8 Bizarre Films for When You Want to Challenge Your Brain

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It’s normal to indulge in ‘guilty pleasure’ movies where you just want to see people racing cars or making you laugh. Occasionally though, you might get an itch for something weird, something that will blow you away. If you’re in the market for some Class-A brain teasing, these eight films will not disappoint.

1. The Tree of Life (2011)

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An experimental epic drama that is sure to leave you confused, intrigued and potentially a bit emotional; the key to watching this film is to not overthink things. You’re probably not going to get it the first time -or at least we didn’t. However, it is stunningly shot and oddly edited in an almost hypnotic way; taking you through those fleeting non-linear moments in the characters’ lives. It also boasts a star-studded cast with Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, among others. If you’re bored with all that is linear, then this is the film for you.

2. The Lobster (2015)

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In his first English language feature film, director Yorgos Lanthimos brings to life this highly unusual story with an equally unusual method. This absurdist dystopian black comedy is set in a world where you are only allowed to exist in public if you are a couple. If your spouse leaves you or dies, then you must check yourself into a hotel where it is your duty to find a mate within 45 days or you will be turned into an animal (of your choosing, of course). Starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, it can be a disturbingly funny film if you allow yourself to be transported into their world while maintaining the social constructs of ours; it is definitely a challenge to the mind and the senses.

3. Mr. Nobody (2009)

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Starring Jared Leto, Diane Kruger and many others, this sci-fi drama film will bend your mind and challenge the way you view many things, including your existence. The story follows Leto’s character, who is the last remaining mortal on Earth after the human race has achieved what seems to be immortality. As the 118-year-old faces the ravages of age and the fading of his memory, he recalls his three main loves, his parents’ divorce, and other things he went through. It is a non-linear film that explores the idea of multiple realities existing simultaneously based on different decisions that were taken by Leto’s character.

4. mother! (2017)

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In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Darren Aronofsky very confidently says of his film: “I always knew it was going to be an assault on the senses.” Perhaps that’s the best way to describe it, but to add a little bit of context, Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are a married couple whose lives are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a mysterious couple played by Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. There are several theories surrounding the meaning of the film, but if you’re feeling like getting your senses assaulted then it might be time to watch it and find out for yourself.

5. Buster's Mal Heart (2016)

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Perhaps the least bizarre on this list is Sarah Adina Smith’s film starring Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek. The film centers around Malek’s character, who seems to be on the run for some reason and is evading capture by breaking into people’s vacation homes, leaving before the sheriff can catch up to him. There are scenes of him suddenly in a small rowboat in the middle of the ocean instead of on a mountain top, and there are also scenes of him as a hotel concierge. The story begins in a fractured state and as it progresses, Smith begins to piece together this man’s life: how he got where he is, and more importantly, where he actually is.

6. Swiss Army Man (2016)

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For a lighter but equally peculiar film with an off-brand childish comedy and a hopeful wonder, look no further than this feature film starring Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano. The film follows Dano’s character stuck on an island and past any semblance of hope. He attempts to take his own life, but stops when he sees a body wash up on the shore (Radcliffe). The premise itself is more bizarre than anyone could imagine, with Dano’s search for meaning and love and Radcliffe’s seemingly Swiss knife-like qualities as a corpse with powers. It sounds insane, but it truly is a beautiful film.

7. Frank (2014)

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Lenny Abrahamson, the acclaimed director of the 2015 film Room, made this dark comedy a year before his Oscar nominated film. It follows Frank, the leader of a highly experimental band who is always wearing a large papier-mâché mask on his head. At its core, it is a story about honesty, expectation and acceptance that is propelled into excellence with the stellar cast of Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal. It is an endearing story, it is a weird story, it is a story you must see.

8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

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Making the list again is Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos with his follow up to The Lobster. The film once again stars Colin Farrell, but this time with Nicole Kidman starring opposite him. In the film viewers are once again transported into the Greek director’s world where a family is in question. It is difficult to get into the plot without giving away spoilers, but rest assured it is even more peculiar than The Lobster (story-wise). Lanthimos strips away certain elements such as emotion from his characters, as if to lay them bare; this lends the one or two expressions of emotion throughout the film a gravity that one is unable to comprehend. There will be a point in the film where you might have to pause (as we did) and ponder the question: what does a person have to go through to come up with a story like this? It is fascinating and a must see.

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