25 Mind-Bending Movies Like Inception That You'll Be Thinking About For Days
Film director Christopher Nolan is most known for his mind-bending movies that stretch the limits of reality and dive into the metaphysical. Inception, which Nolan wrote and directed, was released in 2010 and received rave reviews from both audiences and critics. The film is considered to be one of the greatest films of the decade, being nominated for a total of eight Academy Awards and winning four. The legacy of Nolan’s Inception paved the way for several other alternate-reality and metaphysical-themed movies to follow, pushing viewers to think outside their conventional boxes.
In the film, professional thief and international fugitive Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) has a special ability to infiltrate people’s dreams and extract valuable information from their subconscious. Cobb’s rare skill makes him sought after in the complicated and corrupt world of corporate espionage. While Cobb has become popular among some of the world’s biggest corporate figures, his work has cost him his life and all that he loves. When the opportunity arises for Cobb to redeem himself and regain control of his life, he is willing to do whatever it takes. This new task, however, is more difficult than his previous jobs, with Cobb having to plant an idea in a mind, not steal one.
Inception is entertaining while making its audience think of greater philosophical and metaphysical ideas outside of the norm. With a stellar cast, stunning cinematography, and an incredible storyline, Inception has continued to remain popular among audiences over a decade since its release. The film also led to a renaissance for complicated and intelligent sci-fi as no film of this nature had since The Matrix in the ’90s. If you are still scratching your head about Inception‘s ending, dive into these mind-bending movies, reminiscent of Inception and its themes.
Movies Like Inception: Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese, better known for his thrilling crime epics, took a detour from his traditionally explored themes and directed the psychological thriller Shutter Island. In 1954, US Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), investigate the case of a missing patient from Ashecliffe Hospital, a facility for the criminally insane, on Shutter Island. Once you think you have a grasp on the plot, the film swoops in and completely blows your mind with a plot twist that no one saw coming. Like Inception, Shutter Island makes your mind work to understand the complicated world the characters live in.
Movies Like Inception: The Truman Show
“We accept the reality with which we are presented.” This quote sums up the overall theme of Peter Weir’s The Truman Show. Ever since he was born, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) has been part of a secret TV show called The Truman Show. The show, led by executive producer Christof (Ed Harris), secretly broadcasts the daily life and activities of Truman without his knowledge. In an attempt to distract Truman from ever discovering this secret, Christof constantly plants new scenarios within his life, thus distorting his perception of reality, until Truman becomes suspicious of the world around him. Tackling themes of alternate realities and mind control, The Truman Show captures the essence of Inception with a unique storyline.
Movies Like Inception: The Prestige
Released four years before Inception, director Christopher Nolan explores magic and the unknown in The Prestige. Set in London in the 1880s, partner magicians Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) are struck by the tragic death of an assistant during one of their shows. When Borden performs the ultimate magic trick, teleportation, Angier goes mad trying to discover his secret, testing the limits of reality and the relationships around him to become a master of his craft. With twists and turns along the way, Nolan uses tactics similar to those he deploys in Inception to shock viewers with a stunning ending.
Movies Like Inception: Tenet
In Inception, Dom Cobb tests the limits of reality by traveling into dreams. In Tenant, also written and directed by Christopher Nolan, a CIA agent (John David Washington) travels through time to complete a special mission: to prevent the onset of World War III. What’s the cause behind the potential world war? Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) is suffering from cancer and dying. Because he is a billionaire, Sator believes that he should be exempt from suffering and wants the rest of the world to suffer alongside him, and he decides to create a nuclear bomb to wipe out all of humanity.
Movies Like Inception: Memento
Nolan’s breakthrough film, Memento, earned the director his first Oscar nomination, for best original screenplay, and has since been selected by the Library of Congress to be part of the National Film Registry. Memento centres around main character Leonard Shelby (Guy Pierce), a man who is searching for the perpetrators that raped and killed his wife. This proves to be difficult, though, because Shelby suffers from short-term memory loss and the inability to retain new memories. Shelby’s condition complicates his mission, but a series of Polaroid pictures could contain the clues he needs to get justice for his late wife.
Movies Like Inception: The Matrix
In terms of popular culture, no film had quite the impact of The Matrix in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Written and directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, The Matrix explores the idea of an alternative reality, similar to Inception. The film follows computer programmer and hacker Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), aka Neo, as he tries to uncover the truth about his reality, which is actually controlled by evil forces. Since its release in 1999, the Matrix franchise has produced three more theatrically released films, with one, The Matrix Resurrections, debuting in December 2021. The first film, like Inception, makes you question everything, because nothing is what it seems.
