Some movies truly hit you over the head with their messaging, leaving no question of what happened at the end. Meanwhile, there are other films you could watch a dozen times, all with a slightly different interpretation. (Or never “get” what they were going for.) In an online movie forum, people discussed what films left them stumped, not necessarily in a good way. Have you seen any of these mind-boggling movies?
1. Moneyball (2011)
Even though Moneyball was and remains a highly-rated film, it was one of the top movies that stumped viewers. That might be because mathematics and statistics played a large part in the movie’s narrative.
2. Synecdoche, New York (2008)
One of the top commenters joked that they couldn’t even understand the title, let alone the film. Dozens of other people said they watched the movie and had no idea what was going on—either until the halfway point or at all. Still, some folks came to the film’s defense, saying the movie is funny and enjoyable after a few views.
3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Considering I fell asleep during this movie, it’s unsurprising that I couldn’t follow along. However, many people felt the same about the film, stating they struggled to keep up. Another moviegoer mentioned that their roommate seemed to pretend to understand but couldn’t answer any questions.
4. The Big Short (2015)
If there was one sentence to explain how users felt about The Big Short, it would be, “I had no idea what was going on.” Despite a cast of well-known stars and a subject matter that profoundly affects U.S. residents (the housing market), this one seemed to lose the interest and understanding of most viewers.
5. Mulholland Drive (2001)
As far as thrillers go, Mulholland Drive is rated quite highly, and I expected to see fewer comments mentioning how confusing it was. A comment stated that there wasn't any real internal logic to all the madness Another said they understood the first half, but the second had them questioning everything. Someone responded that they believed that was the intention of the movie.
6. Tenet (2020)
One person said that compared to Tenet, everything in the film Inception feels like that film is coherent and easier to follow. That's saying something since Inception is also on this list of confusing movies. Tenet was listed by multiple users, who said they had no idea what happened in the film. One went as far as to say they were confused because it was “stupidly written.”
7. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
This movie divided people when it came out based on the subject matter alone. One person said that after watching it, they immediately looked up what the movie was about. Despite enjoying the film, they said it was the only time they’d had to do this. Another person mentioned being very confused when they read the book, which made them nervous to watch the movie.
8. Perfect Blue (1997)
The person who mentioned this film stated it was a 10/10 film, but they still don’t fully understand it. Another user said that every interpretation of the movie is potentially correct, whether you believed the events to be a delusion, reality, or the filming of a TV show, and that it is genius because of this.
9. Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko is the perfect movie for this list, as it’s intentionally complex. In fact, there have been articles and reviews written decades later about this very topic. You might have had difficulty following along if you don't know much about lucid dreaming.
10. Cloud Atlas (2012)
The common consensus of this one was that while the movie was beautiful, it might confuse those who didn’t read the book. If this is a movie you couldn’t follow along with, perhaps give it another shot after reading the book.
11. Dune (2021)
There were mixed feelings about the movie Dune, with multiple well-informed people sharing lengthy novels about the film and others needing clarification. One person mentioned being perplexed about why certain events took place. They went as far as to say that the movie did nothing for them other than to feel like they were not smart enough to understand it or why so many people loved it.
12. Naked Lunch (1991)
While a few people joked about the title of the movie, the consensus about this one was that most viewers had no idea what was going on. A couple of comments mentioned that the film was heavily influenced by the novel's author’s “heavy drug days” and that there’s little to understand about the narrative.
13. Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
Although the film had poor ratings, there were many reviews of this one saying it was one of the best Ernest movies. According to one user, you could enjoy this as a standalone film or watch the rest of the movies in the series. However, the top commenter said they watched this movie and felt scared and stupid, but perhaps that was what they were going for.
14. The Departed (2006)
Although The Departed is beloved by many, it certainly can be a confusing film if you aren’t paying close attention. A few people said they had to pause and ask quite a few questions or even fell asleep during it. I would add this to my list of movies that took me a few times to really get what was happening.
15. Inception (2010)
It’s no surprise to see Inception being discussed yet again in the context of movies that left people feeling confused or without a clear understanding of the outcome. One person mentioned that it demands your undivided attention, so you won't understand what's happening if you take even one bathroom break.
Daisy Frisch is a writer and editor who grew up reading and writing before she knew much else. For more than a decade, she has focused on SEO content writing, which has included writing legal and medical copy for lawyers and hospitals all over the country to creating riveting blogs for landscaping and home decor websites. She studied English and Journalism in California, where she also worked in music journalism, interviewing artists as well as reviewing live shows and albums. In addition to an appreciation for music, she is interested in many art forms and fandoms, including but not limited to her decades-old Pokemon card collection, old fighting games, and a fascination for why people do the things they do. If you sit her down with a fantasy novel or put a thriller movie on, it would be hard to tear her away.