Do you like watching movies that make you think? Yes, we do, too! But what does it mean when we say “movies that make you think?” That could mean different things for different people.
For example, some would point to philosophical topics in movies that make them think. Others would classify psychological thrillers as movies that make them think. While others would also point to simpler narratives that simply made them ponder about life, or aspects of it.
For us, the movies that make you think are those that you constantly talk about after seeing them. They’re the ones that leave interesting storylines that need to be deciphered. Or they are the very thought-provoking films that also move you. And also, they could be movies that really have such a unique concept to begin with, that you can’t get over it even after watching it unfold. So, are you ready to discover some nice movies that make you think? Check our list to see if you’ve seen them all!
Of course there should be a Christopher Nolan in a list of movies that make you think. This early film of his is enough evidence that the man wants us to always ponder on his films.
Memento is the 2000 film based on his brother Jonathan Nolan’s short story. It’s about an insurance investigator named Leonard who suffers from a specific type of amnesia. He can’t really recall much of his recent memories, even the ones that just transpired hours ago. So how could a guy like this solve the murder of his wife?
That’s where the thinking for us begins. Told through two differently distinct timelines, Nolan’s different way of telling a cinematic story starts in this film. You have to watch it from beginning to end, to see how the action unfolds when you think of the film in reverse. Promise, that will make sense when you watch it. So go watch now!
Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s superb opus Rashomon got the attention of Hollywood back in 1950 with Rashomon. And rightfully so, because this film offers you storylines that make you think.
The film tells an interesting tale of a murder that happened in the woods. Four different characters offer their perspectives in connection with this murder. But the question here is, who among these four characters are telling the truth, and who’s lying?
This style of narrative revelation in film became a staple since Rashomon came out. Having a story told through various differing perspectives would indeed make the story more interesting, as the narrative tensions increase. That’s why this film is such a classic, and it is one of those movies that make you think, indeed. Don’t miss this.
Darren Aronofsky is another contemporary filmmaker who loves to make movies that make you think. So brace yourself when you’re watching The Fountain.
This visually stunning work tells the intertwined tales of three pairs of couples existing in varied times. But their tales narrate basic human journeys that involve love, life, and mortality. All of the couples are played by one couple only: Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. Their talent indeed shows here, so much.
Go see this and figure out what it means for you! You may have to watch it more than twice, to get it. But it’s worth it.
4. Cloud Atlas
The Wachowskis are another set of powerhouse contemporary filmmakers who make movies that make us think. While their Matrix trilogy is steeped into philosophical pondering, Cloud Atlas offers more than that.
The story is an interesting mix of interwoven narratives set in different time frames. But a character or circumstance in each time frame, starting from the distant past, is connected to the incoming next time frame, until the film progresses into the present time, and eventually wraps up in the far future. Yes, don’t let us explain some more, because it will really make you think really hard.
This film is better seen than read, promise. Avant-garde filmmaker Tom Tykwer also co-directs with the Wachowski siblings here, so that’s also interesting. Go watch!
5. Breaking The Waves
Lars Von Trier’s Breaking The Waves is a 1996 film that stars Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgard as a Scottish couple with some odd qualities. While the husband is an atheist, the wife is a Presbyterian Calvinist, who also talks to God as if she’s having a regular conversation with the divine one. And yes, she has some history of psychological problems, too.
The character of Watson, Bess, is enough to make you ponder on the meanings of life through her character’s eyes. But it’s the situations that she encounters later on that will make you ponder about how the mind processes such things as love, desire, and dedication. So yeah, this is one of those movies that make you think.
And yes, watch out for that ending. It’s indeed quiet, but mind-blowing, and will make you think further! Go watch this with a friend; you’ll need to discuss after.
6. Abre Los Ojos
When Spanish-Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar invites you to open your eyes, you go see Abre Los Ojos. Yes, that’s how the title translates in English. And this Spanish film will indeed make you think about reality and about your perception of it.
This 1997 film stars Eduardo Noriega as Cesar, a handsome man who finds himself disfigured in an accident. But before that, he easily attracts pretty women. One of these is Sofia, played by Penelope Cruz. After a car accident disfigures him, Cesar begins to have haphazard thoughts that he can’t tell if they are real memories or not.
Forget the Hollywood remake Vanilla Sky. Watch this original and see why it’s one of those great Spanish movies that make you think. Penelope is also better here.
7. Being John Malkovich
What if you can enter the mind of a veteran Hollywood character actor, would you do it, even for just 15 minutes? This is the intriguing and amusing premise of the film Being John Malkovich.
The 1999 dark humor-laden film is directed by Spike Jonze. It stars John Cusack as a lowly office worker in New York who finds a secret door in their office one day. The interesting this about this door is, it’s the portal to the mind of actor John Malkovich. He gets to experience what John is experiencing, before getting ejected from his mind after 15 minutes.
This highly amusing film is also one of those movies that make you think. What if you could indeed have access to such a mind? Will you enter? Well, watch this one through and decide after!
8. Mulholland Drive
If you truly want some movies that make you think, trawl through director David Lynch’s filmography, because you will surely find them there! We’re offering one surreal one for our list: his 2001 opus entitled Mulholland Drive.
This film has an interesting narrative that also has so many openings and open-ended snippets that you will wonder what the heck really happened here. Plus you will also be taken for a ride by Lynch’s signature style of visually rich filmmaking, peppered with haunting music and sounds.
The film is set in Hollywood, and involves Tinseltown characters in a whodunit structure of a narrative. But there’s more to that, so you better watch this to see it unravel. Or not. Or maybe after three viewings. Test yourself!
9. Wings of Desire
Forget the very Hollywood remake called City of Angels. When it comes to angels becoming humans to feel sensory pleasures and even pain, go with German director Wim Wender’s original called Wings of Desire.
This beautifully shot 1987 black and white film tells the tale of some angels existing amongst us. The film is set in Berlin, where people populate the city but yet feel isolated and lonely. The angels try to secretly comfort these people from time to time. But one angel becomes intrigued by a lonely woman, and he tries to become mortal to be close to her.
This is a great quiet film, and very artistic to boot. No wonder it’s one of those movies that make you think, because it will indeed prompt you to ponder about life and its nuances. What things and feelings we take for granted, maybe to some people, are rare treasures worth possessing. Go see this classic now!
10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
How about a romantic comedy where you’ll have to think if it’s really romantic or really comedic – because it’s also sci-fi to boot! Are you ready for that? Then put on Michel Gondry’s 2004 cinematic gem called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
The film follows a man who gets devastated from a break-up, especially after learning that her ex-lover went to a company that erases memories. And the memories that she wanted erased were that of their relationship. In the process, she also erased memories of him.
This highly amusing film with an artistic heart will touch you as it unravels. And yes, it’s one of those movies that make you think. Is it worth keeping the pain if the love is gone? Is the prospect of a second chance at love with the same woman very low? Watch the film and think with it as you watch it.