Hauntingly Profound and Thought-Provokingby ivansnightmare | created - 29 Aug 2011 | updated - 09 Oct 2011 | Public
This is a list of hauntingly profound and thought-provoking films that are sure to illicit a strong reaction from the viewer, one way or the other. Spanning the horror, thriller, drama, and mystery genres, many of these films are subtly chilling or poignant, while others are quite brash in their subject matter and presentation. Whatever the case, all of these films make up the author's selections that strengthen, broaden, or transcend what the art of cinema can truly offer. Not in order.
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1. Possession (1981)
R | 124 min | Drama, Horror
A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister.
Votes: 17,615 | Gross: $1.11M
Polish director Andrzej Zulawski gives us this psychological-horror film that meanders into surrealism. Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani star as a couple descending into matrimonial hell, mirroring Zulawski's own real-life divorce. Adjani gives a mesmerizing performance as a woman bordering on madness, giving birth to a physical manifestation of her emotional pain. An incredibly artful and symbolic movie.
2. American Psycho (2000)
R | 102 min | Crime, Drama
A wealthy New York investment banking executive, Patrick Bateman, hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he delves deeper into his violent, hedonistic fantasies.
Votes: 404,120 | Gross: $15.07M
A brilliantly directed and acted adaptation that improves upon Bret Easton Ellis's shocking novel. It is this author's opinion that the every scene of the film can, and perhaps should, be viewed as comedy. Luckily, doing so can only add to the psychological horror. Both the film and novel have proven controversial, drawing criticisms particularly from feminist groups, who apparently mistook a bitterly dark satire for glorification.
3. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
R | 100 min | Animation, Crime, Drama
An undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug and begins to lose his own identity as a result.
Votes: 96,550 | Gross: $5.50M
Another adaptation of a novel, this time of the same name by pulp science-fiction genius Philip K. Dick, which needs no improvement. However, Richard Linklater's film benefits from the roto-scope animation, and provides a visually pleasing depiction of Dick's rich and memorable dialogue. This head-trip of a movie paces itself well, and leads to a heartbreaking conclusion. The film does not add much to the novel, but ought to be commended for perhaps being the only Dick adaptation among many (Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Paycheck, Next, and more) that does not dilute the intellectual content into a Hollywood action flick.
4. Stalker (1979)
Not Rated | 162 min | Drama, Sci-Fi
A guide leads two men through an area known as the Zone to find a room that grants wishes.
Votes: 87,687 | Gross: $0.23M
Stalker, based on a novella by Russian sci-fi brothers Boris and Arkady Strugatsky called 'Roadside Picnic', tells the story of a man whose occupation is to lead others into a territory known as 'the Zone', a former landing zone of an extraterrestrial spacecraft that is rumored to contain mystical powers. Tarkovsky's brilliant, slow-tracking shots lend this film a thoughtful, philosophical tone.
5. Solaris (1972)
PG | 167 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
A psychologist is sent to a station orbiting a distant planet in order to discover what has caused the crew to go insane.
Another Tarkovsky adaptation of a sci-fi novel, this time of Stanislaw Lem's (Poland) novel of the same name. Solaris deals with humanity's futile attempts to understand an extraterrestrial intelligent life form, as well as themselves. An emotion-driven film dealing with loss and memory.
6. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
R | 136 min | Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi
In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.
An adaptation of a novel by British writer Anthony Burgess, this film awesomely depicts Alexander DeLarge and his excursions into a bit of the old ultraviolence, as well as Burgess's brilliant mix of Russian and English slang. A film that deals with the consequences and responsibilities of human freedom, even if that freedom leads to evil.
7. Pontypool (2008)
Not Rated | 93 min | Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
A radio host interprets the possible outbreak of a deadly virus which infects the small Ontario town he is stationed in.
