Top 14 Mind-Bending Movies Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Updated on February 12, 2019
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Rahul is a movie addict who can never get enough of good films. His all time favorites are Inception, 12 Angry Men, and Scarface.

What Movies Are Like The Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind?

Movies like The Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind challenge your view of reality and take you on a trippy ride permeated with twists and turns along the way. This crackerjack of a movie is more than a time-warping sultry drama; it’s a piece of art - one that rewards you with something new every time you visit it.

Since you’re here, I’ll assume you’ve already watched this Jim Carrey starrer. Let’s save my breathless hyperbole for another day and find you some movies to keep you occupied for a while.

Movies Similar To Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind

  1. Dark City
  2. Total Recall
  3. Her
  4. Vanilla Sky
  5. The Lobster
  6. Upstream Color
  7. Ex Machina
  8. Adaptation
  9. American Beauty
  10. The One I love
  11. The Truman Show
  12. Waking Life
  13. Being John Malkovich
  14. Confessions of A Dangerous Mind

1. Dark City

A man wakes up blood-soaked with a knife in his hands. Lying before him is a dead body. With no memory of how he got there, the poor chap attempts to delve into this sinister mystery. With a detective inching closer on the case, he doesn’t have a lot of time left. In a city where the sun never comes up and people don’t remember their pasts, how long will he go on before losing sanity?

It’s a challenging story that demands your attention all the way through. The movie repeatedly asks the same question in disparate ways “Are we anything more than the sum of our past experiences and future expectations?”

The plot might not make a lot of sense initially as it’s designed to only let you in bit by bit. Hold your horses; let everything sink in, and you’ll see what Dark City brings to the table.

Dark City sets a benchmark for sci-fi movies to follow. Its twilight style was imitated by many, but none could ever come close to the glitter and grandeur of this fulfilling experience.

2. Total Recall

Based on one of the sci-fi stories penned by Phillip. K. Dick, Total Recall stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a confused, terrified man on a mission to delve deep into his recurring dreams about a voyage to Mars. These hallucinations are vivid to an extent where it all seems surreal. With no recollection of his past, he embarks upon a quest to find out his true identity.

The question is, will you trust the story if the narrator is unreliable? An ambiguous ending leaves that decision up to you.

Though gore, violence, and blood are common themes, it’s often a philosophical exercise with moral quandaries. The mix of horror, drama, and romance converges into a flamboyant, over-the-top ride - one you’ll savor for quite some time.

3. Her

The premise of Her takes us in the near future where a writer on the brink of depression falls in love with Samantha, a virtual AI. As Samantha adapts to his needs, he unintentionally starts getting attached with her. This virtual affair comes to a sinister halt as they both escalate their love story.

Telling you anything else will spoil the whole thing, which, I’m sure, you don’t want me to do.

Though it takes place in the near future, the story seems scaringly relatable. In a sense, Her’takes a jibe at our increasing dependence on technology, mesmerizing you in its insidious affairs as you squirm in your chair.

This Spike Jonze directed feature is sparsely detailed, making for a lean film without undue fluff. Short, sweet, and to the point!

4. Vanilla Sky

I remember watching Vanilla Sky as a 15-year-old teen and wondering “what did I just go through?” Years later, I watched it again, and it was a wholesome experience this time around. The plot, despite being far-fetched, struck a chord with my heart.

More than the script, Tom Cruise’s wizardry did the trick where he played a lonesome, deeply troubled, financial wizard with no idea of his past or future. I’m going to stop here before my eulogy spoils an otherwise enigmatic sci-fi experience.

Despite critics writing it off as an unoriginal, uninspiring experience, I suggest you give this underrated masterpiece a go. Be the judge yourself. Yes, the plot and setting are far from being original and story flounders a bit at the end, but not everything has to be perfect and expository in order to be an enjoyable experience.

5. The Lobster

Imagine a future where you’re almost compelled by the government to have a romantic partner. Doesn’t sound so bleak, does it? Hold that thought until you watch The Lobster, a Colin Farrell starrer, which tackles this idea head-on.

The story follows David, a loner, who just got ditched by his wife. Soon, he’s taken into a luxurious hotel where single people get to pick the partner of their choice. The catch is, if you fail to find a romantic partner within 45 days, you’ll be turned into an animal of your choice.

This Yorgos Lanthimos directed feature finds humor even in its darkest of moments. The thought of scoffing at someone’s death might seem outlandish right now, but The Lobster’s deadpan humor will definitely entrap you off-guard. Just you wait!

If you’re looking for a mind-boggling movie like Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind, The Lobster should be one of your picks.

6. Upstream Color

Shane Carruth, the director behind Upstream Color, is known for toying with the audience with his trickery. Primer, his first directed feature proved that with its convoluted time-warping storyline. Upstream Color is no different in this regard.

This visual extravaganza is designed to get a rise out of you. Its multi-layered love story is so difficult to follow that it might dissuade some people from going through its hypnotic experience altogether. Don’t let that happen to you though.

Despite the palpable appeal of the mainstream route, Carruth has stuck to his old guns, providing audiences with a labyrinthine puzzle to solve, by themselves. Strictly no hand-holding!

The possibility of you liking this taut feature depends upon your patience and attention span. If you’re willing to dive deep into this slow-burn, Upstream Color won’t disappoint you. Casual cinephiles, however, might find its eccentricity a little too free-flowing for their liking.