Movies Like Inception: Being John Malkovich
Director Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich centres around puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) after he takes on a new gig as a filing clerk for a man named Dr. Lester. The job seems to be straightforward, but while on the job, Craig comes across a secret portal which surprisingly goes straight to the mind of actor John Malkovich. Upon his discovery, Craig informs his coworker Maxine Lund (Catherine Keener), and the two work together to profit off of the experience. Quirky and funny, yet daring and bold, Being John Malkovich takes audiences on a wild ride of trying to understand alternate realities.
Movies Like Inception: Interstellar
Another brilliant film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar pushes the limits of your imagination and makes you ponder the existence of an alternate universe. In 2067, engineer and former NASA pilot Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) lives with his two children and his father-in-law on their home farm. The state of Earth and humanity is currently threatened by intense dust storms and crop blights. Cooper, along with a group of researchers, is selected by NASA physicist John Brand (Michael Caine) to travel through a wormhole and determine if there are other planets that can safely support humankind. Interstellar explores similar themes of Nolan’s past films, like Inception, including time travel, alternate universes, and the metaphysical.
Movies Like Inception: Donnie Darko
In 1988, teenager Donnie Darko narrowly escapes death when a plane engine falls through his bedroom ceiling. Donnie can attribute his survival of this event to a bunny named Frank, who lured him outside just moments before it happened. Frank tells Donnie that the world is going to end in 28 days and goes on to manipulate the thoughts of Donnie by encouraging him to commit crimes and acts of vandalism. In Donnie Darko, viewers are stumped trying to figure out if Donnie is experiencing hallucinations or if this is part of his reality.
Movies Like Inception: Requiem For a Dream
Director Darren Aronofsky, known for his films The Wrestler and Black Swan, takes viewers on a disturbing and uncomfortable ride in 2000’s Requiem For a Dream. The movie centers around four characters whose lives are interconnected by their desire to experience their own individual highs. Sara (Ellen Burstyn) desperately wants to be a guest on her favourite talk show, and her desperation drives her to harmful behaviour and delusions. Sara’s son, Harry (Jared Leto), is a drug addict who, along with his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), has goals of being a top-earning drug dealer. Harry’s girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), has her own addictions that get in the way of what she truly wants. The reality of each character’s life is significantly inhibited by their addiction, leading to terrible consequences along the way.
Movies Like Inception: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) sadly discovers that his long-time girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has no recollection of him or their relationship after she received a procedure to erase him from her memory. Heartbroken, Joel decides to undergo the same procedure and his memories of her gradually disappear. Despite this, Joel discovers that he still loves Clementine and fights to remember what they had together. Similar to Inception, the film explores themes of memory and how our emotions can play into how we remember our memories and perceive reality. Beyond Carrey and Winslet, Eternal Sunshine‘s cast also includes Kirsten Dunst and Mark Ruffalo.
Movies Like Inception: Fight Club
Acclaimed director David Fincher is known, like Christopher Nolan, to make physiological thriller films that puzzle your mind. Fight Club centres around a nameless main character (Edward Norton), an office worker who leads a boring and unfilled life. On top of the troubles from his lackluster job, he also suffers from insomnia, which he attempts to heal by going to support groups and pretending to suffer from a number of diseases. After he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) the two create an underground fight club to help soothe the mundane blues of their lives. When the club starts to control his life, he is forced to reconsider what he truly wants.
Movies Like Inception: The Butterfly Effect
If you had the chance to go back in time and change an event in your life, would you? This is the main question explored in the 2004 film, The Butterfly Effect. Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) discovers that he can travel through time to prevent himself from experiencing blackouts and memory loss, which affected him as a child. In an attempt to change his life and his friends’ lives for the better, Evan significantly changes the path of their lives and alters their reality, which has negative consequences. Messing with time can have some unintended consequences, as Evan is quick to learn.
Movies Like Inception: Get Out
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, became an instant hit upon its release, earning Academy, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice Awards. The film explores the capacity of the mind and how easily the mind can be manipulated by the wrong people. The film follows Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) a successful Black photographer, as he meets the family of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). Upon meeting her family, Chris slowly starts to uncover a dark family secret and attempts to outsmart their evil plans. This movie has more twists than you can count, and you’ll definitely leave the viewing with your jaw on the floor.
Movies Like Inception: Source Code
Army Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is confused upon waking up in the body of a man named Sean Fentress on a Chicago commuter train. He soon finds out, though, that he is part of an experimental government project, named Beleaguered Castle. In the mission, Stevens must assume the identity of Fentress and find the perpetrator who planted a bomb that is set to go off on the train in 8 minutes. Time travel and alternate realities are both themes of the film, which are also present in Inception. Source Code is a wild ride that will get your heart racing.
Movies Like Inception: The Others
The end of Inception leaves viewers with a puzzling question regarding the fate of the characters, similar to that of The Others. At the end of World War II, Grace (Nicole Kidman) lives in a mansion with her daughter Anne and son Nicholas. The family is lonesome waiting for the return of husband/father Charles from the war. The children suffer from a disease that keeps them from being exposed to the sunlight, and Grace enlists the help of three servants with daily chores. After the servants take on work in the home, however, Grace and the children begin to experience strange events which make them question their motives.
