Edge of Tomorrow comes out in theaters today. The premise is that Tom Cruise is stuck in a time loop during a war with aliens. It’s not the first movie to experiment with time. It actually seems to be a really common trend in recent years for filmmakers to play around with time travel or parallel timelines or simply to tell the story in a nonlinear fashion without a lot of guidance for a confused audience.
I don’t know about you, but time confuses me enough in real life. Like when I sit down to check my email at 10 PM and suddenly it’s 3 in the morning and I’ve watched every cat video on YouTube. So if a movie plays around with timelines, I’m going to do a lot of head-scratching. Certain movies like Groundhog Day and Back to the Future are straightforward enough for me to handle, but others… not so much. So in honor of this newest addition to the “What? Huh? When is this?” genre, let’s look at some of the most puzzling time-related movies already in existence. Have a marathon this weekend if you want your head to literally explode.
For starters, this one’s told both forwards and backwards, one in black and white and one in color, and the two timelines meet in the middle at the end of the film. On top of all that, Guy Pearce’s character has memory loss, which doesn’t make things easier to understand. It’s an amazing movie, but it’s certainly not mindless.
In this movie, a man is able to communicate over time with his dead father. He prevents his father’s death, but that in turn changes other events. So father and son have to work together from different times in order to fix things. Once movies start delving into the consquences of time travel and changing the past, things get mind-bending.
I know Inception was about dreams, and that was confusing enough, but on top of that dream time is different from real-life time. Remember the scene where they’re in like three layers of dream while the van they’re in falls off a bridge in slow motion? My brain still hurts sometimes when it’s reminded of that.
4. Run Lola Run
Were you looking for alternate timelines? Lola’s here to help. We see three different versions of events and how one minor change can have huge consequences. The question is, which timeline was the real one? Were any of them real? What is a movie? What is life? Who am I?
5. 12 Monkeys
In this futuristic movie, Bruce Willis is sent back in time to collect information about a virus that has affected life on Earth. But when he ends up in the wrong year, things get weird. And confusing. Did I mention confusing?
6. The Fountain
This movie is really abstract, and I enjoyed it, unlike a lot of critics. That doesn’t mean I understood it, though. It features Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as three different sets of characters in different times. It’s not clear whether they’re immortal, reincarnated, or just different people who look the same.
7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Admit that you were at least a little confused about the idea of a guy being born an old man and aging backwards. Add in a love story with a normally-aging woman, and you just spend the whole movie calculating how many years they could appropriately be together without it getting creepy.
This is considered one of the most confusing movies of all time, and it was made on just a $7,000 budget. It includes really complicated time travel and scientific concepts. People have been sharing their theories and trying to make sense of it for ten years.
9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
It’s now one of my favorite movies, and I no longer have a problem figuring out where everything goes chronologically, but when I first saw this one, it made me scratch my head. The story is mostly about memory, but it’s told in a nonlinear format with a frame narrative on top of that.
One of the most confusing parts of time travel stories for me is when people communicate with themselves. Although if we’re being honest, the most confusing thing about this movie is the fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are supposed to be the same person.