7. Ex Machina

The story revolves around a programmer who gets awarded with a chance to spend a week with his boss who lives in isolation on a huge island. Gladly, he accepts the invitation, only to bring turmoil and chaos as his boss’ secret AI experiment goes awry.

As accessible as the synopsis might sound, It’s not a mainstream movie. This slow burn ride is not only demanding but at times a little brash with its jibes. If you can take a few on the chin, this sci-fi picturesque should appeal to you.

What seems like an endearing romance, quickly morphs into a nightmare in a matter of minutes. As the movie gradually shifts its pace and tone, it’s hard not to feel the dread and horror building up inside.

Ex Machina is a memorable experience that’ll stay with you for a long time.

8. Adaptation

It’s unbelievable how this masterpiece from Spike Jonze (Synecdoche, New York) is sparsely mentioned in any lists. Come to think of it, this is the first time I have ever included Adaptation in any of my movie lists. Before you lay it on me, this movie is incredibly hard to pigeonhole. The amalgamation of suspense and romance just in the right proportions results in an emotional journey that will make you laugh and cry, at the same time.

The story revolves around a writer who is struggling to adapt a book for a long time. It’s the case of writer’s block at its worst. He finally finds a unique idea, one I won’t delve into, for obvious reasons. This spoiler-prone feature is best experienced first hand.

9. American Beauty

Kevin Spacey is undoubtedly a controversial man, especially after the #metoo scandal, where he was accused of sexual assault by multiple men. Putting the controversies aside for a moment, let’s appreciate his mastery over acting disciple. From the mind-bending The Usual Suspects to the snarky House of Cards, he has proved his mettle time and again.

Staying true to his reputation, Kevin’s portrayal of a middle-aged depressed man doesn’t disappoint here. This is a story about a man trying hard to correct his failures and to live a life he desired. Attempting to do so, he might lose everything he holds dear, but at least, he will go down trying.

A plot as sultry and sensitive as this one could easily have gone horribly wrong, but thanks to an expert direction and a talented ensemble cast, this emotional drama pulls it off in panache.

10. The One I Love

Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss Play an estranged couple on the brink of collapse. When their counselor suggests a weekend getaway house to sort everything out, they gladly agree upon it as a measure of a last-ditch effort to save their sullen relationship. Soon, however, they realize that it’s more than they’ve bargained for.

As the outlandishness grows, so does the creep factor. Both couples know what exactly is going on, but they decide to play along, inducing a few laughs from the audience, but eliciting dread at the same. Hard to pigeonhole, The One I Love is a preposterous amalgamation of romance and suspense - one that shouldn’t have worked but does, thanks to strong performances from the lead actors.

If you’re looking for some good movies like The Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind, The One I Love should be right up your alley.

11. The Truman Show

The Truman Show is much more than a movie; it’s an intelligent social commentary on our voyeuristic nature when it comes to watching tv. We’re content seeing others suffer on screen, reveling in their pain and confusion. We know that it’s certainly true for most of the reality TV shows airing today.

The story revolves around a naive salesman who thinks he’s living a normal life in an island cut off from the rest of the world. He wants to break free, go somewhere else, but something or someone(I’ll let you figure out which, yourself) doesn’t let his dreams come true, as if someone is deliberately keeping him on the island. Gradually, he starts warming up to the idea that he’s being watched and monitored all his life. When the truth finally hits him, it’s bleaker than he had anticipated.

Despite being a 90s production, The Truman Show was way ahead of its time, as if Andrew Niccol, the scriptwriter, knew the murky TV landscape is heading next. It’s bleak, sly, and unrelentingly cruel - something that’ll shake you to the core.

12. Waking Life

This philosophical journey will only find a home in your heart if you love discussing life, dreams, death, consciousness, and other macroscopic topics that no one has concrete answers about. This free-flowing film puts us all in the shoes of a young animated character who does justice to the meaning of life, death, and dreams, as he descends deeper into his dreamception. The more he tries to wake up, the more he finds himself going further down the rabbit hole.

His dreams and hallucinations are not haunting, but the fact that he lumbers around, discussing everything under the sun with just about anyone he comes across, kind of raises the creep factor, as you wonder about his underlying motives. Some people will see this as a philosophical and meditative exercise while others will just stare at the screen clueless, and probably a little angered.

13. Being John Malkovich

When a puppeteer finds a way to embody a popular Hollywood star, he starts exploiting his new-found guilty-pleasure experiences to the fullest. The game changes when the victim finally realizes what’s happening to him.

A script as insane as this could have easily fallen flat, but the care and authenticity with which the story unravels, make an outlandish story disarmingly poignant - one that will make you think.

Made on a shoestring budget, this eccentric feature is uncannily relatable, despite being far-fetched and downright disturbing.

14. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

The story of an everyday man takes a screeching turn when he’s compelled by a CIA agent to work as a proxy. This daytime entertainer works double-shift now, turning into a cold-blooded killer at night. With his ruse at the risk of being uncovered, he must maintain the balance of both facets of his life.

This movie epitomizes the fact that life never is fair. An underrated star (Sam Rockwell) working in a low-key movie almost worked as the nail in the coffin for the movie. If there was even a hint of fairness, this feature would sit right behind movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Apparently, George Clooney’s first foray into direction didn’t turn out to be as allegorical as he wanted it to, but it’s a fun, chuckle-heavy ride with a tinge of heavy-hearted drama.

The whole movie, especially the second half, unfolds like an enigmatic puzzle. As a viewer, you’re never really sure where this film is heading, but you stay put because the journey is tense, fun ride, and in the end, you’ll be wringing with sweat.

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