Alisha Adkins is an author, gamer, and zombie enthusiast. She is currently pursuing her dream of writing and quietly starving to death.
If you are looking for a strange but enjoyable viewing experience, the films on this list should fit the bill.
One caveat, however: many people might consider certain films, such as Eraserhead, to be essential to any list of weird movies. Granted, Eraserhead is indisputably weird. However, it has been excluded on the grounds that it is not "delightfully" so. Many other strange films have also been omitted here for this (admittedly completely subjective) reason.
10. Secretary (2002)
Secretary is a delightful film about self-mutilation, sado-masochism. and falling in love.
Lee is a socially awkward girl who engages in self-harm. However, after she takes a secretarial job at a law firm, she experiences an awakening as a sado-masochistic relationship develops between her and her boss, E. Edward Grey.
Secretary is a surprisingly sweet, unconventional love story that is worth watching more than once.
Memorable Weird Scene: There are plenty. One of my favorites is when, in an effort to regain Mr. Grey's attention, Lee places a worm in his memo.
9. Dead Man (1995)
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, Dead Man has been dubbed a "psychedelic Western" as well as the "ultimate postmodern Western." It is a surrealistic black and white movie that incorporates twisted elements of the Western genre into its story about an accountant named William Blake (Johnny Depp) who finds himself on the run joined by an Indian guide named Nobody.
Boasting a diverse and interesting cast, Dead Man features appearances from the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Iggy Pop, Crispin Glover, John Hurt, and Robert Mitchum.
Memorable Weird Scene: The ending, but I wont spoil it for you.
Dead Man Official Trailer
8. eXistenZ (1999)
eXistenZ is a film every gamer should see.
In the film, a test group tries out a new virtual reality game. Within that game, Allegra Geller (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) is game designer who has created a game called eXistenZ. However, someone is trying to kill her and sabotage her game. She and Ted Pikul (Jude Law) must play eXistenZ (yes, that's a game within a game within a game) in order to find out why.
The film's plot is convoluted but mentally engaging, and its imagery is disturbing in signature Cronenberg style. For example, game components are constructed from the innards of mutated amphibians and every gamer must has a bio-port, an anus-shaped hole surgically installed into the spine into which a gaming console can be plugged via an umbilical-like cord.
Memorable Weird Scene: When Ted Pikul orders the "special" at the Chinese restaurant.
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7. May (2002)
May is a creepy little horror film directed by Lucky McKee.
May is a tragic misfit who is unable to connect with other human beings. When this socially awkward young woman is spurned by the people around her, she decides to make her own friend from their best parts.
Disturbing, gross, and funny, this is campy in the best sort of way.
Memorable Weird Scene: When the man upon whom May has a crush shows her his short metaphorical film in which two people in love devour one another, and she takes it literally and tries to emulate it.
Love & Death on Long Island
6. Love & Death on Long Island (1997)
Giles De'Ath (John Hurt) is a widowed writer who eschews all things modern. When he accidentally goes into the wrong theater, he becomes obsessed with the male star of the vapid teen movie (Hot Pants College II). He embarks upon a journey to meet the young man, and begins to truly discover himself.
Memorable Weird Scene: The delightfully absurd scene in which John Hurt lovingly cuts up teenie bopper magazines to create his fan scrapbook.
This isn't E.M. Forster?!
5. Donnie Darko (2001)
Donnie Darko is a disturbing film that manages to be oddly sweet in the end. Its story follows a troubled teenager named Donnie. After Donnie narrowly escaping a freak accident, he begins to be plagued by visions of a large, creepy bunny rabbit. These visions manipulate him into committing a series of crimes - for reasons that are not yet clear to him.
Memorable Weird Scene: When Donnie tells off the jackass motivational speaker at his school.
A Scene from Donnie Darko
4. Ghost World (2001)
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Ghost World follows Enid and her best friend through the tribulations of finishing high school and trying to find where they fit into the world.
Memorable Weird Scene: "Mirror... Father... Mirror..." Enid's spacey art teacher perfectly encapsulates a personality type we probably all knew in college. The art film she shows her class to introduce herself to them is hysterical.
"Mirror, Father, Mirror"
3. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Director Terry Gilliam is a master of weirdness. In fact, as strange as 12 Monkeys is, it is still perhaps his most accessible film.
James Cole travels back in time to prevent an act of bio-terrorism. However, he travels back a few too many years and meets a psychiatrist, Dr. Kathryn Railly, who convinces him that he is delusional. When transported back to the future (his present), he believes that he is hallucinating. Unfortunately, circumstances progressively make this explanation less and less plausible...
Memorable Weird Scene: The "crazy dentist" scene is truly priceless. Realizing that he is being tracked by a transmitter in his tooth, James performs some impromptu dentistry upon himself - much to the horror and dismay of the pimp who observes the act.
12 Monkeys Official Trailer
2. Barton Fink (1991)
The Coen Brothers are geniuses at producing weird, quirky films. If you haven't seen their films, you should go watch this, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and The Man Who Wasn't There (among others) right now.
Barton Fink (played by John Turturo) is a writer who is struggling to write a wrestling picture. However, when he wakes up next to a dead girl, things begin to get weird...
Memorable Weird Scene: Barton's neighbor Charlie (John Goodman) barreling down the hall of the hotel as it is engulfed in flames.
1. Being John Malkovich (1999)
Being John Malkovich has to be one of the all-time weirdest movies ever made. Aspiring puppeteer Craig Schwartz discovers a door that opens into a portal into actor John Malkovich's mind. He soon turns his discovery into a money-making opportunity, selling the privilege to be Malkovich for 15 minutes at $200 a pop. From there, things just get progressively more strange...
Memorable Weird Scene: Take your pick. The whole premise is wonderfully bonkers. However, a particularly delightful one is when John Malkovich learns about the portal into his own head and goes through himself.
Malkovich Inside His Own Head
If ten films just aren't enough, here are a few honorable mentions that you may also enjoy:
Floundering (1994) - Set in post-riot Los Angeles, this sardonic film follows John Boyz, an unemployed observer of the chaotic world around him. At turns, dark, funny, and insightful, don't miss this easily overlooked film.
Living in Oblivion (1995) is a metacognitive look at the film industry. This dark and amusing low-budget independent film depicts the making of a low-budget independent film.
Buffalo 66 (1998) In this sweet off-beat film, Billy Brown has just been released from jail. Searching desperately for a place to pee, Billy winds up kidnapping a dance student and subsequently passing her off as his wife to his apathetic parents.
District 9 (2009) - Inspired by events in District 6, Cape Town, South Africa during apartheid, District 9 is an allegorical science fiction film about a population of sick and malnourished aliens confined to the squalid District 9. Shot in mock-documentary style, this movie is clever, sad, and thought-provoking.
© 2014 Alisha Adkins
Luke Ellis from Nottingham, England on March 12, 2014:
I've seen 1 through 5 and would recommend all of them. Any movie directed by the Coen Brothers is worth checking out. If you liked Barton Fink then try Fargo and The Big Lebowski as well.
Amanda from Michigan, United States on February 27, 2014:
I've been wanting to see Secretary and Donnie Darko for years. Guess I just never got around to it. Anyway, great list!