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20 Mind-Bending Movies On Netflix You'll Be Analyzing For Weeks

Alison Brie plays Sarah in Horse Girl, one of many mind-bending movies on Netflix.
Netflix
By Bustle Editors
Updated: 
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Some people like to unwind by watching relaxing cooking shows, others like to turn on something that will check you out of reality altogether. If you're part of the latter camp, you're in luck: there's a whole treasure trove of mind-bending movies on Netflix that will not only absorb your attention for a few hours, but keep you analyzing for weeks to come.

Some, like the indie psychological thriller The One I Love, are filled with unexpected plot twists, while others, like the 2016 Netflix documentary Amanda Knox, don't offer a straightforward conclusion even after all evidence is presented. Following the plot of Jupiter Ascending will require a good deal of mental gymnastics, and movies like Snowpiercer, The Discovery, and Nocturnal Animals will leave you to interrogate your own belief systems long after the credits roll.

Whether you like horror, action, fantasy, or a little bit of everything, here are 20 mind-blowing movies on Netflix that just might melt your brain. Pro tip: you may want to use Netflix Party to watch with a friend or two, because you'll definitely need someone to discuss with afterward...or at least to help make sense of what's going on. Some films are best as a group activity.

1

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things

Renowned for his oddly affecting takes on the surreal, director Charlie Kaufman’s most recent movie is nothing if not extremely WTF. The film follows Jake (Jesse Plemons) and a woman (Jessie Buckley) who are presumably a couple, though Buckley’s character is — you guessed it — thinking of ending things. What follows is an incredibly mind-bending journey, and you’re gonna need our ending explainer.

2

Amanda Knox

Convicted then acquitted of murdering an Italian exchange student, Amanda Knox was tried as much in the court of public opinion as she was by the legal system. Sensational stories, a leaked private diary, and Knox's sometimes bizarre behavior only add up to deeper questions you’ll be ruminating on for days to come.

3

The Invitation

You get invited to a dinner party at your ex-wife's house — do you go? At first, this Karyn Kusama film feels like a tense drama: exes are reunited, couples are in conflict, and no one seems particularly excited to be sitting around the table. But when the guests realize what their hosts have planned for them, the film turns into something much more terrifying. —Ivana Rihter

4

Snowpiercer

A must-see for fans of Parasite, Snowpiercer is set amid the Earth's second Ice Age. All the survivors live on a train: the rich in the front, the poor in the caboose. Struggling to stay alive, those in the back of the train decide to overtake the front. As with all of Bong Joon-Ho’s films, class dynamics are at the center of everything.

5

Jupiter Ascending

The Wachowskis’ much-maligned space opera Jupiter Ascending is mind-bending partially on purpose, and partially by accident thanks to its knotty plot. The story follows Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a cleaning woman who learns that she’s destined for greater things, intergalactically speaking. What ensues is plenty of CGI madness, featuring a half-canine Channing Tatum and a whispery Eddie Redmayne.

6

The One I Love

Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) and Ethan (Mark Duplass) are in couples therapy when their therapist (Ted Danson) suggests they go away to a cabin for the weekend to work on their issues. But the way they handle their issues on vacation is... stranger than you might suspect.

7

Fractured

Ray (Sam Worthington) and Joanne (Lily Rabe) stop at a gas station with their young daughter when she endures an unexpected but mundane injury. At the hospital, things seem strange. Is something nefarious happening, or is Ray’s own mind to blame?

8

Pan's Labyrinth

This surrealist Guillermo del Toro film effortlessly combines fantasy and terror. Set in the last years of World War II, it follows young Ofelia while she traverses the forests of Spain with her father. As she witnesses the atrocities of war and her own father's cruelty, she finds herself in the mystical world of Pan’s Labyrinth. The creators and mythological beings she encounters will stay with you long after the movie ends.

9

Good Time

No one does high anxiety like the Safdie Brothers. In Good Time, the fallout of a bank robbery plays out in one night of violence and mayhem.

10

Shutter Island

This Martin Scorsese psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio is sure to take you on a ride. U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels (DiCaprio) is on a mission to investigate the Shutter Island psychiatric facility after a patient goes missing. But is everything as it seems? Since this movie is on this list, probably not.

11

Bird Box

The rules for staying alive in Bird Box are simple: if you see the monster, you die. This leaves Malorie Hayes with little choice but to try to escape and find safety with her children. To protect themselves from an invisible force that takes on your worst fears, they must take the journey blindfolded.

12

The Discovery

What if someone could scientifically prove there was an afterlife? That’s what happens in The Discovery, when Thomas Harbor’s (Robert Redford) discovery leads to an uptick in suicides. But what actually goes on in the afterlife is still a mystery that his son (Jason Segel) is trying to untangle.

13

Horse Girl

In Horse Girl, Alison Brie plays Sarah, a craft store employee and lover of equines whose reality becomes increasingly blurred as she suffers a mental breakdown.

14

Casting JonBenét

On Christmas night in 1996, 6-year-old pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey was found murdered in her family's home. Her story has been fixated on and sensationalized for years, but director Kitty Green wanted to do something different, so she put out a series of calls asking people to audition for the role of JonBenét and her family members. The result is a fascinating dive into the way we as a society treat these stories that will take you by surprise and force you to investigate your own problematic views on true crime.

15

Nocturnal Animals

An art gallery owner (Amy Adams) becomes obsessed with the strange, violent tale chronicled in her estranged ex-husband’s manuscript. What does it mean? You’ll be wondering exactly that as the credits roll.

16

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

This interactive installment of Charlie Brooker’s technological nightmare anthology Black Mirror takes place in the ‘80s, where programmer Stefan (Fionn Whitehead) hopes to create the next bestselling choose-your-own-adventure videogame. Whether this one is mind-bending is up to you: users make choices within the film to drive the plot in any one of many strange directions.

17

Skins (2017)

Like slapping an Instagram filter over a John Waters movie, this melodramatic soap opera follows the lives of people with deformities and odd dreams navigating a world that doesn't accept them. One seemingly healthy young man dreams of chopping his legs off to become a mermaid, while another woman has an "inverted digestive system" in which her mouth and anus are swapped.

18

Burning

This movie is a slow burn (no pun intended). Jong-soo reunites with a childhood friend by chance and develops a crush. When she leaves for a long trip, he's tasked with caring for her cat until she returns, and to his chagrin, she comes back with a wealthy man named Ben by her side. When Jong-soo discovers Ben's unnerving hobby, tensions rise.

19

Secret Obsession

Jennifer (Brenda Song) wakes up with amnesia after a traumatic accident, to meet a handsome stranger (Mike Vogel) who claims to be her husband and takes her home to his secluded estate. Clearly, something is up.

20

The Cloverfield Paradox

The third installment of the three Cloverfield movies (Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane) might be the most perplexing, as any story involving the God particle is bound to be. The film follows a group of astronauts in space who are hoping to solve Earth’s energy crisis with a particle accelerator when the planet suddenly vanishes. How will they get home?