Being showered, chatting on the cell phone or surfing the net - that's impossible with the following films. At least if you don't want a gigantic question mark written all over your face at the end of the film. But even if you look at the following works like a cinematic gundog and try to pay attention to every detail, you will sit with one or the other of them with a confused frown while the credits crawl across the screen.
Clever mainstream thanks to Christopher Nolan
Of course, the majority of Christopher Nolan's works should not be missing from this list. Critics occasionally accuse the director of being a bit artificial from time to time. Nevertheless, he managed to combine sophisticated plots with the mainstream and, despite the bombast, he trusted the audience to do something mentally. The two best examples of this are "Inception" and "Interstellar".
In the first mentioned film, main actor Leonardo DiCaprio has to fight his way through a multitude of dream levels, which are all connected, but each has a completely different look. The plot of the film makes it possible to elegantly overturn the borders of reality and to deliver unbelievable visual values. Same game with "Interstellar", except that the space sci-fi flick breaks through the fourth dimension and pranks our understanding of space and time - a motto that can be found in many headbutt films.
Nolan's two perhaps best films also require a lot of brain power: For example his second film "Memento", which is based on a short story by his brother Jonathan. This tells large parts of the story in reverse chronological order and thus puts the viewer in the predicament of the main character Leonard Shelby, who has lost the ability to save new memories. In his desperate attempt to find his wife's killer, he has new clues tattooed on his body.
In addition, Nolan's film "The Prestige" is highly recommended. Two rival magicians, played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, battle it out to the limits of what is physically possible - and beyond. The film is so remarkable because although it is set at the end of the 19th century, after about half the time it seems to switch genres and become science fiction. Or is it all just a narrative sleight of hand on the part of the director?
Knots in the brain - the time travel paradox
When it comes to time travel, the human imagination quickly reaches its limits. Various films irritate this sometimes more, sometimes less. The film "Arrival" by Denis Villeneuve is primarily about communication with an alien race that is extremely different from humans and that one day suddenly lands on earth. Still, the quiet, beautiful film, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, questions how communication can transcend the boundaries of space and time.
A film that is as good as it is sadly relevant at the moment is Terry Gilliam's time travel flick "12 Monkeys". In it, Bruce Willis travels back in time to prevent the outbreak of a deadly virus that has nearly wiped out humanity and condemned the few survivors to life beneath the earth's surface. The film skilfully leaves the audience guessing for large parts as to whether James Cole really comes from the future or whether he just has a good one on the waffle.
It gets much more complicated with the film "Predestination" with Ethan Hawke. Here the main character travels through time to prevent terrorist attacks by the "Fizzle Bomber" before they happen. There's not much more that can be revealed, just this much: At the end you shake your head in disbelief at the incomprehensible plot, which despite everything is coherent in itself, and decides: "Those who travel through time are not allowed to have sex!"
The indie flick "Primer", on the other hand, is considered the holy grail of time travel films. In other words, anyone who claims to have understood this film is usually lying. In it, a group of young men accidentally build a time machine and see it as their great opportunity for we alth. The film, which Shane Carruth directed, wrote, produced, scored and edited in addition to starring, reportedly only cost $7.000 US dollars. But understanding it is priceless.
The master of the craft is… Jake Gyllenhaal!?
When you think of complicated films, the name Jake Gyllenhaal doesn't necessarily spring to mind. But if you look at the actor's CV, you will notice that Mr. Gyllenhaal seems to have a soft spot for it. This is proven, for example, by the 2001 film "Donnie Darko", which launched Gyllenhaal's career. As the mentally unstable title character, his life is apparently saved by a strange rabbit named Frank. The same Frank prophesies to Donnie the end of the world - in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds.
In "Nocturnal Animals", however, Gyllenhaal slips into the role of a fired and unsuccessful author. To get back at his former love, he has written a novel that symbolically depicts the suffering she caused him. Tom Ford's film isn't just visually stunning. He also visualizes both the framework plot and the events of the fictional novel and weaves them together. The result is art.
Gyllenhaal's film "Source Code" also poses the question of reality and fiction. In it, the consciousness of Colter Stevens is transferred to the victims of a terrorist attack on a train thanks to the latest technology. In this way, in the final minutes just before the attack, he is supposed to collect clues that will make it possible to identify the perpetrator. Those who can get involved with the premise of the film will get exciting sci-fi fare and a satisfying ending.
Gyllenhaal number four can be seen in Villeneuve's film "Enemy" - and twice at that! In it, a university professor accidentally discovers an actor who is his exact likeness. He then obsessively begins to investigate and finally gets in touch with his doppelganger. With "Enemy" too, the less you know in advance, the better it is. The final shot of the film is like a kick in the shin - especially for people who don't know much about a specific animal species.
The "What the Hell!?" Classics
No list of films that are difficult to understand is complete without mentioning the name David Lynch. With a few exceptions, almost all of his films cause question marks and/or shaking of the head. Fans love his surreal, supposedly meaningful works, critics accuse them of arbitrariness and complain that they sometimes have no hidden meaning at all. If you want to form your own opinion, you should try "Mulholland Drive", "Lost Highway" or "Eraserhead" to start with.
Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" is a film that truly deserves the nickname Odyssey. After all, the 1968 sci-fi strip tells the story of the evolution of pre-humans, from a space journey to Jupiter to rebirth as a "Space Baby". And Kubrick does all this not only with haunting images, but in a comparatively short running time of 143 minutes. For comparison: "Sex and the City - Der Film" lasts just as long…