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The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made

Updated April 30, 2021 47.5k votes 7.8k voters 261.4k views135 items

List RulesVote up any movie that required a rewatch or someone else to explain it to you

The most confusing movies ever made are those films which either intentionally or accidentally are hard to follow, complicated and so far out there that they are disorienting to even the most seasoned viewer. That's not to say these movies are bad because of their complicated nature but certainly not for the easily confused.

For those who crave the mental challenge of confusing movies, there are several directors whose style is highlighted by their complicated plot lines, tendency to present films out of chronological order and seemingly devotion to chaos in their movies. The likes of David Lynch (Mulholland DriveEraserheadInland Empire, and Lost Highway), Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space OdysseyThe Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut) and Christopher Nolan (Inception and Memento) are perhaps the best at making stellar yet highly confusing movies and among the greatest directors in movie history.

Lynch, Kubrick and Nolan undoubtably influenced other great filmmakers who also have a tendency to create movies that make viewers ask what the heck is happening. Charlie Kaufman, who did Synecdoche, New YorkAdaptationEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Being John Malkovich, and Steven Soderbergh, responsible for great films like Sex, Lies, and Videotape, among many others, gave their interpretation of how to create confusing and simply WTF movies.

So whether you love the twists and turns in The Matrix or think the utter madness of Primer is cause to be among the worst movies of all time, vote for the movies you think are the most confusing below! Have a confusing movie in mind that's not listed? Add it! Help us rank the most confusing movies ever made.

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  • 1
    1,162
    369

    ActorsNaomi Watts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Melissa George, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux

    Directed byDavid Lynch

    Mulholland Drive is a 2001 American neo-noir mystery film written and directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and Justin Theroux. It tells the story of an aspiring actress...  more

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  • 2

    ActorsArthur C. Clarke, Leonard Rossiter, Ed Bishop, Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was partially inspired by Clarke's...  more

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  • 3
    556
    177

    Primer

    2004

    ActorsShane Carruth, David Sullivan, Keith Bradshaw, Kevin Lucero Less, Casey Gooden

    Directed byShane Carruth

    Primer is a 2004 American science fiction drama film about the accidental discovery of a means of time travel. The film was written, directed, produced, edited and scored by Shane Carruth, who also...  more

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  • 4
    1,856
    891

    ActorsLeonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page

    Directed byChristopher Nolan

    Inception is a 2010 science fiction thriller film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars a large ensemble cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Elliot Page, Joseph...  more

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  • 5
    1,585
    445

    ActorsDrew Barrymore, Ashley Tisdale, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Seth Rogen

    Directed byRichard Kelly

    Donnie Darko is a 2001 American supernatural drama film written and directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Jena Malone,...  more

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  • 6
    1,451
    726

    ActorsGuy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Jorja Fox, Stephen Tobolowsky

    Directed byChristopher Nolan

    Memento is a 2000 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan. The screenplay was written by Nolan based on his younger brother Jonathan Nolan's short story "Memento...  more

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  • 7
    494
    185

    ActorsJack Nance, Jeanne Bates, Jack Fisk, Charlotte Stewart, Judith Anna Roberts

    Directed byDavid Lynch

    Eraserhead is a 1977 American experimental body horror film directed by David Lynch. Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend (Charlotte Stewart),...  more

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  • 8
    424
    217

    ActorsMacaulay Culkin, Tim Robbins, Jason Alexander, Lewis Black, Ving Rhames

    Directed byAdrian Lyne

    Jacob's Ladder is a 1990 American psychological horror film directed by Adrian Lyne. A Vietnam veteran whose experiences prior to and during Vietnam result in strange, fragmentary flashbacks and...  more

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  • 9
    697
    319

    ActorsLeonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

    Shutter Island is a 2010 American psychological thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is based on Dennis Lehane's 2003 novel of the same name. Production started in March 2008. Leonardo...  more

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  • 10
    371
    170

    ActorsRichard Pryor, Gary Busey, Patricia Arquette, Henry Rollins, Giovanni Ribisi

    Directed byDavid Lynch

    Lost Highway is a 1997 French-American psychological thriller film written and directed by David Lynch. The film features the last film appearances of Richard Pryor, Jack Nance, and Robert Blake, and...  more

