The crushing philosophical romance Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is delicious watching, even on repeat. But if you’ve cried for Clementine more times than you can count, it might be time to explore a few other movies like Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind — deep, dark, and meaningful with a little something for you to think about after viewing. While not exactly the same, the film has similar vibes to movies like Fight Club and Shutter Island, so prepare to question everything you see.
Written by the brilliant Charlie Kauffman, this and many of his other movies — some mentioned below — tend to play with the idea of regret and how to move on from past ghosts.
Clementine seems almost like a dream. Played by the always on-point Kate Winslet, her relationship with Joel, a heartbreaking role from Jim Carrey, was all-too-real, but a new service that erases bad memories has completely deleted him from her consciousness. There Joel is, stuck alone in his thoughts of Clementine, their time together and the deep love they shared, none of which she recalls.
As payback, he decides to have the same memory-erasing procedure and the audience watches as Clementine dissolves into oblivion from Joel’s mind. It all raises existential questions about whether our painful memories make us who we are or whether simply selecting and deleting the most troublesome moments from our past really free us from suffering. Are we really just a collection of our memories?
It’s a big question, and there are plenty of movies that have tried to take on the same topic. Movies like this don’t come along very often, but when they do, it can be a great diversion to soak up all the dread of a life that, luckily, isn’t yours.
Here are a few movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to check out next time you’re wondering whether you’d like to erase your memory, and for a quick reminder that blue hair is always a good idea.
Movies Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
1. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
This fever dream of a movie stars Ellen Burstyn as Sara, a slightly delusional retired widow who spends most of the time in her apartment watching TV. Drug fueled an full of surprises thanks to performances from Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans that are filled with angst, potential and lots of regret over the past.
2. Synecdoche, NY (2008)
In one of the standout performances from the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman this twisted story follow’s Hoffman’s Caden, a theater director who uses his Genius Grant award money to build a version of New York City in a warehouse ostensibly as part of a new play. He winds up haunted by memories as he spends years engrossed in this project that in his own mind is beginning to replace reality.
3. Memento (2000)
Guy Pearce plays Leonard, who can’t make any new memories and uses tattoos to remind him of important clues as he tries to piece together the murder of his wife. Trapped in the past, yet blindly hurdling toward the future, the entire movie throws the viewer off center as they too try and find the truth by piecing together the haunted visions that come to Leonard of what happened.
4. 500 Days of Summer (2009)
It was love at first sight when Tom, played by Joseph-Gordon Levitt first met Summer, played by the always charming Zooey Deschanel. The movie follows their intense love affair in a jumbled timeline of storytelling about the choices they make along the way.
5. Her (2013)
Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix deals with his divorce by falling madly in love with an operating system with artificial intelligence and the voice of Scarlett Johansson. The film is billed as a love story from the mind of filmmaker Spike Jonze but it’s also a look inside how people and machines interact in increasingly meaningful and intimate ways.
6. Inception (2010)
Inception is a trippy and clever film that demands your constant attention. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a thief who steals corporate secrets by infiltrating people’s dreams. These heists are risky, but each dreamer’s mental baggage and dark thoughts amplifies the danger they face. From the mind of Christopher Nolan, this film pulls you from dream to dream, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s real. It’s a wild ride to the end.
Other Movies Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Punch Drunk Love
- Vanilla Sky
- Stranger Than Fiction
- Cloud Atlas
- Being John Malkovich
- Blue Valentine
- Lost in Translation
- The Prestige
- The Butterfly Effect
- Mr. Nobody
- Black Swan
- Little Miss Sunshine
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