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Mind-Bending Thrillers That Deserve a Second (or Third or Fourth) Look

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By Chris Kavan - 05/22/13 at 12:25 PM CT

I'm a big fan of movies that mess with my head. Some people don't like films that take multiple viewings to fully grasp, but I say, if you watch a movie and then immediately want to go back and watch that movie again to catch all the hints and clues you missed the first time around - that means the film succeeded. When I recently watched Steven Soderbergh's latest film, Side Effects, it reminded me just how much a well-crafted story can make your head spin - especially when it throws something at you that you never saw coming. Here are my favorite twisted psychological thrillers - the ones that even, years later, even after I know the story, still have that impact.

1) MEMENTO

 photo Memento_zpse4131618.jpg

Leave it to Christopher Nolan to show you the ending first and then have you spend the rest of the film figuring out the story in reverse. Guy Pearce plays Leonard, a man with anterograde amnesia - meaning he essentially has no short term memory. This is tough as he's on the trail of the man who killed his wife with only his friend "Teddy" (Joe Pantoliano) along to help him. Needless to say, the non-linear nature as well as the use of time and memory means this is great film for multiple viewings and, no matter how many times you watch it, it never gets old.

2) THE USUAL SUSPECTS

 photo UsualSuspects_zpsedb3f5e1.jpg

Who is Keyser Söze? If you haven't had the chance to experience this film - don't spoil it. This is a movie that presents a crime from one viewpoint, that of Roger 'Verbal' Kint, the only surviving member of five-man crew that apparently was brought together out of a random criminal lineup. The fun comes in hearing this story and piecing things together only to find out that truth can be very subjective - and it's just as fun to go back around again and see how this convoluted story was molded.

3) MULHOLLAND DRIVE

 photo naomi_mulholland-drive_zps17b8a33e.jpg

David Lynch is a director in a category all his own and, in fact, pretty much any of his films could be included on his list. But Mulholland Drive - originally conceived as a television show (not that I would have loved to watch) takes some surreal turns that only Lynch could conceive. Trying to puzzle this one out may be a method in madness - it does have a point, but how much of the rest is there just to mess with your head? If you like a little dose of crazy thrown in with your mystery - this one's for you.

4) OLDBOY

 photo Oldboy_zps252a0f91.jpg

I highly recommend the entire "revenge" trilogy from Chan-wook Park - but Oldboy is the standout. A man is released from captivity after 15 years and is given five days (along with the resources) to find out why. What follows is a violent, shocking and unrelenting need for revenge - but the plot goes much deeper and when the full story is revealed - let's just say that some people are willing to do anything for their version of "justice".

5) JACOB'S LADDER

 photo JacobsLadder_zps3d622e4e.png

There are many great horror thrillers out there but I always find myself coming back to Jacob's Ladder when I need to find an amazing example. The film follows Tim Robbins - a Vietnam veteran having major PTSD issues - so much so that dreams (or really nightmares) and reality start to become harder and harder to differentiate. You spend the whole film trying to understand what he's going through - leading to one of my favorite reveals from any thriller. If you want a film that perfectly captures the atmosphere of psychological horror - this one would be it.

Any movie that makes you think twice about what you've just seen is a win in my book. I have to thank Side Effects for reminding me that it takes a special film to fill that niche. But when you find one that does, you'll want to experience it all over again.

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LeeAnn M.

Wrote on 05/23/13 at 09:29 AM CT

I would add The Sixth Sense to that list.

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Chris

Wrote on 05/22/13 at 08:18 PM CT

If you haven't seen these films - steel yourself and avoid and and all spoilers. I know it's tough - but it makes things all the better.

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Snoogans

Wrote on 05/22/13 at 05:05 PM CT

Great list! 'Memento' is one of my all-time favorites. It's a movie made to be watched more than once. The first time I saw it, I watched again immediately. First time I've ever done that.

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MikePA

Wrote on 05/22/13 at 03:19 PM CT

I'll confess. I've never seen The Usual Suspects.

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