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  • 11
    762
    471

    ActorsBrad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Christopher Plummer, Madeleine Stowe, Christopher Meloni

    Directed byTerry Gilliam

    12 Monkeys, also known as Twelve Monkeys, is a 1995 American science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam, inspired by Chris Marker's 1962 short film La Jetée, and starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine...  more

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  • 12
    393
    221

    Pi

    1998

    ActorsMark Margolis, Ajay Naidu, Clint Mansell, Ben Shenkman, Samia Shoaib

    Directed byDarren Aronofsky

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    Pi, also titled π, is a 1998 American surrealist psychological thriller film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky in his directorial debut. The film earned Aronofsky the Directing Award at the...  more

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  • 13
    641
    389

    ActorsTom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Stanley Kubrick, Alan Cumming, Leelee Sobieski

    Directed byStanley Kubrick

    Eyes Wide Shut is a 1999 American thriller film loosely based upon Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Dream Story. The film was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. It was his last...  more

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  • 14

    ActorsCameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Winona Ryder

    Directed bySpike Jonze

    Being John Malkovich is a 1999 American fantasy comedy film written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze. It stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener, with John Malkovich as a...  more

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  • 15

    ActorsKate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood

    Directed byMichel Gondry

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American romantic science-fiction comedy-drama film about an estranged couple who have each other erased from their memories, written by Charlie...  more

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  • 16
    421
    243

    ActorsHugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Donna Murphy, Ethan Suplee

    Directed byDarren Aronofsky

    The Fountain is a 2006 American drama film that blends elements of fantasy, history, spirituality, and science fiction. It is directed by Darren Aronofsky, and stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz....  more

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  • 17
    386
    215

    ActorsHalle Berry, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving

    Directed byTom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

    Cloud Atlas is a 2012 science fiction film written and directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski. Adapted from the 2004 novel of the same name by David Mitchell, the film has multiple...  more

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  • 18
    529
    320

    ActorsCameron Diaz, Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Steven Spielberg, Kurt Russell

    Directed byCameron Crowe

    Vanilla Sky is a 2001 American science fiction thriller film directed, written, and co-produced by Cameron Crowe. It is an English-language remake of Alejandro Amenábar's 1997 Spanish film Open Your...  more

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  • 19
    1,055
    776

    ActorsBrad Pitt, Jared Leto, Helena Bonham Carter, Edward Norton, Meat Loaf

    Directed byDavid Fincher

    Fight Club is a 1999 film based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. The film was directed by David Fincher, and stars Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. Norton...  more

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  • 20
    309
    192

    Brazil

    1985

    ActorsRobert De Niro, Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm, Jim Broadbent, Michael Palin

    Directed byTerry Gilliam

    Brazil is a 1985 British film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Tom Stoppard. British National Cinema by Sarah Street describes the film as a "fantasy/satire on...  more

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  • 21
    188
    128

    ActorsIsabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Brad Dourif, Kyle MacLachlan

    Directed byDavid Lynch

    Blue Velvet is a 1986 American mystery thriller flm, written and directed by David Lynch. The film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper and Laura Dern. The title is taken from...  more

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  • 22

    ActorsDavid Bowie, Heather Graham, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Isaak, Mädchen Amick

    Directed byDavid Lynch

    Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me is a 1992 American psychological horror film, directed by David Lynch and written by Lynch and Robert Engels. The film can be viewed as both prologue and epilogue to the...  more

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  • 23
    844
    804

    ActorsKeanu Reeves, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Gloria Foster

    Directed byAndy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

    The Matrix is a 1999 American-Australian science fiction action film written and directed by The Wachowskis, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe...  more

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  • 24
    244
    166

    ActorsChristian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside, Anna Massey, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón

    Directed byBrad Anderson

    The Machinist is a 2004 English-language Spanish psychological thriller film directed by Brad Anderson and written by Scott Kosar. The film stars Christian Bale with Jennifer Jason Leigh, John...  more

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  • 25
    207
    133

    ActorsIan Holm, Roy Scheider, Julian Sands, Judy Davis, Nicholas Campbell

    Directed byDavid Cronenberg

    Naked Lunch is a 1991 science fiction drama film written and directed by David Cronenberg and starring Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, and Roy Scheider. It is a film adaptation of William S....  more

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