GREAT series, Darren R. (your last name is too hard to remember, hon but you re a fabulous writer! LOVE the way you get it across! But please, Darren Ross?Darren Darren. LOL I

  • jms

    I enthusiastically agree with your take on Enter the Void. I think that film obliterated stagnant forms/constraints/boundaries and grabbed the gold fucking ring. It’s not a pleasant film but its a profound experience to behold.

  • Dawn Williams

    Eraserhead still confuses the hell out of me.

  • Ian_MacMillan

    2001 A Space Odyssey – Kubrick teamed up with Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke wrote the book, which contains the plot and all the explanations. Kubrick shot the movie, which contains the visuals for the book. That is all.

  • Razor Maclennan

    ‘under the skin’ was mind bending in a good way.

  • Kerry

    Santa Sangre

  • Jordan


  • elpinche

    Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol

  • Mike Hillsgrove

    Cloud Atlas was my favorite movie of all time. I watched it 9 times in the theater and maybe 50 times overall. It was however very complicated, required you to pay attention, required level 4 thinking, has several messages that were far more Buddhist than Christian. It was never going to be a movie that the average movie goer could like.

    Movies normally start in the beginning, move to the end, have a villian, a hero, and a love interest, and conclude with the villain vanquished. That is not Cloud Atlas. It’s a movie with 6 beginnings, 7 endings, one hero in 6 different bodies, one love interest in 6 different bodies, a 700 year time spread and 6 totally interconnected plots to sell several very profound by hot obvious messages. You could base a life around the philosophy in Cloud Atlas.

    If you understood it, Cloud Atlas left you shaking to your core. I find it even more emotional now, than when I saw it the first time. It’s ruined every movie for me since.

  • kamenwriter

    Casshern, without a doubt

  • Talontamer

    No one has mentioned Vanilla Sky or The Rules of Attraction (not too too confusing. Btw Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream remains my number one!

  • Nicolas Caiveau

    You forgot the ultimate WTF movie of all time, The Holy Mountain by Jodorowsky ! By comparison, Mullholland Drive is a linear story.

  • J-

    Berberian Sound Studio. Your mind shall be pureed. You’re welcome.

  • marion

    i think the author forgot to put Mr. Nobody.. just sayin’

  • Rosebud113

    The Russian film version of Stanislaw Lem’s book, “Solaris” is WTF both film and book. So we experience only memories we would like to suppress. After that it all falls apart. Just what do we take from that? What do we come back with, lessons maybe learned. The past is just that: the past. Andre Tarkovsky who directed the film takes 3 hours to tell us the obvious, just get on with living.

  • Michelle

    Sucker punch

  • kike

    there are two movies that had explained life to me: ‘Darjeeling Limited’ and ‘Magnolia’, not very confusing but it makes you feel you missed something, then you watch them again and you found what you missed but then again you missed something else. Also those kind of movies (confusing movies in general) are like trips on acid, its cool to have one but not to often.

  • Rick McCallister

    2001 isn’t that complicated to grasp… It’s about the responsibility of a creator to its creation. Same as AI, Full Metal Jacket, and A Clockwork Orange.

    The dissolve at the end of the Australopithecus opening, where the Bone transitions into the Spaceship, is drawing the direct connection that both items are simply tools.

    But in the case of the spaceship, that tool has been given human intelligence.

    HAL knows that the mission David is on, rediscovering the Monolith, will make him obsolete (which is confirmed by the “starchild” scene at the end). For an AI, this would be the equivalent of being abandoned by your creator. So, to preserve itself in the eyes of its creators, it tries to kill the crew before it can reach the Monolith.

    And, as we see at the end of the film, HAL loses his fight, the Monolith causes another great leap forward in human evolution, and David is reborn as humanity without a need for its own creations.

  • mariska

    why isn’t Lost Highway on this list


    For me, I think the first WFT mind blower would have had to have been Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. The word on the street was that it was necessary to have eaten LSD to understand it. Being about 11 it was unwise for me to have this experience, but even today it feels as though I did. Has anybody seen/felt this?

  • Mohit Kumar

    How about Nicholas Cage’s “Adaptation” … That is one weird movie, and a really tense one. And “The Zero Theorem” too..

    Unlike many people, I quite liked Cloud Atlas, it was spectacular. The only flaw I found in this movie was when they did makeup on Doona Bae to give her 18th Century western looks. She didn’t seem legitimate mexican but other avatars of her were quite greatly portrayed.
    Ben Whishaw and Hugo Weaving were the best thing that happened to Cloud Atlas.

  • nyldy

    Nice ending with Enter the Void. I literally thought/talked about that movie for an entire week after I watched it. It was a profound experience

  • Krokodil Dundee

    I think Mulholland Drive was fairly straightforward, especially for a Lynch film.

    There were 2 perceptions of reality presented as two radically different storylines, one sugar sweet and idyllic, and the other more consistent with the harsh reality of a young naive actress floundering in shark-filled waters of Los Angeles.

    The answer is given at the end when we see her at her ebb in a feverish state likely involving drugs hallucinating on the couch prior to killing herself.

    One storyline was a dream, while the other was in fact reality, the latter which drove her to addiction and eventual suicide.

  • killacounty

    you forgot to mention tideland by Terry Gilliam – if you want some serious wtf moments then that is one for the books.

  • Pavel Dumitrescu

    Jacob’s Ladder, Altered States, The Skin I Live In, Eraserhead, Videodrome.

  • bruce

    the 12th monkey

  • James

    Intrigued as to why so many people have nominated Tarkovsky’s “Solaris”. Along with Andrei Rubliev, this is perhaps his most easily comprehensible film. His other films such as “Stalker” and “Mirror” are much more elliptical. All are wonderful, and reach parts of me other films do not.

  • Terry Ramsey Haskins

    Donnie Darko? it didn’t make me say huh, it made me say awesome!

  • Tim

    There are parts of Valhalla Rising where I was like, WTF, as well.

  • Movie Bob

    Chance walks on water in the last scene in Being There; does that make him the second coming of Jesus (like almost everyone in the movie thought, without really thinking about it)?

  • andrew123456789

    The Japanese film “Iron Man” comes to mind. Also “Pi, ” but I think you included that sorta by default.

  • andrew123456789

    Silent Tongue, the very low-budget movie River Phoenix made before he died. Released posthumously.

  • shammers

    i really hate these lists that have each entry as their own pages.

  • André Moreno

    What about David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive?