ByDavid Rodemerk, writer at
Watched HBO and Cinemax as a little kid before "binge-watching" was even a thing! Mom called me a TV Guide with diapers. Twitter @filmigos
David Rodemerk

Do you enjoy watching movies that mess with your brain? I'm sure the biggest mind-bender that pops into your head is the movie . Written and directed by the masterful Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, The Prestige, Momento) in 2010, the movie is about a group of thieves who can enter the dreams of their targets and ascertain information using experimental military technology.

Dominick "Dom" Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are "extractors" who've been asked by Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) not to steal information, but to implant an idea (an "inception") into the subconscious of his business rival's son.

This is how Nolan creates the wild wide of entering people's dreams and watching towering skyscrapers bend like someone folding a cardboard box. What makes Inception so trippy, is that Dom's gang not only have to enter someone's dream, they have to go in a dream within a dream within a dream. It's the Turduckin of movies. If that doesn't make your brain banana do flips, then here are some similar movies like Inception that may cause some headaches.

'Source Code' (2011)

A year after Nolan's Inception, Duncan Jones (Moon) throws his hat into the ring of movie mind benders. Source Code starts off with Colter Stevens () riding along on a commuter train. Until he enters the bathroom, and notices that his reflection in the mirror is not his face. Then the confusion sets in. Eventually, he wakes up in a lab and learns what is happening. A mad bomber blew up the train that he was on, and they have the live brain of one of the deceased victims. Colter is a military officer who is part of a new experimental procedure. The scientists Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright) have resurrected the last 8 minutes of memories from the victim's brain. Colter has the ability to relive those 8 minutes as one of the other passengers to find out who the bomber is, and try to figure out where he plans on setting off the next bomb.

It's like a science fiction version of Groundhog's Day starring Bill Murray, only Gyllenhaal gets to relive a crappy 8 mins over and over again. He learns that can remember things from previous entries, and this helps to uncover the plot and strike a relationship with another passenger Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). Not only is the ability to jump into some dead person's memories a mind boggler, but the movie starts to question if Colter can stay alive passed those 8 minutes, can he continue his life in this reality?


  • Jake Gyllenhaal was on board the production before . After seeing Moon (2009) Gyllenhaal suggested Jones as a possible director.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal had an ear bud on during the train sequences, into which the director would start playing music at any point of time, which helped Gyllenhaal's character to look disoriented.
  • Lindsay Lohan was originally cast in the role of Christina, however, producers decided to recast the role when her legal issues conflicted with the filming schedule.

'The Matrix' (1999)

'The Matrix' [Credit:  Warner Bros.]
'The Matrix' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

"Woah, I know Kung-fu!" Who can forget (Neo) and Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus) in one of the coolest modern day martial arts battles? he Wachowski Brothers questioned reality with The Matrix trilogy. Is our world just a some massive, complex computer program. If it is, then would we ever know we were living in it? This Inception-like movie packed not only a physical punch in its action sequences, but it give us quite the mental kick when it came to guessing what kind of world we live in. If you are into philosophy, then this movie is for you. But if you love action and Kung-fu, then enjoy the Bullet Time special effects, and the now famous 360 degree camera scenes.


  • In the combat training program before Keanu Reeves starts his furious attacks on Morpheus, he rubs his nose with his thumb and finger, a similar mannerism of Bruce Lee before he attacks on his opponents. The move was improvised by Reeves.
  • Carrie-Anne Moss twisted her ankle while shooting one of her scenes but decided not to tell anyone until after filming, so they wouldn't re-cast her.
  • Nicolas Cage turned down the part of Neo because of family commitments. Tom Cruise was also considered.

'Doctor Strange' (2016)

brought us their version of Inception in 2016 with . It doesn't have to with dreams, but it does have to do with bending realities. And bending it does. Some of Marvel's trippiest scenes happen this movie. Similar to Inception, the world around Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) twist and turn around him as learns about the nature of his powers. He eventually masters this ability during his final fight with Dormammu.


  • received help with finger-tutting movements from dancer Jayfunk, to make the spell-casting gestures look fluid and agile.
  • While filming, Benedict Cumberbatch walked into a comic book store, in full costume, and bought an actual Doctor Strange comic.
  • Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy were considered for the role of The Ancient One.

'Memento' (2000)

'Memento' [Credit:  Newmarket Capital Group]
'Memento' [Credit: Newmarket Capital Group]

I don't know it is with Christopher Nolan, but does like to scramble our brains with his movies. If Inception was about entering peoples dreams, this his movie Memento was about entering peoples lies. Guy Pearce plays Leonard who is trying to solve the murder of his wife. What learn is that he has short term memory loss. The only way he can remember the important clues is by putting tattoos on his body. His body is covered in a riddle concerning the death of his wife. As the story progresses, the audience starts to question if he is telling the truth.


  • The medical condition experienced by Leonard in this film is a real condition called Anterograde Amnesia, the inability to form new memories after damage to the hippocampus.
  • Stephen Tobolowsky has stated that during his audition for Sammy, he had mentioned to director Christopher Nolan that he had experienced amnesia personally. A few years earlier, he was given an experimental pain killer that induced amnesia for a surgery he had undergone.
  • Christopher Nolan's first choice for the role of Leonard was Alec Baldwin.

