Silver Screen Streak List #08: Flickchart’s Top-Ranked ‘Mindbenders’

"What just happened?"

Silver Screen Streak List #08:
Flickchart’s Top-Ranked ‘Mindbenders’

Written by dorrk
27 July 2020

More than most genres, or styles, or forms, or whatever you want to call it, I wrestle with understanding what exactly constitutes a “mindbending” movie. They seem to encompass everything from mainstream psychological thrillers to abstract avant-garde art films, both of which deal in uncertain perceptions of what constitutes reality, either on the part of the characters, or the audience, or both. They are, to paraphrase a very stoned Arsenio Hall, "Films that make you go, 'Whoah.'" There seems to be an even further layer of selection at work, keeping “mindbenders” somewhat close to mainstream narrative acceptability, intersecting with popular genres like science fiction and maybe intersecting on the fringes with cult movie.

The next list I’m confronting as part of this Silver Screen Streak movie challenge is Flickchart’s global ranking of “mindbenders” (brought to my challenge by Flickchart head honcho Nathan Chase), which doesn’t help me narrow down the meaning of this term. Topping Flickchart’s list of mindbenders are the massively popular 1999 dude-fave classics Fight Club (1999) and The Matrix (1999), both of which certainly qualify with their core undermining of narrative realities, followed by the more dubious inclusion of the mystery The Usual Suspects (1995), which simply contains a twist-ending. Next on the list is a great favorite of mine, Vertigo (1958), a movie of narrative surprises as well as a little trippy dream imagery, followed by Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966), exactly the type of confrontational, confounding and symbol-rich European art movie that is likely to be hated by the most fervent fans of the first three movies on this list. Rounding out "Flickchart’s Top 10 Mindbenders" are Christopher Nolan’s clever Memento (2000); another one of my favorites, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Nolan’s dreary Inception (2010); and finally Andrei Tarkovsky’s eternally long sci-fi wankmare Stalker (1979). There’s something in there for everyone, and maybe even a few things for no one. It's a weird list, appropriately.

Part of what makes Nathan’s choice of this list interesting to me, is that his taste falls pretty regularly on the mainstream side of the mindbender divide, but at least half of the movies that I’ll be watching — the top ranked ones that I haven’t seen yet — look like they fall more on the obscure ‘foreign weirdo pleasuring his subconscious’ side of the list. Nathan has nine movies from the Mindbenders chart in his Top 100 movies (I have two, the aforementioned Vertigo and 2001, which are both in my Top 20). He’s also got three movies from the genre in his Bottom 20.

Of the first ten movies I might be watching for the Silver Screen Streak movie challenge, Nathan has only seen two, and they're both above 75% on his chart. I daresay he would intentionally avoid most of the others.

I fully share his manic embrace/rejection of these types of movies, but often different movies based on different criteria. A clever conceit can only get me so far, and the same goes for striking visuals. Too much abstraction can numb me, and I don’t much care for trying to figure out puzzle movies; for anything longer than 15 minutes, I need something coherent and consistent to hold onto — be it a surface narrative, an earned emotion, or a thoughtful thematic through-line — to make the trickery tolerable. As with any type of material, gratuitous expression of a single note can get dull very quickly, and so it is with me for relentless weirdness-for-weirdness-sake; likewise, the brooding tone of dour self-importance, which many so-called mindbenders seem to claim as their own, is tolerable to me only in small doses.

Let’s see what’s on deck:


The First Two

I’ll watch the first two movies from each list, giving each participant the chance to avoid an instant exit and maybe even earn some free passes.

The first two movies on this list are:

  • THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973); dir.: Alejandro Jodorowsky

    The Holy Mountain (1973); dir.: Alejandro Jodorowsky — Jodorowsky has a reputation as one of the craziest purveyors of out-there cult cinema, and possibly one of its worst people. I’ve only seen his much later circus-set revenge tale, Santa Sangre, and loved nearly every minute of it. I’ve been a little frightened to see what he was up to in the early 1970s, when things were really strange, but this is happening.

  • DARK CITY (1998); dir.: Alex Proyas

    Dark City (1998); dir.: Alex Proyas — Despite noting its rave reviews from both Siskel & Ebert, I had very little interest in dystopian science fiction during the 1990s. Something about the change in aesthetics and overall worldview during that time really sucked sci-fi into a hole of negativity for me. While this movie has never reached a peak of popularity, it’s been consistently well-regarded. I guess it’s finally time to see what all the fuss is about.


THE NEXT EIGHT

If those first two movies fare well enough on my Flickchart, I'll continue on through the following, as long as they stay above 50% on my Flickchart.

  • EL TOPO (1970); dir.: Alejandro Jodorowsky

    El Topo (1970); dir.: Alejandro Jodorowsky — Another Jodorowsky, a western, and with some of the Mexican director’s most controversial material. I like a gritty grim malevolent western from time to time, but what am I in for with this one?

  • PINK FLOYD THE WALL (1982); dir.: Alan Parker

    Pink Floyd The Wall (1982); dir.: Alan Parker — I watched this a couple of times between about 30-35 years ago. As a fan of the Pink Floyd album, my main reaction was that Bob Geldof lacked the force of personality to equal the power of the music; but there is going to be a lot of iconic visual expression, so I’m curious to see if that will be enough to make this matter to me this time around.

  • THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976); dir.: Nicolas Roeg

    The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976); dir.: Nicolas Roeg — I’ve seen one or two Roeg movies over the years, but, other than Walkabout, too long ago, and I’ve never gotten a good sense of him as a director. Maybe this will inspire me to begin a new round of Roeg exploration.

  • ENTER THE VOID (2009); dir.: Gaspar Noé

    Enter the Void (2009); dir.: Gaspar Noé — Noé is really interesting and I usually respect his movies even when I don’t especially enjoy them. Climax is the remaining feature of his that I’ve yet to see, due to its 161-minute length, which seems excessive from what I glean of its subject matter.

  • OPEN YOUR EYES (1997); dir.: Alejandro Amenábar

    Open Your Eyes (1997); dir.: Alejandro Amenábar — This Spanish drama was remade by Hollywood as Vanilla Sky, which I despise. However, I think that’s a matter of tone, so a different directorial touch might make a huge difference.

  • THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (1974); dir.: Luis Buñuel

    The Phantom of Liberty (1974); dir.: Luis Buñuel — Although I had some trouble enjoying the Buñuel while in college, I’ve been far more impressed by the movies of his that I’ve watched within the last few years. I have no idea what to expect from The Phantom of Liberty, or any Buñuel movie for that matter.

  • THE MATRIX RELOADED (2003); dir.: The Wachowskis

    The Matrix Reloaded (2003); dir.: The Wachowskis — I’m that guy who doesn’t like The Matrix. I’ve given it four tries. The first two times it put to me to sleep. It’s ugly, its action is boring, Keanu Reeves is the worst actor of his generation, and I think it glorifies a psychotic mindset. And fuck those doves. Does it sound like I want to watch its sequels?

  • CUBE (1997); dir.: Vincenzo Natali

    Cube (1997); dir.: Vincenzo Natali — I can never remember if I’ve seen (and largely forgotten) Natali’s Cube or Cypher. It’s possible that I’ve seen and forgotten both, but at least I have a record of sort-of-liking Cypher, and I definitely remember mostly liking his 2009 mutation thriller Splice. I might not mind giving him another chance.


Follow my streak through my gaps on Nathan Chase's list of Flickchart's Top-Ranked Mindbenders here, or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.