Movies Like Inception: Us
Jordan Peele’s second film, Us, introduces viewers to the idea of an alternate universe, where our doppelgängers wreak havoc in the world below us. When the Wilson family go on vacation, their home is broken into by four strangers. The family soon discovers that the intruders look just like them, with evil motives to harm and terrorize them. The film features several different twists and turns, along with some shocking revelations that leave you completely stunned once it’s over, much like the Inception ending. With standout performances from Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, and Elisabeth Moss, you’ll be thinking about Us long after you watch.
Movies Like Inception: Looper
In 2077, time-travelling assassin Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of the best in his field. Simmons (also known as a Looper) is recruited by the mafia to travel back 30 years to murder and dispose of anyone who threatens the goals of their organisation. At first, this task is no big deal, earning Simmons a lot of money, which plans to use to retire and get out of the game. When Simmons is sent to on a mission to kill his future self (Bruce Willis), he has to make the decision to “close the loop,” and change the course of his life.
Movies Like Inception: The Game
In David Fincher’s The Game, the director blurs the lines of reality, as Christopher Nolan similarly does in Inception. Wealth investment banker Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is gifted a special voucher by his brother on his 48th birthday. The voucher is for a game by Consumer Recreation Services, which promises change his life. Curious about this so-called “life-changing” game, he decides he’ll give it a go and participates in the game, but he’s soon bombarded with a series of harmful pranks that lead him to question the real motives of the game and those around him. Is anything as it seems?
Movies Like Inception: Primer
Engineers Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) work alongside their two friends to build and sell technology that detects errors. In the midst of working, the group unintentionally creates a time machine, which they modify to have the ability to transport a human through time. At first glance, they think their invention is brilliant, but soon discover that their latest invention has negative consequences on their jobs, their relationships, and life as they know it. While it is an indie film, Primer nonetheless has a similar impact on its audience as Inception does, tackling themes of time travel and the human desire for exploration.
Movies Like Inception: The Sixth Sense
The line from the Sixth Sense, “I see dead people,” might just be one of the most referenced quotes of all time, but it really does give insight into what M. Night Shyamalan’s supernatural thriller is about. Child psychologist Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis) is accosted in his home by former patient Vincent Grey, who accuses him of mistreating him as a child, resulting in Vincent shooting Malcom and then himself. In the following year, Malcom begins working with Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a nine year-old experiencing hallucinations of dead people, to redeem himself after failing Vincent. With one of the biggest plot twists in film history, The Sixth Sense will completely blow your mind as the credits roll.
Movies Like Inception: Predestination
In Inception, Dom Cobb is tasked with a mission that will have large consequences on the lives of others. Predestination focuses on one man’s journey to prevent negative consequences from happening in the lives of thousands. Special agent Doe (Ethan Hawke) is a time-traveller, and fiercely working to try and capture a criminal who has gotten away from him throughout time. The criminal is known as the Fizzle Bomber, and his goal is to kill as many people as possible by planting bombs in different locations. It is up to Agent Doe to stop him before it is too late.
Movies Like Inception: Se7en
Another film by David Fincher, Se7en will keep you on your toes while messing with your mind. Retiring Detective Lieutenant William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is called back to work after a series of brutal killings strikes his city. For the case, Somerset is paired with younger and idealistic Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt), and the two slowly start to piece together that the killings are inspired by the seven deadly sins, with each murder representing one of the seven sins. As the pair get closer to finding the killer and solving the crimes, an unexpected twist throws a wrench in their entire case.
Movies Like Inception: Split
While Christopher Nolan explores the metaphysical in Inception, M. Night Shyamalan focuses on the supernatural in his thriller, Split. Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) is a man who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID) and lives with 23 personalities. He tries to keep these personalities suppressed with the help of his psychiatrist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), but some of his alternate personalities cause chaos and distress, and lead him to abduct three teenage girls. The film centres around Kevin’s struggle to contain his personalities while preventing the emergence of a 24th personality, called “The Beast,” as the girls attempt to escape from his wrath.
Movies Like Inception: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Based on the 1955 psychological thriller of the same name, The Talented Mr. Ripley examines to what lengths a desperate person is willing to go to achieve their own goals. In Inception, Dom Cobb was willing to take on a dangerous dream implantation mission to regain his life back. Similarly in The Talented Mr. Ripley, main character Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) goes to extremes to create the life he dreams of. Ripley, a pianist, unintentionally assumes the identity a Princeton student that attended college with a man named Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). After travelling to Italy with Greanleaf, Ripley soon becomes enamoured with Greenleaf’s lavish lifestyle, with leads him on a dangerous path to get what he wants.