20 Best Mind-Bending Movies Like Interstellar | Screen Rant


Christopher Nolan is known for his ability to mess with the mind of the viewer thanks to an impressive dedication to both meticulous plotting and classical filmmaking techniques mixed with new-school effects. Interstellar is one of his greatest works and one of the best mind-bending movies ever.

RELATED: 15 Best Space Movies Like Interstellar

Updated on November 29th, 2021 by Mark Birrell: The best movies like Interstellar don’t necessarily have a space theme and instead share the film’s affinity for blowing the audience’s collective mind.

These mind-bending movies are a great place to start for film fans looking to expand their horizons beyond just cerebral sci-fi, though there’s plenty of that to recommend also. Many can also be found on some of the world’s biggest streaming platforms, so there’s no better time to dive deep into their dense stories.

The Fountain (2006)

• Available on Tubi

Writer and director Darren Aronofsky blended multiple distinct genres together in this thrilling and emotional romantic drama that follows the lives of Hugh Jackman’s protagonist through space, time, and stories within stories.

Partly the adventure of a conquistador searching for the tree of life, partly a contemporary weepy about marriage and illness, and partly an arthouse science fiction movie about a haunted monk delivering a tree through the universe in a bubble to reach the heart of a dying star, The Fountain is a lot for the audience to wrap their heads around but it all fits together remarkably well thanks in no small part to Matthew Libatique’s stunning cinematography.

Source Code (2011)

• Available on Showtime

Through a strange technology that creates a kind of simulated reality, an Amry captain is forced to relive the final moments of a terrorist bombing on a train over and over again in order to try and find clues as to who the bomber is and where they will strike next.

Through his different run-throughs of the incident, Jake Gyllenhaal’s main character begins to believe that he can alter the course of events with plenty of mind-bending concepts coming into play.

Looper (2012)

• Available on Fubo TV

Rian Johnson dipped his toe into the world of sci-fi years before taking on the Star Wars universe with The Last Jedi and his time travel thriller, Looper, is often considered the superior film.

RELATED: 10 Time-Bending Sci-Fi Movies To Watch If You Loved Looper

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis star as the same hitman in the not-too-distant future as they both fight to survive against the mob and each other when Willis’ older version is sent back in time to be killed by his younger self. Filled with all the twists and turns that the writer/director would become so famous for with The Last Jedi and Knives Out, Looper is an action-packed ride that forces the viewer to engage their brain.

Cloud Atlas (2012)

• Available for purchase on Prime Video 

This gargantuan adaptation of David Mitchell’s time-bending novel from the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer is a hugely ambitious science-fiction film that takes on even more distinct time periods and genres than The Fountain.

The reincarnated lives of the impressive ensemble play out across a timeline spanning from the intimate drama of the 19th century to the post-apocalyptic adventure of the 24th century and the themes are just as big as the effects and casting.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

• Available on HBO Max

Denis Villeneuve’s very belated sequel to Ridley Scott’s iconic science-fiction film, Blade Runner, proved its worth very quickly to critics and fans alike, becoming a rare latter-day sequel to a cult classic that’s as well-regarded as the original.

RELATED: 15 Gorgeous Sci-Fi Movies To Watch If You Loved Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Gosling is hugely compelling in the lead role of this dystopian detective story as a synthetic executioner tracking down a synthetic-human hybrid who threatens the world order of the future’s hierarchy. Blade Runner 2049‘s Oscar-winning visual effects and cinematography are enough to captivate an Interstellar fan but its emotional intensity and spiritual meditations make it an unmissable experience for any lover of sci-fi.

Memento (2000)

• Available on Tubi, Pluto TV, and Prime Video

Memento is another Christopher Nolan classic, released before he had access to some of the biggest budgets in Hollywood. This thriller follows a man who is unable to form new memories as he works to find his wife’s killer.

It’s the way Nolan presents the story that keeps viewers thinking for hours: scenes alternate between color and black and white, with the color scenes depicting the story chronologically from the start, and the black and white scenes working backward. It’s complex, but the final payoff is immense.

12 Monkeys (1995)

Twelve Monkeys

• Available on HBO Max

Many movie fans might not expect someone most well-known for their time as part of Monty Python to end up directing some incredibly complex cinematic classics, but Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys is one of the most famous entries into the sci-fi time travel genre ever and was clearly a huge influence on Looper, amongst many other films.

The shifts between a variety of time periods are confusing enough, but when the viewer starts to realize that the main character’s memories don’t exactly remain consistent, trying to place everyone at the right place at the right time gets complex.

The Cell (2000)

Vince Vaughn standing behind Jennifer Lopez wearing a starnge mask in The Cell

• Available on Hoopla

The serial killer mystery thriller is injected with a dazzling degree of stylistic flair by director Tarsem Singh in this sci-fi horror movie about a psychologist who must travel into the subconscious of a sadistic murderer in order to find out where he’s hidden his latest victim.

The weird and wild imagery depicted in the world of the subconscious should be more than enough to engage the brains of even Interstellar‘s most discerning genre fans and the central concept should feel very reminiscent for those who love Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi movies.

Shutter Island (2010)

Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island

• Available on Netflix

Shutter Island saw Martin Scorsese return to the thriller genre with arguably his most complex endeavor yet. Leonard DiCaprio takes the lead role this time around as a detective investigating a disappearance on the titular island.

