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.