Fandango Staff Picks: Mind-Bending Thrillers

Fandango Staff Picks: Mind-Bending Thrillers


There are some movies in which things are always what they seem. You won’t find them on this staff-curated list. What you will find: Mind-bending movies that will have you questioning reality. All of these and more are ready for you to explore on FandangoNOW. - and if you pre-order Antebellum before it drops on September 18, you can watch any of our picks for 50% off



Linear time is so just predictable. We love a movie with an era-hopping plot, like the upcoming Antebellum. Janelle Monae is a successful Black woman who finds herself in the pre-Civil War South… or does she? We can’t wait to find out.

More time-traveling thrillers: 12 Monkeys; Looper; Timecrimes; Deja Vu


Shutter Island

What’s real? What’s not? Is the world in which a movie takes place a reality that all the characters experience, or is it all in one character’s head? Shutter Island finds Leonardo DiCaprio playing Leonard, an agent investigating a crime at a psychiatric hospital. Or so he thinks….

More reality-benders: Black Swan; The Game; Perfect Blue; In The Mouth of Madness; Body Double


Get Out

A trip to the countryside to meet a new love’s family can be a little tense, but it hardly seems mind-bending… unless your new love’s family and their friends have ulterior motives. And if those motives are rooted in America’s history of racism and class division – well, you might just be in Jordan Peel’s Oscar-winning Get Out.

More cautionary vacation tales: A Cure for Wellness; Us; With a Friend Like Harry


The Lighthouse

If you’re being encouraged to stay at home, try a “bottle” movie that occurs largely in one place. Just make sure that place isn’t a lighthouse with a knack for driving its inhabitants insane.

More movies for staying put: 10 Cloverfield Lane; Phone Booth; Panic Room; Cube



Your dreams are you own, right? That’s not the case in Inception. Leonardo DiCaprio leads a crew whose business is extracting information from other people’s dreams. When he’s asked to implant a dream in a man’s subconscious, it sets off a series of dreams within dreams, each with their own kind of logic.

More dreamers: Paprika; Take Shelter; The Machinist



Sometimes it takes a whole family to bend your mind. In the Oscar-winning Parasite, the Kim family infiltrates the world of the wealthy Parks. The audience has a bird’s-eye view of most of the deceptions, but it’s not long before we realize that there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.

More movies about families and children: The People Under the Stairs; The Devil’s Backbone; Orphan


Ex Machina

What makes a human being human? Does it matter whether independent thought is created organically, or if it’s the work of an outside actor – say, an artificial intelligence algorithm? Ex Machina grapples with these questions through the eyes of a young programmer who’s been recruited to help test an android who may have a mind of her own.

More science fiction thrillers: It Follows; Looker; Invasion of the Body Snatchers; Jennifer’s Body; Color Out of Space



War can be a pretty mind-bending endeavor in the real world. When that plays out in the heightened reality of a war movie, the results can be downright disorienting. Overlord is a story of World War II, but it’s also a story of a man willing to do whatever it takes to build an invincible army. Note: This one’s on the gorier side.

More war stories: Ravenous; Jacob’s Ladder; Deathdream



Horror movies play on the mind-bending tension between what should be and what is. Helen (Virginia Madsen) is a student investigating the local urban legend of the Candyman. When a girl is murdered in a low-income housing project, local residents blame the Candyman, the vengeful spirit of a Black man murdered by a white lynch mob. Helen is initially skeptical, but discovers a terrifying reality. With Nia DaCosta’s follow-up to the 1992 Candyman scheduled to release in 2021, this is the perfect time to catch up on the story’s mind-bending beginning.

scene from candyman 1992

More horror thrills: Night of the Living Dead; The Monster; Bug; Raw; Suspiria; The Neon Demon


American Psycho

Sometimes all you remember from a movie is a single great character, even if the plot is solid. Take Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) in American Psycho, for example. Do you remember why he cheerfully murders people? Probably not – but you do remember his love for  business cards and Huey Lewis and the News.

More character pieces: The Silence of the LambsSplitThe Dead Zone



Some movies are just so mind-bending that it’s no use trying to predict where they’re going – we’re just along for the ride. In Memento, we’re riding along with Leonard, who’s trying to solve a murder despite the fact that he can’t form new memories. It’s a classic of non-linear storytelling.

More wild rides: Lost Highway; Mulholland Drive; Videodrome; Event Horizon; Side Effects; She Dies Tomorrow; Trance; Fight Club


Watch all of our favorite mind-bending thrillers right here on FandangoNOW

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