Movies can make you laugh and cry, but they can also make you question your own reality. Remember that moment after you first saw THE MATRIX or GHOST IN THE SHELL, and you looked at the world around you wondering, just for a brief second, if it could all be fake, just a dream or the synthetic creation of some larger unseen being. Why the hell are we here, and what is the end game?!? Below are 10 movies that will have you questioning your own existence and mortality. Enjoy the head trip!
THE MASK (1961)
By far the oldest film on the list, THE MASK was a 3D film made by Warner Brothers. A doctor receives a strange tribal mask in the mail, and when he puts on the mask, he experiences strange dream-like visions. The more the doc wears the mask, the more violent the visions become and the further he loses touch with reality. The trippy “mask montages” were directed by the famed Slavko Vorkapich who is legendary for creating trippy visuals.
David Lynch’s first feature film is a surrealistic nightmare with endless pointed commentary taking aim at sex, reproduction, advancing industries, the idea of the nuclear family, and much more. This film is sure to haunt you!
This Soviet film is a science fiction mind melt about a man (the stalker) who acts as a guide, taking two other men (a writer and a professor) into a forbidden area called “The Zone” where innermost desires are supposedly fulfilled. This film is a commitment, running almost three hours in length and being quite meandering. But if you are looking to question your own existence and find purpose in life, this movie is unforgettable and a very worthwhile exploration.
ALTERED STATES (1980)
Directed by the often “trippy” filmmaker Ken Russell, ALTERED STATES trails a scientist who is conducting hallucinogenic experiments on himself which cause genetic changes. The movie is filled with insane imagery, much of it religious in nature.
I debated whether to include David Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME or his more recent EXISTENZ. Both target the same themes of media becoming our new reality and causing society to lose hold of our own lives in exchange for a synthetically created world. I ultimately decided on VIDEODROME because I feel the message is murkier and requires more mental athletics than EXISTENZ does. In VIDEODROME, a man become obsessed with a UHF TV pornography network. The further he investigates the secret network, the more he loses touch with reality and becomes part of the media.
JACOB’S LADDER (1990)
One of the classic horror films of the 1990s, JACOB’S LADDER follows a Vietnam veteran during his post-war life. He begins having nightmarish hallucinations and cannot discern what is real and what is a product of his own post-traumatic stress. He finds out other members of his platoon are having similar mental problems and experiencing bizarre flashbacks to one particular battle. There is supposedly a JACOB’S LADDER remake in the works, so it is a great time to revisit the original film.
I saw this film while in college, and it hit me at just the right point in life to completely blow my mind and make we question everything- my existence, the government, and what role us mere mortals play in the larger part of the equation. In CUBE, a group of people wake up in a room with no memory of how they got there. They soon realize that the room is connected to a series of equal sized cubes, many having deadly traps that are activated when someone enters. The captives must navigate the cubes in search of a way out, all the while questioning why they are there and who is behind it.
MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)
This is the second David Lynch film on the list. Lynch seamlessly weaves multiple layers of reality and fiction into a surreal story of a young Hollywood starlet, a car accident victim suffering from amnesia, and the seedy corruption of tinsel town.
On a camping trip, a group of friends drink tea made from psychedelic mushrooms, and while tripping, they become the target of a deadly slasher. It becomes nearly impossible to tell what is actually happening in real life and what is just part of the “bad trip”.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (2010)(COVER PHOTO)
While under sedation, a woman tries to find a way out a bizarre, futuristic complex in which she is being held called the Aboria Institute. This movie is remarkably twisted and layered, blending mesmerizing visuals with an equally abstract storyline.