Votes: 25,281 | Gross: $0.00M
One of the most imaginative horror films of the 21st century, this Canadian film is a loose adaptation of a novel called 'Pontypool Changes Everything'. The novel concerns a zombie-like epidemic that is transmitted via language. The film benefits from the decision to set all the action within a radio broadcasting booth, giving it a claustrophobic atmosphere. The host is expertly played by character actor Stephen McHattie, and the violence occurring outside is more harrowing as the characters (and audience) hear about it, rather than witnessing it, allowing the imagination to roam to the darkest places.
8. Halloween (1978)
R | 91 min | Horror, Thriller
Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield to kill again.
Votes: 180,155 | Gross: $47.00M
One of the scariest horror films, and the one that most helped to launch the slasher genre. Taking many cues from 'Black Christmas' among others, Halloween expertly uses first-person POV shots and an emotionless, motiveless killer who meticulously stalks innocent teenagers. Unfortunately, the slasher genre has never improved upon this horror masterpiece, instead creating the unstoppable killer, sex-crazed teen victims, and virginal heroine as worn out genre tropes.
9. Memento (2000)
R | 113 min | Mystery, Thriller
A man juggles searching for his wife's murderer and keeping his short-term memory loss from being an obstacle.
Votes: 967,575 | Gross: $25.54M
A movie that unfolds in reverse-chronological order to mimic the protagonist's memory condition, Memento, not Batman or Inception, is Christopher Nolan's best work. Guy Pierce plays Leonard, a man with short-term amnesia seeking to find and exact revenge on John G., the woman who raped and murdered his wife. Excellent cinematography and acting compliment a story penned by Nolan's brother, Jonathon, that deftly reveals human motivations and shortcomings.
10. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
R | 129 min | Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
In a future world devastated by disease, a convict is sent back in time to gather information about the man-made virus that wiped out most of the human population on the planet.
Votes: 519,120 | Gross: $57.14M
12. Tesis (1996)
R | 125 min | Mystery, Thriller
While doing a thesis about violence, Ángela finds a snuff video where a girl is tortured until death. Soon she discovers that the girl was a former student in her faculty...
This Spanish thriller focuses on a female university student working on her thesis on violence in film. When her friend recognizes a former classmate as the victim of a snuff film she discovered in the university archives she is led on an investigation of other students and professors engaged in a snuff film industry. Suspense remains high throughout this film that exposes the consequences of the popular thirst for cinematic violence.
13. Fight Club (1999)
R | 139 min | Drama
An insomniac office worker, looking for a way to change his life, crosses paths with a devil-may-care soapmaker, forming an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more.
Votes: 1,556,161 | Gross: $37.03M
Another film adaptation that perhaps improve upon the source material, Fight Club is more than a cult phenomenon or hyper-masculine orgy. The film stuns due to a remarkable combination of fantastic acting all around (Pitt, Norton, Bonham-Carter, Leto, Meatloaf), expert directing by Fincher, visually-striking cinematography, and a great script (Norton's narration is extremely effective). The result is the smartest, freshest, and edgiest example of the 'multiple personality' sub-genre.
14. Hour of the Wolf (1968)
Not Rated | 90 min | Drama, Horror
While vacationing on a remote Scandanavian island with his younger pregnant wife, an artist has an emotional breakdown while confronting his repressed desires.
15. The Seventh Seal (1957)
Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Fantasy
A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.
16. The Mirror (1975)
G | 107 min | Biography, Drama
A dying man in his forties remembers his past. His childhood, his mother, the war, personal moments and things that tell of the recent history of all the Russian nation.
17. The Game (1997)
R | 129 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
After a wealthy banker is given an opportunity to participate in a mysterious game, his life is turned upside down when he becomes unable to distinguish between the game and reality.
Votes: 295,205 | Gross: $48.32M
18. Cube (1997)
R | 90 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Six complete strangers of widely varying personality characteristics are involuntarily placed in an endless maze containing deadly traps.
Votes: 180,554 | Gross: $0.50M
19. Hellraiser (1987)
R | 94 min | Horror, Thriller
An unfaithful wife encounters the zombie of her dead lover; the demonic cenobites are pursuing him after he escaped their sadomasochistic underworld.