RELATED: 10 Best Mind-Bending Movies, Ranked According To Letterboxd

Keep an eye out for the clever moments of foreshadowing that lead viewers into an unforgettable plot twist. Fans of the incredible cast in Interstellar will not be let down by the dramatic pedigree on display in this mind-bending mystery.

Tenet (2020)

John David Washington with bullet-hole in Tenet

• Available on HBO Max

Christopher Nolan’s return to the sci-fi genre was just as ambitious and mind-bending a project as Interstellar with the story revolving around a more grounded world of spies and supervillains but with a time travel twist.

With certain objects and characters in the movie running in opposite directions of time, the huge scale setpieces can become pretty overwhelming at times. But, if the audience just surrenders and trusts in Nolan’s strengths as a storyteller, it’s as fun and emotional a ride as Interstellar.

The Matrix (1999)

Keanu Reeves in The Matrix

• Available on HBO Max

Known for being one of the most mind-bending movies ever made, The Matrix took ‘it was all a dream’ to a new level and sparked a new sci-fi franchise that’s still exciting audiences to this day.

While the plot itself is commendable, the Wachowskis’ breakthrough film is also known for innovating a variety of cinematic techniques, including ‘bullet time’, which should impress any film fan looking for movies like Interstellar that can match the space opera’s most visually stunning moments.

The Game (1997)

• Available on Tubi and Netflix

David Fincher is another director who’s well-known for his mind-bending movies that mess with his audience’s minds and The Game is one of his most underrated efforts to date in that arena.

Sucked into a mysterious and life-threatening conspiracy, Michael Douglas’ investment banker tries to find the line between what’s real and what’s simulated in the bizarre ‘game’ designed to entertain the super-wealthy.

Split (2016)

Split (2017) - James McAvoy

• Available for purchase on Prime Video

M. Night Shyamalan’s psychological horror-thriller delves inside the troubled mind of a killer who’s at war with his own split personalities, making it a mind-bending movie quite unlike most others.

Built around an incredible performance from James McAvoy in the lead role, Split explores some fairly huge ideas through another of the writer/director’s deconstructions of popular genres and, as Christopher Nolan does, exhibits a devout level of respect for the style and techniques of the ‘Master of Suspense’, Alfred Hitchcock.

Brazil (1985)

• Available on Tubi

Brazil is another classic film from director Terry Gilliam, the genius ex-Monty Python member behind 12 Monkeys. Set in a world not too dissimilar to the surrealist vision of Orwell’s ‘1984’, a downtrodden man sets out on a journey to find a woman that he frequently dreams about.

Often considered to be one of the best science-fiction films ever made, Brazil has plenty of mind-bending movie moments that stick with film fans for a lifetime; especially the ending.

Inception (2010)

• Available on Hulu

In a world where the consciousnesses of others can be infiltrated via dreams (which can have multiple layers), Dom Cobb is tasked with placing an idea into the subconscious of a target, allowing for a uniquely mind-bending movie experience that delves into the very heart of the creative process itself.

RELATED: The 10 Most Enjoyable Metacinematic Movies Of All Time

Debatably the magnum opus of Christopher Nolan’s career so far, Inception won a variety of Oscars for such a high-concept film, including Best Visual Effects like Interstellar, but lost out on Best Picture.

Dark City (1998)

dark city cult

• Available on Kanopy

A man awakens in a bathtub in a city of perpetual nighttime with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there, with his quest to uncover the truth bringing him up against a shadowy group of figures with otherworldly powers.

Dark City is one of those cult genre movies that has only improved with age despite its very late-nineties aesthetic, with its gorgeous cinematography and designs equally eerie and intriguing atmosphere.

The Prestige (2006)

• Available on Paramount+

Released just after he began work on his Batman trilogy, Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending movie took a  look at magic and game-changing technology in a way that was hard to look away from.

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are electric in the lead roles as two warring illusionists and the twist ending is up there with Nolan’s best moments ever. Those looking for movies like Interstellar may find a surprising number of similarities here despite the very different settings.

Primer (2004)

Testing the machine in Primer

• Available for purchase on Prime Video 

As cliched a saying as it is, the production budget of Shane Carruth’s hugely intelligent and entertaining sci-fi movie probably wouldn’t even have covered the catering budget on Interstellar.

The movie follows two young and ambitious inventors who, while working out of their own small business in a suburban garage, accidentally invent a time machine and, as wacky as the concept sounds, Primer is a labyrinthine indie thriller with as much staying power as the biggest studio-made movies.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey 1968

• Available on HBO Max

2001: A Spacey Odyssey is one of the greatest works of visionary director Stanley Kubrick. The film looks so good that it holds up perfectly to this day, despite focusing on the extremes of sci-fi technology.

Its grandiose story spans from pre-history to humanity’s search for meaning through space exploration in the 21st century and it’s clearly one of the biggest influences on Interstellar‘s entire makeup.

Donnie Darko (2001)

• Available on Tubi, Pluto TV, and Prime Video

Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko has some moments that are so creepy that it could easily be considered a horror film as well as cerebral science-fiction.

A series of apocalyptic visions result in the appearance of vortexes, time travel, and dream manipulations that make for some of the most mind-bending movie moments ever. Despite a lackluster performance upon release, the film has rightly gone on to be regarded as a cult classic.

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