14 Movies So Confusing They Made Our Readers’ Brains Hurt

Donnie Darko Jake Gyllenhaal


Yesterday we posted an open thread asking our readers to share the movies that made their brains hurt the most. We gave a pretty broad set of criteria, and we even said it could be a movie you liked but just didn’t totally understand. You know the kind I’m talking about. The movies where you walk out of the theater with a group of friends and all of you pretend that you understood it, but none of you will dare try to explain it. Then five years later out of the blue one of you is like, “I have a confession to make. I didn’t understand that movie.” And you all sigh with relief and say “Me neither!”

A lot of times these movies are critically acclaimed or classic or Academy Award-winning, hence you feel like a dum-dum for not understanding why there’s a giant baby floating in space or how the hell those characters are communicating across time. You guys really delivered on the “Huh? WTF? What was that? Did you get it? How many times do I need to watch this?” titles, so we rounded up your comments and added trailers. So if you’re in the mood for a little Friday night confusion, you’ve can take your pick. But maybe watch something really stupid afterward so your brain doesn’t literally explode.

1. The Happening


To this day, the best I can describe this movie is, “I don’t know….the trees and the grass get pissed off at mankind and form an alliance with the wind and somehow create and spread this toxin that makes everyone suicidal. Except for Mark Wahlberg, who outsmarts nature.”

2. The Lake House

Samantha Escobar:

I suspect it’s because there were actual flaws in the plot, but also the time travel bullshit confused me.

3. Donnie Darko


Still not sure what was going on at the end of the movie with the whole time travel/premonitions. I need to watch it again.

4. Inside Man


How did they even know about the Nazi diamonds being held at the bank? It seemed to be a pretty well kept secret. But seriously if somebody has the answer please enlighten me!

5. Transcendence

Jenni Maier:

The science was Lucy-levels of WTF. Also Morgan Freeman wore a bucket hat the whole time.

6. Waking Life


I haven’t watched it all the way through but what I did see made me want to slam my head against a wall. By no means do I think Linklater is a bad writer or director – hell I really like the Before-trilogy – but movies like Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly beats the living shit out of my brain and my eyes. Waking Life hurts to watch and the dialogues are all philosophical and most of the time it comes off as pretty pretentious. It’s making simple ideas harder to understand because the dialogues are so convoluted and laced with academic terms.

7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Olivia Wilson:

I saw it a long time ago though, so maybe I’m a little bit better at using my brain and would fare better if I tried again.

8. Winter’s Tale


It made zero sense and there was a surprise Will Smith (he was playing the devil – literally). To this day, I still have no idea what I watched.

9. Twilight


…because I don’t understand how it could be so popular.

10. I Heart Huckabees


Fav movie. I get something different out of it every time I view it.

11. Total Recall

Cyn Nickel:

Still confusing whether the whole movie was a dream or not, because of the tattoo on his hand at the end. Headache.

12. The Fountain


I remember watching it in the theater and being totally confused. During the scene where all the vines start growing out of Hugh Jackman’s body my friend turned to me and just silently mouthed, “what the fuck?” After it was over we left and didn’t talk about it at all because we had no idea what we had just watched.

13. The Tree of Life


I am not artsy or deep enough to get it, I guess.

14. 2001: A Space Odyssey


I love everything by Kubrick, but I still haven’t figured this one out, and I don’t believe people who claim they have.

You can reach this post's author, Jill O’Rourke, on twitter.
Share This Post:
    • Jenni

      I refuse to see Donnie Darko because I know I’ll hate it and then, in the process, have to hate a lot of people.

      • Rachel

        it’s actually a cool movie (then again the last time i watched it was during my emo teen phase) but if you can turn off your brain & not over-think it (because you’ll never get it, not even the creators do) it’s a pretty good movie

    • nericco

      Snowpiercer and The Room.

    • Ginny

      Looper confused the hell out of me. And it took two viewings of Inception to know what I watched. Maybe I’m just nit that smart.

    • itpainsme2say

      The fountain is a movie you just don’t talk about ever again, like i didn’t even remember who was in it. Speaking of wich will smith really was a surprise that came out of nowhere.

    • meg

      How is Mulholland Drive not on this list?

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