Votes: 86,412 | Gross: $14.56M
20. On the Silver Globe (1988)
Unrated | 166 min | Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
A team of astronauts land on an inhabitable planet and form a society. Many years later, a single astronaut is sent to the planet and becomes a messiah.
Another Zulawski film, adapted from a science-fiction epic written by his father. The communist Polish government frequently interfered with Zulawski's film, eventually resulting in the project's abandonment. The film chronicles an astronomical expedition to another planet, where the survivors attempt to create a new civilization. A narrator fills the viewer in on the portions that remain un-filmed.
21. Moon (2009)
R | 97 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems.
Votes: 294,582 | Gross: $5.01M
22. The Machinist (2004)
R | 101 min | Drama, Thriller
An industrial worker who hasn't slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity.
Votes: 313,794 | Gross: $1.08M
The Machinist is notable for Christian Bale's incredible physical transformation for the role of Trevor Reznik (whose name is derived from Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor), an insomniac who loses his grip on reality. The film deals with many themes popularized by the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881), such as crime, guilt, suffering, punishment, and redemption. A movie that is full of symbolism, watch for signs of mental illness, the interplay between left (meaning sinister or evil) and right, as well as several scenes that subtly show Trevor reading Dostoevsky's literature.
23. Insomnia (1997)
Not Rated | 96 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller
In a Norwegian city with a 24-hour daylight cycle a Swedish murder investigator has been brought in on a special case. Sleep deprived, he makes a horrible mistake which is discovered by the killer he has been hunting.
Votes: 11,340 | Gross: $0.22M
24. The Vanishing (1988)
Not Rated | 107 min | Mystery, Thriller
Rex and Saskia, a young couple in love, are on vacation. They stop at a busy service station and Saskia is abducted. After three years and no sign of Saskia, Rex begins receiving letters from the abductor.
25. Irreversible (2002)
Not Rated | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.
Votes: 98,402 | Gross: $0.75M
Irreversible may be the most shocking film on this list, though that does little to detract from the film's message and artistic merits. Told in reverse chronological order (much like the film Memento), this film by blossoming French director Gaspar Noe tells the story of a woman who leaves her boyfriend and another male friend at a party, is raped on her way home, and the two men as they attempt to track down the rapist, a man known as 'the tapeworm.' Certainly not for the faint of heart or stomach, Irreversible is both emotionally and physically brutal, making it more horrific than most gore-/violence-filled movies. The rape scene is uncompromising, filmed from a static camera angle, and stands as one of the most disturbing scenes this author has witnessed; you won't be able to get this movie out of your head for days afterward.
26. The Jacket (2005)
R | 103 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror
A Gulf war veteran is wrongly sent to a mental institution for insane criminals, where he becomes the object of a doctor's experiments, and his life is completely affected by them.
Votes: 100,156 | Gross: $6.30M
28. Day of the Dead (1985)
Not Rated | 96 min | Horror, Thriller
A small group of military officers and scientists dwell in an underground bunker as the world above is overrun by zombies.
Votes: 54,933 | Gross: $5.80M
The third (and last, among many fans) of George Romero's Dead Trilogy, is in this author's opinion the best. Less action-filled the NotLD and Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead focuses on the psychological conflicts among a group of scientists and a group of soldiers living together in a military bunker. While the scientists' primary concern is experimentation on the undead in hopes of finding a cure, the soldiers are more concerned with short-term survival, and they often have a short-fuse. DotD explores questions of what it means to be human, even in an apocalyptic time.
29. Naked Lunch (1991)
R | 115 min | Drama
After developing an addiction to the substance he uses to kill bugs, an exterminator accidentally kills his wife, and becomes involved in a secret government plot being orchestrated by giant bugs in a port town in North Africa.
Votes: 40,380 | Gross: $2.54M
30. Funny Games (1997)
Not Rated | 108 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
Two violent young men take a mother, father, and son hostage in their vacation cabin and force them to play sadistic "games" with one another for their own amusement.
