Watchworthy

The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made 

Ranker Film
Originally by
Updated July 31, 2020 68.1k votes 7.5k voters 256k views 127 items

List Rules Vote 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.

Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
Mulholland Drive is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
2001

Actors: Naomi Watts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Melissa George, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, + more

Directed by: David 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 ...more

More Mulholland Drive 

#66 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #621 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #878 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

2
Inception is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
2010

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, + more

Directed by: Christopher 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, Ellen Page, Joseph ...more

More Inception 

List of Movies Like Inception #9 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #32 of 69 The Best Movies That Are Super Long

3
2001: A Space Odyssey is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1968

Actors: Arthur C. Clarke, Leonard Rossiter, Ed Bishop, Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, + more

Directed by: Stanley 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 ...more

More 2001: A Space Odyssey 

#80 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #42 of 360 The Best Movies Based On Bookslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

4
Memento is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
2000

Actors: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Jorja Fox, Stephen Tobolowsky, + more

Directed by: Christopher 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 ...more

More Memento 

#11 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #645 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #21 of 28 28 Great Films That Didn't Win Oscars

5
Donnie Darko is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
2001

Actors: Drew Barrymore, Ashley Tisdale, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Seth Rogen, + more

Directed by: Richard 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 ...more

More Donnie Darko 

Travel Through Time With The Best 'Donnie Darko' Quotes #613 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #206 of 481 The Greatest Movies for Guys

6
Primer is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
2004

Actors: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Keith Bradshaw, Kevin Lucero Less, Casey Gooden, + more

Directed by: Shane 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 ...more

More Primer 

#194 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #11 of 16 Complicated Movie Storylines No One Truly Understands #260 of 385 The Best Movies to Watch While Stoned

7
12 Monkeys is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1995

Actors: Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Christopher Plummer, Madeleine Stowe, Christopher Meloni, + more

Directed by: Terry 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 ...more

More 12 Monkeys 

Behind-The-Scenes Stories From '12 Monkeys' #27 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #427 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies

8
Fight Club is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1999

Actors: Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, Helena Bonham Carter, Edward Norton, Meat Loaf, + more

Directed by: David 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

More Fight Club 

20 Surprising Facts You Didn't Know About Fight Club #7 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #28 of 360 The Best Movies Based On Books

9
Eraserhead is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1977

Actors: Jack Nance, Jeanne Bates, Jack Fisk, Charlotte Stewart, Judith Anna Roberts, + more

Directed by: David 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 ...more

More Eraserhead 

The Most Memorable 'Eraserhead' Quotes #168 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #367 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time

10
Jacob's Ladder is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
ChangesDownClub added 1990

Actors: Macaulay Culkin, Tim Robbins, Jason Alexander, Lewis Black, Ving Rhames, + more

Directed by: Adrian Lyne

Jacob's Ladder is a 1990 American psychological horror film directed by Adrian Lyne, written and produced by Bruce Joel Rubin and starring Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña and Danny Aiello. ...more

More Jacob's Ladder 

#47 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #117 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #16 of 24 The Best Movies with Twist Endings

11
Being John Malkovich is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1999

Actors: Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Winona Ryder, + more

Directed by: Spike 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 ...more

More Being John Malkovich 

#399 of 1,138 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #877 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #5 of 48 Every Movie Coming To Netflix In August 2020

12
Eternal Sunshine of the ... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
2004

Actors: Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, + more

Directed by: Michel 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

More Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 

The Most Memorable 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' Quotes #51 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Timelisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

13
Pi is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1998

Actors: Mark Margolis, Ajay Naidu, Clint Mansell, Ben Shenkman, Samia Shoaib, + more

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky

If you're a fan, be sure to check out our list of the best surrealist films.

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 ...more

More Pi 

#111 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #28 of 121 The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time #198 of 232 The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made

14
Eyes Wide Shut is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
Bootsdad added 1999

Actors: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Stanley Kubrick, Alan Cumming, Leelee Sobieski, + more

Directed by: Stanley 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 ...more

More Eyes Wide Shut 

#107 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #933 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #72 of 134 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

15
Lost Highway is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1997

Actors: Richard Pryor, Gary Busey, Patricia Arquette, Henry Rollins, Giovanni Ribisi, + more

Directed by: David 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 ...more

More Lost Highway 

#115 of 144 The Best and Scariest Psychological Thrillers of All Time #6 of 10 Creepy Easter Eggs Hidden In The Background Of Movies #44 of 49 35+ Great Movies That Blur the Lines Between Horror and Drama

16
The Matrix is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
wiabux added 1999

Actors: Keanu Reeves, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Gloria Foster, + more

Directed by: Andy 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

More The Matrix 

14 Matrix Fan Theories That Will Have You Saying 'Whoa' #34 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

17
The Shining is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1980

Actors: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Barry Dennen, Barry Nelson, + more

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, ...more

More The Shining 

16 Utterly Bizarre Things You Didn't Know About The Shining #3 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #15 of 360 The Best Movies Based On Books

18
Brazil is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
Dave Loomis added 1985

Actors: Robert De Niro, Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm, Jim Broadbent, Michael Palin, + more

Directed by: Terry 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 ...more

More Brazil 

#143 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #764 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #258 of 324 The Funniest '80s Movies

19
The Fountain is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
2006

Actors: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Donna Murphy, Ethan Suplee, + more

Directed by: Darren 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 ...more

More The Fountain 

Everything That Went Wrong With Darren Aronofsky's 'The Fountain' #1,448 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #111 of 182 The Greatest Comic Book Movies of All Time

20
Cloud Atlas is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
SamiMorcos added 2012

Actors: Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, + more

Directed by: Tom 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 ...more

More Cloud Atlas 

#1,454 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movies #3 of 16 Complicated Movie Storylines No One Truly Understands #13 of 15 Movie Adaptations That Make A Lot More Sense If You’ve Read The Books

21
Antichrist is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
2009

Actors: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm

Directed by: Lars von Trier

Antichrist is a 2009 Danish experimental horror film written and directed by Lars von Trier. It tells the story of a couple (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) who, after the death of their ...more

More Antichrist 

#112 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #491 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #25 of 134 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

22
The Machinist is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
MikeHegstrom added 2004

Actors: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside, Anna Massey, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, + more

Directed by: Brad 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

More The Machinist 

#26 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #32 of 134 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again #16 of 16 Complicated Movie Storylines No One Truly Understands

23
The Usual Suspects is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1994

Actors: Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Giancarlo Esposito, + more

Directed by: Bryan Singer

The Usual Suspects is a 1995 German-American neo-noir crime thriller film directed by Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie. It stars Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del ...more

More The Usual Suspects 

#10 of 240 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time #167 of 1,646 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

24
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk Wi... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
doremifasola added 1992

Actors: David Bowie, Heather Graham, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Isaak, Mädchen Amick, + more

Directed by: David 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 ...more

More Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me 

#388 of 784 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #385 of 557 The Greatest Film Scores of All Time #285 of 385 The Best Movies to Watch While Stoned

25
Naked Lunch is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Confusing Movies Ever Made
1991

Actors: Ian Holm, Roy Scheider, Julian Sands, Judy Davis, Nicholas Campbell, + more

Directed by: David 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

More Naked Lunch 

#47 of 203 The Best Drug Movies of All Time #57 of 81 The Best Movies About Writers #81 of 116 The Most Nausea-Inducing Great Films