'Lucia' (2013)

You think only the United States is infatuated with movies like Inception? Lucia (2013) is India's interest in the craziness of dreams. The director, Pawan Kumar, takes us into the mind of Nikhil who is an usher at a movie theater. Because of his insomnia, he is eventually tricked into take the drug called Lucia. The drug causes him to have all of his fantasies and desires come true in his dreams. Thus the movie starts the blur the lines between reality and fantasy. Is Nikhil really an usher? Maybe he is the famous actor he dreams about? Maybe the actor is really Nihil? I don't think Christopher Nolan could figure this one out.


  • Start of a new direction for Kannada cinema, being the industry's first crowd funded film. (Kannada cinema is part of Indian cinema, where motion pictures are produced in the Kannada language.)
  • When Nikki is brought to the tent with the promise of treating his insomnia, A TV screen shows images of Christopher Nolan's debut movie, Following.
  • Also shown in the movie is a clip from the movie Requiem for a Dream.

'The Machinist' (2004)

'The Machinist' [Credit:  Filmax Group]
'The Machinist' [Credit: Filmax Group]

I guess when you work in a factory and you haven't slept in a year, you start to lose weight and your mind. This is the basis of the story in Brad Anderson's The Machinist. If you liked the way Christian Bale looked in Nolan's Batman Trilogy, you may want to avoid this movie. Bale plays Trevor Reznik who is suffering from some major insomnia, which causes him to lose his own sanity. After being accused of an accident at work because of some maybe imaginary person named Ivan, Reznik starts to go down a spiral of paranoia and delusion.


  • 's diet consisted of one can of tuna and an apple per day. His 63-pound weight loss is said to be a record for any actor for a movie role.
  • Because the film was shot almost entirely on location in Barcelona, Spain, the production designers had to painstakingly re-create the look and feel of Los Angeles with many "everyday Americana" items in both interior and exterior shoots.
  • This film contained two actors who have played : Christian Bale and Michael Ironside voiced Batman in the Dark Knight Returns segment of The New Batman Adventures: Legends of the Dark Knight (1998).

'A Scanner Darkly' (2006)

I guess if you are going to talk about movies that mess with your mind, it only makes sense to throw a Philip K. Dick story into the list. Directed by Richard Linklater, A Scanner Darkly is all about identity and deception in a near-future dystopia constantly under intrusive high-tech police surveillance in the midst of a drug addiction epidemic. To make it really trippy, the movie was animated using interpolated rotoscope, which gave it really funky animated look. The story follows detective Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) as he investigates the epidemic drug Substance D. Arctor is also addicted to Substance D, and eventually becomes paranoid as to who he is and what he is supposed to do.


  • Robert Downey Jr. wrote most of his lines down on post-it notes and scattered them around the set so he could read off them while filming a scene.
  • When Arctor sits on the stage waiting to give his speech to the Brown Bear Lodge, one of the images his scramble suit displays is Philip K. Dick.
  • The Red Pills known as Substance Death, a drug that alters a user's reality, bear a striking resemblance to the Red Pills given to the character Douglas Quaid in the film Total Recall (1990).

'Sliding Doors' (1998)

'Sliding Doors' [Credit:  Intermedia Films]
'Sliding Doors' [Credit: Intermedia Films]

If you are looking for a movie that is less of brain teaser, then check out Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow. Did you ever wonder if what would happen to your life if you turned left instead of right, or missed a bus stop or any other little twist in life? Sliding Doors does a wonderful job of telling the story of Helen (Paltrow) if you she got on or missed a train. What's really cool about this, is the movie shows both outcomes at the same time. So we get to see two parallel lives unfold.


  • Gillian Anderson and Minnie Driver were considered for the role of Helen.
  • Peter Howitt got the idea for the film after almost getting hit by a car. He was late in meeting a friend, and innocently walking along London's Charing Cross Road.
  • John Hannah is partly responsible for the film getting made after the funding collapsed.

'Primer' (2004)

'Primer' [Credit:  ERBP]
'Primer' [Credit: ERBP]

We've talked about dreams, alternate realities, and paranoia. I guess it's time to talk about time travel. Primer follows a group of engineers as they accidentally create a time machine. This is not your usual Back to The Future or Terminator time travel theories. This involves an 'A-to-B' time loop side-effect (Which is a fancy way of saying that their time travel overlaps their current time. They essential make copies of themselves.) The story, created by Shane Carruth, uses an experimental plot structure, philosophical implications, and complex technical dialogue to really mess with your head.


  • Shane Carruth is a college graduate with a degree in mathematics and a former engineer.
  • The budget for the entire film was around $7000. Most of the money was spent on film stock.
  • Abe goes back in time and ends up regretting it. His surname is Terger, or 'Regret' spelled backwards.'

Total Recall (1990)

Yes, another Philip K. Dick movie! Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid, he decides to go on virtual vacation containing memories of the planet Mars. But is the memory implanted into his brain just a fake memory or is he really remembering being a secret agent fighting against the evil Mars administrator Cohaagen? Douglas Quaid goes on a wonderful adventure fighting aliens, pulling a giant tracker out of his nose, and visiting a female alien with three breasts. We never got to see that in Inception.


  • One of the first major Hollywood blockbusters to use CGI (mainly for the scenes involving the X-Ray scanner).
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger was so impressed by how much dedication Sharon Stone had in training for her character role that he even referred to her as the "Female Terminator".
  • Patrick Swayze was signed to play Quaid when the movie began preproduction in Australia.

Which one of these mind bending movies is your favorite?


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