31. Altered States (1980)
R | 102 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically.
Votes: 27,048 | Gross: $19.85M
32. Zodiac (2007)
R | 157 min | Crime, Drama, History
In the late 1960s/early 1970s, a San Francisco cartoonist becomes an amateur detective obsessed with tracking down the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified individual who terrorizes Northern California with a killing spree.
Votes: 360,215 | Gross: $33.08M
33. Children of Men (2006)
R | 109 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.
Votes: 403,016 | Gross: $35.55M
34. Videodrome (1983)
R | 87 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
When he acquires a different kind of show for his station, a sleazy cable-TV programmer begins to see his life and the future of media spin out of control in a terrifying new reality.
Votes: 69,494 | Gross: $2.12M
35. Twin Peaks (1990–1991)
TV-MA | 47 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
An idiosyncratic FBI agent investigates the murder of a young woman in the even more idiosyncratic town of Twin Peaks.
This short-lived TV series about the evil that exists beneath the innocent exterior of small-town America comes from the imagination of surrealist genius David Lynch. A thematic companion to Lynch's Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks surrounds the discovery of the local prom queen's dead body, and the FBI agent that is called in to investigate. Supernatural events and idiosyncratic characters make this more than your standard television drama. Though the series drags slightly during the second season without Lynch's direction, he returns to bring the series to conclusion in a fashion that is as compelling as the beginning.
36. Jacob's Ladder (I) (1990)
R | 113 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery
Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam War veteran attempts to uncover his past while suffering from a severe case of dissociation. To do so, he must decipher reality and life from his own dreams, delusions, and perceptions of death.
Votes: 84,517 | Gross: $26.12M
37. Blue Velvet (1986)
R | 120 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
Votes: 152,185 | Gross: $8.55M
38. Vanilla Sky (2001)
R | 136 min | Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
A self-indulgent and vain publishing magnate finds his privileged life upended after a vehicular accident with a resentful lover.
Votes: 223,775 | Gross: $100.61M
"While the argument can easily be made that 'Abres Los Ojos' is a superior film, the soundtrack to Vanilla Sky, including standout tracks from Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, and Sigur Ros, is simply breathtaking. The film's story is mind-bending and compelling, and was made before Tom Cruise became downright unbearable. Another one with a bittersweet ending.
39. When a Stranger Calls (1979)
R | 97 min | Crime, Drama, Horror
A psychopathic killer terrorizes a babysitter, then returns seven years later to menace her again.
Votes: 7,685 | Gross: $21.41M
This film was remade several years ago, eliminating all of the elements that made the original innovative. The opening scene of a babysitter receiving ominous phone calls has been imitated countless times, though it is perhaps done here best. The film changes tones, as the opening thrills make way for an intriguing character drama about the demented killer's attempts to re-integrate into society, before returning to suspense-mode for the finale.
40. The Fountain (2006)
PG-13 | 96 min | Drama, Sci-Fi
As a modern-day scientist, Tommy is struggling with mortality, desperately searching for the medical breakthrough that will save the life of his cancer-stricken wife, Izzi.
Votes: 208,613 | Gross: $10.14M
44. Barton Fink (1991)
R | 116 min | Comedy, Drama, Thriller
A renowned New York playwright is enticed to California to write for the movies and discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood.
Votes: 98,822 | Gross: $6.15M
45. Primal Fear (1996)
R | 129 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.
Votes: 150,214 | Gross: $56.12M
A fascinating court/crime drama, adequately acted by Gere and Linney. The real draw here is the young Edward Norton, who steals the show in a stunning portrayal of the young altar boy accused of murdering a respected priest. Features a plot that builds, twisting and turning toward a conclusion that is sure to leave one's jaw on the floor.
47. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
R | 83 min | Horror
Two siblings and three of their friends en route to visit their grandfather's grave in Texas end up falling victim to a family of cannibalistic psychopaths.
Votes: 111,838 | Gross: $30.86M